Thursday, May 27, 2010

Smoking Grapevine

In Where Love Once Lived, one of my characters lives in the Clarksville area of Austin, Texas. There are references to my own experience living next to the neighborhood that was reserved for blacks only back when I was there. I lived on the white street, but our backyard was adjacent to the backyard of a black family. I don't remember anything about the parents of that family, not sure I ever saw them. But, I did talk to the children. We would often meet at the wire fence and stare at each for awhile until we finally got into a normal childhood conversation. I'm not sure how old I was, but since my family moved from there in 1946, I had to be about nine years old.

In future posts I'll tell you more about living near Clarksville because it made a big impression on me. However, today I would like to tell you about the move to South Austin. Back then, and to a certain extent now, South Austin was like a separate town from Austin. I remember telling my girlfriend goodbye. Lajuana Jolly. I bought her a necklace so she'd always remember me. But I knew I'd never see her again. After all we were moving to the other side of the river.

But we might as well have moved to another city. After the move, we only ventured out across the river when we had to go downtown. Checking Google Maps today, I see that it is only 2.3 miles from West 9 1/2 Street to Josephine Street. Today, I walk further than that for exercise.

The nearest grocery store was on Kinney Avenue and it was the size of a current day home two-car garage. Maybe smaller. Mother would send me to the store nearly every day to get groceries. We had a charge account there. They would give me what every was on the shopping list and then Dad would go in on Saturdays to pay for the week's purchases. I would often sneak in a candy bar that wasn't on the list so I didn't mind doing the shopping.

One day, a neighborhood friend went with me and he showed me a shortcut to the grocery store through a wooded area. Right in the middle of the forest he stopped and pulled out a knife. I didn't know what was going on and thought I better get out of there. But before I could move, he grabbed a thick piece of grapevine and cut off a few inches of it, stuck it in his mouth and lit the other end just like adults did with cigarettes. He took a few puffs, coughed, and passed it to me.

There were many interesting childhood times while I lived in the Josephine house. I wish I could put them in the book along with the Clarksville story. But, I'll tell you more here in the future.

Smoking grapevine is not smart, but it is not as serious as what our children and grandchildren face today. Did you have similar temptations when you grew up?

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