“The road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”—Song Lyrics by Robert Earl Keen
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Tickets. Pesky pieces of paper that typically bear bad news about fines and things like that.
Center removed their parking meters sometime in the 1980s, hence no parking tickets. However, with the crazy parking and driving practices on the downtown square, plus the number of semi-rigs coming through openly defying the “no trucks,” signs, some tickets would be in order.
But we’ll ticket the “crazy drivers” on another day.
While I don’t remember when parking meters came down in Center, I do remember them still collecting coins when I came here more than 40 years ago. That same memory wants to convince me that the last meter reader for the city was Tincy Griffith. But don’t hold me to that; it’s not been confirmed by researching Mattie’s columns where I’m confident that topic is talked about somewhere in her legacy of history.
I also remember the day that city manager at the time Ron Cox asked if I would like to have a decommissioned meter to compliment my eclectic collection of motoring memorabilia. Of course I did, and yes, I do … still have it.
Last week’s piece about scoring parking tickets during a recent return to his alma mater Stephen F. Austin State University campus by fellow Light and Champion columnist Chris Watlington reminded me of a similar experience.
A return visit of my own to the campus in the pines in the 1980s was a similar account. One of where searching for a legal parking spot gone wrong posed the likelihood of, well, getting caught—and getting a ticket.
As Editorial Excellence contest chair for the North and East Texas Press Association back then, I solicited assistance from the communication department at SFA, where I met instructor Ben Hobbs, and he graciously volunteered the faculty’s aide for critiquing the entries.
With boxes of publications from the Iowa Park Leader to the Center Light and Champion and from the Bowie County Citizen in New Boston to The Hood County News in Granbury, I was soon seeking a parking spot on campus near the communication department.
Lacking a proper permit for the myriad of parking spaces, I parked in a short driveway beside the Boynton Building long enough to find Mr. Hobbs.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It just serves as a side entrance to the Boynton Building, it’s not a street.” Sure enough, I was pleasantly surprised that all was well when we returned to the car with a dolly for transporting the boxes back upstairs.
Before I left, I had a short discussion on judging criteria. Then with a wave of thanks, I boarded the elevator back down. Arriving at my car the second time, I was again surprised. My car was adorned with a “greeting” from the campus police department for parking in a no parking zone.
A quick letter penned from my office the next day apologizing for my parking manners was combined with an explanation of my mission. It even mentioned that Mr. Hobbs in the communication department said parking there was necessary to complete our mission. I closed offering in good faith to pay the fine if my excuse was not acceptable.
A reply was quick in coming. The fine was graciously waived, and an invitation was extended to visit the campus any time. That invitation included a hand-written note from the SFA Chief of Police urging me to stop by the campus PD office to see him. Turns out that the chief was Tony Hill, a 1967 graduate of my high school alma mater in Mount Pleasant. “I remember him,” I smiled. Coincidentally, Tony also dated my younger sister in high school.
I’m guessing the road to parking problems will go on forever. And while it’s hardly a party, the tickets will never end.
I’m also guessing that Chris didn’t happen to have the good fortune of traveling the road of discovering that the campus police chief was an old friend from high school.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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