"Real" Reasons Why "We" Were Drawn to Our Downtown Area
The more years, the more I wonder.
I've found that in my latter years, I have begun to wonder about the unusual people, places, and things (nouns, to English majors) I have seen or heard about. People who do menial jobs and never get any credit, the dirtiest restaurants, and classic cars that are now just "wrecks" sitting in a cold forest on cement blocks. If I am a candidate for therapy for thinking about these things, then tell me the name of my therapist, for I do not apologize for my unusual thinking.
I've just to ask you.
If you have ever thought what is the attraction to the young people always heading downtown on Friday and Saturday nights? I know that my parents and other people of their ages asked this question often. It, to me, was just one of those questions people asked knowing that there would be no definite answer. But for a few moments it made for a possible lively discussion.
Things were different in my younger years 1970 through 1972. Or the "ancient times," as I know my three grandchildren are just itching to say in front of others. But so far they haven't said this depressing phrase. Oh, thank you, Jesus.
We loved you, Petula.
What was with this "downtown?"
Sorry, but I am not a trained sociologist. I wish sometimes that I had borrowed or got a job paying $1.60 per hour (minimum wage in the years of 1971 and 1972) and worked my way through college--The University of Alabama if that had been possible.
But I didn't. I went straight to work. And for the same $1.60 per hour, but in Hamilton, Alabama, if you were a teenager just out of high school and the boss liked you or your parents, he (there were no female bosses in our town in 1971 and 1972) would give you a little extra with the emphasis on "little."
Even the hit, "Seinfield," had an episode dealing with "Downtown"
Where did our paychecks go?
Not far. That answer should suffice any curiosity that I might have aroused. Furthermore, the wiser kids of my age bracket would save their money and kids like me would save "some" and spend the rest on weekend journeys that only led to our "downtown" area.
So if you do not mind, I want to share my hub title . . .
"Real" Reasons Why "We" Were Drawn to Our Downtown Area
Just so the people who loved their "uptown" area's, I give you this sizzling hit.
Did you have a "downtown" to hang-out when you were a teenager?
- Transportation - - was crucial for my friends and I to get "downtown, ("almost like living on an "automatic decision-maker," ) on Friday and Saturday nights and sometimes on a nice Sunday afternoon. I will tell you why on 'nice Sunday afternoons' in a moment. In my case, I did not have a car, so enter James Childers and Stevie Sullins, their real names, who had cars. Childers owned a used '71 Chevelle that he bought with his paychecks from then-Fairway Homes in Hamilton. James had graduated a year earlier, but still hung out with us teenagers in 1972. Stevie Sullins was allowed to drive his dad, Costin Sullins', 1961 four-door Chevy sedan with a three-speed on the column. These two guys knew my plight: I had no "real job" and my dad would not sign for me at the bank to get my own "wheels," so these guys are to be credited for me getting to live "a little" of my teenage years downtown.
- Possible Reality of Promiscuity - - lay in wait for us in "downtown" Hamilton. The nicer, church-going teens in my class always congregated in "uptown" Hamilton. "Only nice kids stay uptown," I heard an older person say one time. I laughed to myself. By his very words "I" was not a nice teenager although I did attend church with my folks, but really didn't know why. Oh, the "promiscuous" females loved to go "downtown" where they could be more free to be themselves. I didn't argue with them. I only wanted one of them to date. Namely, "Cheryl," her real name, (and if any member of my Class of 1972 is reading this, you should know who this Cheryl) was one girl I wanted to date in a bad way. She had mastered the art of flirting as if she had written the book on this tool of young society. And she, on special occasions, Friday and Saturday nights would wear this red, tight short skirt and well, 'nuff said. Cheryl's conversations with othe guys went something like this:
Cheryl: "Hey, sweetie. Love your jeans."
"Sweetie" (some male): "Wow, thanks, Cheryl. Want to go downtown with me?"
Cheryl: "You bet, You hunk of a man."
But with me, Cheryl's conversation was like this:
Cheryl: "Uh, hello. Now what's your name again?" (she asked while looking down doing her nails).
Me: "Kenneth. And we have known each other for over six years. So, do you want to go riding downtown with me?"
Cheryl: "I would, but I do not know you."
- Liberation - - is what downtown meant to us in 1971 and '72. With or without a car. We would park with others of our background, "blue collar," and talk about life to come when we grew older. If I had one buck for all of the dreams I shared with my "real" friends downtown, I would be richer than Donald Trump. And yes, we were all liberated for a few hours. Free from doing as our parents said as well as our teachers, ministers and the elite of Hamilton. As Kris Kristofferson, who wrote "Me and Bobby McGee," said . . ."Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. Nothin', don't mean nothin' hon' if it ain't free," and maybe for just a few short, savored hours on Friday and Saturday night(s), we were free.
Take it away, Kris!
Things We Did While in Downtown, Hamilton
- Smoked cigarettes - - (what a big thrill). Nowadays, I hate smoking and haven't smoked a cigarette or dipped since 2002.
- Drank beer - - I didn't get to experience this part of the "teen experience," for I knew if my dad smelled beer on my breath, and he would, I would get a whipping with his belt (although I was 18 and had registered for The Draft to be shipped to Vietnam) and grounded forever. Funny, I could sign-away my life to the U.S. Army, but not have "one" beer with my buddies.
- Smoked "Weed" - - I did not go this far in my rebellious teenage years. I was not a brave teenage male. (e.g. my hub, "Other Ways You Can Be Thought of as a Coward") and left the "weed" to those bold enough to wear their hair long and tie dye their jeans to match.
- Told off-color jokes - - well, us guys did tell those types of jokes to see which guy had the most-profane joke. Oh, the laughter of a circle of us standing outside our cars, or others' cars, and each taking a turn to share a particularly-vulgar joke. And even when "some" girls we knew well would walk up, they would join in with the "Dirty Joke-a-Rama."
- Loud music - - was key to having a successful teenage life downtown. Artists such as John Kay and Steppenwolf; Jimi Hendrix; The Jefferson Airplane and other rockers were played loud on someone's eight-track tape player mounted in their car with all of the windows rolled down. Man, what great times. Why loud rock music? Hey, if a hot, single girl were to love loud rock music, she would head to where the music was playing. And for some, a very memorable night was to materialize.
- Meals - - from Jackson's Airport Drive-In which sat dead-center of our "loop" at the very heart of downtown Hamilton. To make Mr. Jackson even more money, his drive-in restaurant was near our airport in Hamilton. Males with fast cars (Jeff Burleson, whose dad was rich); Tim Burnette, his best friend even James Childers would have drag races on the quarter mile strip that ran from the airport to the main highway. It was rumored that bets were made on these races, but was never proven. And yes, for about two-bucks we could chow-down on the best burgers and shakes anywhere around.
- True love - - although this is my final activity that "some" in my class enjoyed, I had to wait many years later for the elusive "true love" to come my way. But one girl, "Frankie," came close to being my "true love" by wearing that sash around her shoulder that read: "Kenny, Date Me. I Will Go."
And even today in 2016, I still find myself drifting back to those nice Sunday afternoons and every Friday and Saturday night to see what was going on and taking part in the sometimes-taboo moments that were only found in "Downtown."
Thanks, Rod Serling.
Note to George Lucas: "Why didn't you visit my hometown and let me take you on a tour of "downtown" and then film your iconic film, "American Graffiti," there and let my friends and I be cast as extras?"
Even in 1972, I was not thought of as greedy.