Thursday, June 9, 2011

Small Town Summer

by Cassondra Murray

I grew up in a small town.


Okay, that’s not entirely true. I grew up way out in the country, on a farm, but the town closest to us was the one we considered “our town.” It’s where we went to shop at the Houchen’s Grocery store, and do laundry at the Wishy Washy on Saturdays. When people ask me where I’m from—you know, when the conversation is not the kind where you say, “I grew up on a farm about 8 miles out of town, in a community called Glens Fork, in Adair County…”—when the conversation is brief and you’re just making nice, that town is what I say.

It had a big red brick courthouse in the middle of the town square. The kind with double doors on opposite sides of the building, so you could enter from either direction. The courthouse had a tower with a clock at the top. That clock never was right.

When I was a little girl, there were benches outside the courthouse doors, and old men would sit on those benches and tell lies and whittle.

There was a pool room down a side street. Y’all know about that pool room because I’ve blogged about it before, in the blog about ice cream. The town also had a little cafĂ© tucked into a corner of the square, and a Ben Franklin store.



Ben Franklin was every kid’s dream before Toys R Us came along. There was also a Western Auto, with gardening tools, wheelbarrows, rocking horses, and a little red wagon in the front window. That’s where my dad bought some of my best Christmas presents ever. My Play Family garage. My electric train. That’s where he bought my first guitar. And that changed who I was forever.

I know I talk about my town a lot. I guess it’s because it’s such a part of who I am, and it’s a part of who I am not.
Nowadays I live half way between two towns. It’s ten miles north to the bigger city, which has a university, gobs and gobs of restaurants, and is building a new performing arts center. If you turn right out of my driveway, you go to that big town.

But if you turn left out of my driveway, ten miles the other direction is…..a small town. One with a courthouse and a square a lot like “mine.” If I have a choice, I always turn left.

And last night I did turn left, and drove to the small town to get something I needed. I noticed as I drove through, that there was a big crowd at the Frosty Freeze. My husband, Steve, wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to pick up something to eat.

Frosty Freeze is a little glass and concrete box in the middle of a parking lot. There are two big trees out front, and several picnic tables arranged under the orange-ish street lights. I angled into a space at the side and got out. I walked up to the window and got in line. When it was my turn, the girl took my order. Two barbecue sandwiches, a small vanilla malt with extra malt, and a small pineapple shake with extra pineapple. Oh, and a funnel cake.



I paid, then I sat down on the curb to wait. All the tables were full. School is out here, and high school kids moved back and forth, hovering between parked cars and around the beds of pickup trucks. A couple of farm boys climbed out of one truck and came around the front to place orders. But more high school kids hung out at the tables and around by the bug zapper, and they weren’t ordering anything. They were just hanging out.

I watched the dance of awkward wanting, and was swept away—back to my teenage years, cruising through the streets of the place where I grew up. I was swept back to the essence of all that is small town.

My town—the one where I grew up-- had the carcass of an old movie theater on one corner of the square,with a neon marquis out front that read Columbian theater in big vertical letters that reached almost three stories high.

But that marquis never lit up when I lived there. I got to see one movie in that theater when I was a small child. It closed down later that fall. The drive-in, further out on the edge of the city, was closed long before I was born. There was no roller rink, no professional or semi-pro sports team, no wave pool or museum.

There was absolutely. Nothing. To. Do.

So on Friday and Saturday nights, the kids from the farms and the suburbs, such as they were, drove into town and cruised. They circled the square, went down the big hill on Jamestown street, out toward the parkway, made a big circle around Sonic, then went back toward the courthouse, where they'd circle the square and repeat. All at about 15 miles per hour, so they could stick their heads out the windows and talk to the cars they were meeting. Sometimes they'd take breaks and hang at Sonic or Dairy Queen, or in the Pizza Hut parking lot.

This town where I sat at the Frosty Freeze is a little better off. They have an actual working drive in (refurbished) that shows first run movies. And they’re only 20 miles from the bigger city, so they can get to the mall, the arcade, and the minor league baseball games the larger town offers.


And yet it was the same. The smell of barbecue and deep fried yummy goodness. The sound of the shake mixer. The ziiiiip-pop of the bug zapper in the back, and the low rumble of big pipes on a farm boy’s pickup truck.

Parents murmuring to their children as they helped little fingers with ice cream cones, just the way they did at Sonic and Dairy Queen when I was a young girl. Bright colored bows in pony tails. Softball uniforms. Bare feet, brown with dirt from playing outside in the yard all day. Swimsuits under t-shirts. High school rings wrapped with rubber bands. A pretty girl's long hair blowing in the warm evening breeze. Tan skin and young love. The banker’s daughter and the poor farm boy. It’s the stuff romance is made of, for me.

I determined, last night, that some things time cannot change because the reasons for them don’t change. My evidence was standing right there at that window, ordering barbecue and a small chocolate shake. Even though there is more to do in this small town, there they are, just the same as we were, cruising up and down Main Street on a perfect summer night. Hanging at the Frosty Freeze.

The girl came to the window with my order, and I walked away with my white sacks of un-politically-correct food. But I also walked away reminded of who I was, to a degree. Reminded that although I love certain things about big cities, I will always be a small-town girl at heart. An artsy girl who still gets a thrill from the growl of a diesel pickup truck engine, broad shoulders and a farmer tan. All just three blocks down from a big red brick courthouse with a tower and a clock on the front.


The only real differences are that I’m a lot older, on the outside looking in now, and those farm boys stroll right by without a sideways glance.

Oh, and their courthouse clock is right.

So, Bandits and Buddies, tell me about the place where you grew up, and what said "summer" to you when you were young.


Were your summers in a small town, or a big city?

Where did the kids hang out on those long, hot evenings? Was there a movie theater? Any chance there was a drive in?

Did you ever cruise main street on Friday and Saturday nights?

Have you ever ridden in the back of a pickup truck?

Do any of y'all remember Ben Franklin or Western Auto stores?

And do you like to read small town love stories?

64 comments:

Jane said...

Me?

Lolarific said...

