The place called ‘Needmore’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 9, 2002

Features Editor

Thomas Wolfe said "You can’t go home again."

To that, Gerald D. (Jerry) White might say "amen," especially if home is covered in pine trees.

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White was back in Pike County this week and spent much of the time on the drive from his home in Bushnell, Fla., with his eyes closed, picturing how home would be.

When White was growing up in Sessions and Providence he could see for miles and miles because there was nothing except cotton, peanut and corn fields on the horizon.

"But, when I got here, I felt like I was in a jungle," he said, laughing. "You can’t see anything but pine trees. And, old home places are now chicken houses."

Although pine trees have filled the wide open spaces that White called home, he found that nothing could erase the memories of the place he holds so dear.

White grew up a country boy. His dad was a tenant farmer and his mother was a school teacher.

His family lived a good life during hard times and White wouldn’t trade his childhood for anything.

Life in Sessions, now known as Needmore, was the stereotypical country life – dirt roads, swimming holes, mules and wagons and, of course, the old country store.

"Clifford Childs ran the country store that was the center of our community," White said. "You got everything you needed or wanted at Childs Store from a can of beans to a suit of overalls. There was a blacksmith out back and a grist mill that blew smoke rings when the engine started. That was a pastime for us children – watching the smoke rings coming from the grist mill."

Sunday morning was a big day at Childs’ Store. Because there was no nearby church, all the men would gather at the store for a social gathering.

"No, we didn’t have a church service," White said, laughing. "We just talked. Talk was the only source of news we had. If some women came in, they got what they needed and got on out. The store was a man’s place on Sunday mornings."

And, for good reason.

If the women had seen the men "shooting the crack," they probably would have pulled them out by the ears and put them under the wash pot every Sunday morning thereafter to keep them away.

No, White said, the men weren’t gambling. They were just playing a game to see who bought the "co-colas."

"The floor of the store was those tongue and groove boards and so there were cracks in the floor," White said. "The men would pitch nickels and the one that landed on a crack had to buy everybody a drink."

Childs Store was more than a place to get news and pitch nickels. It was a place where people would get help when they needed it.

"Somebody would come in and say, ‘I ain’t got no money, Clifford, but I sho’ do need some things,’ and Clifford would carry them on his books."

Because there was always a great need for a little more during Hoover Days, that’s how Needmore got its name.

"Folks would come in Childs’ Store and say, ‘Clifford, I need a little more flour, or I need a little more sugar or I need a little more of this or I need a little more of that.’ After while, everybody was calling Childs’ Store "Needmore."

White said the first time he came back home and started looking for Sessions, he was told the community was Needmore.

"What?" he said.

"Needmore? That’s a store! What do you mean?"

White said he has no qualms about the community he called home being named Needmore.

"Clifford Childs was a good man," he said. "He looked after people all up and down the branches and hollows of the Conecuh River. When the banks closed in 1932 for two weeks and stood us on our heads and threw away what we had, he stuck with us although we had no money. He carried folks on his book until it almost bankrupted him.

"Clifford is worthy of being remembered for his service. He earned the right to have his community named Needmore," White said, adding that Childs might have been even a more appropriate name.

White moved to Washington D.C. in 1940 and experienced culture shock.

"What seemed right to those people up there didn’t seem right to a country boy from Sessions and Providence in rural Pike County, Alabama," he said "I wished to hold on the value system I had grown up with, but I knew I would have to adapt to changing times."

White adapted but he never forgot where his roots were and he never forgot what the values of good country people are.

So, when he decided he needed more contact with this roots, his family and his old friends and their values, he came to a place he still calls home. He came home to Needmore.