In memory of former Lifestyles editor Janice Howard, we reprint this article written by Janice about growing up in Warren County.
Reflecting on my childhood during the late 1940s and into the ’50s brings back fond memories of growing up in a close-knit family with two older sisters.
McMinnville was a safe, little town where everybody knew everybody else. It was a town steeped in tradition and family values that created a strong sense of security.
Those were the days when the father earned the income to support his family. The mother tended to the house and cared for the children, as was the case in the McGiboney household. My sisters and I were raised at the knee of a loving Christian mother who loved her God, her church and was a leader in the community.
My father operated bulldozers and other heavy equipment and had the first backhoe business in town. He was employed at Arnold Engineering Development Center during its construction years.
When he left the farm he told his dad, “I’ll never tell another mule to giddy up unless it’s sitting right in my lap.”
Money was tight for everybody but I wasn’t old enough to be aware of shortages that might have lingered after the war. Even in town, folks had gardens that helped supplement the pantry shelves and lowered grocery expenses. We mostly ate vegetables during the week and mother prepared chicken or other meat on Sunday.
My earliest ambition was to become a clothes designer. The girls at elementary school always wore dresses and the boys wore blue jeans. During cold weather, we slipped into jeans worn underneath our dresses for the walk to school, then took them off with our coats after we arrived. The ladies wore dresses everyday – no slacks – and dressed up with hats and gloves for church.
As early as second grade, I was occasionally allowed to walk to the movie on Main Street or to the city swimming pool down by the river to meet friends. This is not something we would consider allowing our 8- and 9-year-olds to do today.
I barely remember going once or twice to the Center or Dixie theaters on E. Main Street. Movies at the Park cost a dime for those under 12, then went up to a quarter. Admittance to the city pool was about the same price.
After double-feature movies on Saturdays, my friends and I stopped at Berto Badger’s eatery on Morford Street for a cone-shaped cup of delicious malted, soft-serve ice cream. It was also fun to browse along the aisles at Locke’s 10 & 25 Cent Store and chat briefly with my next-door neighbor who worked there. Another frequent stop was at the second floor photographer’s room near Orchid Beauty Shop to have 10 tiny pictures made for a dime. It’s a wonder there aren’t hundreds of those little brown-tinted photos stuck back in everyone’s chest of drawers.
Saturday was always a big day in town for shopping or conducting business. The farmers market located on the post office side of the courthouse lawn and the downtown area buzzed with activity.
Mother took us to the Kiddie Shoppe or J.C. Penney when we shopped for children’s clothes. She liked to dress us in neat cotton plaids with a back sash and big white collar. Then, we’d sit in the car eating cheese and crackers while watching people go by. After I reached school age, she helped out occasionally at Sue Ella’s Hat Shop, our great aunt’s business located on Spring Street next to Dinty Moore’s Restaurant. It wasn’t until her children were grown that she accepted full-time employment as women’s editor at the Southern Standard.
In the mid to late ’50s, soda fountains in the drug stores provided favorite hangouts for the teenagers. Main Street was heavily traveled as “The Strip.”
“No matter where these girls go, they have to make a trip down Main Street to find their way back home,” Daddy said of my sisters after they learned to drive.
Truth was we did drive Main Street and on out Sparta Street to Fat’s and Charlie’s drive-in restaurants “to see and be seen or see who was with whom.”
Activities available for youth included Girl Scouts Boy Scouts, Rainbow Girls sponsored by the Eastern Star, various church youth organizations and school athletic events. We also enjoyed slumber parties and boy/girl socials planned for our entertainment by the parents of friends.
By the late ’50s, the Grissom family operated Rock Island Resort located near Great Falls Dam where the Collins and Caney Fork rivers meet. The approach to the bridge separated the rental cabins from the bath house, floating boat dock and swimming pool. This was a popular spot for swimming, sunning, boating and skiing - especially for teenagers.
One of my fondest memories was the week spent with eight of my dearest friends and two chaperones when we rented one of the cabins at Rock Island Resort. This group of ninth-graders had the time of our lives and I had my first introduction to the guy who later became my husband.
With the building of McMinnville City High School, the 1957-58 senior class at Central High School was divided after 11 years of attending school together. I entered the house of learning on Rebel Hill as a freshman full of excitement and expectations for the next four years to come.
High school was a great time of dating, cheerleading at football and basketball games, going to the drive-in theater and getting my driver’s license. When I turned 16, I also applied for my first part-time job clerking at J.C. Penney Co. on Saturdays and during holidays.