Most of the kids around my part of the county, country side of the county that is, had one corner of the Food Lion parking lot they were hanging out in come Friday night. Where I live now it's the K-mart parking lot or a glass repair shop. I have no idea why on the latter. But you know it's like I tell the other people who look down on the hangouts, "At least you know where they are and what they're doing instead of what the alternative's are.". There have been alot of crackdowns on the hangout spots in the last few years, which I frankly find ridiculous. They stated it was a crime thing, but there's been more crime with bored teenagers, than there ever was with busy ones. I love the allure of small towns and that's a reason my husband and I chose to live where we live now. We also have a drive in here that I suppose does good business but I haven't had the pleasure of going yet. (Hoping my husband will take me one day) But I love small towns and all the stories that come out of them. They are rich with history and life.

Jane said...

I grew up in the city and summer in the big city was pretty interesting. A lot of times we went to the park near our apartment to play ball or we would go hang out at the pier. I have never ridden in the back of a pickup truck.

marybelle said...

I grew up in the bush. Very rural areas. Summer meant school holidays at the beach. My Dad was a teacher so ALL holidays were taken away from home. He needed the break away.

Sheree said...

I was just telling my boyfriend today how my siblings, cousins, and I used to spend our summer days renting bikes from the bike shop, then buying bait (sandworms!) from the bait shop next door, and then biking to the water's edge to fish. I don't remember catching much but then we didn't want to have to carry our catch home.

Idyllic, yes? Did I mention this was in New York City? Now both bike shop and bait shop are gone and a upscale eatery is there instead. *sigh*

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

So, Bandits and Buddies, tell me about the place where you grew up, and what said "summer" to you when you were young.
We had two, Tasty Freeze and a Dairy Queen, depends on what end of town you were on.
Were your summers in a small town, or a big city?
Small town definitely but I wasn't allowed out much, I still saw it all going down though.

where did the kids hang out on those long, hot evenings? Was there a movie theater? Any chance there was a drive in? Had the roxy for a while and when it closed there was a drive in, it evenually closed to so everyone drove around the parking lot at the strip mall.

Did you ever cruise main street on Friday and Saturday nights? Once mom and dad found out so never again.

Have you ever ridden in the back of a pickup truck?well yeah that was the thing way back when.

Do any of y'all remember Ben Franklin or Western Auto stores?Loved ben franklin, that is where i got my books for 89 cents each every payday

And do you like to read small town love stories?
oh yeah, kind of feels like coming home again.

jennifertanner said...

Hi Cassondra...

I lived in a new tract-home development until I was eleven. Lots of young families with tons of kids. We'd go to the local pool, play hide-n-seek, rollerskate, ride bikes and wait for the ice cream truck. Grass-stained knees, dirty feet and the smell of chlorine meant summer. My dad got a job in CA central valley so we moved to a small town. I spent my teen years cruising Mooney Blvd in my dad's Chevy Silverado, hanging out at Bob's Big Boy, Merle's Drive-In or at the Foster Freeze. My folks had a pool so my friends would come over to swim often.

I hated living in that town and couldn't wait to go away to college, so it's ironic that I love small town love stories...and how my experiences growing up there have found a home in my writing.

Great post!

Congrats on the GR, Jane!

Pink

Helen said...

Well done Jane have fun with him

Cassondra

I really love your posts
I grew up in the suburbs a fairly big suburb with 2 movie theatres a public swimming pool a huge shopping centre and two drive ins very close.Summer was heading to the beach and yes we went to the movies and the drive inns and wandered around the shops. I have never cruised the streets just not done where I come from although I love the movie American Graffitti and would have loved to have done it and no pick up drives for me either.
And I do so love reading about small town love stories

Have Fun
Helen

Janga said...

The town I grew up in was a bit bigger than your town, Cassondra, but it was still very much a small town. We had a movie theater uptown and a drive-in just out of town and a roller rink, and I spent a many a weekend night cruising, checking out who was together, who was breaking up, and who was cheating. Gas was cheaper then, and the wildest kids were those drinking illegally purchased beers. But in many ways summers haven't changed, despite the multiplex theater uptown and the drive-in that's only a memory. We take the grands to the same hotdog stand our parents once took us for Saturday lunches. Families still pack cars and take off for a day at the beach. (In our case, a man-made one beside a lake). Teens still cruise on summer nights, checking out the action. It all reminds me of E. B. White's essay "Once More to the Lake." I used a quote from that essay in one of my blogs last week: “Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible . . . summer without end.”

Laurie G said...

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. We were located on the shore of Lake Michigan. We started out at the ball parks watching the men play. After cruising the main drag we would swing along the lake and "shine" the parkers who were making out. We'd then head to Mr G's and hang out for awhile and start all over again. There were 3 other drive in's: DQ, A&W and a Tasty Freeze. To shake things up, we'd take our bikes or walk. We were safe and secure! We had tons of lakeside picnics & parties.

We also would go camping once a summer at Point Beach State Forest.


We had an Evan's Department store which closed about 2 years ago. I bought my Mom's treasures there. The 2 movie theaters and a drive in were all located in the next city about 8 miles away.

PJ said...

Cassondra, you never fail to touch my heart with your posts. This one took me straight back to the summers of my small-town youth. Thank you for the fond memories floating in my head today as I head off to the job that anchors my grown-up summer!

Deb Marlowe said...

Lovely, Cassondra!

Summertime means the smell of chlorine, charcoal and new cut grass. Staying in the pool all day and having the family over for picnics.

Teenage hangouts were the parking lot of McDonalds and Dairy Queen. For my kids it's the local outdoor shopping center. Location might be bigger, a little different, but there's still the same necking, squabbling and gossiping.

Although I've been told that nobody says 'necking' any more!

MsHellion said...

Your courthouse sounds exactly like the one in Fayette--which was a town 13 miles from us. (I too lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere.) My nearest town was Harrisburg, population 184. It has a small grocery and hardware store (combined); a cafe; a gas station/auto shop; and a Lion's club. Oh, and the school and 2 churches.

My summers were mostly spent on the farm and not anywhere near town.

When my siblings were young, the main active place in Harrisburg was the "Drag"--where the cars raced (illegally, obviously)--and there were a couple great stories about how some drag races went awry and the cops chased them, and there was a washed out bridge...and both the drag car and cop car went into the ravine. No one was hurt, so it was all just really funny. But by the time I was old enough to hang out places, I went to my friend's house who lived nearer to the next biggest small town, which had a cruising strip and actual things to do: pool, movies, etc.

