The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

In My Hometown

By Penny Bargo © 1990

Issue: January, 1990

I remember my hometown as a place where youngsters learned to say, "thank you" and "you're welcome."

In those days, I awoke to the plunk of The Daily News bouncing off my door as the newspaper carrier whistled by. Several hours earlier, the steady clompity-clomp of horses' hooves alerted me to a new day, as the local dairy delivered my milk; and at exactly 8:30 a.m., the bakery truck's cheerful beep promised fresh cinnamon rolls with Mom's second cup of coffee.

Then there was the huckster and the ice-cream truck. I have shameful memories of us kids stuffing our pockets with apples and plums while "Nana" haggled over the price of potatoes.

Life isn't the same now. I've had so many newspapers stolen from my rural delivery box that I'll settle for the 6 pm news on TV. As for milk delivery, it would probably leave with the newspaper. Oh, I know the ice-cream vendors peddle popsicles today, but I've never heard of tamper-proof popsicles, so why take chances?

I remember my automobile being serviced, and with a smile at that. Now, I pay the attendant after I pump my own gas (which inevitably spits back at me). I rarely hear the words, "check your oil?" Instead, it's my gray head under the hood. Of course, putting air in the tires and washing my windshield are among the services that I pay to do myself.

Back in my hometown, the corner grocery store was my favorite place. Friendly smiles greeted me when I bought my penny candy. Mom met the neighbors there for the daily gossip session.

"Oh my! Not another mouth to feed," they'd cluck.

I'd slip outside to play hopscotch while they decided when Nellie's next baby was due. Since we shopped daily, we bought only what we needed, and even charged that if necessary.

"Mark it on ice," Mom would call over her shoulder, and I'd wonder what that meant.

Things are different now. Shopping in a super market is like running a marathon, while trying to find all the things they've hidden since I was last there. Just when I've memorized each commodity's location, arranged the grocery list accordingly, and worked the route down to a science, I discover that the catsup has moved to the toilet paper section, the toilet paper to the spices, and so on. The grocery shelves are rearranged more often than my living room furniture. Then, I wind up in the line that says, "bag your own." I long to hear the melodious words, "May I help you?"

I recall visiting my grandmother on the "woman's ward" at the General Hospital. Today, vending machines can never replace the caring and compassion that were dished up with the egg salad at the hospital snack bar.

I fantasize over the ice cream parlor's homemade ice cream, yet I wonder if I taste it yet because of the smile that dipped it onto the cone.

Our computerized, self-service economy is supposed to save time, money, and enhance self-esteem, but self-service in any community tends to eradicate that personal touch. Punching buttons on a machine to make a bank deposit may be more convenient, but it sure can't beat the smile of the bank teller.

It won't be easy, but let's strive to keep the warm neighborly, caring approach to life that will touch our kids, as it once did me.

That's what hometowns are all about.