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Marking the end of something

It was the end of something.

Those were the final words of a story in my ninth-grade literature book. They have lingered long with me.

For whatever reason, they came to memory this week at the passing of Mr. Earl Stinson, for his death was surely “the end of something.”

That “something” was the last hold that I, and many others, had on the way it was.

He was the last proprietor on Main Street in Brundidge who was in business when I was growing up. His shop was the only remaining one that is almost exactly as I remember it from my childhood.

Mr. Stinson cut my granddaddy’s hair and gave him a shave and a tonic, too. He cut my daddy’s hair. “Yes, William, you have to take off your glasses but you can leave your hat on.”

He cut my brother’s hair and waxed it to a flattop. He gave my boys their first haircuts while I held them in the chair, and there was a hint of happiness in my little grandson’s voice when he said, “Going to the barbershop, granma” Five generations of my family sat in the barber’s chairs at Stinson’s Barbershop.

My hope is that Robert Garrett will continue to carry on the tradition that he and Mr. Stinson carved from 59 years together and that Stinson’s Barbershop will always remain as it is and has been for 64 years. Because, that’s all that we have left. It is the place where we mark the end of something.

And, maybe that something was the best of times. How blessed I was to live in those times and to have known those wonderful people – the proprietors on Main Street in my hometown – and the places that were as familiar to me as an old pair of shoes.

The dime store and the post office were the Disney Worlds of my childhood. Books, model cars, cap guns, plastic cowboys and Indians, yoyos, rubber balls and jackstones created a world of wonder at the dime store. Sometimes I got what I wanted, but most of the time I got what I needed – my behind torn up. Mama majored in whippings, and I still blush whenever I see Agnes Jacobs and Betty Carter who were witnesses to my fits and punishments.

One wall of the post office was filled with “Wanted” posters and, it was an odd thing, but we would spot just about every one of those escaped convicts and “at large” murderers and robbers on the streets of Brundidge. What terrified fun they brought to childhood.

Mr. Foy Ingram ran the picture show, and sometimes he brought movie stars like Lash LaRue and Fuzzy St. John to town to thrill us beyond belief. And, sometimes before or after the news reel and the serial he would have a drawing for a dollar bill, and that would go a long way when you could get the picture show, popcorn and a co-cola for 35 cents. I never won, though.

And, if there’s ever been a hamburger better than the one Mrs. Anderson served hot and salted off the grill, me and Eddie Fisher don’t know it. But I had something on the Hollywood movie star. I got to eat those nickel hamburgers a lot of times. He only got to eat them twice.

Mama shopped at the City Market, and Mr. Belcher always had candy in a glass case and you had to ask for what you wanted. I always picked Bazooka bubble gum, Tootsie Rolls or Sugar Babies. Then, while Mama went back to the meat counter to get supper, I would sneak outside and climb the slick iron pole that held up the awning over the street. Somebody would tattle, “Jaine’s climbing the pole” and Mama would come and yank me down. “Little girls don’t climb poles” and Mr. Blecher would say, “Ah, she’s all right” and slip me an all-day sucker as a consolation prize.

In the back part of O.K. Ramage Company, they sold overalls and blue jeans and, if you bought a pair of Tuf-Nut jeans, you got a pocket knife, too. Back then, young’uns were allowed to have knives in their pockets.

As teenagers, we sipped cherry cokes at Dykes Drugs and listen to the radio that Mr. Tom Hinson kept playing in the Western Auto Store. As a teenager, I had two very important jobs – working the candy counter at the dime store during Christmas and the soda fountain at Hamrick’s Drug Store.

There were lots of places to buy nice and fashionable clothes – O.K. Ramage, the Star Store and Belcher’s. They all had dressing rooms and O.K. Ramage had three-way mirrors so you could see how you looked all the way around. All of us girls got fitted for our first training braziers in Brundidge. We didn’t want to go where people didn’t know us for something as personal as that.

Miss S.E. Hightower chased us down on the street and hauled us in to her beauty parlor and powdered us with Merle Norman, and we’d come out looking as white and dusty as she did. Mrs. Rachel Rodgers and Mrs. Edna Steed gave us electric curls and girl talks in the little shop behind the City Market.

We went to social events at Whittington’s Motel and got our clothes “cleaned” at Mr. John Boswell’s dry cleaners. We shopped for birthday presents wedding gifts at Jackson’s Hardware and “Miss” Maureen helped us pick them out.

When marriage and children came along, we remodeled an old house with supplies from Jackson’s Hardware and William Smith’s. Mr. Bill and Mr. William made sure we got the best deals at struggling young couple prices. We bought furniture, on time, from Mr. James Boswell’s furniture store. Housewares came from “Miss’ Martha Haisten’s and Miss Ester Smith’s.

Groceries were bought – always – at those mom and pop grocery stores behind town, Black’s and Nicholson’s. Grace and Noah and Mama and Papa Nicholson were our daily editions of the local newspaper. Groceries and gossip at one low price.

Every store and every proprietor was a part of the lives of every resident in Brundidge. They knew our mamas and our daddies. They knew our grandpas and grandmas and they knew the names of our family pets and whether we’d had the mumps or gotten a whipping in school. And most of all, they cared about us, not as customers, but as extended members of their families because they had been a part of our little town and our sheltered lives for always.

With the passing of Mr. Stinson, sadly, it is the end of something.