We loved cruising when we were younger. And the sound of a loud pick up truck can make my heart trip like nothing else. *LOL*

Yes, I've ridden in the back of a pick up truck, several times. And while we didn't have a Ben Franklin or Western Auto (I think), we usually hit up Orselins. There was also a mom-pop hardware store that had a lot of these items too...

And YESYESYES, I love small town stories.

Cassondra said...

Woooot! Jane, you got the rooster!

Cassondra said...

Hello all,

I'm traveling today, so will be on this morning, then again this evening, with a break in the middle. I apologize for not being around as much as usual. Y'all keep the party rolling anyhow, and I'll be back on to answer tonight when I get to Atlanta.

Cassondra said...

Lolarific said:

Most of the kids around my part of the county, country side of the county that is, had one corner of the Food Lion parking lot they were hanging out in come Friday night. Where I live now it's the K-mart parking lot or a glass repair shop. I have no idea why on the latter. But you know it's like I tell the other people who look down on the hangouts, "At least you know where they are and what they're doing instead of what the alternative's are.". There have been alot of crackdowns on the hangout spots in the last few years, which I frankly find ridiculous. They stated it was a crime thing, but there's been more crime with bored teenagers, than there ever was with busy ones.

I agree that it's ridiculous. I suppose there's a mentality that, "those kids should be at home, or in church, or...." (insert various other moral or socially acceptable place/thing here) but kids need social time outside of school. They just do. I'm not a parent, but I know this. The dynamic is very different outside of high school than AT the school. Adults need time like this, just to hang, so why shouldn't kids?

Unfortunately the community leaders around these parts think all of that MUST revolve around some church related thing. I disagree and think we lose more kids by being so straight laced, then we ever would by rewarding them for choosing a safe place, in view of everyone, to just hang out.

I could be very wrong here, but I think if they're going to do bad stuff, stopping the cruising is not going to prevent that.

And as to the glass repair shop, I'm betting that's because there's not a "no loitering" sign in the lot.

Cassondra said...

Jane said:

I grew up in the city and summer in the big city was pretty interesting. A lot of times we went to the park near our apartment to play ball or we would go hang out at the pier. I have never ridden in the back of a pickup truck.

The pier sounds really interesting. Did you fish? Was there a restaurant there?

As to the pickup truck, you don't know what you're missing. Although, as I've grown older, I admit that it's lost a bit of its charm. And there's no farm boy back there with me. *grin*

Cassondra said...

marybelle said:

I grew up in the bush. Very rural areas. Summer meant school holidays at the beach. My Dad was a teacher so ALL holidays were taken away from home. He needed the break away.

The beach sounds wonderful. Did you always go to the same one? Did you make friends there, and see them each time you went?

Cassondra said...

Sheree said:

Idyllic, yes? Did I mention this was in New York City? Now both bike shop and bait shop are gone and a upscale eatery is there instead. *sigh*

Yes! It does sound like a postcard. And in NYC? Wow. One thing about that, you're never too far from water. What area?

So sorry they're both gone. It's hard to see that happen. A lot of my old haunts are gone as well. And the Wishy Washy costs WAY too much per load now.

Cassondra said...

aka Dianna said:

..Had the roxy for a while and when it closed there was a drive in, it evenually closed to so everyone drove around the parking lot at the strip mall.

Aha! Another small town girl who lost her theater and had to resort to cruising! The mall here in Bowling Green (the big town) has put a stop to all cruising. They harass the kids like crazy. They even look at me funny if I circle the mall more than once. :0/

Did you ever cruise main street on Friday and Saturday nights?

Once mom and dad found out so never again.
Hmmm...I see they were in the "cruising is evil" camp. *grin*

So glad you've ridden in the back of a pickup truck! And books are what I bought at Ben Franklin too!
What? You're not surprised? I'm that predictable? Sheesh.

Cassondra said...

Pink said:

Grass-stained knees, dirty feet and the smell of chlorine meant summer. My dad got a job in CA central valley so we moved to a small town. I spent my teen years cruising Mooney Blvd in my dad's Chevy Silverado, hanging out at Bob's Big Boy, Merle's Drive-In or at the Foster Freeze. My folks had a pool so my friends would come over to swim often.

I hated living in that town and couldn't wait to go away to college, so it's ironic that I love small town love stories...and how my experiences growing up there have found a home in my writing.


Ironic indeed. I loved my town then, but I've come to realize that there was a certain closed-mindedness there. I think when you're one of the locals, you don't notice as much, but when I come home now I see it--I'm an outsider. Nobody recognizes me so I get the cold shoulder. And that's actually what I meant when I said, the small town made me what I'm NOT. I've expanded beyond that, hopefully. And yet, some things about it are irreplaceable, and I'm glad to have grown up in a small town.

Jenn3128 said...

I have always lived in a big city. My teen years were awesome, there was so much to do. We'd go to the beach as it was so close and spend all day there, then come home and go to the local pool. The roller rink was also a big hang out spot as was the drive in theater.

My parents were a bit strict about me drving, but was always able to bribe them...I'd offer to take the younger kids to the drive in theater and they could have the house to themselves. It always worked.

I'd love to live in a small town now, especially with 2 young daughters. The big city is too much now, kids are growing up too fast.

Cassondra said...

Helen said:

I really love your posts

*blush*


I grew up in the suburbs a fairly big suburb with 2 movie theatres a public swimming pool a huge shopping centre and two drive ins very close.Summer was heading to the beach and yes we went to the movies and the drive inns and wandered around the shops. I have never cruised the streets just not done where I come from although I love the movie American Graffitti and would have loved to have done it and no pick up drives for me either.
And I do so love reading about small town love stories


Aw, Helen. Sorry about the pickup--maybe you'll still get to do that one day. Although as I mentioned to Jane, the fun factor is lower when you're older. The bumps are harder, the hair tangles more difficult to get out, and I look like all heck when I sweat the makeup off...:0/

Interesting that small town stories are so popular, isn't it? I wrote this blog in part because I've been wondering why.

Cassondra said...

Janga said:

The town I grew up in was a bit bigger than your town, Cassondra, but it was still very much a small town. We had a movie theater uptown and a drive-in just out of town and a roller rink, and I spent a many a weekend night cruising, checking out who was together, who was breaking up, and who was cheating.

You've done way more cruising than I have, and were clearly WAY more the IT girl than I was. I never knew what was going on with the in crowd at all. But cruising--it filled some need to be out there with everyone else for me.

