Charles Gustafson ('58)

Thomas Wolfe was right. “you can never go home again,” at least not like it was.

Fifty years ago our town was a quieter and a really nice place to live. There were rules and consequences if the rules were broken. But the things one can revisit are the memories of the events that formed our lives and stuck with us long after we left Campbell and we took our turn on the carrousel to make our mark on the world.

I’ve cobbled together a few of these memories.

My grandfather Harvey Jackson Sprayberry died at the family farm near Hiram and the Red Rock community in 1924. Later that year my grandmother, Julia Antoinette Gunnell Sprayberry, her daughter Mae and her two sons Herbert and Paul moved to 601 Atlanta Street, Smyrna. Later my mother Mae married**Charles Anton Gustafson from McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Much earlier my two uncles moved to Marietta, Georgia and started their own families.

I was born on December 1, 1940 on a snowy day at the Marietta hospital on Cherokee street near the Strand theater. My sister Carol Ann was born November 13, 1945 at Crawford W. Long hospital in Atlanta. Our house still stands at the corner of Hill Street and Atlanta road just south of the, soon to be razed, Belmont Hills shopping center.

Our brick home, built circa 1920, had three bedrooms, one bath, living and dining rooms, two fireplaces, a small breakfast room, a kitchen and two porches. One was a back porch with a screen door and a big water oak for shade. The front porch had a mimosa tree on the north side and a flowering crabapple on the south. The house faced east toward the Atlanta highway and we could sit on the porch in the afternoon and wave to friends and passersby and the trains. We had a party line phone and our phone number was 86-J.

We had a coop of chickens and large mean rooster, a half acre garden that provided tomatoes, green beans, okra, cucumbers, watermelons and squash. A large fig bush just off the back porch provided fruit for fabulous fig preserves. My grandmother, or as I renamed her as a young child, mamaberry, would cook a big black cast iron skillet of cornbread for those chickens several times a week as well as for the family. Mother or mamaberry had to collect the eggs each day because they were the only people the rooster would not attack. As a five year old I was really intimidated by that foul fowl. Our neighbor’s housekeeper would sometimes ring a chicken’s neck on Fridays for the Sunday dinner. I can still see those headless chickens flopping around on the ground slinging blood all over the backyard. I’m not sure but I believe she did in that damn rooster too.

Mother would bake chocolate, burnt caramel and fresh coconut cakes from scratch. Toll House cookies, tea cakes, divinity and fudge candy were sometimes available with fresh ambrosia and fruit cakes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the best pecan pie ever made. These recipes I’m sure were passed down from mother to daughter. Dad was the grill master for all things meat. No doubt about where I got “sweet tooth” gene.

Mother and mamaberry “put up” beans, tomatoes and pickled cucumbers for the winter. .Also I would set up sheets of tin on saw horses and put out sliced peaches and apples to dry in the noonday sun clean them up and mother would make baked fruit turnovers with raisins and cinnamon. In the summer, I would ride my bike over to “Davenport Town” where the black families lived at that time and pick strawberries for jelly and preserves. For the other essentials we shopped at Rogers, JDs and eventually Kroger.

Summer time was bike time and we rode all over town sometimes with cards clipped to the rear tire spokes with clothes pins to sound like motorbike wannabes.

My grandmother died in this house in 1948. A couple of years later we sold the house and built a new one at 130 Hill Street. Then the phone number was HE 5-4710. I planted three Chinese chestnut sprigs that grew into about 12 -14’ in height and fed all the squirrels on the street. This was about 1952. The house was razed in 2008. There is just a vacant lot there now.

I went to the Smyrna school where Mrs.McBrayer,. Mrs Wheat , Mrs Edmonds and Ms Parrish were some of my teachers . At Smyrna we had a couple of brick buildings. One two story razed years ago and one single story which was the high school, which is still standing, and several wooden buildings for more classrooms. I do remember my dog “bogey” was locked up for a weekend in the main building. I had to see Mr. Griffin the school principal about the mess.

