Oh, how I miss the old days of growing up in Huntington and Mansfield! There were only three channels on the television, at best, and Dad was in total control when the console was turned on. We played outside as much as possible and made forts, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and even an occasional green walnut or rock fight would pass the time. Campbell & Ranz’ Conoco filled the car with gasoline, checked the fluids, washed windows, headlights and tail lights as fast as a Dale Earnhardt pit crew.
Wednesday afternoons were sacred in our small towns. At around noon places close and our slow Southern life style would crawl to a stop. Banks, city offices, grocers, drug stores, and feed stores would all close up and people went home. Time stopped on Wednesday afternoons. It was just the way it was and I don’t remember thinking a thing about it until I got older. How did this custom start?
I’ve read a lot about it and there are several reasons, or so it seems. The first reason stores may have closed was to give families time to get ready for church services that afternoon. Suppers had to be cooked and eaten, clothes ironed and baths finished, all before the bells rang from some distant bell tower letting you know that it was time to make the trip to your house of worship. Some believe it was because most southern towns had Wednesday livestock auctions or it was a break in the business week since stores were open longer on Saturday to take care of people the day after payday. I think it was most likely done because people just wanted a break.
My parents told me that the reason our stores closed was because people were supposed to take that time to work in their Victory Gardens. When WWII broke out, every resource was limited to make certain our troops had everything they needed. Staples such as coffee, sugar, flour and even car tires were rationed. But food was a major thing the soldiers needed at that time. It’s hard to fight Nazi’s on an empty stomach.
President Roosevelt had a plan for empty lots and yards to be planted in garden spots for land owners or cooperatives between neighbors. Gardens were everywhere and the plan was extremely successful. When the war ended and the need for rationing and the supplies of products were restored, some places, mostly in the south, kept the early Wednesday shutdown going.
I remember when stores in my hometowns started opening up on Wednesday until 5:00 pm. It was scandalous. My mother talked as if she would take her business elsewhere if they were to break from closing. Slowly more and more began to open. Now most have begun opening on Sundays as well. There are those who are campaigning for alcohol to be sold on Sundays too. Soon, that will sound funny that they ever didn’t allow it.
I miss those lazy Wednesday afternoons, front porch visits and kids playing in neighborhood yards. I miss waving at people as they passed our house. We waved whether we knew them or not. There’s a lot to be said about just taking time to refresh yourself and relax.