BY CARTER E. ANTHONY
After my first Little League baseball practice in my new hometown of Greenville, Alabama, with Coach O.G. Holley and a baseball team of 12 boys, age 12 and under, Richie Hartley asked me to go home with him.
It was an easy decision. I was anxious to get out and meet new friends. Richie’s mother, Mrs. Harper Hartley, picked us up at the ball field out by the drive-in and drove us back through town so Richie could tell me about the city and various stores.
My eyes were bulging and my head was on a swivel looking at Greenville’s two busy commercial districts, uptown and downtown, with pretty antebellum homes separating them. It was a real change from my prior hometown of Brantley’s downtown business district which was smaller than one of Greenville’s business districts.
On Brantley’s plus side though, before U.S. 331 was widened through town for the beach traffic, oak trees hung over the street like a tunnel of green from Brantley Elementary to the downtown traffic light.
It made for a pretty drive through the little town with most homes having large welcoming front porches. And lots of memories there, Saturday afternoon at the movies for a dime, Coke for a dime and popcorn for a nickel. I knew everyone that owned or worked in a store.
After Mrs. Hartley and Richie gave me the Commerce Street tour from one end of East Commerce to the water tank at the end of West Commerce, we went to Richie’s home at 416 Hamilton Street.
From there Richie and I walked to his nearby friends’ homes. Stirling Hamilton lived next door and was Richie’s best friend. Stirling was one of the nicest boys and later men in Greenville.
He was a good student, a good golfer, a good businessman and a good friend. I don’t remember Stirling’s ever being in a bad mood. He was Richie’s longest running best friend. Stirling and I became instant friends.
After a short visit with Stirling, we walked over to Johnny Perdue’s house on Oak Street. On the way we walked through a vacant lot across from Stirling’s house. Richie explained it was where the neighborhood pick-up baseball and football games were held.
It was bordered by a hedge on three sides with the sidewalk and street on the north side. Home plate backed up to the hedge adjacent to the L. V. Stabler Hospital parking lot.
Any baseball hit over the sidewalk into the street was a home run. The bases were whatever we could find, usually someone’s cap or a brown paper bag.
For football, running into the street was a touchdown and at the other end a run through the hedge was a touchdown. A few phone calls could get up a game pretty quickly but sometimes we just gravitated to the lot.
The regular players included Richie, Stirling, Dave Whetstone, Johnny Perdue, Kenny Brahmer, Hal Singleton, Jake Cureton and anyone else living near the field.
On the south side of town there was a vacant lot next to Wyman Rainey’s house. A couple of times our neighborhood played Wyman’s neighborhood.
We always lost because Wyman’s group was bigger, tougher and may have bent the rules a little. They wouldn’t come to our smaller vacant lot which was okay.
During the first summer, I was fortunate to get to know a lot of Greenville kids through Little League and those who lived in town. Kay Watts and her parents hosted a summer party for those of us about to enter the seventh grade.
All of the families who lived around us on Woodland Drive were helpful to my family. On our little street were the Bill Ryans, two Plummer families and the David Selfs.
The Leon Shirleys, Jill, Kay and Merrill, were just around the corner. I was really lucky to get dropped into that neighborhood.
Going into the seventh grade is an adjustment and going into the seventh grade in a new city that is a 3A school (then) compared to leaving a 1A school is a real adjustment.
In Brantley there were 40 students in my class. We were the first class in Brantley Elementary to have two sections. In Greenville there were 125 students in my seventh grade class.
It was quite a change but there could not have been a more welcoming and helpful group, students and faculty. I don’t remember even thinking about or being concerned about a new and different school and a much larger class.
It was not difficult to visit Richie. He had a nice big home and there were lots of things to do there. Richie had a really cute sister, Joy, who was a few years older. Joy was extremely talented and was always working on some art project.
She also had cute friends visiting her most of the time. As I remember, Joy went to Auburn to major in Fashion Design. After a few years she left Auburn for New York City and a job in Fashion Design.
Sometime later, she came back to the University of Alabama to enter pre-med. She earned her medical degree from The University of Alabama Medical School and practiced Emergency Room medicine her entire career.
When she retired several years ago, she and her husband, Mack Russell, also from Greenville, moved to Dauphin Island. They opened Mack and DD’s Emporium, a gift shop and gallery, and more recently Joy has opened a small doctor’s office.
There was not a doctor on Dauphin Island. In addition, Joy is an accomplished photographer with many of her photographs appearing in periodicals and on Facebook featuring Dauphin Island’s beaches, birds, flowers and human inhabitants.
If you haven’t visited Dauphin Island you have missed one of Alabama’s special destinations and Mack and DD’s emporium should be on your list. (to be cont.)