Thursday, February 2, 2012


One of the greatest comedians of all time, Bob Hope would end his TV shows with the song, "Thanks for the Memories."  Memories hold images of our past, both good and bad. They are also more than just images.  They are our "back to the future."

I have asked on our recently established "Kilgore Cousins Facebook Group Site" to reflect on  the past at Granny and Papa Kilgore's old home place.  Some cousins have written about their thoughts around Uncle Grady, Granny and Papa Kilgore, and the farm (in Winston County) on what was Route 3, Nauvoo, Alabama during my growing up years, but reassigned as  Winston County Road 21 in recent years.   Different addresses; same location.   Today, County Road 21 becomes Poplar Springs Road when crossing the  Winston-Walker county line.  Same road, different designations.   We as people traveling down the same road have different memories which project on our mental movie screens.  The old gospel song, "Precious Memories" speaks of how they linger and flood our soul.

I share with you one such memory as a young boy from the country visiting the big city. Being from Nauvoo and never going anywhere far from home, it was always a special treat to go to the big city of Birmingham to visit relatives. Birmingham was a different world from my simple life in the country.

Old Birmingham Highway, US 78 was a two lane road filled with curves and extremely different from our present age of interstates and straight four lane roads.  To a young boy, it seemed to take all day to get to the big city.  When the family got there,  it was evident that life was different.   My eyes took it all in.   So many cars, all traveling so fast --  the electric street cars in the middle of the streets filled with passengers going to work or going shopping --  the sky reflecting a flaming red color on the night sky,  filled with smoke both day and night.

My sight was not the only sense actively taking it all in.  My nose took in the smell of  the city as well.  The scent of gas exhaust from all the cars -- the smell of factories producing pig iron -- and in contrast, the sweet fragrance of fresh bread being baked down the street.

All the differences, except the fresh bread (there was a store down the street with fresh bread), went away when we arrived at 16th St., North Birmingham to visit Uncle Johnny, a big city policeman and my Aunt Ruby, one of daddy's sisters.  This was the home of my cousins, Billy, Betty, Barbara, and Nelda. Whether right or wrong, I looked up to them because they were my big city cousins.

The Chadwick home was beautiful.  It was a multi-level dwelling.  The top level, flush with the front street,  was home to renters which supplemented the family income.  The renter's entrance was in the front of the house at street level where the side walk was.  The middle level was partially under ground with its entrance on the side. There were windows above ground on this level to let the natural light in. The steps to this entrance had four or five descending steps with a retaining wall on each side.  This middle level is where Uncle Johnny, Aunt Ruby, and my cousins lived.  Then the bottom level was a basement which you could not see from the front or the side, but was completely above ground from the the back of the house. When Billy was older the basement became his bedroom and living area.  It was like a "man cave."  Basements were foreign to me, and it was as though I was going deep underground into a cave as I descended down the circular stairs into a large space where Billy lived.

As you can tell, my Aunt and Uncle's home was so different from the small one level farm house I lived in. One eye-catching difference was the side yard with its beautiful flowers and shrubs.  A landscaped yard was something we didn't have in the country.  But the main feature catching the eye was the fish pond filled with goldfish and  green lacy water plants.  Another difference from my small house was the actual size of  Aunt Ruby and Uncle Johnny's living space.  I recall the living room with its nice furniture.  It was a room we only passed through to get to the rest of the house.  There was the wall-to-wall built in china cabinet and high ceiling of the formal dining room.  The family gathering place was in the kitchen area and a small room off from it. I don't recall much about these spaces.  I do remember that for one of our meals Aunt Ruby fed us the tastiest hot dogs with frozen orange juice concentrate, water added and mixed to drink.  It was the first time I ever had frozen orange juice.

As I grew older, my world enlarged and my view of things expanded.  I discovered even with the differences we experience, life is made richer because of our differences and the different places we live.  I now live in the big city of Birmingham.  The home in which I live has a basement that is totally underground.  What was new and big has now become common place.  But there is one thing that bridges the gap between childhood and present day -- country and city  -- MEMORIES.

Johnny Kilgore, contributor


  1. Johnny, this is an excellent article--- very well written. I was hoping you would mention the goldfish pond. That was the most fascinating thing to me.

  2. This is Chuck, Barbara's son....I remember Mama Ruby's and Papa Johnny's place there too.. Do you remember "Boss" the Collie and the Old Truck Papa Johnny drove, that he use to let us grand-kids ride in the back from Birmingham to Winston County?....Maybe you do, I just also remember the Big Black Grasshoppers that use to be in Mama Ruby's Flower Beds. They use to scare Scott and I a lot....

    Chuck Prosch

    p.s. Excellent job on the Blogs.....