IN THIS SPACE recently I waxed nostalgic about what it was like to grow up in Gilmer during those pre-World War II years when so many things were simpler—or so they seem in retrospect.
I mentioned long horseback rides with my friends Billy Neal and Virginia Ann Hogg, who moved to Waco before they grew up, and have now passed on.
Horace L. Nix of Gilmer was inspired by the column to write me a letter that I quote here:
“I have just turned 80 years and I just love Sideglances. In the April 28 news, I read about strawberry soda pop at Mrs. Daisy Collier’s store out on the Cherokee Trace.
“About the same time me and my dad (Lonnie Nix) would go out Cherokee Trace and chop wood for Mommy’s wood-burning stove. We would stop at Mrs. Daisy’s store and get a sack of cheese and crackers for 10 cents.
“Mrs. Daisy would slice the cheese off a big round block of cheese, and a hand full of crackers. That was a big treat for me.
“I still think of all of the good days. I live alone in my lake cabin. I have to use a wheelchair to get around. All my folks are dead. I still have the good Lord. He keeps me going.
“I would like for Mrs. Lurline Johnson to tell about the big hamburger shop on Tyler St. in the 1940s and early ’50s.
“Mrs. Lovell’s big juicy hamburger‚ next to the Strand Theater, 10 cents
“Mrs. Henry’s hamburger, next to the Crystal Theater, 10 cents
“Mr. Fowler’s big hamburger, next to the Crystal Theater, 10 cents
“At the time, I was about 12 years old. I worked for Eddie and Fay Gorman’s Bakery, 25 cents an hour. Bread was $2 a box of 20 loaves. Day-old bread was 2 cents a loaf. Daddy worked at odd jobs for 40 cents an hour.”
THE HAMBURGERS were delicious, no doubt, but the memory this letter brings back most vividly for me was the aroma of bread baking at the Gorman Bakery late most evenings.
Teen-agers who had access to rationed gasoline during the war would be tempted to interrupt their riding around when that fresh bread aroma emanated from the bakery on the north side of Buffalo St., in the 200 block between the First Baptist Church and the courthouse square.
Marcel Proust, the famous French novelist in the early 20th century, was noted for his description in Remembrance of Things Past of the little cake known as a madeleine. Its taste when dipped in tea could enable him to experience his past simultaneously with his grown-up present. Or so he wrote.
If a modern-day Proust lived in Gilmer, and could get one of those loaves of unsliced white bread straight from the bakery oven, it might also evoke deathless literature.
If that seems a bit grandiose, so be it. I do appreciate hearing from Horace Nix.
ANOTHER PERSON who has lived past 80, the Hearst Washington correspondent Helen Thomas, got into such trouble for her recent remarks that she decided to retire. At 89 she was the dean of the White House press corps and sat front and center at press conferences.
As pundits were still talking about this week, she apologized for remarking that Jews should “get the _ _ _ _ out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland or Germany.
A Washington Post column by Dana Milbank was headlined “The sad farewell of Helen Thomas” and Howard Kurtz wrote two different dispatches on the subject in that newspaper.
He said of Ms. Thomas, “She had been there so long, was so admired by female journalists, was such a curmudgeonly character, that she was regarded as everyone’s eccentric aunt.”
Few if any defended her, but Joe Scarborough of the Morning Joe program on MSNBC went the farthest. He said no one over 80 should make public statements. His colleagues, quite rightly, forced him to recant, immediately.