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That juicy fruit gum never tasted so good

LIFE HAPPENS

That Juicy Fruit gum had never tasted so good

Posted Saturday, June 6, 2020 9:00 pm

GARY MATHENY GARY MATHENY I have had so many followers of "Life Happens" tell me there should be a part deux, dos ... OK, Part 2 of my earlier column, “Walking the creek, looking for snakes.” Moving from rural Bibb County to rural Jones County was quite a change. The day Mom took us to register at the school we would be attending in Gray, Ga, I remember actually crying and begging her not to send me there. The elementary school I had attended for seven years was a new modern school that opened the year I began the first grade.  The floors were tiled with updated classrooms and a beautiful lunchroom complete with a dietician in a white uniform ... to best say it, a modern educational facility. As we walked the halls of that campus of learning that day, each building was old with wooden floors, definitely not a modern facility.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t see myself spending the majority of my day in this place, much less getting an education. I learned a great life lesson when I realized quickly how wrong a young man can be when he prejudges something. The kids were great, good people, and to this day some of the best times attending a school. Living in Macon, we kept two paper routes in our family for about five years. My older brother handed his route down to me, while my other brother had the adjoining route to mine.  Why, at the young age of 11, I became a newspaper celebrity when the Macon Telegraph and News did a story on the routes we managed for those years, using me as the good-looking young man in the picture. When we made the move to Jones County, the paper graciously carved out 100 customers from a man’s motor-route, to make me a small area just so I could continue being one of their carriers. There were two motels within one-half of a mile of my home and one became the pickup location for my papers. Quality Court was the name and they had a counter in the lobby, and in the showcase they kept a few candy bars and chewing gum for their customers. My favorite was the Juicy Fruit gum, and I always made a point to have enough change to stock up before heading out on my company vehicle, the Schwinn bicycle. Don’t know why, but Juicy Fruit has never tasted as good as when I bought it there. The route was a morning and evening delivery, meaning every morning around 5 a.m., Dad got me out of bed and we headed out in his little Volkswagen Beetle to deliver my early-morning papers. In the afternoon after school, I wheeled the bicycle to complete my day's work. Funny how, as a kid at age 12, you spend time with someone without spending time with them. Those early-morning deliveries were done mostly in silence, as we both sat in that small car.  I would give a lifetime to have a few moments to converse with the man I have always looked up to, but never realized his worth. The other hotel down the street was a dump.  I had heard they rented their rooms several times a night; however, for a naive boy of 12, that meant nothing to me other than the owner was making money. They had a restaurant that was never busy, but served decent food. Young boys that age don’t bother rating quality of food. They just eat.  One of the major things to do was get enough money for burgers, fries and a Coke; however, most of the time it was just fries. I know I will probably lose some readership with the next fact, but I smoked cigarettes at the age of 11. Sorry, but the truth hurts. I can remember checking couch cushions, looking through boxes anywhere to find 30 cents to buy cigarettes from the lady at the restaurant. She never asked questions. She just took my money and gave me my cigarettes. One afternoon after school, my best friend Tommy negotiated a deal with the kid up the street to use his motorbike. Not motorcycle, but motorbike. You could either pedal it, which was not easy since the motor made the vehicle very heavy or utilize the small gas motor to enjoy your tour of, well, wherever you were going. All was going great until we got a couple of miles from home and the darned thing broke down. Neither Tommy nor I were mechanically inclined so we had to resort to pushing it. He took a turn. Then, I would take a turn. But, being that neither of us was too big — OK, we were skinny kids — it was wearing us out. Soon it began to rain, sheets of soaking rain, then storm ... and soon it was going on 5:30 to 6 p.m., and Dad came looking for us. He wasn’t a happy camper seeing he had worked all day, was tired and had to get out in the rain to look for me. As Beaver Cleaver and his friends would say, “Did he hit ya?” No, but sometimes silence can kill you slowly. Reminiscing is a good thing. Memories can be pleasant. Ever remember something and smile, or sort of chuckle out loud? That’s what I’m doing now. ——— (About the writer:  Gary Matheny is retired after a long career in the pharmaceutical industry.  Now a Cleveland resident, he is the author of two books, "If The Shoe Fits" and "The Bullet." He also writes a popular blog, "Life Happens." Email him at gary.matheny@yahoo.com and follow him at his website, www.garymatheny.net.)

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