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Darrell Huckaby: Grand memories of birthdays gone by

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

This weekend I am celebrating the 50th anniversary of my 10th birthday. Pretty cool, huh? I never thought I would make it this far. In fact, last March 10 I celebrated what I was certain would be my last birthday by eating catfish with 104 of my closest friends at Henderson's Restaurant, near Covington.

But we were talking about turning 10. That was special. I was in Betty Robertson's fourth-grade class at Porterdale School. I have spent a lot of days and weeks and months and years in school and none of the days, weeks, months or years have been as much fun as Betty Robertson (Kincaid) made fourth grade.

My special day fell on a Saturday in 1962, just like this year. (I had to look that up. My memory is good, but it ain't that good.) We celebrated in my class on Friday and my daddy came to school for the first and next to last time of my academic career. He showed up right after lunch with a birthday cake and ice cream for the entire class -- and a gift.

Now understand, my father was a generous person, but did not buy gifts often. He left that up to Mama. But on my 10th birthday he showed up at school with a present that he had picked out, paid for and even wrapped, all by himself. It was a major league style Ted Williams model baseball glove. It cost $12.95 in the Sears-Roebuck catalogue. I knew because I had stared at the page it was on for months, never in a million years dreaming that I would actually own such a treasure.

Now if you don't think $12.95 was a lot of money in 1962 consider that gas sold for a quarter a gallon and the minimum wage was $1.15. My parents had to do without a lot so that I could have that mitt -- but as grand as the glove was, the fact that my daddy had bought it and brought it to me at school was much grander.

The second time Homer Huckaby showed up at my school was to celebrate a birthday, too. I was sitting in Joe Croom's chemistry class when he arrived. Now Joe Croom was probably the best teacher I ever had, but honesty compels me to admit that my own lack of effort prevented me from learning as much science as I might have from this great man. On this particular day I was busily engaged in flirting with all of the girls around me when Mr. Homer Sharp, the principal at Newton County High School, came over the intercom and asked if I had made it to class that day.

"I'm afraid so," was Croom's cryptic answer.

"Please send him to the office to check out," was Mr. Sharp's reply.

I was shocked because I never remembered having been checked out of school in the middle of the day. I was even more surprised when I got to the office and found my father standing there, chatting with Mrs. Willie Campbell.

What a birthday! We left school and went downtown in Covington and ate lunch at Mickey's Grill. Then we walked across the street to the courthouse and I took my driver's test. There wasn't much to the driver's test in 1968 -- especially the driving part. You just backed the car out of the space on the Square, drove around the Square once and then back behind the courthouse to parallel park. It was a piece of cake and a moment I had dreamed of since -- well, probably since I was 10.

I felt grown as I walked down the courthouse steps with the piece of paper that was my temporary driver's permit in my pocket.

My birthday took a decided turn for the worse after that. My little birthday tour wasn't quite over. We had one more stop. The employment office above the drug store in Porterdale. Mr. M.B. Shaw, himself, signed me up and at 3 o'clock I started work on the second shift in the Osprey Mill. Happy birthday sweet 16.

I wound up working in the mill, off and on, for the next six years. It didn't hurt me any.

When I turned 20, I got in deep trouble because of my birthday. I was a sophomore at UGA and had started dating a girl back in October. I didn't stay with the same girl long back in those days so when I first started going out with this particular young lady I told her that my birthday was the week before Thanksgiving -- assuming that we would have parted ways by March. She gave me a great birthday party in her dorm room -- complete with cake and ice cream and all my friends.

By some miracle of fate we were still together in March. When my roommate decided to give me a party on my real birthday the jig -- and the relationship -- was up.

There are no big plans for my 60th birthday. Just waking up will be celebration enough.

But I think my son Jackson will be home from college. Maybe I can persuade him to go outside and play catch with me. The weather is supposed to be warm and I have a really nice Ted Williams baseball glove stuck back in the closet somewhere.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.