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They were there, but where was I?

One Writer’s Perspective

When I was a kid, I was an avid reader of books that gave first-person accounts of historical events. Remember them? The books took fantasy flights into the past, written by imaginary eyewitnesses, carrying the reader to momentous events and giving them a front-row seat. I loved those books.

Maybe I loved them because my grandparents often regaled me with stories of their presence at world-changing events over the course of their lives. Big Daddy told of his harrowing experiences fending off kamikaze attacks in Leyte Gulf. Nanny remembers witnessing the large and violent Ku Klux Klan meetings in the Midwest during the early 1900s. Grandma has vivid recollections of the Great Depression.

So, what stories do I have? What will I tell my grandchildren? As my little brother would say, “I can’t know.”

Oh yeah, there was that day in the early 1970s when I heard the Greenville Mall was opening. I had never heard of a mall. But I remember, almost like a flash, it came to me. “Mall = girls.” I was truly a pioneer.

I threw on my favorite pair of corduroy bell-bottoms and set off on my bike. I don’t know what season it was, but it was hot. My pants and I had to stop at a nearby school to cool off. I’m sure I was the picture of good grooming when I arrived.

Turns out I was right on — there were girls everywhere. It was then I remembered an important fact. I was totally intimidated by girls. I didn’t even make an entire circuit around the place. I just beat a hasty retreat home.

Then there was that day the family of my first girlfriend (yes, I overcame my fears) got something called a “microwave oven,” the first one in Greenville, as far as I know. I don’t know what it cost, but it must have weighed two tons. As we struggled to get it in the kitchen, I remember wondering, “How big will the mushroom cloud be and how much of the city will be destroyed if we drop this thing?”

Her family should have sold tickets. Young and old alike flocked to their kitchen and gathered around in amazement to watch a cup of water boil in a mere two minutes. For the grand finale, they would whip out a baked potato in about the time it took to preheat a conventional oven. It was like the Jetsons. Next stop — anti-gravity.

However, when I got to driving age we were still riding in fossil fuel-burning vehicles, not flying saucers. Unfortunately, I got my driver’s license almost to the day when gasoline went to more than $1 per gallon. It was painful.

See, while gasoline went to $1 per gallon, the pumps in Greenville did not. The pump manufacturers simply had not allowed for the dollar space. So, gas station owners set the pump at half of the going price — say 51


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About Wally Northway

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