Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chapter 10 Summers in Calvert

My folks also let me spend a week or so in Calvert each summer. I had so many kinfolks in Calvert that I knew someone on almost every street. I loved to go down there as I was treated like some sort of celebrity. I guess partly because I was a little kid from out of town but mostly because of my Dad. Everyone loved Dad. He was very gregarious, outgoing and fun loving. He always had a big smile. They all loved “George Sr.” Everyone referred to me as “Little George.”

Calvert was a throwback to an earlier time. It was filled with friendly, good people, both white and black. The population was split about 50-50 white and black. The total population was always less than 2000 people. clip_image002The main highway between Houston and Dallas passed down Main Street and was the only paved street in town. All of the white folks’ stores were on the North side of Main Street and the black folks’ stores were on the South side of the street. The blacks were not allowed to cross over to the North side of the street. Now, it seems unbelievable but the thirties were a different time. Everyone, white and black accepted it as if it was just the way it was. Uncle Jack was a pharmacist and his drug store was on the South side of the street. He was a big, gangly man, 6’ 6’’ with long arms and legs. He looked a lot like Abraham Lincoln. He had a soft heart and he took good care of the medical needs of his customers, who were all black. For many, he was the only “doctor” they had.

I remember one night real late the old magneto telephone in the hall began to ring. (It hung on the wall and had a big crank on one side of it that you had to crank to call the operator.) Uncle Jack answered in his pajamas with Aunt Blossom standing next to him as well as everyone else in the house including me. In those days when the telephone rang late at night it could only be one thing, bad news. Jack listened for a minute and then said, “I will meet you at the store in ten minutes.” As he hung up and turned to go get dressed, Bloss was asking him over and over to tell her who was on the phone. When he finally was dressed and leaving she was still demanding to know who had called him so late at night. And he finally told her. She exploded, stating, “That (so and so) has not paid you for the last three medicines he got from you and you are going down and open the store in the middle of the night to give him more!” Uncle Jack said, ”Aw, Bloss, you just hush.” With that he got in his old Chevrolet that sat out front under a tree, and he was on his way to the store. I think that gives you insight into that man.

Bloss and Jack had a black man who was their cook; his name was Montgomery. He would get to their house way before daylight each morning to cook breakfast. Every morning he made scratch biscuits that were out of this world. He also cooked steak every morning along with bacon, eggs sausage and several kinds of jellies and syrup. Some mornings when I woke up early enough I would go down to the kitchen and visit with Montgomery. He would pick me up and sit me on a high stool next to where he was working and we would have a great visit. One morning Montgomery turned to me and said, “Little George, what are you frowning about?” I stuck my scrawny little arm out next to his huge black arm and asked, “Montgomery, why isn’t my arm the same color as yours?” He broke out in laughter and told me,” Little George, that is just the way God made us.” That seemed reasonable to me so we went on to talk about other subjects.

Uncle Jack would take me to the drugstore with him. He had an old fashioned soda fountain that had all the different flavors in tanks with clip_image002[13]pumps on them behind the counter. Uncle Jack would give one of those big silver malted milk containers (like today’s blenders) and he would tell me to go behind the counter and make myself whatever I wanted. For an eight or nine year old this was about as close to paradise as you could get. I would put chocolate and vanilla ice cream in and then a squirt of many different flavors, I would then put it on the mixer and enjoy. It is a wonder I did not get deathly sick. If Bloss knew what he had let me do, she would have had a fit.

Photo of downtown Calvert found here.

Photo of 1928 drugstore soda fountain found here.

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