Historic Columbus – Part 3
By guest author John Jefferies
Dear old Seventh Street School. What a great school that was. Believe it or not, I still remember the first day I attended. It was Kindergarten and I was there for exactly one-half day. The reason I remember it so well is that when we went outside for what was called a little recess, I thought we were finished for the day and proceeded immediately to home. When I got there my Mother asked me why I came home and I told her school was over and I didn’t have to go back. She almost fainted and quickly got on the phone to tell them where I was to avoid a search party being sent out. Actually, I don’t think they even missed me. I never went back to Kindergarten.
I had a wonderful teacher in First Grade, I believe her name was Ms. Krimrine. I was a lazy student and didn’t try to learn but she would have none of that. She talked to me and ask what I wanted to do most. I said I liked to color with crayons. She said that since I liked to color she would do something for me, she would give me a coloring book at the end of the school year if I would try real hard. That bribe, as small as it was, turned out to be just enough to get me on the right track to learning and I had no more problems. By the way, she gave me the coloring book just as she had promised. I owe that teacher a lot.
We moved away from the house on Lower Broad when I was in Third or Fourth grade but I don’t remember exactly when. We moved to a house on Peabody Avenue about half a block from Junior High where I attended Waverly Hall middle school just across the street. A short time later we moved to Fifteenth Avenue just a block below Jordan High. From there I rode my bicycle to St. Elmo elementary near Lake Bottom.
We just didn’t seem to be able to find a house big enough for our growing family so we moved again. This time to a refurbished old farmhouse in a subdivision called Summer Field. We lived on Benjamin Drive just off Old Cusseta Road. We were there when WWII began and rationing was put into effect. You couldn’t buy tires. Gasoline, coffee, and sugar required ration stamps. The stamps were very valuable and there was a lot of trade and bartering to get them sometimes. I lost a book of sugar stamps along with a leather jacket one time and I feared for my safety. I survived the wrath of my father for losing the stamps but I went all winter without a jacket and boy it sure was cold. Our car was on blocks in the garage where it stayed until my father could sell it. My brother and I rode our bicycles to Tillinghurst school which was the only transportation we had.
We later moved back to the house on lower Broad and I returned to Seventh Street School in time to enter the seventh grade. While there I was elected Captain of the School Safety Patrol and met the prettiest girl I had ever seen. Her name was Norma and I was immediately smitten. I couldn’t convince myself that a girl as pretty as that could have the least bit of interest in a tall skinny guy like me. We became good friends though and I enjoyed being around her and was there as often as possible. Norma had several girlfriends and they would sit on the steps of the school sometimes and sing all the songs of the time. They would harmonize beautifully. They would ask me to join in, but I told them I couldn’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow but I could whistle. So I did. It was great fun. Some of the girls would tease me about the brown corduroy knickers I wore.
In those early days, the School Safety Patrol was assigned to escort the Kindergarten children safely home when their school day was over. I’ve often wondered if my early experience in Kindergarten had anything to do with this activity being introduced. Anyway, the kids sure enjoyed being escorted and hung on to us every step of the way.
I can’t remember the Principal’s name, but I think it was Ms. Smith, and I can tell you for sure that she would not stand for any foolishness from the students but was honest and fair with all the students.
When I left Seventh Street School for Junior High I was working at Choppy’s Drive-In on First Avenue and Fourth Street as a Car-Hop. It was early in WWII and soldiers were piling into Ft. Benning for training. The 82nd Airborne was attending Jump School and the 7th Armored Division was training at Harmony Church. These were tough guys. Each group was taught that they were the toughest and meanest group alive and they brought that thought with them when they came to town. Needless to say, you didn’t want to be in the way when these groups confronted each other. Eventually, things settled down and Columbus became a real wartime military town where soldiers could go and enjoy their leave without a lot of hassle. The Infantry School at Benning is world renown and famous for the training of foot soldiers. Even today, when people learn I am from Columbus, many of them say they trained at Ft. Benning and speak well of the town. I thank them.
My job as a Car Hop at Choppy’s was eventful and educational and the tips were good. Since the restaurant was located directly across the street from Golden Park, home of the Columbus Redbirds, we had a lot of baseball customers who came before and after the games to eat and drink. The restaurant was famous for their barbecue and scrambled dogs. The cook’s name was “Dynamite” and he could cook the best barbecue and chili you ever tasted. I get hungry just thinking about it. My boss was Tommy Pugh who was Mr. Choppy’s Son-in-law and a really nice man to work for.
I left the restaurant and went to work at the Columbus Enquirer where I learned the printing trade. Thereafter I traveled to many towns working at the trade before returning to Columbus to once again work at the Columbus Office Supply Company on Sixth Avenue. A few years later I decided to continue my printing education and left Columbus to work in other cities, finally ending up in Atlanta where I later left the printing trade and went to work for Eastern Airlines. I was transferred from Atlanta to Miami and remained with Eastern until I retired in 1988.
Historic Columbus – Part 3 Continues
I recently visited Columbus to attend my Granddaughter’s graduation from Columbus High. The ceremony was held in the Coliseum where the fairgrounds used to be. When we arrived on the grounds I felt a deep sense of sadness coming over me. I did not recognize a single thing there. I saw a big building and a huge parking lot and that’s all. I found myself trying to picture where everything used to be located on the grounds when the fair was in full swing but had no success. Everything was different. I realize Columbus has grown into a more metropolitan and modern City than it used to be, however, I still remember when it was different when the fair was truly a County Fair. There used to be exhibition halls located throughout the grounds and farmers and ladies and children would bring their exhibits to be judged in hopes of winning the blue ribbon. The ladies would exhibit their cooked goods like pies, cakes, and bread and also their sewing and crouching. There would be dresses, blankets, quilts, bedspreads and many other home-made things on exhibit in one hall. Most all the farm children were members of the 4H club in their schools and would bring farm animals they had raised. Farmers would bring livestock to exhibit as well as chickens and other farm animals. I must be a country boy at heart because I loved all that stuff and I’m thankful I was able to be a part of and a witness to all of it. I wonder how many kids of today have never seen a live steer or live pig or have never visited a real farm. Not many, at least I think so.
Before I finish Historic Columbus – Part 3, I would like to mention this last thing.
I was a member of the 4H when I attended Tillinghurst and I will never forget a three-day camp I attended with the other boys and girls at Pine Mountain. There were cabins set up in groups and each cabin would accommodate four boys on their side of the camp and cabins for four girls on their side of the camp. Each group had a counselor, either an adult male or female as the situation demanded, who’s cabin was in the middle of the group they were assigned to monitor and look out for. When I was first asked if I could attend, I was almost certain my Father wouldn’t give me the three dollars it was going to cost to go there. Being the conniving kind, I was busy making up all kinds of arguments why I thought it would be a good idea for him to change his mind and let me go anyway. When he got home I was waiting on the front porch. I said, “Daddy, I have been invited to go to 4H camp, but it is going to cost 3 dollars”. He said, “Okay”, and went into the house. I just stood there with my mouth wide open. I had planned all these wonderful arguments and didn’t get to use a single one.
We had a great time at the camp. I can’t tell about all the things that happened, that’s a “whole other story”, that I will have to talk about later, but as they say, boys will be boys and girls will be girls. Its my understanding all the counselors resigned and refused to come back for the next year. We all thought that was just poor sportsmanship on their part. We were not all that bad. Well, yeah, maybe some.
“Historic Columbus Part 3“, By guest author John Jefferies
Although “time marches on” and cities develop and grow I sometimes feel this generation has missed some great lessons that progress has left behind. As for me, the good old days may be gone, but they are surely not forgotten.