Growing up in the rural area of Fayette County in the 1950s things were much different from today.
Everything moved at a slower pace. People were not in so much of a hurry. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, or at least knew someone who did. It is likely much of that can be credited to the fact that the population of Fayette County back then was around 8,000 folks.
Even in the mid-1960s the county had not grown that much. There were just 63 people in my 1964 graduation class.
I mentioned previously that my parents ran a small general store in the Starr’s Mill community. The building is gone now, but it used to sit at the corner of Highway 85 and what is now 85 Connector (back then it was Highway 74), across the road from the present Mill Pond Nursery.
For several years the little grocery store sat across the road from my daddy’s garage. I suppose that is why my mother would often leave me to run to the store while she ran errands, or even went shopping.
By the time I was a teenager I could be found manning the cash register and gas pumps at my parents’ store. Crime was never a problem. I don’t remember
ever worrying about anything like a robbery.
There was a case of a shoplifter after my granddaddy took over the store from my parents. But when the shoplifter’s parents learned what he had done they marched him right back to the store and made him give the merchandise back and apologize to Granddaddy. It was a lesson well learned for that young man.
I suppose another reason I was left in charge at the store was because of the local men who frequented the store daily. Uncle Fred, Uncle Roy, “Freck” Travis and any number of other locals would come by and visit.
Among those was one of my adult role models, Luvelle. Luvelle was a local character and he played the role well.
It was not uncommon for Luvelle to get drunk on Saturday night and not sober up until sometime Sunday afternoon. Back then Fayette County was dry, but Coweta County was a stone’s throw from Starr’s Mill. That’s where the beer joint was located and Luvelle had to pass the church on his way to Arnold’s Grocery (the actual name of the beer joint).
It was his custom to stop by the church on the way home and place a can of beer under the wooden bridge just below the spring that provided water for the church, since his mother would not allow beer in her house. One Sunday morning that beer came in real handy.
Daddy was running the store while Mother, my brother and I were getting ready for the weekly church service. A friend of Daddy’s stopped by the store and asked him if he knew any place he could get a “drink.”
It being Sunday, Daddy said, “No.” But the man persisted, telling Daddy
that he was headed to Blair Village to get something, but he wasn’t sure he could make it. He was apparently in dire straits coming down from a weekend
Daddy, remembering Luvelle’s hiding place, told the man where to find that beer, but only after obtaining a promise that the man would replace it before noon. Promise made and promise kept, Daddy’s friend made it to Blair Village and returned a little after 11 o’clock, in time to replace the purloined
beer before Luvelle awoke and made the trip to his stash.
Sometime after noon, Luvelle showed up at Daddy’s store. This day, according to Daddy’s tale, Luvelle was far from his jovial self. In fact, he seemed quite distant, as if he were attempting to sort out some mystery that haunted him.
Daddy wasn’t alone in his observation. Some of the regulars remarked that Luvelle didn’t seem like himself, so, Daddy asked him he was all right. “I think I’ve seen a miracle,” he answered. Luvelle just looked at Daddy and asked a question of his own. “Thomas, what kind of beer do I drink?’
Although it seemed like an odd question, Daddy answered, “Pabst Blue Ribbon, Luvelle. That’s the only kind of beer I’ve ever known you to drink.”
“That’s what I thought,” he replied.
“Every Saturday night when I leave Speck’s I get a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and put it under the bridge below the spring so I’ll have something to take the edge off when I wake up Sunday.” Luvelle paused for a moment and then added, “Today I went by the spring and that can of Pabst Blue Ribbon I put there last night had turned into a can of Budweiser. I’ll tell you it was a miracle.” Daddy never told Luvelle about his friend “borrowing” the beer. Some things are just better left alone. Besides a “miracle” sounds better than a borrowed
can of beer.
Kerlin’s roots go back generations in southwestern Fayette County. He’s a regular columnist for this paper.