The first job I remember my Daddy having was managing a Western Auto on the south side of Atlanta. For those of you who do not know that store -- it mostly sold automobile parts and accessories.
My dad worked for that store in the 1950s, but when corporate wished to move him from Atlanta to another city, he decided that he didn’t wish to uproot his wife and four children [they had moved from Jacksonville, Fla., and before that from St. Louis, MO.]. He quit the job with Western Auto, and he and my mother opened their own business, an employment agency called The Job Hunter.
I always liked the name of their business since my brother’s name was “Hunter,” and I somehow associated that name with the business. I was young; I knew just enough information to be mostly wrong.
Since that business never operated in the black, my father and mother closed their office and went back into fields they had been educated for --- my mom in nutrition and my dad in math education. Those stories, however, are for another blog. :)
I loved it when Daddy worked at Western Auto. On the weekends, I walked to his store, which was located in the Stewart-Lakewood shopping center and less than 1/4 miles from where we lived, and I strolled the aisles. I admired the shiny chrome of car parts, the cans of oil, the big car batteries, and the long, black smelly hoses. Whether it was a Pontiac or Buick or Oldsmobile or Rambler, Western Auto carried what they needed.
The store also had all kinds of automobile tires -- hanging ominously from a rack attached to the ceiling and making the store have this pungent rubber smell.
Cars in those days were not the purring motors with the computer hook up to diagnose problems that we have today, but were relatively uncomplicated machines that ran less than perfectly and had little annoying repairs. Flat tires, thrown rods, carburetors, or broken belts seemed the fare of these cars.
Actually, I have no idea what exactly were the most common repairs, but people worked on their cars in their garages and driveways -- and sometimes fixed 'em.
In retrospect, I find it kind of humorous now that my dad worked in that store since he didn’t care a fig for cars or working on them, but he was in management, and his work was less about auto parts and more about managing people and taking the money from the till to the bank.
I also loved Western Auto for their bike selection. In the front of the store were three or four rows of numerous new bikes, all colors of the rainbow -- red, blue, green, and yellow -- I loved touching and smelling their shiny newness , as they stood in orderly rows like soldiers with their kickstands holding them still.
When in the store, I would take it upon myself to straighten the bikes, and in doing so, I took the opportunity to sit on each of them and imagined myself owning one and coasting down the hill on my street, streamers waving, with all the envious eyes of my by-standing friends trained on me.
The problem was --- I never had a new bike. I had bike leftovers.
My parents were frugal because they had to be. Four children, a house payment, keeping a car running [we bought used mainly then], tithing, and of course, college funds, my parents were not ones to be buying me a new bike just because I wanted one.
I shared a bike with my sister, or I could ride one of my brothers’ bikes with the nerdy, huge, newspaper basket on the front, that looked, frankly, dumb to me if there were no papers to carry. Plus, a boy’s bike was a whole different “horse” to ride -- since it has two straight bars instead of the sloping bar of a girl’s bike. I had to turn the bike on its side, get it rolling, and then jump on the seat. There was no way for me to mount if from its kickstand position as they were tall, wieldy things, and I was small.
*imagines self as small*
This didn’t keep me from riding their bikes though, and I remember that I could only touch the pedals with the tips of my toes, which made pedaling a challenge. I also can’t tell you how many times I hit the curb riding one of my brother’s bikes and came slamming down on that center bar.
Yowser. No wonder I never had children.
My best friend, Marcie, however, always had not only the best toys, but she had tons of them.
She was the spoiled oldest child and the only girl in her family. She had several Barbies with all the special accessories -- Barbie houses and cars -- fabulous evening gowns and furs --- Barbie’s boyfriend Ken, her best friend Midge, Skipper and Scooter -- while I had one or two Barbies with clothes hand made by my doting aunts. No sparkles on my doll’s clothing, just regular dresses that looked like miniatures of my own clothes since the material usually came from a remnant of something made for me.
Marcie also had a beautiful, pink bike that I coveted, and because Marcie loved me, she let me ride it.
It was a baby pink Sting Ray --- it sat low and had a long, white banana seat and the wonderful sissy bar. [No bar to come flying down on when you hit a curb or came to a halting stop]. The butterfly handlebars came up to the hands, no bending down for them, and the sparkly silver streamers flowed out from the handle grips.
Now this was a bike, and Western Auto had many of them ---- but I never had one, even though I begged for one Christmas after Christmas -- even invoked Santa, whom by then I didn’t believe in, to please give me one.
Nope. Instead I had bike leftovers: my sister’s rickety, rusty, old grandma bicycle with sissy bar and antiquated hand bell thingy. Her bike had a crushed front, tire fin that sent it limping to the right, and a broken kickstand, that when I tried to park it somewhere, it fell over like a felled steer. The chain came off every few feet [it seemed], and the bike made this whistling noise [everybody knew when you were coming] when it got up to speed, which was rare.
It was lame and ugly, and so not a Sting Ray.
I only rode my sister's bike if I had to --- and sometimes I had to.
The one bonus to my sister's bike was, if I was in a hurry and what kid isn't, I didn’t take the time to bother, like other kids, with the kickstand - I would just lay it on its side sometimes with me on a dead run, leaving the bike abandoned and forlorn on the playground on in a friend's driveway or yard and never worrying about scratching its already lovely finish.
But Marcie was good to me, and we learned to ride her bike together ---- I was taller, and I would pedal with her behind me on that long, banana seat. We thought we were something as we rode around the neighborhood or to the shopping center for éclairs and cherry Cokes --- on her fashionable Sting Ray... as we thought, the envy of all .....
but we also had some pretty awesome, bike “wrecks” --- and that’s for another blog.