I was born in Decatur, but my family moved to Anniston before I was a year old. So it’s the first home I can remember. I took some time last month to drive around and look. Here are a few through-the-windshield shots of some innocuous-looking locations that are full of memories for me. (Click image for larger.)
This is the first shopping center I can remember. The grocery store used to be Windsor’s, where a personable young man named Roger put up the produce. (Jenny wanted to be Roger for Halloween one year.) It was Golden Springs Pharmacy on the south end. I can’t pull the pharmacist’s name in, but he was a very nice man with a big wave of hair right over his forehead. (Think Donald Trump but with a normal person’s sense of restraint.)
Driving north on Sand Rock Road. There were numerous bike trails straight ahead and to the right when I was young. This is also just about exactly where Brian and I nearly caught the woods on fire one night. We finally got it stomped out, and I had to throw the jeans I was wearing away because they had char marks on them. I was scared for months that my mom would ask me what happened to them.
This is driving up Pecanwood Drive on the way to my house (the white one on the left). This seemed like the longest, steepest hill in the world when I was a kid—like, maybe one time in five I’d walk my bicycle up it instead of ride. In reality, it’s barely 300 yards top to bottom, and the slope is gentle until just past my house. I didn’t park and walk around the neighborhood on this trip, but it feels so small. It’s like traipsing around in a model train layout.
This curve on Coleman Road is the site of the only serious traffic accident I was ever in. I was one of four kids ejected from the bed of a Ford Courier pickup when it spun and overturned in the ditch (where that distant guard rail is now). From skid marks and the pickup’s final position, police estimated the pickup speed at 60 mph when the driver lost control. It could have been so much worse. Of the six kids in the pickup (two in the cab, four in the bed), only one was even admitted to the hospital. (She had to be extricated because the wreckage had trapped her right leg.) Four of us were treated and released in the ER, and my stepbrother, who was the lightest and had been thrown the farthest (into underbrush instead of pavement), didn’t even go to the hospital. To this day I can remember the sights and sounds of flying through the air after leaving the vehicle but before I hit the road. If I could unload a single memory, it might be that one.
This was a barren field of clay for the first 12 years of my life. It sprouted a Winn Dixie when the one on 78 that was destroyed in the 1983 tornado didn’t return. There was a Harco Drugs on the east end of this shopping center, and I spent a fair bit of time in there. Among the employees was a 35ish brunette who wore too much makeup and smelled really good. She cranked my tractor (not that it takes much for a 13-year-old boy). I can remember buying Heart’s Private Audition on vinyl in there, as well as some cassette storage boxes that I’m still using.
It’s surreal that these locations are only 100 miles or so from me. Supercharged with my excellent memory for detail, they’re really powerful experiences. They seem so much more distant and exotic than something to which a two-hour car ride permits exposure.