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Richie and Me, part 3



Richie and I spent so much time together that we worked out a walking route between our houses.

We could leave Richie’s house, walk through the hedge behind his house at 416 Hamilton Street, cross Fort Dale, down Jim Kendrick’s driveway, through the hedge to Mr. Taylor’s house, down the street in front of Mary Scott’s and Becky Parrish’s houses on Woodland Drive to my house at 126 Woodland Drive.

Later when we moved to 110 Brookside Drive it was just a little farther down Woodland Drive, turn left in front of Carol Self’s house on Overlook and walk through Kay Shirley’s yard through the hedge behind Lewis Newton’s house to my house.  It became a pretty well-worn route.

One night my dad came in and asked me how Richie and I liked Mr. Taylor’s peaches. Mr. Taylor was the county engineer, was sort of big and burly and lived behind the Kendricks.

I stuttered around a little bit and asked what he was talking about.  He said Mr. Taylor heard us talking one night while we were eating peaches off his tree outside his bedroom window. The Taylors didn’t have air conditioning. We had never taken more than we could eat but that was our last peach from Mr. Taylor’s trees.

After the Christmas of 1957, Richie called and told me to hurry over. During the Christmas holidays Richie’s parents had added an addition to the side of their garage in the back yard. It was for Richie’s short wave radio set.  It was a really nice little set-up.  All of the radio equipment had its own little room, there were bunk beds in the main room and a small bathroom on the side.

We spent lots of nights there with other friends, Stirling, Johnny Perdue and Jake Cureton, among others.

Richie’s call name was K4ISW, K4 Item Sugar Willie. Richie loved it and spent a lot of time talking and listening. I enjoyed watching and listening.  There was a regular telephone in the radio room, too.

One night when Johnny Perdue spent the night, he went in the radio room and closed the door. After a long time Richie cracked the door open and we heard Johnny singing to his girlfriend at the time the good old Jim Reeves song, “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone.”  Johnny never lived that one down.

After K4 Item Sugar Willie wore off, we decided we needed to fire off some rockets. The Russians had launched their Sputnik, the first ever satellite, into orbit in October, 1957, and we weren’t going to let them get too far ahead of us.

Even without the use of today’s internet, Richie learned the chemical composition that was needed to fire off rockets. We pulled the cardboard cylinder off of pants hangers and stuffed the chemical compound into the cylinder.

The “rocket” was then placed on our little launch pad and a paper fuse was lit. We were making the rocket in the K4ISW addition and firing it off in Richie’s back yard. Of course, when we lit the fuse we ran.

We never found a spent rocket but we always had lift-off. We didn’t have any explosions. They’re probably still in orbit. When we ran out of fuel we marched right up to Mr. Bill Ryan in Ryan’s Drugs and asked him for the chemicals.

A couple of times I asked myself if we should really be doing this but then Mr. Bill filled our request and we were off. He was one of the nicest men in Greenville, all three Ryan pharmacists were.

Richie had relatives in Mobile. On Sept. 27, 1958, Alabama played LSU in Mobile’s 20,000+ seat Ladd Stadium. It was Coach Bryant’s first game as Alabama’s Head Coach.  The relatives got tickets and invited Richie and me to stay with them for the weekend.

We, each 13 years old, rode the Crescent Limited to Mobile there and back. The conductor let us stand on the back of the caboose part of the way back. In South Alabama, we saw mostly pine trees in our wake but we also traveled right through the downtowns of cities like Evergreen, McKenzie and Georgiana.

The trip was a grand experience for two eighth grade boys and of course, it was Coach Bryant’s first game, something to tell for years to come.  LSU, behind Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, won 13-3 but followers took notice at the closeness of the score by the Crimson Tide which had a previous three-year record of 4-25-2.

LSU went on to win the National Championship.  It was also the game where bleacher seating in Ladd collapsed injuring a number of people but killing no one.  (to be cont.)

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