It can be eerie when things happen in succession that were completely unrelated but share a common thread. For example, I am always looking for material to write about so I asked my bride “What did you do for fun as a kid growing up in Ohio?” She pondered for a moment and responded “We rode our bikes, had sleepovers with friends and played in the crick.” She immediately noticed my inquisitive puppy head tilt and said “What?” I responded “Crick? Like creek?” Giving me the now familiar DA facial expression, she said “Yes. Have you not heard that word before? That’s what we called it in Ohio.”
“But that’s a Southern term! How did you learn it?” I asked. “From my mother.” For those of you who don’t know, my mother-in-law is a former high school English teacher and former English teachers never say the wrong word. So, I let it drop…for the moment.
I did some research and, in fact, the word “crick” does come from Northern roots and is acceptable as a substitute for creek. The eerie part is what happened later. While watching a sitcom on television, one of the characters mentioned playing in the “crick” and was greeted with the same head tilt from his spouse. Her response was “Crick?” We laughed, the scene made that much funnier by our earlier conversation.
The very next day, I was driving down Military Road around 7 p.m. and noticed how empty the avenue appeared. I looked at my clock. Yep, it’s evening time and yes it is a weekend night. Where are all the cars? Where are all the kids? I thought how the times have changed. Military Road would have been packed with teenagers running up and down the street.
I’m a big Facebook fan so when I settled in for the night, I logged on. There are a few faithful readers of this column who say hello and give me comments/feedback about what they read. One such fan is Jane Wilmoth. She sent me a message and guess what the subject was — Military Road and how it has changed over the years! Spooky! I told her she had just given me an idea for a column.
Back in the 1970’s Military Road was the pulse of teenage rites of passage. It was the place to see and be seen. Cruising Military meant you were grown up. You had a car. You were independent. There were no parents on Military to answer to. Just the open road.
However, Military was a much different animal back then. There were only two lanes, one going each direction. There were far fewer businesses and even fewer franchise eateries. In fact, if memory serves correctly, there were no national chains on Military until McDonalds came to town in the late 1970’s. Just about the time I began cruising.
There was a specific circuit that cruisers took, at least there was for me. It all started at Kentucky Fried Chicken but the landmarks back then were much different. There was a small white gas station where Big Red is now that later became the Vacuum Cleaner Hospital with a big mechanical gorilla outside that waved at passersby. The copy store adjacent to KFC was a Rexall Drug store back then. My good friend Ricky Long worked there. Prince’s Exxon station continued on the right. At one time way back before I was of driving age, Northside Church of Christ was immediately across the street from the Prince location and adjacent to it was a “motel court” style inn. The current Arby’s location was also the old Arby’s location but with a different building. Next door was Sonic, the perfect turn around spot when completing the circuit. Everyone pulled through Sonic, either to stop for something to drink or to see who had stopped and honk at them.
The intersection at Alcoa Road was the only stop light I remember. I could be wrong — wouldn’t be the first time. The current Exxon station there was nothing but a vacant lot. McDonalds built their first location in town between their current spot and the Exxon station which is now a parking lot.
Whitfield’s Tire and Service came after McDonalds followed by one of the best ever places to go: the Dairy Queen. The best ice cream in town along with Dilly Bars, milkshakes that would collapse any straw and the famous pattie melt burgers could not be beat. It was a good place to sit and relax. Tommie Adams was the owner and is a legend in town. He and his staff made it the go-to place. He had picnic tables and benches outside to sit on. The Dairy Queen was a true drive-in. There were no inside tables but that didn’t matter at all. It was the atmosphere and the food that brought you there. I sure do miss it.
Beyond the Dairy Queen there wasn’t much else there on Military. Drennan’s Yum Yum was where Car-Mart is now and Enterprise Lanes was way down on the very end of the street across from the current Burger King location. JC Penny’s was a red dirt field with pine trees. The first big department store is where Enterprise Lanes is currently located. Gibson’s was the original store there but closed years later.
Minute Man, the original Landers used car lot and many more businesses have come and gone since then. But one thing remains true to this day. Military Road is still the pulse of town but not for the same reasons as it was back then. Thanks Jane for the idea, the stroll down memory lane and the second set of eerie circumstances in one week.
Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com , and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition of The Saline Courier.