“It wasn’t always an island,” Sam explained. “The channel redirected the Tombigbee River cutting off Highway 82 and creating the island.” On a cold Sunday afternoon drive Sam shared 50-year-old memories.
“Just over the bridge was Bob’s,” he said. “Bob’s was the teenage hang-out run by Aunt Barbara (Uncle Bunky’s mother) and governed by a waitress named Boo Boo. Everybody knew Bob’s.”
Then the Billups gas station and, on the left, was the Coffee Cup. “I’d go with Dad to the Coffee Cup for breakfast. It was packed with hunters, most of them heading out Old Macon Road before dawn.”
“What was breakfast like?”
“Grits, eggs, bacon, coffee. I had chocolate milk. I was little.”
“I can’t remember the juke joint on the left, but on the right was the Southernaire, sorta back behind the Billups station. People came from everywhere, some of ’em famous. It was a tad rough. That’s where Joe Cool worked, back when he was young and cocky.”
Across the road from Waters Truck and Tractor Sam pointed out a grassy area with overhanging trees. “That was Avery’s Curb Market. The produce was in bins outside and groceries inside. In a hard rain, it flooded. I remember plastic sheets that rolled up covering the front. I may have gotten an RC and a moon pie once or twice.”
Sam struggled, trying to place structures where concrete slabs lay bare until the Snow White, also called the West Port Landing, depending on the years.
“I heard tell they had go-go girls?”
“Can’t say. It’s the Mordecai’s camp house now, the one where they host the church potluck suppers.”
Further down was Fletcher Oil Service Station owned by Tony Wood’s father. Sam said at night he, with his 1967 GTO, and Tony, with his 1964 Corvette, met at the shop; they passed time working on their cars.
A large rusted frame of a structure loomed on the right. “It’s always been like that as long as I remember. Somebody said the people that owned it got a patent for a farm disk and never finished it.”
“High Hat” is bricked into the wall of a derelict concrete building. There’s one door and no windows. “You wouldn’t catch me in a place like that,” I said. “Can’t see any way out, don’t know what’s in there.”
Beyond the High Hat was the Dr. Pepper plant. “There was another juke joint there, but I can’t remember the name. I remember a pretty little slough and I always figured there might be some fish in it.”
Sam continued with classmates Joe Joe and Vincent Spinosa’s father’s motel. The Spinosas are gone, but the Travelers Deluxe Motel is still open for business.
We turned around and headed toward Old Macon Road. “I used to fish here when it was called Vaughan’s Lake. Caught chain pickerel, called ‘Jack.'”
We stopped at a sign, “No vehicles beyond this point,” so we walked around the bend and confronted two dark shadows.
“Go on,” I said, “See what it is.”
A nutria and a muskrat lazed where the old road slid right into the lake. The cypress trees were filled with hundreds of cormorants roosting. “No fish in this lake,” Sam said. “You can bet on that.”
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