Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 9, 2016


Strengthen your mind by sharing your memories


One good way to strengthen your mind is to share your memories.

Before you can share them you must collect them. I find it fun to recall and refine memories of my childhood, then share them with my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – and sometimes with good friends who have stored precious memories like my own.  

        Since our family lived in the country I rode a big yellow bus to school from grade one through grade twelve. But by the time I was in grade eleven I was driving the bus. I still find it hard to believe the school system trusted a 17-year-old boy to drive a school bus. Fortunately, I did not have an accident.

        Nearly all of the roads were gravel roads when I began school in 1938. And not all of them were paved when I was a senior. The ride to school took about an hour during which we choked on a tortuous blend of dust and hot air.

         As I learned to read I fell in love with books. My mother had exposed me to a few books but at school I discovered that marvelous room called the library. To break the monotony of the long bus rides I got in the habit of reading books I had checked out of the library. The adventures of Tarzan and the Rover Boys were favorites. How I managed to read while bouncing over pot holes and breathing that dust I will never know. But it helped to pass the time.

          When I was a fifth grader I persuaded the bus driver to do something he would not be allowed to do today. At one point the driver turned off the main road and traveled some five miles until the road ended. There he would pick up or unload some children, then turn around and retrace his route.

Most days the driver allowed me, James and Tom to get off the bus so we could play in the sand by the side of the road until he returned ten to fifteen minutes later. That was high adventure. It never dawned on me that the driver might be a little nervous until we got back on the bus. It was exhilarating to get off the bus and show the other kids what courage we had. For a few minutes we were real men.

About two hundred yards behind our home was a swimming hole in a narrow creek. In the summertime my cousins and I would strip off our clothes, splash the water to scare the snakes away and enjoy a break from the heat. In later years I shuddered to think about the risks we took, playing so carelessly around Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. But back then we were young, naïve and carefree. We never gave any thought to danger or dying.  

When I was young that swimming hole was huge. To swim across to the other side was quite a challenge. Since those days I have gone back to that old swimming hole and laughed to discover that the distance to the other side of the creek is only about 12 feet. Memories have a way of playing tricks on our minds.

Daddy’s farm included some rich river bottom land that bordered the Tallapoosa River for a few miles. As a young man I loved to roam and hunt in the thick woods along the river. There were places that were special – places few people knew about -- where I could pick and enjoy sweet Scuppernongs, play on sand bars and skip rocks across the river’s surface, or just sit and think. I enjoyed the special sounds of the woods, birds chirping and squirrels scampering, while sitting alone on a log and pondering the meaning of life.

Scuppernongs in the woods were a delicacy free for the taking. I savored the sweet juice, spitting the hulls on the ground. Sometimes I would go back with a bucket and pick enough for Mama to make a few pints of jelly.

My kids find it hard to believe that at night we would sit on the front porch, catch lightning bugs, tell ghost stories or play Red Rover. We had time to relax and enjoy being together because we were not plagued with cell phones or televisions. Life was more simple back then.

Reliving pleasant memories cures boredom and is good exercise for the mind. It is best to forget the bad stuff and focus on precious memories. Life is too short to give much time to the stuff that can breed resentment or despair.

The mind has a marvelous capacity to remember so collect your memories. Have fun sharing them with others. The older you get, the more you will need a strong mind to help you finish strong. + + +