Gas was cheaper then, and the wildest kids were those drinking illegally purchased beers.

Exactly! I suppose there were a few drugs passed around, but nothing like it is now. There weren't all the synthetics, and the "bad" kids, really weren't very bad at all, by today's standards.

But in many ways summers haven't changed, despite the multiplex theater uptown and the drive-in that's only a memory. We take the grands to the same hotdog stand our parents once took us for Saturday lunches. Families still pack cars and take off for a day at the beach. (In our case, a man-made one beside a lake). Teens still cruise on summer nights, checking out the action.

That's really cool about the hot dog stand. The Frosty Freeze has been there for generations too. Some kids who used to go there on weekends have now bought it and are running it. They have grandkids now!

Love the E.B. White quote.

Cassondra said...

Laurie G said:

After cruising the main drag we would swing along the lake and "shine" the parkers who were making out. We'd then head to Mr G's and hang out for awhile and start all over again. There were 3 other drive in's: DQ, A&W and a Tasty Freeze. To shake things up, we'd take our bikes or walk. We were safe and secure! We had tons of lakeside picnics & parties.

Laurie, your town sounds an awful lot like mine, but you had a little more to do I think.

Now..."shining" the people making out--THAT sounds like a blast of fun!

We had to drive about 20 miles from my town to get to a lake, so the OLDER teenagers would go there--mostly the freshmen and sophomores from the local college. I did that only a few times. It was the first time I had hootch. Knocked me on my butt.

Cassondra said...

PJ said:

Cassondra, you never fail to touch my heart with your posts. This one took me straight back to the summers of my small-town youth. Thank you for the fond memories floating in my head today as I head off to the job that anchors my grown-up summer!

You're so welcome, and I'm glad you like the trip down memory lane. I'm going to take more time to stop at the Frosty Freeze this year, and I hope to make at least one run to the drive in.

Maybe you can do a bit of the "old time fun" things too?

Cassondra said...

Deb Marlowe said:

Summertime means the smell of chlorine, charcoal and new cut grass. Staying in the pool all day and having the family over for picnics.

OH, yes...cut grass. Yummm...For me it also means the scent of hay on the ground. Definitely a farm memory.

Teenage hangouts were the parking lot of McDonalds and Dairy Queen. For my kids it's the local outdoor shopping center. Location might be bigger, a little different, but there's still the same necking, squabbling and gossiping.

It never changes. I figure it never will. Actually I kind of hope it never will.

Although I've been told that nobody says 'necking' any more!

No, they don't. I think wearing the guy's high school ring is also "over"--I dunno when that went out of fashion, but I hardly ever see that done any more.

Cassondra said...

MsHellion said:

We loved cruising when we were younger. And the sound of a loud pick up truck can make my heart trip like nothing else. *LOL*

Mine too! Mostly cuz of the cute guy driving. *grin*

Yes, I've ridden in the back of a pick up truck, several times. And while we didn't have a Ben Franklin or Western Auto (I think), we usually hit up Orselins. There was also a mom-pop hardware store that had a lot of these items too...

And YESYESYES, I love small town stories.


Your town DOES sound much like mine, but must have been in a different part of the country. I've never heard of Orselins.

Why do you think small town stories are so appealing? Is it the fairy tale of living like that? It can't be memories for all of us, since a lot of folks did not grow up in those towns. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe more people grew up there than I realize.

Cassondra said...

Jenn3128 said:

I'd love to live in a small town now, especially with 2 young daughters. The big city is too much now, kids are growing up too fast.

Yes, if I had kids, I'd definitely want to live in a smaller town. Not that the dangers aren't still there. They may be fewer, since there are fewer people. I dunno. But the pace...I think it's more suited to giving a kid time to just be a kid. And every kid should ride in a pickup truck. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to do that. The rules take the fun out of everything, don't they?)

Your childhood, with so much to do, sounds wonderful!

Cassondra said...

Okay y'all, hold down the fort. I'm going to hit the road for Atlanta. I'll be back on as soon as I arrive.

Maria said...

Summer to me when I grew up pretty much started when school got out. There wasn't anything specific other than the fact we would make mor trips to the library. My summers have always been in the suburbs - though there was a year when we lived in a small town and everyone hung out at the A&W Rootbeer Drivethrough. I personally never got to cruise through parking lots or any of those other things that you mentioned in your post:)

MsHellion said...

It probably is the fairy-tale of what a small town "represents" that's appealing.

Small towns usually evoke the kind of values we like in our heroes: hard working, family-oriented, dependable, willing to pitch in, and judges people by their abilities rather than their name or money. (Though the last quality can come and go in a small town. *LOL* Our small town was notorious about kissing up to the big whigs and money. *LOL*)

Small towns make me think of farmers--and they're the ones with those qualities I admire. They don't have time for bullsh*t. But they're always willing to help you out of a tight spot, no matter what, even if they don't like you because it's the right thing to do. It reminds me of my father--and I can think of worse things than marrying a guy with the same good qualities as my father.

The other ideal I prefer about small towns--you can see the stars at night in a small town or outside on the farm. Big towns are too bustling; there's too much noise and everything is GOGOGO all the time. You can never really relax and be yourself. Small towns are about working hard, but I think they know there is more to life than just working--but in cities, that can be forgotten. You're rushing off to work long hours at your job or running the kids to 10 different things--you're never spending any real time together. There's never any quiet. There's never any peace.

I don't understand the appeal of a place like New York. It's just not for me.

Donna MacMeans said...

Cassondra - I do love your posts. They always touch my soul.

I grew up in a big city, but the thing about anything "big," is that it's really a lot of "small" lashed together. We sort of define our boundaries by how far we're comfortable. Growing up in rowhouses in Baltimore, Maryland - my comfort level was about a block long. That would be my street, the alley behind our small backyard that ran the length of the street, the backyards and houses on the other side of the alley and their street.

All our summer games of greek dodge, swinging statues, hide & seek (I was an excellent hider, BTW), SPUD were confined by those boundaries. I learned to twirl a baton out on that alley, learned how to ride a bike there too. I played jacks, and barbies on someone's porch, or stoop - all within calling distance of my mother's voice. At twilight, that's what you'd hear - all the mothers calling their kids - telling them it's time to come home. TIme to stop trying to catch fireflies in a jar, or stop huddling in the dark sharing secrets, or practising a new dance move under the tutelage of a friend's older sister.

