- Cullman, Alabama


April 13, 2014

SOUTHERN STYLE: City kid walking

I may sound like a farm kid, and in truth, I did spend a lot of time on my grandparents’ Landersville farm, but I wasn’t a farm kid — I was a city kid.

On the farm, my cousins and I played from daylight to dark, roaming the fields and pastures, picking those little green apples that come back to haunt you later, discovering kittens in the hayloft, catching lightning bugs and having fierce corncob battles.

But when I went back home, the whole town was my backyard. Back then, we either rode our bicycles or walked. There were a gang of city kids back then — not a gang like we think of gangs now, but a gang as in a bunch of kids who hung out and played ball on the elementary school playground, or rode bikes to the pool, or once or twice, as far as Newt Filyaw’s country store and back.

If I wanted an ice cream float, I walked to Walgreen’s to get it. If I needed a book, I walked to the library, which was in the basement of the courthouse at the time. If I needed school supplies, I found my way to Elmore’s Five & Dime, and if I wanted something good to eat, I just ran across the street to the Town House Restaurant.

I also walked to my grandparents’ home about eight blocks away whenever I was ready to. My granddad could even put the phone up to my dog’s ear, I’d call her, and she would come from their house to my house all by herself.

My grandfather, E.L. “Doc” Cammack, gradually began to lose his eyesight when he was in his seventies. Still, he walked the eight blocks to town two or three times each day. He would navigate the cracked and buckled sidewalks with a cane, first to the post office and back home, then to the drugstore and back, and later, to visit his friend, Hudson Sandlin, and back home again. He was the last of the big time walkers who walked to get somewhere, not to burn off calories.   

I’m not sure when everyone quit walking…

I know that from the time I was old enough to reach the gas pedals, I started driving. I learned how to drive on my (grand) Daddy Young’s old red tractor, with the faded cushion made from a faded flour sack to protect my rear end from the scooped-out metal. Then I moved on to a Volkswagen, and from there to my mom’s ’55 Chevy.

But I still walked to Piggly Wiggly, the Town House, and Thrasher and Mitchell’s barber shop where I sat in the window with my friend, Cathy, whose parents owned the business. That’s how both Cathy and I learned how to count change.

Back then, there were always people walking somewhere. They walked because town was so crowded and it was hard to find a convenient parking space, and because most were too tight-fisted to put money in the parking meters that lined the sidewalks all the way around the square.

They walked to the feed store to see the little colored Easter chickens, and to get the piece of candy. Then they walked across the street to the corner grocery store to pick up something for dinner, then back home.

People walked to church on pretty days, in the parks and gardens, and did a lot of window shopping at a leisurely Southern pace.   

I wish people would start walking again. Even if it was strictly for exercise, and not with intent, it would make the town look vibrant and alive, inviting to visitors and prospective employers.

If potential investors or business owners see people walking around in town, even if they are just going from one office to another, it might encourage them to bring their businesses here.  

Everything works together to make Cullman the showplace that it is, even those people walking, jogging and running down the street do their part to enhance the sense of community and pride in our city.

Take time to stroll around and smell the roses, there are some in bloom down at the Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden.

Although walking downtown in the early evening is a wonderful way of promoting the community while getting some exercise, Cullman’s Park and Recreation Department has thoughtfully provided many well-kept walking trails, parks, gyms and other recreational facilities. Rain or shine, hot or cold, there is somewhere for you to walk today.

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