Saturday, August 21, 2010

THE GREAT GRUMP Writes Again.....

For those who don't know (I had similar posts last summer/fall),
this is a caricature of "The Great Grump"
(so-named by his grandchildren.....and also known around the small - too small for a REAL mayor -community in which he lived as "The Mayor").
This was painted years ago on a 24 x 36 piece of old plywood by folk artist
Butch Anthony from Seale, Alabama.

Daddy wrote a column for the Columbus newspaper for years - stories of "life". Many of his columns reminisced about years gone by in Columbus, Georgia.

Daddy had always said he needed to gather all of his columns together into a little booklet, but he never did. So, as a Father's Day gift for him, I typed up several of his stories and created two small booklets with about twelve stories in each one.

He died two months later (two years ago this month), but his stories live does he in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.

The following story is fairly long but evokes such a sense of the 1940's/1950's era in the South that it is worth reading.


Faulkenberry’s Service Station on the corner of Wynnton Road and Forest Avenue was not an educational institution, but a large number of East Wynnton boys learned a lot about life there back in the late 1940’s and early ‘50’s.

Faulkenberry’s was where we hung out. Every afternoon after school, Saturdays, and some Sunday afternoons there would be anywhere from two to a dozen teen-age boys there.
Nowadays we might have been called a gang. We did do a lot of bad things, but rarely anything truly mean. Mostly we grew up and had fun.

How Fred Faulkenberry stood us is hard to understand now. We must have been a total nuisance. Every now and then when we got too rambunctious, he would run us off, and we would all move across Forest Avenue to the front yard of Wynnton School.

There was a big Nehi drink box in the front of the station that was a favorite place of ours to sit. It was one of those old boxes that you lifted the top up, slid your drink down to one end, put a nickel in the slot to trip the mechanism, and then pulled your drink out. The box had a big flat top, a perfect place for sitting with your legs hanging over the side showing your white socks and loafers.
Customers had a hard time getting a drink because they first had to get two or three lazy teen-agers to move off the top of the drink box.
Fred or W.D. or Oscar, who worked there, were forever running the boys off the box. In five minutes they would be right back. Fred and W.D. finally wired the drink box to a 6 volt car battery and put a switch inside the station. They would let two or three boys get real comfortable on the drink and pop the juice to them. They broke up the drink box sitting, but some of the boys found the switch and began surprising a few customers. We thought it was hilarious. Fred and the customers didn’t think too much of it.

I guess we could have been called a gang.
We even called ourselves the Wildwood Indians.
For a while there was another group that hung out at Weracoba Pharmacy that called themselves the Drugstore Cowboys.
The two groups were always picking at one another but never did do anything serious.
The favorite pastime was to ride by the other hang-out and
“kidnap” one of the other group.
It was all a friendly sort of rivalry, and the worst thing that was ever done to anybody was to take their pants off and put them out on the street to get home
the best way they could.
Since I was one of the smallest and the youngest of the group,
I was often kidnapped and de-panted. Most of the time, I would just hide my skinny legs in the bushes until one of my buddies came by to rescue me. It was a little awkward sometimes when a car load of girls would come by and offer you a ride and ask why you were standing over in the bushes. Often it was the kidnappers who sent the girls.

Across Wynnton Road from Faulkenberry’s was a drugstore (with a soda fountain), the Blue J Barber Shop, Spano’s Fish Market, a cleaners, and one or two other stores. The buildings are still there, but all the businesses are gone now except the Blue J, where some of us still get our hair cut.
The only really bad thing that was pulled by this bunch of teen-agers that I can remember, was when Angelo Spano’s Fish Market got blown up.
Angelo was an excitable Italian and sometimes got angry at the teen-agers hanging around his store.
We all liked him, but some of the group did pick at him too much sometimes.
This was right after World War II, and some of the boys got a hold of an army smoke bomb. Nobody knew just what a smoke bomb would do, and most of the group was leery of using the thing.
Two or three of the boys decided to play a trick on Angelo anyway, and they detonated the smoke bomb in the doorway of his fish market and a fruit stand next door.
There was more to a smoke bomb than they bargained for. Nobody got hurt, thank goodness, but it did do some damage and caused quite a bit of excitement. The boys involved were punished pretty severely for this misdeed, and everybody learned a good lesson from it.

At Faulkenberry’s we learned a lot about cars and how to work on them (all the cars we had NEEDED working on). We learned how to cuss pretty good. We talked a lot about girls (we didn’t call it sex back then), but most of the information that we passed around was not very accurate.
One boy, who never hung around the station very much, was a bully. When he did come up there he seemed to take great pleasure in picking on me. He was bigger and older than I was and would pinch me or trip me just to aggravate and embarrass me.
One day, on the advice of my older brother and the older boys in the group, I screwed up my courage and, shaking in my boots, socked him in the nose as hard as I could. Boy, was I scared, and boy, was he surprised. He never bothered me again, and I learned a little about facing up to life’s problems.
We all helped out some around the station when they got busy. We would wash windshields, check tires, and pump gas as needed.
Frank Dunham, the mechanic, was working on a car and asked me to go inside and get him a left-handed monkey wrench.
I had never heard of such a thing, but went in and asked W.D. where I could find it.
Without cracking a smile, he told me it was lost, and I would have to go to the station across the street to borrow one. Everybody was watching as I innocently went to the station across the street to borrow a left-handed monkey wrench.
When the men from two filling stations were practically rolling on the ground laughing, I finally figured out that there was no such thing as a left-handed monkey wrench. They had a lot more fun with that joke than I did.

The station sold peanuts and crackers off a little rack inside the station. Fred gave up early on trying to keep up with a half dozen teen-agers in and out of his place. He put us all on the honor system about paying for whatever we got. We put the money on the cash register, or, quite often, just opened the cash register and put the money on the drawer.
So far as I know, none of that crowd ever intentionally beat Fred out of any money.
He trusted us, and we were very careful not to betray that trust.

Most all of that bunch of Wildwood Indians turned out O.K.
I don’t know of any who are in jail, but one did serve in the state legislature, and one became mayor of a medium-sized town in Georgia. One or two bad eggs ain’t bad out of a dozen.
Faulkenberry’s Service Station was an institution and we all learned a lot there.
Thanks, Fred, for putting up with us.

(February 15, 1991 – “Voices”, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

Have a "Lug-ly" Day!


  1. Awww - I enjoyed this. As I read it, the place that it resembled most in my mind was Mayberry :)

  2. Yes, MyStory, I was thinking the same thing when I read it....Sheriff Andy Taylor (i.e. Andy Griffith), Opie (SP?), Barney, Otis, Gomer, Ernest T. Bass, and Aunt Bea would've blended right in...and the barber in Mayberry could've been Mr. Dave at the Blue J Barbershop in Columbus. The cast of Happy Days, too, was brought to mind:)

    I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Wasn't life great then? No serious harm done (mostly) and no one was intentionally hurt. What a beautiful memory. Thank you for printing this.