None of the row houses had garages, so cars were generally parked on the street. Heaven forbid someone parked in my father's spot. There were no signs, we all just knew who was allowed to park where. While I'm sure there was a temptation to park the car in the alley - no one did. That was the kid's territory and the only people allowed to defy it were the ice cream truck and the old man with a cart and horse who would occasionally come down selling fruits and vegetables - oh and the scissor sharpening man. You never see those anymore.

Every house in those rows of connected red brick houses had kids - and we knew them all. We walked to school together, walked to the local pool, walked to church. There was no fear of crime that I recall, but maybe that was more lack of awareness. Either way - it was a great way to grow up.

jo robertson said...

Super post, Cassondra! Congrats, Jane, on getting the rooster.

My summers were in a small town in Virginia and what I remember most are the smell of honeysuckle and my brother's and my forays down to the banks of the Appomatox River. Good times!

Lolarific said...

Cassondra,

Actually one time I was in church in a sunday school class and they were talking about this very thing. That someone had been out at Walmart at 2am the night before and he was upset he saw teenagers all around the walmart. "They should be at home.....yadda yadda yadda..." And although I'm very close mouthed in church I felt the need to speak on this. I was like, "Hey at least they weren't out having sex or drinking. You knew where they were. And how much trouble can you get into simply hanging out at Walmart?"

He said,"You know I hadn't thought of it like that..."

So I won that moment and they moved on to some other subject. That part stuck with me though.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jane, a chook for you! He's a big city rooster - or at least he likes to think he is!

Cassondra, what a delightful post. I felt like I'd been swept into a movie. You know, the Music Man or something like that.

Sheree said...

All that fishing and biking was in Brooklyn. As we kids got older, we hung out in other places. Summer nights were warm and Coney Island was the best for kids with some pocket money (though Brighton Beach was way better than Coney Island in the daytime - less crowded and we could still fish if we wanted). Then, it was hanging out in Greenwich Village in high school (yes, we took the train into Manhattan - ooh!).

Of course, this being NYC, there were a lot of hanging out at museums (mostly the Natural History one) and libraries. I did spend a summer with a friend who had a car (in NYC!) which, though fun, convinced me that a gaggle of giggling teen girls in a car is not a good idea (even if I was one of them).

Pat Cochran said...

Hey, Cassondra, I was born in the early
days of what is now a major U.S. city.
(Houston-74 years ago) For me, summer
days during elem./jr high were the best. Sunshine-y days, a blanket under the trees across the street from our outside the city limits home, & arms full of books were heaven to me! This was in the day when you could do this without being in danger of harm. When I reached sr. high, there was no cruising for this shy & studious drum & bugle corps member.(Lost a boyfriend
because of this) The HS kids spent
lots of time at Stuart's Drive In
restaurant & drive in theaters were
huge! Yes to riding in the back of a
pick-up, Ben Franklin, & Western Auto.
(Woolworth downtown was a bigger
favorite) Yes, I do like to read any
story set in a small town!

Sheree said...

Donna, there's a knife/scissors-sharpening man at my local farmer's market. He has all his tools and such in his van so he must be driving to other places as well.

No matter what parents may think, NYC was a great place for kids to grow up. One of my friends played truant in fifth grade by spending the day at a museum. With a couple of subway tokens, a kid could go anywhere - no need for a grownup with a car - very freeing for a child but worrying for a parent, I'm sure.

Cassondra said...

I'm back!

In Atlanta now, and just got back online.

Glad to see some of y'all still around. :0)

Cassondra said...

Maria said:

...there was a year when we lived in a small town and everyone hung out at the A&W Rootbeer Drivethrough. I personally never got to cruise through parking lots or any of those other things that you mentioned in your post:)

We have an A&W in the big town near us! I love that place. And I think that's exactly the same kind of thing as the Frosty Freeze. Yummy, bad-for-you food, and good times!

Cassondra said...

MsHellion said:

Small towns usually evoke the kind of values we like in our heroes: hard working, family-oriented, dependable, willing to pitch in, and judges people by their abilities rather than their name or money. (Though the last quality can come and go in a small town...

You know, I never thought of that, but I think you're exactly right. I know that small town people have just as many faults and flaws as anyone else, but I tend to automatically assume the exact ethics and values you've mentioned. That's interesting. I'm not sure why that's so. Too much Andy Griffith and Mayberry, maybe?

Small towns make me think of farmers--and they're the ones with those qualities I admire. They don't have time for bullsh*t. But they're always willing to help you out of a tight spot, no matter what...

Oh, you've so nailed it. And you'e absolutely right. Of course, y'all already know how I feel about farmers, and farm boys. *grin*

The other ideal I prefer about small towns--you can see the stars at night in a small town or outside on the farm.

Yup. We bought a house a few years ago, but really, we bought some stars and some trees, with a house attached. I'm right there with you.

I don't understand the appeal of a place like New York. It's just not for me.

Now I have to say, I absolutely LOVE New York. But I love it to visit. I could live there, if my career demanded it (theatre, perhaps) but I would always yearn for the country. I need trees and fields and cows, frogs on the pond, lightning bugs, and the night sounds of the outdoors.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Cassondra, I know you won't find this a surprise, but you could have been talking about my hometown. Small, cruising from the Napa Auto Parts to the Pizza Hut and back -- maybe two miles. We had a place called the 88 Dip where you got your ice cream and fried foods before the Dairy Queen came. Actually, the Dip is still there and every once in awhile I'll stop and get a soft serve ice cream. We had a drive-in theater when I was in ice school, and they had $5 carload night and we'd pile as many people as we could into my ginormous old car. My hometown has changed remarkably little since then, except now they have a little McDonald's and tiny Subway. They still tend to roll up the streets at dark.

And it was fun reading about your hometown because you know I've driven through it many times. I usually take the bypass now, but I've eaten at that Sonic before.

Cassondra said...

Donna said:

I grew up in a big city, but the thing about anything "big," is that it's really a lot of "small" lashed together. We sort of define our boundaries by how far we're comfortable.

What a powerful insight! I don't know that I ever thought of it in just that way, but you're exactly right. All cities are that way, too--at least all the ones I've visited. They're all a bunch of smaller communities glommed together into a tight spot. Which is one of the wonderful things about cities, to me. In particular, New York, because each of the little communities has such its own feel. Dallas did not have that going on, as far as I could tell, but I haven't spent a lot of time getting to know Dallas. So it may have that character as well.

