A Sand Mountain Saturday night
Uncle Leonard and Aunt Sue had five kids, Charlotte, Shirley, Gerald, Darryl, and Mike. My cousins were just like brothers and sisters to me. While I was there, I hired out to the local farmers, picking vegetables such as beans, squash, peas, pepper, picked up potatoes and helped bale hay. In the fall I pulled corn and picked cotton. Sometimes we would get jobs working on weekends gathering eggs or catching chickens in the big chicken houses in the area.
Rainsville is a small farm town on Sand Mountain in DeKalb County. State Highways 75 and 35 intersect at Rainsville. In the 1960’s, they had two lane streets and a four way stop at the intersection of those highways. Now days they have four lanes and left and right turning lanes and a traffic light. Back then the town had a grocery store, restaurant, service station, bank, dry-good and hardware store and other small businesses. There was a drive-in restaurant and skating ring that the kids hung out at and socialized.
They left the sidewalks out and the little town stayed alive until about midnight on Friday and Saturday nights back then. Local farmers and their families were buying groceries, getting their vehicles serviced, buying things needed in the home and on the farm and taking care of other businesses in the afternoons and evenings.
My cousins, Charlotte and Shirley, and I would spend Saturdays doing farm work in the fields and looking forward to going to Rainsville that evening. I didn’t own my own car at that time, it was kind of hard to buy a car on the salary of a pea picker or cotton picker, even in the 60’s. But Charlotte and Shirley had boyfriends and they made sure if they went on a date that I went too. Well I think that was the way it was, I hope it was, I hope Uncle Leonard didn’t make them carry me.
Boys shed their work pants, shirts, ball caps and brogan shoes and put on their Levis with the creases ironed in the legs and enough starch to make them stand up alone. Shirts were starched and ironed with the collars turned up and shirttails in their pants. They wore white socks with penny loafers that had a spit shine that you could see yourself in. And they greased their ducktail and crewcuts with enough oil to hold it in a hurricane and flattop haircuts were made to stand up with a gel. Looking neat and clean was the style in the 1960’s.
Sand Mountain girls changed from their Saturday work clothes to sack dresses with pumps or saddle shoes. They spent hours fixing those beehive hairdos and applying just the right amount of eyeliner, lipstick and ruse. Pop beads were popular jewelry in those days.
I remember one Saturday night I went with Charlotte and Shirley and their boyfriends to the dairy bar, For some reason I only had one suit of clothes with me that weekend. I took them off and Aunt Sue washed them for me and I had to wear some of Uncle Leonard’s clothes. His shirt and pants were way too big for me. I didn’t have a belt because I didn’t wear belts back then. It was a time I could buy clothes that actually fit me and I didn’t need a belt to keep them from falling off of me. But that night I needed something so I used a piece of rope to keep my britches up. We all had a lot of fun about my predicament that night.
In those days the kids in Rainsville had their own version of American Graffitti or Happy Days. About dark, the kids would start driving their Chevy and Ford up and down the streets and meeting at the dairy bar and skating rink on Friday and Saturday nights. A few boys owned their own cars and a couple of them had muscle cars, but most were driving their Dad’s old farm truck or family’s six cylinder sedans. There would be a parade of cars and trucks, with some showing off, burning rubber and revving their motors, driving back and forth from the skating ring to the dairy bar to circle it. There were cars with moon and spinner hubcaps, fender skirts, and some had the rear ends jacked up. Glass packed mufflers were popular, but a car with no muffler was common due to driving on dirt roads with deep ruts in them. The muscle cars had four speed shifts in the floor and four barrel carburetors and earth shaking, loping, eight cylinder motors. Cloth dices hung from the rear view mirror, hoods had ornaments, horns with different sounds. Real Rock N Roll, from Elvis Presley, Jerry E. Lewis, Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson, would be blaring from the jukebox or one of the cars. And no matter how old or new or beat up or what, the cars were clean, most had a wax shine that you could use for a mirror to comb your hair.
Gas was cheap, between 25 and 30 cents a gallon. Two dollars worth of gas was plenty for the whole weekend for most cars and trucks. The muscle cars used more, but it was worth the extra cost to drive and show them off.
The drive-in restaurant would reminds you a little of Arnold’s drive-in on Happy Days. The building had bright lights on it and a lot of kids hanging around outside socializing. But there was no inside dinning area or girls on skates giving curb service. Skating would have been a little rocky on the gravel and sand parking lot. You had to walk up to a window and order and pick up your hamburger and coke or milkshake.
The cars would be lined up on the street to the entrance of the drive-in to make a circle around the building. As they went through at about two or three miles per hour, the drivers checked the crowd to see who was parked and standing around. And of course all the parkers and people standing and sitting outside were checking the drivers and their passengers out too. We had to check out the muscle cars and who had new hubcaps and loud pipes. And you also got to see who was dating who on this night. There were no seat belt laws back than so your girl sat next to you.
This was Sand Mountain and everybody gave and received the mountain style index finger salute or the peace sign as they went by friends. It may have been the 60’s on Sand Mountain in Rainsville, Alabama, but even than they knew how and some found reasons to use the middle finger wave sometimes too.
As the cars circled the drive-in, somebody would rev their motor and show off their new dual glass packed mufflers and pop a clutch and make the tires spin just a little bit and kick up the gravels and stir the dust as they drove through.
After making the circle around the restaurant, and before exiting onto the street, the street would be checked to see if the town of Rainsville’s Barney Fife was anywhere near. If he wasn’t, the motor would be revved up, clutch popped, and tires would spin and squeal and smoke on their exit. The driver would drive down the road for a little piece and come back and do it all over again, time after time.
And on one of the trips around the drive-in, most people actually stopped, had a coke and hamburger and sat to talk to the other kids.