December 23, 2012

Commentary: An old Zenith, a cab driver and memories of mom

By Troy Henderson

— During the occasion of my 50th Dalton High School reunion, there was an opportunity to travel around town in search of old familiar places.

The Oakwood Café was still there, as was a recycled Wink Theatre. Also found was Barrett’s Flower Shop, where I ordered classic homecoming corsages for five of my BFFs from the class of 1962.

Sadly, all of the several houses where I had lived over two decades are now gone, but the memory of a time spent at one remains as vivid as if it were 1954, today. That was the year we got our first television, which was bought on time by my single mom, Mattie (Kirk) Henderson. Those days we were living in what was known as the Evans Apartments just off 5th Avenue on Dalton’s eastside. You cannot imagine the thrill and excitement my older brother, Jerry, and I were feeling at the prospect of getting a new 21-inch television. Of course, there was only black and white in those days. Even so, that huge wood-grained metal cabinet Zenith set plus the table it sat on cost my mom more than $300, which in those days equaled almost two months salary at her spread house job.

As Christmas neared, my brother and I realized that new television had lowered the prospect of any major gifts. Of course mom did her best, and two days before Christmas, with that tell-tell lint still in her hair, she caught a ride downtown from her job at Belcraft Chenille on East Morris Street.

Thank goodness for McLellan’s 5 & Dime. Besides the gloves, socks and other more practical gifts, mom managed to buy some special treats like peppermint candy canes and those dark chocolate drops with marshmallow filling. Candy was always nice, but the most important purchase was the Christmas tree.

McLellan’s had small real, or mostly real, spruce trees about three feet high and mounted on round painted metal discs. Most were green, and often touched up with green paint, but some were sprayed white. The short height made them perfect for transporting home in Ott Thompson’s cab. Ott was a good man with a house full of kids himself. He only charged my mom 50 cents in those days to drive her in his 1953 Plymouth all the way from Hamilton Street to our little house on LaFayette Street.

Obviously that small tree did not require much decorating, about two strings of bubble lights and a few glass ornaments. The most notable addition was what they called “angel hair,” which was actually spun glass. It could become temporarily uncomfortable if you happened to get some on your skin. Fortunately for those of us who survived “angel hair,” some government agency decided to ban it decades before the present day Environmental Protection Agency was even imagined.

Mom passed away in Florida in 1989. Seems I’m thinking of her more than usual this Christmas. Perhaps it was the nostalgic DHS reunion and that visit to my roots. It’s a good feeling, though, with no sad regrets.

Oh, by the way, I had an opportunity in 1967 to repay Mattie for that old Zenith television. One day while home on leave from the navy, I entered her name in a contest at a long since gone furniture store on Hamilton Street. The big prize was a new color console television, and guess who won? They made a picture of her standing next to it at the store and Mark Pace published it in The Dalton Citizen.

Thanks, Mom, for all you did, and Merry Christmas.

Troy Henderson is a former Dalton resident now residing in Sarasota, Fla.