Friday, December 18, 2009

Was Sheffield Ever Really Like This?

We recently wrote a blog concerning the efforts of Steve Wiggins and others to restore Sheffield to its former glory. After our column Who Thinks Sheffield Can? was published, a reader sent us this poem by Tucky Ginn. It seems a fitting Christmas present to all those in Sheffield who love the city and are determined to make their hometown again something to be proud of.

My hometown is the greatest on earth

I’m so glad it’s where my mother gave birth.

I’ve lived there nearly all my life

It’s the place where I met my wife.

I was raised with downtown just a few blocks away

I guess you could call it a small town USA.

We didn’t have television sets back then

We would just play all the time with a friend.

Rode our bicycles everywhere we went

Take big cardboard boxes and make us a tent.

Brocato’s Market was just around the block

After church on Sunday, it’s where everybody would stop.

Getting those good rolls by the dozen or two

All we wanted was some bubble gum to chew.

Skating on the sidewalk, skinning up our knee

Always had a hard time keeping up with the key.

The kids on Saturday went to the picture show all day

And to get in with a dime was all you had to pay.

We would go real early—it started at 10

A lot of Cowboys and Indians and you know who would win.

Two movies, a serial and, of course, a cartoon

We wouldn’t see daylight till 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

One time when I was just a small lad

I got woke up in the night by my dad.

He put us in the car and drove towards town

We watched the old hotel burn to the ground.

They built it right back without any haste

Only ‘way across the street in a different place.

Clement’s Barber Shop was on the first floor

Go in through the lobby or an outside door.

You would have to sit and wait for awhile

They mostly cut flat tops because that was the style.

The Community Center was behind the hotel

Over time, it’s a place we got to know well.

The center was used for more than one thing

You might have played basketball or heard Elvis sing.

The Tennessee River was right at our feet

Just go down Alabama Avenue to the end of the street.

There was the Naval Reserve and Ice Plant Road

A big crane unloading gravel by the barge load.

Going to the Ice Plant was always fun

Dropping blocks in the crusher, and we watched it run.

Then they bag it up all nice and clean

Take some with us for homemade ice cream.

Whippoorwill Hollow was our old swimming hole

To jump off those highest bluffs you had to be bold.

About 65 feet high was the tallest one

Down to about 20 where we laid in the sun.

Jump in the water and climb back up with care

Most of the time we swam in our underwear.

It’s because we had to sneak off to go

If we asked our mother she would just say no.

Downtown’s not what it used to be

But I can close my eyes and look back and see.

Saturdays were the busiest day by far

People could not find a place to park their car.

They would be taking care of business like paying bills

And going in the dime stores looking for deals.

They might have had shoes that needed repair

Around to Green’s Shoe Shop; it was always there.

If it was clothes they were looking for

They could go to Abroms or the Belk Hudson Store.

If a better line of clothes was what the seek

Then, they could go to Olim’s or to Otto Speake.

Into Best Jewelers for a really nice gift

Around to Pride’s Cleaners to get your shirts done stiff.

Timberlake Hardware was a favorite of mine

He had about anything you were looking to find.

If a good hamburger was to your taste

Then the Big-E-Nuff was just the place.

Sit at the counter or get them by the sack

We would shoot pool and play dominoes in the back.

If you had a roll of film that was ready to drop

Just take it on in to Crump’s Camera Shop.

I guess the old pharmacy without a doubt

Had to be our very first hangout.

Soda fountain inside; get a cherry coke

Go outside on the corner and hear a dirty joke.

Shug Sieman was a woman that everybody knew

Going through garbage cans is what she would do.

Pushed an old cart around in sunshine or rain

Whenever we saw her we would holler out her name.

Frederickson’s Tire and Appliances opened in 1946

You could buy nice new things or get your old stuff fixed.

Lucky’s Minnow Farm was a little kid’s delight

Ponds full of minnows and goldfish and a lot of frogs at night.

If getting groceries is where you need to be

Head out to Liberty Supermarket or down to the A&P.

The Grant Hotel was down by the railroad track

They say you could drive around and park in the back

Wait at the door for the bellhop to appear

Get you whisky or a woman—at least, that’s what I’d hear.

We bought bicycle parts at the Western Auto Store

You could also get appliances or a Wizard lawnmower.

Sometimes on Sunday, we would go out to eat

Down to Spalding Walgreen’s and look for a seat.

They had that good home cooking from the South

And Exa’s homemade rolls would melt in your mouth.

Another little place was Brewer’s Café

A black man went inside and ate one day.

Some unknown person went and got a gun

Blew the front window out just for fun.

Went to a lot of dances at the V.F.W. Hall

A bonfire in the parking lot for homecoming in the Fall.

There would be pep rallies in the middle of town

Doing that snake dance all up and down.

Going to Odell”s for a hamburger and coke.

Trade in your bottle for a cigarette to smoke.

We had the bowling alley and the WoodyMac Corral

And the telephones back then had a rotary dial.

Jackson Highway was the home of Muscle Shoals Sound

Music from there is heard the world around.

A lot of famous people would come and go

And nobody in town would ever know.

Like Bob Dylan and Sonny and Cher

And even the Rolling Stones recorded there.

I think a small town is the best place to be

At least, that’s the way it worked out for me.

I’m sure you think your hometown is the best

But, I’ll take Sheffield, Alabama, over all the rest.

Tucky Ginn

September 2000