Friday, September 28, 2007

Signs of Yesteryear [CCR]

This weekend I drove by Southgate Mall and I noticed one remnant of the past that most people, even those working at the mall, may not notice. Yet today that little symbol of the past remains in place speaking of a different time. A time when the area was still growing and Muscle Shoals still had a small taste of rural life. In those early days Woodward Avenue was a divided highway with a strip of light poles down the median.

The mall was new to both Muscle Shoals and the entire Shoals Area. It was a new-fangled neighbor to the bustling Marbro Drive-In Theatre. The lights and sounds of urban growth were threatening an original form of entertainment. But the Marbro survived a few years after being joined by an indoor twin screen theatre before it gave way to the now long gone Kroger store.

As I drove around town I saw many signs of days gone by. The old tower of WLAY stands fearless marking a spot near the original studios that broke new grounds in sound for the Shoals Area. Through the worn paint you can almost discern the shiny modern studio for the early days of Muscle Shoals music.

Continuing northward on Woodward Avenue took me past the infamous TVA intersection. I decided to venture forward past River Oaks. The old building still speaks of grand shopping plans even though I don’t even remember the businesses there. I was now on a mission to see what I might find.

In Sheffield I turned at the city hall and headed down to the old water tank. The black letters proclaiming “Sheffield” to traffic on the river show brightly in the fresh coat of paint. I wandered along the river’s edge through the shaded neighborhood to find Alabama Avenue and make a trip down to Muscle Shoals Sound. The large building still stands with its Navy look and production studio signs adorn the building. If you sit quietly for a moment you can almost hear the hit songs while enjoying the view of the river.

Back up Alabama Avenue I turn and take a ride down Montgomery Avenue. I see the old Belk Hudson store where I bought my Boy Scout supplies. Across the street I picture Walgreens where Mom and Dad might have bought me lunch with the money we saved that week.

Driving towards Tuscumbia I find where Liberty Supermarkets once hosted our regular grocery shopping trips. It was the famous location of my doughnut tantrum. My mother was extremely patient in trying to explain that the store didn’t have doughnuts at the time. I imagine Mom wanted me to have the doughnuts more than I really wanted them. A frequent stopping shop lay across the street where once stood the Sears and Otasco stores along with Big K, where Aunt Rose worked.

From there I drove past several other memorable locations, including Colonial Bread where we bought our bread and took some to the ducks at Spring Park. I didn’t venture down to Spring Park as I needed to head back to Cherokee.

Next time you are at Southgate Mall drive behind the old Rogers store. Look up at the light poles in the parking lot. One fixture sports the shade mounted to shield light for the drive-in. One little light shade sparked an adventurous drive into childhood memories and adventures. Today many stores and businesses have replaced those I mentioned and our home is better than ever. But it is pleasant to know my childhood can still be seen if I just look a little closer.