At twilight, that's what you'd hear - all the mothers calling their kids - telling them it's time to come home. TIme to stop trying to catch fireflies in a jar, or stop huddling in the dark sharing secrets, or practising a new dance move under the tutelage of a friend's older sister.

Wow. What an evocative description. I can just see and hear that happening. Probably because the same scene plays out everywhere. For me, it was playing at the neighbor's house, or them at my house. An apple orchard separated us. If I wanted them to come over, I would just yell at them when I saw them out, and ask if they could come over and play. They'd go in and ask, and the answer was almost always "yes."

Every house in those rows of connected red brick houses had kids - and we knew them all. We walked to school together, walked to the local pool, walked to church. There was no fear of crime that I recall, but maybe that was more lack of awareness. Either way - it was a great way to grow up.

Indeed. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

Thank you so much for sharing that with all of us!

Cassondra said...

Jo said

My summers were in a small town in Virginia and what I remember most are the smell of honeysuckle and my brother's and my forays down to the banks of the Appomatox River. Good times!

Oh! Honeysuckle! You just made me tear up a little. We have some growing on the bank beside our driveway, and it's taking over everything, and needs desperately to be cut back. But this year, Steve and I fought over who would get the mail because he ALWAYS gets the mail, but I wanted that excuse to walk down the driveway. It's like walking into a wall of the most heavenly perfume. I have to say that for me, scent is the thing which brings out the richest and most vivid of memories, imaginations, and creative insights.

Hmmmm. Perhaps I should make better use of that.

Cassondra said...

Sheree said:

All that fishing and biking was in Brooklyn. As we kids got older, we hung out in other places. Summer nights were warm and Coney Island was the best for kids with some pocket money (though Brighton Beach was way better than Coney Island in the daytime - less crowded and we could still fish if we wanted). Then, it was hanging out in Greenwich Village in high school (yes, we took the train into Manhattan - ooh!).

I've seen Coney Island, but never been to Brighton Beach. I love the beaches on the south end of Brooklyn though. The sunrise and sunset is absolutely stunning down there.

I did spend a summer with a friend who had a car (in NYC!) which, though fun, convinced me that a gaggle of giggling teen girls in a car is not a good idea (even if I was one of them).

Okay first, it's astonishing to me that a young girl had a car in NYC. And even more astonishing that he/she was allowed to DRIVE in NYC. And a gaggle of giggling teen girls, IN NYC, is definitely a bad idea. *grin*

I'm not afraid to drive anywhere, really, but driving up there is a major stressor for me.

Lexi said...

Small town girl here. I remember dime stores and drive ins and walking in the drug store on Main Street where the big haired women in the back kept the sanitary products behind the counter, like contraband, and you had to stand in line and ask for them in front of God and his sister. And God help you if you asked for tampons, because the Big Hairs would scowl at you and say, "Those are for married women, young lady!"

In the town where I grew up, there were two burger joints, one at either end of town. On Saturday night, we'd drive from burger joint to burger joint to see who was out. Yes, I have ridden in the back of a pick up truck, drunk draft beer out of a pickle jar, been to a bonfire party, been skinny dipping in the creek on a hot August night, and chased the moon through a soybean field.

Cassondra said...

Sheree said:


Actually one time I was in church in a sunday school class and they were talking about this very thing. That someone had been out at Walmart at 2am the night before and he was upset he saw teenagers all around the walmart. "They should be at home.....yadda yadda yadda..." And although I'm very close mouthed in church I felt the need to speak on this. I was like, "Hey at least they weren't out having sex or drinking. You knew where they were. And how much trouble can you get into simply hanging out at Walmart?"

He said,"You know I hadn't thought of it like that..."

So I won that moment and they moved on to some other subject. That part stuck with me though.


You know, I've thought about this, and all I can figure out is that it must be a holdover from when kids were expected to carry part of the work load at home and on the farm. The older generation were expected to participate in all of the chores, all of the time, so the "early to bed, early to rise" and "idle hands are the devil's tools" mentality is really not so far removed. In my parents'generation, running around was considered very bad, and was the mark of a poorly-reared boy or girl headed for trouble. It was just assumed that if you were loitering around with the opposite sex, bad things were happening. The whole "hanging out in mixed groups" thing is relatively new. My mom was expected to go with a group of girls, do whatever it was they were going to do, then come straight home. "Hanging out" was not an acceptable past time.

I think, with the passing of my parents' generation, that may go away for the most part. Even as I type that, I'm not sure that's a good thing, as I have the sense that many really important things may also be lost and forgotten along with the quirky hangups.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, Cassondra, I do love your posts. They make me all warm and nostalgic in my hearty-heart.

Before I forget - congrats on catching the wily bird, Jane!

Cassondra, my town was a little like that, but with only a flashing stoplight, it was cruise to one little community grocery store, turn. Cruise to the community center where the older, stuffier, but with boiled eggs country store was located.

Repeat. (No rinsing, there wasn't room) Grins. Or, we'd go to Wilkesboro, where you really COULD cruise, where the WAS a movie theatre (instead of only 7 churches and one post office as "public buildings"), and once upon a time, there was a drive in. Grins.

I wish there was a working one around here that I could get to without driving for an hour. :>

I just loved this post. Thank you!
(Now I want a malt)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Anna said: Cassondra, what a delightful post. I felt like I'd been swept into a movie. You know, the Music Man or something like that.

"There's trouble in River City..BIG Trouble! And it starts with P and that rhymes with T and it stands for POOL!"

Grins.

Cassondra said...

Pat Cochran said:

Sunshine-y days, a blanket under the trees across the street from our outside the city limits home, & arms full of books were heaven to me!

Oh, that sounds absolutely like heaven to me right now! It's been so long since I had the time to lie outside on a swing or a blanket and just read all afternoon and into the long evening. Okay I definitely need to put this on the list to do this summer. Life is too short to miss these kinds of moments!

When I reached sr. high, there was no cruising for this shy & studious drum & bugle corps member.(Lost a boyfriend
because of this)

Oh, that's just WRONG! How dare he! Oh well, he was just not the right one for you. I bet he had ulterior motives. *huffy sniff*

The HS kids spentlots of time at Stuart's Drive In restaurant & drive in theaters were huge! Yes to riding in the back of a pick-up, Ben Franklin, & Western Auto.
(Woolworth downtown was a bigger
favorite) Yes, I do like to read any
story set in a small town!


