As the year 1941 began we were still living in the little house on the edge of the cemetery, about a mile and a half northwest of downtown Chipley
I was in the first grade, and sometime after school started back for the second semester Mama told me that if I made good grades she would get me a present. I do not recall what my grades were, or whether I tried very hard to make any good ones.
School had been out for a week or two when one day she took me with her to rake leaves in the city park while my stepfather Holly stayed to work in the cemetery.
The park was located then, as it is now, near the south end of Fifth Street. It was a beautiful little park, occupying a one block by two block area, and included tennis courts, a covered bandstand, and large grassed areas dotted with huge oaks and tall pine trees.
We normally skirted the edge of town to get over to the park, but on this day we went through town, by T. L. Wells Bros. store. As we approached the store Mama told me to wait outside, that she had a matter to discuss with Mr. Wells. After some time she came out with a bag in her hand, and we went on over to the park.
Before she started work, though, she opened the bag and took out a cap. It was of the style that English school boys sported in those days, with the front part of the top snapped down on top of the visor. She handed it to me and said, "Here's that present I promised you."
At about that time Germany was preparing to invade Russia during WWII.
Some nine years later the bandstand would serve a very special purpose.
The Bandstand, in a picture taken when I visited the park in October, 2010. It looked the same then as it did in 1941. Note the stairs up to the top floor. The door mentioned below is on the right side of this view, on the east side of the bandstand.
During the summer of 1950 my friend Wallace Berry and I had started mowing yards around town to earn money for attending Boy Scout camp at Camp Big Heart, over near Pensacola. Along with our brooms, rakes, and other lawn tools, we were using the power lawn mower loaned to us by Wallace's father. My recollection is that it was the first power lawn mower in Chipley.
We both lived a little ways from town, and on unpaved streets. From the park, however, the yards of all our customers could be accessed by paved streets and sidewalks. In the basement of the bandstand were two or three small rooms, and in one of those rooms Wallace and I kept all our lawn tools, including the mower. We accessed the basement through the door shown in the picture, on the east side of the bandstand. The park caretaker kept his tools in an adjacent room. During my visit to the park in 2010 I noticed that the basement access door was locked. Back when Wallace and I stored our tools there none of the doors were ever locked.
We kept our tools there through the summers of 1950 and 1951. Each time we returned for them they were just as we had left them the last time. We often noticed that the park caretaker had retrieved some of his tools, or had brought in new supplies, but in all that time we never ran into him.
We had decided in the beginning to keep our earnings in some sort of savings account until time to go to Scout camp. Then we would withdraw it and divide it evenly. At that time the most practical means of saving small sums was through Savings Stamps at the Post Office. A depositor was issued a savings stamp in the amount of the deposit, and the stamp was pasted into a little savings book. We established one of these accounts, and deposited each week as much as we could. The Postmaster, Mr. Ed Dunn, kept our books in a drawer under the teller counter.
US Postal Savings Certificate. Our denominations were larger, from $5 upward, with stamps used for amounts less than a dollar.
Toward the end of summer, 1951, it was time to make ready for departure to Camp Big Heart so Wallace and I went to the post office and cashed in our savings certificates and stamps. I don’t recall how much we had saved, but it was enough to pay all camp expenses, with a fair amount left over for spending money.
At this time the Korean War was being fought, President Truman had removed General MacArthur from command, and it would be two years before an armistice was declared.