Ah, summer, the pleasant memories it brings! In the late ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, life was simple, but we didn’t take our vacations lightly. My mother, who taught school for 12 years in Willow Spring, thought summers were the time to augment our education. We traveled to Appomattox Court House, Va., where Lee surrendered to Grant, or to Manteo to view the Lost Colony Production—anywhere within range of four days. (Dad had to return to relieve Mr. Hopson, his partner, at Varina Supply Co.—a farm supply store off Broad St.)
Our custom was to visit mountain sights one year and coastal areas the next. We enjoyed perusing the material at the old forts near the ocean and the battlefields inland. But getting there was as instructive as the destination.
My brothers and I played a game called “Counting the Animals”. The object was to count the animals seen on your side of the car; however, you had to bury them at the sight of a cemetery. There were many burial plots near the old homesteads before the roads were changed to make travel faster. We scanned the landscape for cows, horses, and goats keeping us occupied for quite some time - usually until too many graveyards came into view. When winning, a player might rather quit than bury all his animals. Maybe all the counting and adding improved our math.
We came upon many Burma-Shave advertisements. A reader had to be quick to catch the phrases as the car sped along. The signs were usually arranged in rows of five to be read while passing. Mother hoped the slogans would improve our reading; she kept us looking for more:
“The WOLF is shaved so neat and trim; Red Riding Hood is chasing him! Burma-Shave”
“The WHALE put Jonah down the hatch; coughed him up because he scratched. Burma-Shave”
When we journeyed east, my dad always stopped at Mr. Haywood’s store on Hwy. 70 near Newbern in a little place called Croatan. Beside the store was a self-kicking machine that captivated us kids—a wheel and spokes design with boots attached. Standing with your back to the machine, you turned the handle to kick yourself. When we arrived, I’m sure my dad thought a good kick was a great idea.
The original kicking machine was donated to the Museum of History in Raleigh. A new machine took its place. You may have seen a replica at the Angus Barn in Raleigh. It is called Kicking Machine #2 giving credit to the one at Croatan.
Other curiosities along the way were the stately old barns painted, “See Rock City”. Some barns were painted like birdhouses, lettering, birds and all; some birdhouses were painted, “See Rock City”.
The advertising worked. One summer our family made the trip to Lookout Mountain in Georgia just six miles from Chattanooga, Tenn. We were awed by the panoramic view across seven states, the rock formations and the scenic walking trails. It was the farthest we ever traveled on vacation. Returning home we came across a barn its roof neatly painted black with white lettering: “Good-bye, tell your friends about Rock City”.
The Highway Beautification, or “Ladybird Act”, of the mid ’60s declared the barns eyesores; many were torn down or painted over. I smiled in my heart recently when I noticed a barn in our area that proclaimed with the same white lettering: “See Rock City”.
I stopped, visited awhile and expressed to the owner, “My thanks for all the memories”.