Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A stroll down memory lane...

A brief mini-vacation of sorts back home to Ft. Walton Beach, FL last week. Regrettably, the trigger was a gathering of HS classmates in memory of a couple of us who passed away recently. Still, it was a good trip for me.

A few Jimmy Buffett lines, followed by some pics with brief (I promise!!) commentary on each.

Still I sit in contemplation, and I just don't understand
This mysterious attraction of this salty piece of land
Still I search the constellations and the tiny grains of sand
Where the song of the ocean meets the salty piece of land

Whoa, lookin' back at my background tryin' to figure out how I ever got here
Some things are still a mystery to me while others are much too clear

I know I don't get there often enough
But God knows I surely try
It's a magic kind of medicine
That no doctor could prescribe
But there's this one particular harbor
So far but yet so near
Where I see the days as they fade away
Finally disappear
But there's this one particular harbor
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within
A most mysterious calling harbor
So far but yet so near
Where I can see the day when my hair's full gray
And I finally disappear

I wanna be there
wanna go back down and lie beside the sea there...
Yeah now, the sun goes slidin' 'cross the water
Sailboats they go searchin' for the breeze
Salt air it ain't thin
It can stick right to your skin and make you feel fine
Makes you feel fine ...

Kathy, Judy & I went to nursery school, kindergarten, & 2nd - 12th grades together. They both still live down there. (Irony alert: Kathy's a USM grad, as is her Mom the Purvis native...) Judy was the ringleader of making this particular gathering happen.
Ronnie & Patti Ward. Patti & I were in band together from 7th - 12th grade. Great folks! Patti & I were the only two 7th graders who made marching band as 7th graders; in her case because of mine, because I'm Jim's little brother...I'll take it! *smile*
Sunset on the bayou behind Scully's, where the gathering was last Wed. night. Love it!
Erin, Patti, & Tammie. Erin & I were classmates from 2nd through 12th. Tammie is one of the ringleaders of our full class reunions.
Bev, Judy, & Cathy. They were great friends of the lady from our class who passed away recently. Bev works w/ TBS in GA. Small world alert: Cathy's younger sis & sis's hubby were our Sunday School teachers when Lisa & I were newly married.
Vicky & Patti. Vicky is one of 4 (2 pairs of sisters) that Jim & I have known almost all of our lives. Vicky's Mom taught with my Mom & they remain great & close friends. *best Ron White delivery* "We've met..."
Judy & Joe drink a toast to absent classmate Connie. Small world alert: 1) Joe lives not far from here in Franklinton, LA; 2) his daughter plays softball for the USM Golden Eagles!
Some of the gang...
Cathy & Sharon
Sunset almost complete
Roberta, Vicky, Ronnie, Patti
I need to live where one can drive one's boat to the restaurant for dinner...
Vicky again.
Kathy & Cathy. Kathy (left) is a fellow cancer survivor. Brain cancer 3+ years ago...
Patti again, after dark.
We moved it inside. Tammie, Cathy, Judy, Bev. Bev's expecting grandkid #3 this Fall! I told her we were *far* too young for such things... *grin*
Roberta & Allison. (Sorry 'bout those eyes!) Allison directs the chorus program @ one of the local colleges there.
I still miss him hard almost every day, but then we've covered that before in this space. (My brother Jim is "James E., Jr.")
Choctawhatchee High School! Go Big Green! Me & 690 friends graduated from here in 1977. In my day, it was a very good HS. Good academics, decent sports, great arts programs...and a lot of fun! On balance, this was a very good time of life for me, despite some serious heartache (see the previous pic...). I'm thankful for this place & for friends & teachers & lessons learned...
OK, CHS grads...remember any of these?
--Mr. Jones the awesome band director who also had a huge impact on me that continues until now?
--Mr. Sills the great asst. band director?
--Mrs. Almond, the greatest math teacher ever? Our Sr. year was her 44th year of teaching, and she was as sharp as a tack. She had a tremendous impact on me, even after HS days when she was retired & I was being an idiot. Lona Almond is what I instantly picture when anyone uses the phrase "unconditional love"...I drank several gallons of lemonade & ate many plates of cookies while pouring out my stupidity out on her. And not one time did I ever feel the slightest hint of condemnation.
Drove past her house today. At which point, my allergies acted up...or something. What a treasure she was!
--"Mama Jo" Yeager, the greatest speech & drama teacher ever? I have recently re-connected with her on facebook, which is just very cool. Her Oral Comm. class was the 1st time I realized that I was fairly comfortable speaking in front of a group. (Note: I didn't say "good"...I said "comfortable"! *smile*)
--Mrs. Preble's French class?
--Mr. Earle's Algebra II?
--Mr. Beck's chemistry? (I'll be nice & say "I have nothing further to say at this time")
--Mr. Kyzer?
--Mr. Brown the principal?
The pressbox: "Home of the Indians"
The field.
The band usually sat down there toward the fieldhouse. We used to "snake" in single file, with zig-zags, 270-degree spins, etc. Thought it was pretty cool then, & still think so now.
The bandroom was just inside this door on the rt.
The parking lot practice field. Tues & Thurs nights for a couple of hours or more, all summer long, & during the Fall too.
Pretty cool band logo, huh? We were the "Style Marchers" (by durn!) ;-{)}
Big Green Indians, baby!
Front of the School.
Clifford Meigs Jr. High. 7th - 9th grades. It, too, was a pretty good jr. high in my day. (May still be...I have no contact there now) Band. Jazz band. Had to ride the bus (for the only 3 years in my educational career!) & didn't particularly care for it, especially as a tiny 7th grader. It was somewhat better when I was a tiny 9th grader...
Any of you fellow Meigs alums remember these folks?
--Mr. Denton - 2nd best math teacher ever!
--Mr. Varner, the awesome band director...who had a gigantic impact on me that continues now.
--Mr. Lathinghouse's English class? I still remember him walking us through Paul Simon's "I Am A Rock" which, come to think of it, was a significant turning point in my huge appreciation of the power of words.
--Mr. Smith the principal? (another friend of Mom's...and one of Bear Bryant's first quarterbacks @ Bama, I found out later). He gave me the only I ever received. Swung a pretty good paddle, as I recall... (oops! I just confessed to Mom that Mr. Smith had to whip me...perhaps the statue of limitations has run out by now...)
Meigs again.
Learned how to march 8:5 style on this field. (Meigs stadium)
In my day, we were the "Wildcats" not just a "wildcat" *smile*
Poquito Bayou. I spent a *lot* of time here skiing & tubing & such back in the day behind friends' boats. My good friends Doug & Mark both lived near here & both let me hang out w/ them. Mark had an *awesome* ski boat, but even with that and his expert help, I was still just an average skier.
The playground @ Annette P. Edwins Elementary School. Went here in 1st grade. In my day, Annette P. Edwins was still the principal there!
"APE School" as we called it.
On the left is the location of Madaris Office Supplies. (James E. Madaris, Prop.)
Ferry Park Across from Elliott Pt. Elementary School, a short bike ride from home. Played a thousand pickup baseball games there, & quite a number of football games. It's what kids' sports were before the parents all went totally insane about what kids' sports should be. Great times...
Elliott Pt. Elementary School. Went to 2nd thru 6th there, & Mom was the librarian. (The school opened my 2nd grade year, which means Mom was the first-ever librarian). It was a great elementary school (mostly) in my day.
Anyone of my fellow EPE alums remember Ms. Fagan who became Mrs. Sirmans? I was in her first-ever class she taught (4th grade). Mrs. Sullivan? Mrs. Gunter? Mrs. Darner? How about Mrs. Littlefield? Mrs. Pope? Mr. Bowen the principal?
Ferry Park Tennis courts. Played a thousand tennis matches there. Public courts that were/are pretty well-maintained.

