Looking back I think about all the the things that made an impression on me. Some were bigger than others.
The first big thing was the birth of my brother, Rusty.
I was 3 years and 3 months old. I can still see the sidewalk along the side of Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. My dad was on my right and he pointed out the second floor room to my left where my mom and new baby brother were located.
Huge day! When you’re 3 years old and your dad tells you you have a new baby brother, by any definition or terminology, that’s a huge day!
There were three of us and now there were four! And my life was just beginning.
We lived out in the country, outside of Charlotte, on “Route 3” Nations Ford Road until I was 7.
Raymond’s store, just down the road, gave me an up-close look at what country stores looked like in the ’50s. You had your huge jar of cheese crackers and an open-from-the-top drink box, which was loaded with ice in the morning and still ice cold in the evening even though the ice had long sense melted.
It had Coca-Cola, Pepsi cola, Double Cola and different flavors of Nehi cola.
And, it had a gravel parking lot with oil leak spots scattered about.
When Rusty and I were sick dad would rent a television and we could watch my all-time favorite show, “The Lone Ranger.” “The Howdy Doody Show” was big, too. And I would have never dreamed that decades later “Buffalo Bob Smith” would take an altered route from a Channel 5 guest appearance in Atlanta to my radio show on his way to the North Atlanta Trade Center!
One thing about Mrs. Hunter’s kindergarten in Charlotte. I distinctly remember standing while my classmates sang “You are my sunshine.” I thought it was so pretty that I just wanted to listen.
My first “crush,” Libby Pace. She was an older woman. She was in the second grade, i was in the first. At age 6 I was raising my game.
I have no idea how I was able to get her name.
The night before Valentine’s Day, Mom helped me put together my first ever Valentine’s card. Little Miss Libby had no idea what Mr. Rich had up his sleeve. In fact, she had no idea who Mr. Rich was.
There were no hallways in my classroom building. To get from one classroom to another you simply walked outside and walked down the covered walkway to the other classrooms.
It was time to let second grader Libby Pace know that I, first grader Rich Simpson, had a crush on her.
My teacher allowed me to take my romantic message to the first crush of my young life. Let the Valentine venture begin!
It happened quickly and uneventfully! I peered through the small window of her classroom door, experienced a nervous twinge in my stomach and chickened out! The Valentine plan that I “had up my sleeve” the night before went up my shirt. I didn’t want my teacher to see me returning to my classroom with said Valentine card still in hand.
My first brush with romance came to an abrupt halt. When the girl has no idea who you are and you can’t muster up the courage to let her know, then it’s over. But you know what, having the crush itself felt good.
At the end of the school year my family was off to a new place, Columbus, Georgia.
My dad was transferred to the GMAC office there.
I would start the second grade at Rosemont Elementary School. New memories and new impressions were headed my way.
The Columbus experience and the Davey Crockett experience coincided. It captured my imagination and made a huge impression! When Fess Parker’s Davey Crockett was on TV I was glued to the screen!
A portion of my TV viewing was dedicated to “The Bob Cummings Show.” A series about a photographer who worked mainly with fashion models. After that series came “Love that Bob,” also starring Bob Cummings.
The focus of my viewing experience with those two shows was his flattop haircut.
I wanted a flattop.
In order to create the Bob Cummings flattop look, I got a bar of soap, did the washing my hands routine and applied the wet soapy lather to my hair. I combed it back, waited for it to dry, and to use Bob Cumming’s opening line: “Hold it, I think you’re gonna like this picture.”
All over the U.S., boys my age were sporting coonskin caps, but on 51st Street in Columbus, Georgia, a young boy was looking in the mirror with a head full of dried soap.
Later, Butch Wax would fill the bill.
One second grade assignment had me memorizing a few pages of a book. Then I had to stand on stage, in front of classmates, and recite it with my teacher, Mrs. Hopkins, standing in front of the stage prompting me.
The only words I remember are the first few words of my way off Broadway recital: “One day, a long time ago, some children were playing on the playground.”
In 1994 my youngest son played in a soccer tournament in Columbus. Afterward, I took my family by the building that used to be the school. I looked in the window and saw the stage in the cafeteria.
I walked around the building and remembered the days when I was a student there. My classmates. Where were they now?
And then came the lump in my throat.
Rich Simpson is a former LaGrange resident and a LaGrange High graduate who worked 42 years in radio. He may be reached at [email protected]