The school lunches for the most part were pretty good, mystery meat , veggies and milk. Some students brought their lunch from home. I remember one year the cafeteria employees gave us free orange juice at recess. We played tag and dodge ball at recess and no one was killed or seriously injured. Really!!. Sometimes on Fridays our class would walk down to the Smyrna ballpark to run and play baseball.**

My grand mother, mother, Carol and I were members of the Smyrna First Methodist Church. My father was a member of the Smyrna Lutheran Church on South Cobb drive. The Methodist church was razed I believe back in the mid-sixties. A bank sits on the former church site.

I was a member of Boy Scout troop 156 and the scout lodge was across from where the American Legion is now. We went to summer camp at Camp Bert Adams on Vinings mountain and camped out on Blood mountain and lake Winfield Scott in north Georgia.. At night “true” stories were being told around the campfire told about the ghostly “fiery hand” that roamed around the Vinings mountain at night. A man’s hand was chopped off and for some reason it kept returning from time to time for revenge.

One gourmet touch was coffee can cassersrole. Thin layers of onions, ground beef and potatoes were packed inside of a blue Case and Sanborn coffee can with lid and put into the coals to cook. My family dropped by one Sunday at Bert Adams a freshly made box of toll house cookies. A couple of the guys and I ate some and I put the box under my bed and we went off to some event . When we returned, every ant on Vinings Mountain was either in the box or trying to get in. All those ants were brushed off and the cookies were saved.

We really had a good time at Bert Adams, playing capture the flag, having canoe races, and scout projects such as compass usage, first aid, swimming and purifying water. “Bug juice” was available at lunch and dinner in the “chow” hall which was really pitchers of iced Koolaid which always seemed have a couple of gnats or small bugs floating in it, but they went the way of the ants.

My parents bought me a set of The Encyclopedia Britannica. I had everything a eleven year old kid could want, books, a T.V., a radio to listen to the Lone Ranger, The Shadow and the Green Hornet, a telephone and a bike Then girls came alongJ.//

The Smyrna Theater always showed a Saturday matinee with a Donald Duck or Woody Woodpecker cartoon before Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder with Little Beaver or Gene Autry shot the bad guys or put them in jail.

The restaurant food scene in the Smyrna area was kind of limited in the early fifties. There was The Plantation and Howard Johnsons on the four-lane where I had fried clams and my first baked Alaska and Aunt Fannies Cabin with their fabulous southern comfort food.

GBs offered gourmet chili burgers and chili smothered hot dogs, YUM! Landers Drug store where you could get cherry cokes, sundaes and malteds. The Dog and Suds had good Coney dogs and root beer in cold mugs. And who can forget the Fair Oaks Drive In ?

The early 1950s saw the building of Campbell High School and The Belmont Hills shopping center which brought Dunaway Drugs, Kroger and a special W.T Grants.

“The times they are a changing*” *as Bob would say. / /

The birth of Rock and Roll with Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis , Fats Domino, Little Richard and//Elvis “shook up” just about everything. Driver’s licenses opened up new avenues for dating and just hanging out or attending rock concerts at the Ponce De Leon Ball Park and the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Atlanta. Dad being in the hotel business in Atlanta knew all the good restaurants like Ship Ahoy and Leb’s deli to name couple.

Our senior trip to Washington D.C. and the junior senior proms at Robinson’s Tropical Gardens had their memorable moments and I’ll leave “the rest of the stories” at rest.

My summer jobs in high school were digging foundations and hauling bricks at North Cobb High School and the Concord Middle School making $1.90 /hr. Not bad when gas was $.25 a gallon.

I played trumpet in the band for three years which gave me a good foundation of music appreciation and always ensured good band camps in the summer, great seats for the Panther’s football games and a possible Varsity visit if the game was in or near Atlanta. Played some football and basketball my senior year; track team my junior and senior year. In 1958, Miriam Watkins, Janella Sammons, Jimmy Bryant and I were on the debate team and the topic was resolved: /That direct United States economic aid to industrial countries should be limited to technical assistance and disaster relief. /

Some things never change!!

So in spite of everything, I was awarded a C.H.S.diploma and was turned loose on an unsuspecting world.