“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”—Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame professional baseball player who is also remembered for expressions most of which didn’t make sense, but often possessed profound truth.
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I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be confused with north, east, south, and that kind of language when asking for directions.
I want to hear, “Go down that street there past the Texaco station and turn left just before you get to the used car lot. If you pass it, you’ve gone too far. Then go out there to that fork in the road where Mr. What’s-His-Name used to have that stand where he sold stuff out of his garden.”
Never mind that both old Mr. What’s-His-Name and his place have been gone for 30 years. You’re supposed to know that.
Giving qualified directions in East Texas requires living in the vicinity for a while. How long is a while? Doesn’t really matter. You’re still a newcomer if you were not born in the area. Last week, I was reminded of that when someone asked where I lived when I first moved to Center 43 years ago.
“Well, you can get there by going one of two ways,” I started. “First, by driving out Logansport Street. Now that’s not the highway to Logansport,” I cautioned. “The highway to Logansport is Cora Street. Logansport Street will get you there unless you miss the turn at Cotton Ford Road. Otherwise, you’ll just wind up out into the country.
Pointing over past the courthouse, I said, “Turn right off the square at the old post office. You know, it’s a lawyer’s office now. Then you go out a ways to that little brick store building on the left past the fire station. You turn left at the store, well, it’s not a store anymore, but turn left there and that’s what is now Walker Street—but it used to be Kennedy Street. You go a couple city blocks and I lived in that beigey-pink brick house on the right with the columns on the front porch and the big garage beside it.”
“It was 412 Kennedy Street when I lived there,” I added. “But there weren’t any numbers on the house. That was before 911, I guess. And I got my mail at the post office any way—the one on the square that’s not a post office anymore.”
“You know where I’m talking about, don’t you?”
A blank stare led me to fear my friend not only did not understand but was completely lost.
“Okay, back at the square, same old post office that’s a lawyer’s office now,” I started. “This time go out Tenaha Street and turn right on Kennedy Street just past the Dairy Queen. Once on Kennedy, you’ll pass the high school. Well, it was the high school when I lived there, but it’s the junior high now. That dead ends into another street. Actually, it’s still Kennedy Street but Kennedy turns left and makes a quick right because you really don’t have any choice.”
My friend’s bewildered look was back.
“You’ll come to where you have to turn one way or the other. Kennedy Street used to continue right onto what is actually Walker Street before they changed it … a long time ago. So, when you turn right on Walker now that used to be Kennedy, you’ll see the beigy-pink brick with the columns on the porch and the big garage on the left side of the street.
“You know where that is, don’t you?”
“Well,” my friend started, “If you turn … but … no,” he sighed.
How was I ever going to explain what was once the Aldridge residence on what used to be Kennedy Street? After all, we bought the place and lived there for 12 years.
That was when I remembered a conversation with Jerry Samford way back when I first moved to Center. Jerry had a great story about living in a small house in town that never really got to be “his place,” although he bought and paid for it.
“People were referring to the place by its previous owner even after I moved out,” Jerry laughed. “It was the old so-and-so place when I moved in, and it was still the old so-and-so place when I moved out.”
“Say,” I asked my friend. “You know where the old Herbert Sanders place is?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I know right where that is.”
“Well, that’s my old house … at least I think so.”
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