Oh, YAY! Somebody else who went to Ben Franklin and Western Auto! And I wouldn't have thought they would have had those stores in Houston. I just assumed they were only in small towns--one of those regional chains, yaknow?

And so glad you like small town stories. I'm actually setting a series in a small town near where I live (fictional version of the town). It has a major suspense element though, so I dunno if that will negate the small-town-ness of the story or not.

Cassondra said...

Sheree said:

No matter what parents may think, NYC was a great place for kids to grow up. One of my friends played truant in fifth grade by spending the day at a museum. With a couple of subway tokens, a kid could go anywhere - no need for a grownup with a car - very freeing for a child but worrying for a parent, I'm sure.

The museums and libraries would have been my haven, and I fear I would have played truant WAY more often, had I grown up in NYC. Then again, it might have been the theatre which lured me. And yeah, I can imagine being a parent in NYC now would be rather stressful. The temptation to use leashes and tracking devices would be very strong.

Cassondra said...

Trish said:

Cassondra, I know you won't find this a surprise, but you could have been talking about my hometown.

Nope, not surprised at all. In fact I wondered if you'd make
thought it might spark some memories for you. I didn't know you'd been through there so often, though. That's interesting. It's really changed a lot. So much more there now than when I lived there. 25 years makes a huge difference in a town.

...cruising from the Napa Auto Parts to the Pizza Hut and back -- maybe two miles. We had a place called the 88 Dip where you got your ice cream and fried foods before the Dairy Queen came. Actually, the Dip is still there and every once in awhile I'll stop and get a soft serve ice cream. We had a drive-in theater when I was in ice school, and they had $5 carload night and we'd pile as many people as we could into my ginormous old car. My hometown has changed remarkably little since then, except now they have a little McDonald's and tiny Subway. They still tend to roll up the streets at dark.

Yup. That's pretty much exactly how it was. The small town near us has refurbed the drive-in, as I mentioned, and I think that's a great thing. Carloads have gone from $5 to $8 in just the past five or six years, but they're now showing first-run movies. It's a really good time. It's on my list to make it there this summer. Not really so far from you, either, if you want a bit of nostalgia. And I know you love movies. They have great chili dogs.

And funnel cakes. *grin*

Cassondra said...

Anna Campbell said:

... what a delightful post. I felt like I'd been swept into a movie. You know, the Music Man or something like that.

*blush*

Cassondra said...

Lexi said:

Small town girl here. I remember dime stores and drive ins and walking in the drug store on Main Street where the big haired women in the back kept the sanitary products behind the counter, like contraband, and you had to stand in line and ask for them in front of God and his sister. And God help you if you asked for tampons, because the Big Hairs would scowl at you and say, "Those are for married women, young lady!"

Oh. My. Gosh.

That is HORRIBLE! I laughed out loud at that image, and the horrified teenage girl I would have been, having to do that. I did NOT have to go through that, thank goodness. Those products were available, right out there on the shelf, and nobody even looked at you twice when you bought them...although it was still embarrassing, especially when you were in line and that's ALL you had, and some of the guys from school were also in line.....*shudder*.

In the town where I grew up, there were two burger joints, one at either end of town. On Saturday night, we'd drive from burger joint to burger joint to see who was out. Yes, I have ridden in the back of a pick up truck, drunk draft beer out of a pickle jar, been to a bonfire party, been skinny dipping in the creek on a hot August night, and chased the moon through a soybean field.

Oh wow, those are wonderfully vivid pictures. I never went skinny dipping. Isn't that awful? I've thought about that through the years and decided I missed out, and I'm actually kind of sad about that. Now, nobody is seeing me in a swimsuit, let alone naked. I wish I'd been a little less straight-laced then, and a little more rebellious about stuff like that.

Cassondra said...

Oh, and Lexi, I absolutely LOVE the moniker "Big Hairs."

That's fantastic. And it's all you have to say. I know exactly what those ladies looked like. *grin*

Cassondra said...

Jeanne said:

Cassondra, my town was a little like that, but with only a flashing stoplight, it was cruise to one little community grocery store, turn. Cruise to the community center where the older, stuffier, but with boiled eggs country store was located.

Boiled eggs?

Do you, by any chance, mean pickled eggs? I'm going to blog about pickled eggs some day. I swear I am.



Or, we'd go to Wilkesboro, where you really COULD cruise, where the WAS a movie theatre (instead of only 7 churches and one post office as "public buildings"), and once upon a time, there was a drive in. Grins.

I wish there was a working one around here that I could get to without driving for an hour. :>

I just loved this post. Thank you!
(Now I want a malt)


When you come to visit, come in the summer. We will go to the drive in here. We'll open the back of the van or SUV, spread out blankets and pillows, open up the cooler, and have a grand time.

And surely there is a good malt to be had somewhere near you. Go get one, sit in that lovely back yard of yours, and reminisce.

Cassondra said...

Jeanne said:

"There's trouble in River City..BIG Trouble! And it starts with P and that rhymes with T and it stands for POOL!"


OMG! I can't believe somebody else knows that song!

That's what they actually believed in my town. That playing pool would lead you down the road to perdition.
So would cruising, hanging out, wearing your skirts too short, big hoop earrings, red nail polish, or too much lipstick and blush.

Just sayin.

uxb said...

We had two drive-ins at my hometown.

The 31-W Drive-In, (now a Kroger) and the Lost River Drive-In (now a trailer park)

Dad had a white Pontiac station wagon with a red interior and he took us all to the movies on Saturday night as it was hard to find a baby sitter that would watch three boys of 2, 4 (me) and 6.

Mom and dad sat up front, granny and her sister "Auntie" sat in the middle and my two brothers and I sat in the back.

It was a double feature, "Shenandoah" followed by the more light-hearted fare "The Shakiest Gun in the West" with Don Knotts. It was a good movie to take my mind off seeing my first on-screen graphic death, a soldier shot in the forehead in one of the battle scenes in "Shenandoah".

My mind was pretty much taken off both movies shortly thereafter when, in an attempt to climb over the seat from the back of the station wagon, I spilled my entire milk-shake down Auntie's back.

