Maybe we didn't realize it then, but Dallas Village was a great place to grow up. We had plenty of open space for pickup softball and football games. The "Big Ditch" was fun for fishing, wading, catching crawfish and snakes. We had the "Y" and Dallas Park, the mountains and a school with teachers you knew really cared about you and your education. I can't forget Mullin's Café and I still remember the chocolate ice cream at the Union Store, A double dip that would be running down to our elbows before we got to the RC Cola plant. I haven't found any that good since and I sure have tried. And how about those outhouses with running water? No one believes me now when I tell them about those.
I think, for me, the best part of the Village was our block, the 300 block of Halsey Avenue. It seems something was always going on. One winter, about 1947, we had a good snow and some very cold weather. The street was packed with snow and that night Buster and Victor Acuff, poured water from a #2 tub on the already frozen street. The next day it was frozen solid and we spent the day "sledding" on the street until dark. Of course we didn't have sleds, so we used the straight back chairs from our kitchens. It seems like everyone on the block and some from McKinley and Rison Avenue also came out to slide or just to watch. We wore all the paint off the back of the chairs, but no one seemed to mind. The older boys, Buster, Thomas Blount, Billy Ivey and others used a long rope to rig a catapult that would send us flying all the way to Dallas Avenue if we could stay on the "sled." To this day I can't remember a better winter day.
The Acuffs' lived in the middle of the block with huge oak trees shading their front porch with four rocking chairs that rocked many a mile. I guess just about everyone on the block took a turn there. I know my Grandmother, Jennie Mae Routt, could be found there just rocking away after one of her frequent tours of the block. Folks don't do that anymore and that's a shame.
We all had backyards in the village, Outhouses and a building for storing coal and another for those who had cows. But the Acuffs' backyard was a little special. They had grapevines growing on a trellis from their back door almost to the coal house. The grapes were really sweet and good to eat. It seemed like they lasted all summer. However, as Victor and I found out, sometimes enough is enough. Late one summer or early fall when there were no more grapes on the vines Victor remembered his Dad had been putting a lot of grapes in a big pot. We found the pot in a back room and even though they had been a mashed and smelled a little funny we decided to try some. What a mistake that was! There has never been a medicine made that could match the taste of those fermenting grapes. We ran to his kitchen, put our mouths under the faucet and turned the water on full force. My eyes still water and my lips will pucker when I think about that day.
I can't think about that backyard without thinking about the "Great Hula Show." Victor's brother, Howard, on leave from the Navy brought a couple of hula skirts home from some Islands in the Pacific. His Sister Sue and my Aunt Jean Routt decided to put on a hula show. They made a few promises about the show and for only a nickel we would see the show of our lives. The show was to take place in the "coal house" in the back of the yard. I'm sure you can image our anticipation. We had already found Buster's stash of "Nudist Magazines" in one of the out buildings and were as curious as any 10 or 11 year old boys could be. So you can imagine our great disappointment when the Hula started and the skirts had just been slipped over their jeans.
I guess you can't think about the village with memories of Mullins. I know for me it was the only place I ate out until the Zesto opened at 5 Points. I always sat at the counter and had a hot dog when it was located next to the barber shop, on the block with the Pool Hall and Green's Grocery. After they moved to the corner of Stevens and 5th Street the best seat was the corner booth by the big window. There was one particular night if you had been sitting there you would have noticed 2 boys across at the bus stop. This was not unusual because we spent many a night sitting on the bench and talking about every thing from cars we didn't have to girls which we didn't know any thing about. Seems like Leo Drake and Jerry Wallace were always arguing about who was the better hitter, Stan Musial or Ted Williams. But on this night just my buddy and I were there. Someone had given us a "smoke bomb." Probably one of the older boys had gotten it at the National Guard Armory. There had been several incidents of smoke bombs being set off around town,
I remember once a football game at Goldsmith-Schiffman Field being stopped for several minutes until the smoke cleared. My buddy and I decided we would set one off and figured the folks over at Mullins would get a laugh out of it. I don't remember who lit it, but we were not prepared for what happened next. That thing started to spew with such force that we both fell on our backs. When I looked back at my buddy he was up and headed down Stevens Avenue. I caught up in a hurry and didn't look back until we reached the end of the block. We ran around the Majors' house, over to Rison and back to 5th Street. We calmly walked toward Mullins. That was the thickest, most purple smoke you could imagine. You couldn't see the other side of 5th Street, all traffic had stopped and worst of all people had to feel their way out of the café. I don't know how long it took to clear, because we didn't hang around too long. I'm sure there were some very upset people. Until a couple of years ago no one had been told who was responsible for Clearing Mullin's Café that night. They say confession is good for your soul, so I confess. I hope the Statue of Limitations has run out. I don't live in Huntsville anymore, but my buddy does. So I'll just let you old Village people figure out who he is.