Summer at age 8 -- 1972

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This week's assignment is "You're eight and it's a typical summer's day. Discuss."

Mom, Kay (age 5), and I would all be at home, and Dad would be at work downtown in the new Cities Service Building. Mom was a school teacher, so she was off for the summer, too.

I had just finished third grade, my first year at Holland Hall. I lived in Rolling Hills, just outside the Tulsa city limits and across the Wagoner County line. All of my school friends lived in "Tulsa Proper" -- at least 10 miles away. I don't recall if I saw any of my school friends at all that summer.

On a typical day, I'd be watching game shows on TV. Concentration. (I had the home game.) Password. Truth or Consequences. Three on a Match. Hollywood Squares. To Tell the Truth. Split Second. Let's Make a Deal. You could watch TV all day and never lay eyes on a soap opera.

If it wasn't too hot outside, I'd play on the swing set in the backyard or play with our dogs, Easy and Daisy. The mimosa tree next to the driveway was easy to climb. Our house had a vacant overgrown field behind it and another one across the road. A small creek flowed through them both, and there were various trails that had been trodden down over time. If I felt especially adventurous, I might ride my bike to the In-N-Out at Admiral and 200th East Avenue.

If I wasn't watching TV or outside, I'd be reading the encyclopedia or comic books or "Jokes by Cracky". Or I might be poring over the Rand McNally Atlas, plotting the course for our summer vacation.

In the late afternoon the ice cream man would drive by, playing "Casey Would Waltz with a Strawberry Blonde".

Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night we'd be at First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills, less than a block from the house.

A number of atypical things happened that summer. We visited my cousins at Eglin AFB in the Florida panhandle, while Dad drove up to Atlanta for the Jaycees convention. The drive down took us through Paris, Daingerfield, Shreveport, Vicksburg, Hattiesburg, and Mobile. Except for the Indian Nations Turnpike and a small bit of I-20 in Louisiana and a bit of I-10 in Florida, the whole trip was on two-lane roads.

Our vehicle was a Chevrolet Kingswood Estate. It had a key-operated automatic tailgate, a radio, and a buzzer to remind you to fasten your seatbelt. We had a foam mattress cut to fit the back, and we travelled most of the way with the back seat down, me and Kay sitting or lying down in the back, oblivious to the peril. Once in a while, Mom would take over driving and Dad would snooze in the back. During one such interlude Mom had to cross over the narrow US 80 bridge -- a bridge with railroad tracks down the center -- at Vicksburg, in the rain, with our big boat of a car. We spent the night at the Holiday Inn in Vicksburg and spent a little bit of time at the battlefield the next morning before heading on to Eglin.

The visit with the cousins was fun. We went to Fort Walton Beach and swam in salt water for the first time in our lives. We visited the Gulfarium. Aunt Connie let us come with her to the BX, but told us we had to be absolutely quiet so no one would know we weren't military. And cousin Kelley and I tracked Hurricane Agnes on a map as it headed our way.

On the trip home we visited Bellingrath Gardens, one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. We took US 98 through Gulfport and Biloxi, spent the night in Baton Rouge in a Holiday Inn. (I was really upset that we skipped New Orleans.) Our room had a sign on the door saying that some horror movie had been filmed there. Not very reassuring. We passed through Alexandria and Natchitoches before rejoining our route at Shreveport.

We also travelled to Fairfield Bay, a new resort community in central Arkansas on Greers Ferry Lake. My grandfather had been selling property at Bella Vista, but he left that and got a job selling at Fairfield Bay. We spent a week or so with Grandpa and Grandma, their toy poodle Moppet, and their half-poodle / half-sheepdog puppy Jughead.

The other notable event of the summer happened at Vacation Bible School. On the final day, Friday, with all the classes in the auditorium, Brother Gerald Dyer had us all bow our heads and close our eyes. He invited us to pray the sinners' prayer and ask Jesus into our hearts. It had only been over the previous year that I began to understand that as good a boy and as good a student as I was, I was a sinner and my own goodness could not get me to heaven.

I knew I wanted to become a Christian, but I was embarassed to walk the aisle and afraid of being immersed. But that day, when Brother Dyer asked anyone who prayed that prayer (heads still bowed, eyes still closed, no one looking around) to raise their hands, I raised mine. When VBS let out, I ran home and told Mom that I got saved. That Sunday at Sunday School, Steve Olmstead told me I really wasn't saved because I hadn't "gone forward" -- sitting in a pew and raising your hand with no one looking didn't count. Within a week or two, Brother Dyer came to our house to talk to me about my decision for Christ and about getting baptized.

The Sunday after his visit, I went forward during the invitation. My decision was duly recorded by Carlette Binam, the church secretary. On August 27, 1972, I brought a change of clothes with me to church because I was going to get wet. Tony Hadden, another kid my age, went first, then I stepped into the baptistry, and I was "buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life."


Jan said:

Beautiful. I have a tear in my eye.

We drove through Vicksburg, Hattiesburg and Mobile on our way to Florida that summer, too. We were in our boat of car and I remember sitting in the backseat watching my parents' reflections in their windows through the night. My dad always drove too late while low on gas trusting he would find a motel at 10:00 p.m.

It makes me wonder if our paths crossed that summer. Maybe we swam together in a motel pool or ate at the same restaurant!

Thanks for your memories.

Thanks, Jan. We might well have met up. Our trip must have been the third week in June, because that's when Agnes made landfall near Apalachicola. It was a pretty time of year to be driving through the south -- everything was in bloom. Saw my first Spanish moss on that trip, too.

Some more trip memories: I had my first Whopper on that trip. Oklahoma didn't have Burger King back then, but we stopped at one just across the Florida-Alabama border on the trip down. I did not like it -- too tomatoey. I think I nagged my way into a set of eight newfangled Crayola fluorescent crayons shortly thereafter. I can't remember much about other meals en route. I think Mom must have packed sandwiches for the first meal on the first day.

For some reason two brief gas stops stuck in my mind for a long time: a little country store on US 98 just west of the Perdido River in Alabama, and a gas station in Daingerfield, Texas, where we had a pop and Dad chatted with the attendant for a while. I don't remember them so well now, but I remember remembering them.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 4, 2005 11:51 PM.

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