During the Summer of 1941 there came to the cemetery a man whose occupation was the cleaning of tombstones. He was very conscientious about his work, and would not leave a tombstone until it looked "just right". Sometimes this required a considerable period of scrubbing with a steel brush and a special cleaning compound that he prepared himself.
One day, right after lunch (we called it dinner), he announced that we should have a watermelon, and inquired of my stepfather, Holly, as to where we could get one. Holly said that they usually kept some on ice downtown at the ice plant. The gentleman said that he would buy one if someone would go and get it.
Holly asked if I thought I could fetch the melon. I said that I could, so the man gave me some money and off I went to the ice plant. Today, that would be about a two‑minute trip by auto, but at the time I was seven years old, and on foot it was a long way to the ice plant - about a mile and a half.
The man had said to get a big watermelon, which I did, and I had an awful time getting it up the hill to the cemetery. The effort was worth it, though, for the man gave me a DIME for fetching the melon. My recollection is that the melon cost a quarter.
Sometime during the Summer of 1941 Holly took Mama and we children one Sunday over to Cottondale for what must have been a visit to some of his kinfolk. I don't recall who they were, don't recall ever having seen any of them before the visit, and never saw any of them afterwards.
Cottondale is a small town located about nine miles east of Chipley, at the intersection of US 90 and US 231. In those days that part of US 90 between Chipley and Cottondale was paved with concrete. It was probably one of the oldest stretches of concrete road in the country when it was finally topped over with asphalt around 1991.
The L & N Railroad ran east and west through Cottondale, being located on the north side of US 90. From the north another railroad ran through the town and continued southward toward Panama City. As it went through Cottondale, that railroad was on the west side of US 231. Going from Chipley, US 90 dips under the north‑south railroad overpass just as it enters Cottondale.
The reason that I remember the trip to Cottondale is that I spent all afternoon playing on top of the hundreds of bales of cotton which were stacked next to the railroads and awaited shipment. They were stacked on the east side of the north‑south railroad, on the south side of US 90, and were stacked about three bales high, so closely together that one could walk around all over the top of them. They completely covered a site about five acres in size.
During the several weeks leading up to Christmas of 1941 I had, whenever we were downtown, spent much time gazing at a drugstore window display of a large toy Army truck. It was the convoy type, with a canvass‑covered body.
Those toy Army trucks were very popular at the time. The preparations for war saw several Army convoys move through town each week, and thousands of such trucks came through on railroad flat cars.
On Christmas morning we opened our presents. Mine was a large Army convoy truck. Our family had very little money, but Mama had somehow made arrangements to get it for me.