Dad stopped taking us to the drive-in not much later. Some out-of-towners liked to come to the movies and drink in their cars. After much libation, they began to yell at the characters on the screen. It didn't take long before gunfights broke out when the movie villain would appear and shots would ring out from various and sundry vehicles towards the silver screen baddies.

I thought shooting at the movie screen was the coolest thing ever, while my dad was not amused.

The Ben Franklin sat next to a Houchens Market on the main drag through town called "The By-Pass". There were no shopping malls, the main shops were located on either the Town Square or The By-Pass.

Visits to Ben Franklin were usually reserved for Sunday-after-church. This was fine for me as it allowed me to walk up-town with granny during the week and I would pick up change lost on the sidewalks, and if I saw change in the streets I would ask granny to get it for me.

When I would go to Ben Franklin's I would go straight to the back of the store. Right past the baby rabbits and ducks and chicks and bicycles and baseball gloves. Straight to the back like a little bee. Right to the shelf with model airplanes. Made in the USA airplanes. By Revell. Seventy whole cents. I would reach in my little vest pocket, see what I had left over after putting a dime in the collection plate at church, and hope I had enough money to buy a P-51 Mustang or an ME-109 or an F-4U Corsair.

I would open the package as soon as I got it home. All the plastic parts on their little sprue frames went on the left, instructions went on the right. I memorized the length, width, and wingspans and would recite all the minutiae to any one unfortunate enough for me to corner them.

Glue, paint, paintbrushes, nail clippers all in a little pile. And regardless of the newspapers on the kitchen table I would still manage to get paint on the table somehow and airplane glue on my shirt.

Sometimes I would save up for a bomber instead of a fighter, and the price was closer to two dollars instead of seventy cents, and they usually were not Made in the USA Revell models, but some overseas stuff that never fitted properly.

After much frustration and trying to understand why the pins and holes for the parts never lined up properly, the pins were clipped off with nail clippers (I couldn't save up enough for an X-acto knife set and my parents were wise enough not to buy me one), the parts were held together with rubber bands and clothes pins until the glue dried and the end result looked somewhat like an airplane designed by Dr. Caligari.

The not-made-in-the-USA planes usually suffered the ignominious fate of being dangled from a clothesline and being blown up with Black Cat firecrackers before the smoking wreckage crashed to the sidewalk below.

It was a good place to grow up.

Cassondra said...

Just so y'all know, uxb is Steve, my husband. :0)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Cassondra said: When you come to visit, come in the summer. We will go to the drive in here. We'll open the back of the van or SUV, spread out blankets and pillows, open up the cooler, and have a grand time.

And surely there is a good malt to be had somewhere near you. Go get one, sit in that lovely back yard of yours, and reminisce.


Sigh. Lovely. There is an ice cream shop near here that makes good old fashioned milk shakes and malts. :> Parking is awful, but maybe if I go during the day....

And the store had both pickled eggs and hard boiled ones. The pickled ones were pink. Used to gross me out.

The other store - Lackey's Market - had pickled pigs feet and pork rinds which Old Mr. Tom at the Boomer Gas and Gro. wouldn't sell. :>

Cassondra said...

Uxb said:

My mind was pretty much taken off both movies shortly thereafter when, in an attempt to climb over the seat from the back of the station wagon, I spilled my entire milk-shake down Auntie's back.

ROFL!! Okay, you never told me that story before! *grin*

Dad stopped taking us to the drive-in not much later. Some out-of-towners liked to come to the movies and drink in their cars. After much libation, they began to yell at the characters on the screen. It didn't take long before gunfights broke out when the movie villain would appear and shots would ring out from various and sundry vehicles towards the silver screen baddies.

I thought shooting at the movie screen was the coolest thing ever, while my dad was not amused.


Okay, I don't approve of drinking and firearms, or shooting at the screen, but that's funny that you thought it was cool, and so typical of you.

When I would go to Ben Franklin's I would go straight to the back of the store. Right past the baby rabbits and ducks and chicks and bicycles and baseball gloves. Straight to the back like a little bee. Right to the shelf with model airplanes. Made in the USA airplanes. By Revell. Seventy whole cents. I would reach in my little vest pocket, see what I had left over after putting a dime in the collection plate at church, and hope I had enough money to buy a P-51 Mustang or an ME-109 or an F-4U Corsair.

I would open the package as soon as I got it home. All the plastic parts on their little sprue frames went on the left, instructions went on the right. I memorized the length, width, and wingspans and would recite all the minutiae to any one unfortunate enough for me to corner them.

Glue, paint, paintbrushes, nail clippers all in a little pile. And regardless of the newspapers on the kitchen table I would still manage to get paint on the table somehow and airplane glue on my shirt.

Sometimes I would save up for a bomber instead of a fighter, and the price was closer to two dollars instead of seventy cents, and they usually were not Made in the USA Revell models, but some overseas stuff that never fitted properly.

After much frustration and trying to understand why the pins and holes for the parts never lined up properly, the pins were clipped off with nail clippers (I couldn't save up enough for an X-acto knife set and my parents were wise enough not to buy me one), the parts were held together with rubber bands and clothes pins until the glue dried and the end result looked somewhat like an airplane designed by Dr. Caligari.

The not-made-in-the-USA planes usually suffered the ignominious fate of being dangled from a clothesline and being blown up with Black Cat firecrackers before the smoking wreckage crashed to the sidewalk below.

It was a good place to grow up.


That's a really, really good story. *grin*

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

UXB said: Straight to the back like a little bee. Right to the shelf with model airplanes. Made in the USA airplanes. By Revell. Seventy whole cents. I would reach in my little vest pocket, see what I had left over after putting a dime in the collection plate at church, and hope I had enough money to buy a P-51 Mustang or an ME-109 or an F-4U Corsair.

I remember those! My brothers loved them. As I recall, the "furrin' made ones" as my granny would say, met the same fate at my brother's hands as yours did. Smoking wreckage. grins.

And I do remember things dangling from the clothes lines, but that was usually the tangled parachutes of the unfortunate paratroopers dropped en masse from the balcony overlooking the backyard. Grins.

Oh, and I adored Don Knotts in "Shakiest Gun" - I'd probably hate it now, but back then, I just laughed and laughed. :>

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy said...

Loved your post - everything sounds so familiar. I still live in a small town and it's the setting for my just released contemporary romance, "Love Never Fails" from Rebel Ink Press so yes, I like to read small town love stories and write them!