On a recent morning around 6 o’clock, a black rooster on the front porch of the house across the street from Miracle Valley Holy Ghost Temple of Deliverance hopped up on the railing and began to crow.
I happened to be walking by at the time and was both amused and curious. What was the bird’s source of inspiration, I wondered. There were no hens in sight.
The rooster may have been expressing enthusiasm for his view there on the 300 block of North Fifth Avenue, which included not only the MVHGTD, but a cluttered yard containing a matched set of enameled washing machine basins serving as planters and, half a block to the west, a sliver of the east edge of the soccer park.
Or he may have been ruminating on the past as I sometimes do during these early morning walks.
When I stepped out of the house 30 minutes earlier in the semi-darkness, I looked up at a deep blue sky with a storybook moon, its edges softened by a thin layer of clouds. The songbirds had begun their morning music, and I stood for a moment in the fragrant air and listened.
Except for a man sitting in a faded brown pickup truck a block away, the park was empty. The grass was freshly cut, the trees mulched and Moore’s Creek gurgled its way toward the Tombigbee. The park is lovely, and if the original vision that created it is adhered to, it will only become more so as the landscaping matures.
Passing through our beautiful little downtown, I marveled how even as times have changed, it remains viable and serviceable, providing present-day tenants a work and living environment not easily duplicated.
What was once a 10-cent store is now an arts center; the barbershop where I went for crew cuts as a boy most recently was a chic boutique for young women; another barber shop — its striped pole still in place — is a lawyer’s office; the downtown banks, long ago swallowed up by out-of-town conglomerates, have taken on new identities — one even houses a Thai restaurant.
Ruth’s, a prestigious women’s clothing store, is now a popular meat-and-three lunch spot; Egger’s Department Store a TV station. While no longer a movie theater, the Princess is a theater of sorts, still.
The non-governmental downtown building with the most enduring tenant happens to be the one that houses this newspaper. We’ve been here at 516 Main since 1925. In those days we published on Wednesday and Sunday and a subscription was $3 a year. On Easter morning the following year, The Commercial Dispatch, with much fanfare, became a daily. The annual subscription rate doubled.
Going down North Fourth Street between Third and Fourth avenues the attentive pedestrian can find two magnificent pomegranate bushes, both covered with red-orange blooms.
When I was a child, a pomegranate was a rare, exotic treat. My grandma’s house on the corner of College and Eighth Street had one growing near the sidewalk, the only one like it in town (that I knew of). The fruit, which passersby considered in the public domain, seemed like a connection to some unknown, distant place.
Rounding the corner from Market Street, I looked up to see “Art is Everything,” signage on the front window of the Rosenzweig Art Center announcing the Elayne Goodman show within. If you’ve not availed yourself, you should. Be sure to read the titles; Elayne’s use of words is as clever as the work they describe. Two of my favorites are, “Grandmother Gone Wrong” and “Fish with Pleasant Memories.” Go see for yourself.
A day later I drove by the house with the rooster. A man wearing a white, dress shirt was sitting in a chair on the porch. I said something about the crowing rooster I’d seen there a day earlier. “There he is,” the man said pointing to the rooster, also sitting on the porch, now subdued, and from the looks of it, a fixture there.
“Any hens?” I yelled back.
“Naw, just him.”
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.