Rich Simpson: LaGrange experiences shaped my youth

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Brazier (A dictionary definition): “A simple cooking device consisting of a container of live coals covered by a grill, or thin metal top, upon which the food, usually meat, is placed.”

All those years. I never knew.

As I look back over my 70 years of being a member of the human species (it feels so good to belong to something) LaGrange, Georgia had the most profound effect on me socially and geographically.

Socially, because I met people who became lifelong friends. Geographically, because I consider LaGrange my base, my hometown, even though I moved away in 1965.

The best way for me to explain LaGrange phase of my 70 years is the following:

We were like actors on a long running tv series. LaGrange was our studio, our sound stage. The series had a good run. It ran its course, and we went our separate ways. But our collective memories will forever be centered in 30240.

My Dad was with GMAC and was transferred from Columbus, Georgia to LaGrange in 1957.

I attended Harwell Avenue Elementary in the sixth grade, and there were a few things that I took away from that year. (1) On certain days, part of our lunch menu consisted of a slice of buttered bread topped with honey.  (2) Even though Miss Haslett’s room was not at ground level, I could tell when Stewart Beasley’s class was walking by, outside,  because he was always making that sound you get by cupping a hand in an arm pit and pumping your arm as if trying to fly.

When it was time for junior high, my Mom had to lobby to make it possible for me to attend Westside Junior High instead of Hill Street Junior High. We were told Gordon Street/Circle was the cutoff point which determined where a junior high student attended.

Every junior high student who lived on Gordon attended Westside. Why Mom had to lobby, in my case, to allow me to attend there, I don’t know. Maybe word had spread that I always assumed a fetal position when confronted with math.

Mom’s lobbying efforts paid off.
I can still picture one of my classrooms with multiple math compasses stuck in the ceiling. Some guys would just flip the device upwards and that sharp pointed part would stick in the soft ceiling.

The other visual was standing in line, in the principal’s office, with other guys, waiting for our paddling. We were about to become the few, the proud, the paddled.

Let me defend myself by sharing the events leading up to this adventure in thick, polished wood making contact with the area (dictionary) “pertaining to or toward the back plane of the the body,” with an elevated amount of force.

My Mom was my first, of two, partners in crime. She took me to Mansour’s and purchased a pair of what my classmates referred to as “calypso pants.” Three-quarter length pants.

My second partner in crime was a classmate named William who was standing in the doorway of Mrs. Potts home room, with a screw in his hand. With one quick swipe on my forearm, leaving a two-inch scratch,  I unknowingly became a charter member of “The Calypso Club.”

Later, as I stood in line to receive my punishment for being drafted into this club, I considered telling the Principal, Mr. Algie Parker, the man with the paddle, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

But I didn’t.

Fling’s store was in very close proximity to LaGrange College. A small store, located in the fork of the road where Country Club Road and Broad Street split.

Jack Fling was a character. A good man, but a character.

One day I glanced over in time to see Mr. Fling, with a flat hand, crack an egg on a boy’s head. As “Officer Don” from The Popeye Club would say: “Ooey Gooey.”

There was no dramatic reaction from the boy. But, I can’t help but wonder if there was a “rest of the story.” A steaming Mom or Dad with a less than cordial visit to the neighborhood store.

One day, at Fling’s, I made a very quick decision. The only other person I remember being there was Freddy Mansour.

I don’t know if this was his first experience with chewing tobacco, or not. But, I saw Freddy stick some in his mouth. So, I tried it.

Mere seconds into my experiment with chewing tobacco, I became acutely aware this would be my last time!

I never saw Freddy’s final reaction. I was too busy considering asking Mr. Fling to perform his first exorcism on me, to get that tobacco taste out of my mouth!

On second thought, it might not have been his first.