The Big Friendly- from 2014

I remember when the “Doughboy” stood in the center of the “square” out in front of the “Big Friendly” Trion Department Store. I was always in awe of that statue. I remember reading the names on it over and over…some of them familiar names of families who lived in Trion.

The Department store itself was a wonder! There was no other place like it in the world. You could get anything, and I mean anything in that store. I loved going in there as a child. The toy aisle looked like it went on forever! There were Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, and Matchbox cars. There were cap pistols, and a rack next to them with a “bluejillion” packs of caps on it. There were porcelain dolls for the little girls. There were bicycles and stuffed animals. I can remember how wonderful this area looked when it was decorated for Christmas. Big, giant, bright Christmas balls. Rows of tinsel. Lots of the big old huge lights that screwed in and out of the sockets.

One of the most vivid memories of Christmas, was when I was four years old and I got the “Hopalong” Cassidy outfit and guns. I don’t think I took that outfit off for a week. I didn’t find out until years later that Dad had put that outfit and those guns on “layaway” almost 6 months before Christmas and had paid a little a week on them until he had them paid for. I don’t know what happened to them. My Mom was NOT a person to let something lay around in the house and take up useful space if it was not being used. I surmise that I probably wore them out using them the first year or so I had them, and they got tossed out in the move we made to Simmons Street. One of those guns go for about 120 dollars now on Ebay.

Mom got me even worse when I went off to college my freshman year. I had MY closet in my room filled with all of the Marvel comics that I had bought over the years. I had the first issues of a lot of them, plus the subsequent early issues. I had my old baseball cards which I had taken good care of, in a couple of shoeboxes. Mantle, Maris, Aaron. They were all there. We were not allowed to come home from school for the first month, if I remember correctly…it was one of the rules. The first time I came back home, I opened my closet and my stuff was gone! I know everybody says it, but in my case it was true….my Mom had thrown my comics and cards out. I cried then…but I cry harder now when I see how much some of those collectibles are worth.

Back to the Big Friendly though, there was a fabric department, a hardware store, a grocery store, a drugstore, a funeral parlor…? Yes, there was…a funeral parlor upstairs in the Big Friendly. The way the store was laid out, you could drive around the back and be at “ground” level. And so…the departed could go in and out the “back door” without creating an issue throughout the rest of the store.

Across the street from the Big Friendly you had the Post Office on the corner. Next to the Post office was the Barber shop.

We had one of the most modern and wonderful places called the “Y” The mill had first built a swimming pool sometime around 1934, and then built the “Y” up around it. It had an inside heated pool, a gym, a pool and ping pong room, a weight room, a theatre on one end, a snack bar….this place was WAY ahead of its time. In 1973, our class of 1968 had our five year reunion there….not long before they tore it down. I loved that place and often wished there had been some way to save it. It would have really been a historical landmark if it could have been saved.

If we wanted to, we were allowed to leave school for lunch back in those days. A lot of us opted to do so…lunchroom food being what it was. A lot of times we went up to a little place over near the mill which served burgers, fries, and dogs. I think Mr. Colbert owned the place. We thought the food was decent, and he also had a jukebox which was somehow filled with the most current songs. That was the first place I ever heard a Beatles song, the Rolling Stones, many of the iconic groups of those days first came to me over the jukebox in that dive.

We had to cross over a little bridge leading out to the burger joint. There was a creek which ran out from under the mill which flowed into the river at that point. It started into the mill as normal colored water…but being as there was a dye house at the mill back then, it would come OUT of the mill almost any color you could imagine. I used to like to guess what color the water was going to be every time I crossed over that bridge. I had no idea the colored “water” going into the river was polluting it.

The river is cleaned up now and it’s one of the cleanest in the State. There are kayakers going up and down it every day, and I believe that there are some great game fish in the river now.

As much as I long for those “bygone” days every now and then, I realize that memories are sometimes much sweeter than the actual living. So, I try to live everyday now hoping to give the people who are around me…especially the little ones, something sweet to remember.

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