Thursday, February 16, 2012

Smoking Grapevine and Other Memories of Growing Up in Austin Texas

In Where Love Once Lived, one of my characters lives in the Clarksville area of Austin, a neighborhood reserved for blacks only back when I lived there. I lived on a white street, but my 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 because I was moving so far away I knew I'd never see her again. Lajuana Jolly. I bought her a necklace so she'd always remember me. As it turned out, we were together again in high school, but by then our love had died.

Checking Google Maps, I see that it is only 2.3 miles from the Clarksville area to where we moved on Josephine Street. Today, I walk further than that for exercise.

The nearest grocery store from the Josephine house was on Kinney Avenue and it was the size of a 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 whatever was on the shopping list and then Dad would go in on Saturday to pay for the week's purchases. I would often sneak a candy bar on to 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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