The joys of summer in a small town

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Reflections of summers growing up in Danbury, North Carolina in the late 1960s and early ’70s. It was fun living in the country back then with little to worry about and a river to play in. I first wrote this in 2014.

The Dan River in Danbury, North Carolina in a photo taken a few years ago. Riding an inner tube down the river has turned the area into a regional tourism destination.

I’m so small town that I remember telephone party lines with Reyna Wall, drinking 10-cent Cokes at the Printin’ Office, watching the menfolk drink beer, chew tobacco, spit into empty Budweiser cans and play setback for hours at Glenn Stevens store as TV shows like “Divorce Court” played in the background on a black and white TV. I remember riding bikes all day and making our own baseball field beside a gas station with wooden crates used as the bases with a cedar tree at shortstop, and going into the icehouse nearby and chipping off pieces to eat in the summertime.

And I remember tubing on the Dan River and beer can races on the river and throwing rocks at water moccasins just to see if we could make them move from the rocky bluff across the way.I remember wandering through the courthouse until being asked to leave and sitting on the courthouse square with the houseman Ben Frank Davis and asking him every day why he drank Fresca. “Just coolin’ it,” old Ben would say. And I remember Sykes Smith sitting every weekend on the courthouse square waving at passing traffic just as friendly as all get out.

I remember lunch at Joyce’s Grill just about every day in the summer when the folks at the courthouse rolled in and packed the place. I remember cookouts at Grandma’s house, basketball in her side yard and green apples from the large tree nearby.

And I remember going to the Courthouse Square at dusk and playing tag, red rover, and other games with kids and teens ranging in age from 6 to almost 18. And I remember Judge Van Noppen coming out to witness our games and regaling us with songs we had never heard before and never heard again.

And I remember night baseball only this was played with long cane fishing rods as we tried to hit the bats flying around the streetlamp at the Hammett house. And I remember going home to the house up on the hill and thinking, damn that was all fun.

The old courthouse square in Danbury still looks very similar to how it appeared in the 1960s. A new courthouse was constructed in the early 1980s but the old courthouse still stands.

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