It's official. The season has changed from summer to fall. When my wife Paula and I got up this morning, she called for me to come outside to the patio to sample the brisk fall air that somehow made it into our part of the country. The cooler air with less of our usual stifling humidity was downright shocking ... in a very good way.
This change of pace in the weather brought back many childhood memories tied to the change of seasons. Paula recalled how in her elementary school days her dad would load the car up and head out to the stadium where the Dothan High Tigers played their home games. She remembered how much she enjoyed getting to eat a boiled hot dog. She still wonders why those hot dogs at the stadium always tasted so much better than the ones her mother cooked at home.
I, on the other hand, enjoyed going to high school football games in Geneva in the stadium later named after Hugh Owen, whose son, Hughie, was a classmate of mine from kindergarten through 12th grade. Once upon a time that same stadium had served as home to a Class D minor league baseball team, the Geneva Red Birds. The Red Birds played in the Alabama State League from 1946-1950. I can only imagine how excited the townspeople were when the Red Birds won the league title in their very first season! It never happened again.
The stadium was also home to at least one installment of a unique southern tradition — the All Night Gospel Singing. Yep, the name says it all. The way I remember it, the singing groups would perform from dusk to dawn. I remember one gospel singer who sung with a side serving of rock n' roll . Her name was Martha Carson and in my childhood memories she was beautiful as well as being the top in her category. I'm sure she brought down the house (or the stadium). I'm not sure because I had to go to bed early, you know.
When Paula and I were reminiscing about the change of seasons, she actually said she looked forward to going back to school. Imagine that. She said she was especially fond of Fridays back then because lots of her young girlfriends had spend-the-night parties where they got to stay up late, play 45 rpm records (that usually belonged to older siblings) and talk about boys.
Believe it or not, Paula could recall with great clarity the menus from the school's cafeteria. And yes, she even liked most of the items served and could remember on which day it was cooked. No kidding — she's got an incredible memory for the most trivial things. She told me that she looked forward to Fridays in the lunchroom because they always served fish on Fridays. Other days featured minute steaks, hot dogs (not as good as the ones served at the stadium), hamburgers, and an occasional vegetable that got rave reviews from the kids. But that was rare, indeed.
When it came to the old (and I do mean old) buildings she and I attended in Dothan and Geneva there was a certain smell about them that was unforgettable. We both remembered the Zep brand sweeping compound they would use on the wooden floors. It reminded me of Pine Sol for floors.
We both remembered purchasing snacks during breaks from the classroom. Her classes were treated to ice cream while my elementary classroom got to buy either oranges or apples — take your pick at five cents each. Mrs. Thompson's class ran the elementary "store" from wooden crates that were assigned a space near the teacher's desk.
For both Paula and me, the official segue from summer to fall was marked by the opening of the National Peanut Festival and Fair (except this year when Covid-19 concerns forced organizers to postpone until next year). Where else can you find a huge midway, breathtaking rides, and a mammoth parade all in one place? Dothan, Alabama. Where can beautiful young women compete for the title of Miss National Peanut Festival and the Little Miss title, too, for the younger set?
We all regret that the Covid-19 pandemic has put crimp in so many of the things we associate with the transition from summer to fall and other autumnal events.
But hopefully we'll be back to normal as soon as possible.