The practice wall @ Ferry Park. I hit a million tennis balls against this back in the day.
And of course, there's Mom & Leo's place. The live oaks that were so awesome for climbing are now rather large. The one that was the goal line in our front-yard football games now blocks the field out to about the 30 yard line...
Mom & Leo's again. I had a tree fort of sorts in the middle one once upon a time.
The new dock @ the back of Mom & Leo's coming from the seawall into the Bay. Regrettably, my dip in the Bay was lightning'ed out. Oh time...
Mom & Leo's from the back of the lawn by the Bay looking toward the house. The old tennis court has seen better days...
An *amazing* rainbow behind Mom's. (more pics of this below)
There's one pot of gold out in the Bay...
And there are both ends of the 'bow. The right end is on Destin somewhere.
And the beaches themselves. Have mercy! I only cried for a little while this day when I sat out on the beach at sunset...I am absolutely convinced that Heaven will contain white sand beaches with waves & seagulls. I can't wait! But in the mean time, times like this evening's beach time will have to suffice.
Dad & I--very average fishermen that we were--caught a number of king & spanish mackeral from this pier back in the day.
My piggies where they belong...the white sand beaches of NW FL!
Sand in my shoes...which means that I'll have to keep returning to these beaches. I'm beyond OK with that! *smile*
Sunset on the beach...
Good waves this day...I was *sorely* tempted to show those amateurs how to properly catch & ride a wave, but dusk = "feeding time"...a singularly bad time to be out in the Gulf...

My piggies in another place they the Gulf of Mexico!

I also drove past this Bingo parlor that I seem to recall. Victor's it was called back in the day...and it wasn't a Bingo parlor.... Busted many a move there, & first learned how to play backgammon. (And "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind, & Fire is still the best dance song ever...with "Brick House" by the Commodores as a close 2nd...) Then there's this small plot of grass out on the island that stands as an empty reminder of this place where we used to congregate. "Hog's Breath is better than no breath at all"...still one of the great marketing slogans ever. Across the street was the Sand Flea restaurant, which is fairly irrelevant, except for the time I spent in the "Top of the Flea" um, social gathering place. There was this great solo guitar picker/singer who frequented the place. Through him, I grew to really love the music of Jimmy Buffett & Jerry Jeff Walker & the like.

Neither Victor's, the Hog's Breath Saloon, nor the Top of the Flea are still there. Actually, I think Hog's Breath is still around somewhere in the area.

But the house on Bay Drive is still there...and the Bay's still out back...and Mom's still there...and the beaches are still as white as ever just across the bridge. And I have a million memories all over town. I am so very blessed to come from such a place. And from such people.

Truly, the bb

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