Every generation has its years: a time for growing up, going to school, learning to drive, dating and pairing off, and getting a job, Our young years in Athens for my generation were accentuated by good families and special friends. We developed life-long relationships and have fond memories of the place and events that occurred in Athens. We had a few bad times, too, but these were often overshadowed by a prevailing sense of optimism.
Our years in Athens were often filled with dreams. It wasn't until later that things got complicated. The Statler Brothers hit, Class of '57, had it about right in recounting unanticipated twists and turns in life yet remembering, as in the chorus, that "... the class of '57 had its dreams, but living life from day to day is never like it seems. Things get complicated when you get past eighteen, but the class of '57 had its dreams."
Below are sections on families, friends, and activities which focus on our years, a period from 1951 to 1969. There is also a section on memories that may be shared through photographs and stories. There are two features at the bottom. The first recognizes the importance of nearby destinations that were part of the growing up experience. The second, at the bottom, is a personal reflection on the process of coming home to Athens after being away for many years.
A Special Place to Grow Up and Live in the 1950s and 1960s
Destinations in the Extended Community
One of the definitions of "destination" is a place designated as the end or the ultimate goal for which something is done. For those of us who left Athens High School at noon to enjoy a brief romp around town, the destinations were Jennings', Bradley's and White's stores. Venues might also include a brief stop at Lilly's Pet Shop to visit with Chico, the Myna Bird that ran loose and talked a lot, or to the Post Office to joke with Eddie Kissinger. Later, after we had driver's licenses, the boundaries of Athens were expanded to include additional destinations. We found favorite places in the community and claimed them as our own. These included theaters such as the Lavon and Mercer in Princeton and the Colonial and Granada in Bluefield. Especially intriguing as 16 year-olds who could get access to the family car was the Skyway outdoor theatre in Bluewell. And there were many favorite restaurants. Brock's was at the top of the list, followed by Ferrell's, the Green Tree and the Walnut Room. Drive in restaurants were BIG, especially Bill's, Mooney's, and Thurstan's. The first fast food restaurant, Kenny's, was a hit when it was built near Skeen's Grocery. Smiley's, first located in Princeton and later north of Athens on Route 20 under the name "Tilt Tavern," became of interest as we approached the legal drinking age. Family destinations that we knew as children, such as Shawnee Lake and Bluestone Park, were rediscovered with friends. These special places were a few miles from Athens but played important roles in forming the overall Athens experience. Read more....
Coming Home to Athens
Athens and Concord occupy special places in the memories of those who grew up in the community and attended school there. High school friends of more that 40 years ago motivated me to write about a personal journey into the past and to my home town. In reconnecting, many friends noted that it is difficult to describe what is was like growing up in a place where parents knew each other and every home was an extension of our own. We remembered that our parents quietly sacrificed to make our lives better than their own. They held us accountable, teaching by example moral and ethical principles that governed their lives and seem to be less common today. We knew what was expected and acceptable. As children who grew up in Athens we learned more about life in Norman Rockwell's America than we knew at the time, and only now fully appreciate. My reflections on this journey resulted in a little coffee table book that I developed for several of my friends, wife and daughter. You may quickly browse through the book as a slide show by clicking here or on the title page to the right. Click here to download a PDF version (14 MB).