Mary Belk

I’ve seen my share of time-travel movies. You know the kind. You get in a contraption the size of a phone booth and push a button. And before you can find the undo button, you’re in some other century.

Even though I don’t think time-travel is ever going to be a possibility, it’s fun to think about.

When I do some serious mindwandering, it’s hard for me to decide which era I’d like to visit. Since I’m a cautious person, it would be tough for me to pick a time before modern medicine —just in case it happens and I can’t get back. So, with my conservative mindset, I would probably choose a more recent time, say the 1950s.

Stephanie Coontz’s book “The Way We Never Were” points out a series of myths and half-truths Americans have about the l950s. But it’s easy to think of those years as halcyon days.

I came across a stack of musty magazines from the 1950s the other day when I was in the attic. I felt like I’d just stepped out of one of those time machines, beamed back to my pigtailed childhood. And I wiled away part of the morning flipping through the moldy pages of “Family Circle,” “Woman’s Day,” “Woman’s Home Companion” and “American Magazine.”

That transported me to my 7-year-old Auburn days. Back then my sister Jane and I traipsed around town aimlessly, blue jeans rolled up with Sambo our cocker spaniel leading the way. When we went indoors, Sambo curled up outside and waited.

We zipped down the steep slide at Felton Little Park and watched “Cowboy Bob” on the Foy Union TV. We’d haunt Crest 5 & 10 Store with nickels and pennies deep in our pockets. We walked and looked, picked up and pondered. Sometimes we bought.

Some days Mama sent us on errands.

At Youngblood’s Shoe Shop, they could turn a pair of worn-out clodhoppers into Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes. I loved that smell of leather and Neatsfoot oil.

When there was film to be developed, we took it to Manning Studio, an upstairs workplace next to the Pitts Hotel. The winding stairway that led to the loft was long, narrow, dark and creaky. It took some courage to climb those stairs, film in hand, sniffing the sweet smell of acetic acid and alum.

On Saturday mornings, we’d head for the Tiger Theater or War Eagle Theater to see a Roy Rogers movie or sit at the soda fountain at Toomer Drug Store for lemonade or chocolate-ripple ice cream. A short-block from home we could get a soft-serve vanilla cone at Dari-Delite.

If we didn’t have cash, we might wander into Herbert Music and listen to the latest LP or 45-single.

Stephanie Coontz is right, of course. We were never a “Father Knows Best”/“Leave it to Beaver” society. And every family didn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting. But a stroll through my old stomping grounds shows a slower paced, simpler time.

Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.

Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.

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