Monday, July 08, 2019

A moment of nostalgia ~ my column from Sunday

I had an interview in Doliska this past week. Afterward, I decided to drive through old Dora. I didn’t realize it, but the street is closed now. Years of rain, heat, and neglect have taken their toll. The concrete slabs on the roadbed have leaned and buckled. The street is impassable now except for determined explorers.
I sat there for a long time with the motor running reflecting on my old hometown. The place I remember as a child began migrating to the “new highway” in the 1960s. You can move businesses, but you can’t move memories.
When I was a kid, that old town was Mecca to me. I wasn’t allowed to cross the highway on my bicycle and go to Sumiton, but I could roam up and down the street of Dora until my legs turned to rubber. 
Coke, Pepsi, RC, and Grapico bottles brought a three-cent bounty in those days. I spent a chunk of my youth searching roadsides, and vacant lots for empty bottles. The return deposit for one bicycle basket full of empty bottles was enough to buy a chocolate shake, a bag of peanuts, and a kite. 
Before the post office moved, they used to hang bags of mail on a pole at the train depot. The conductor on the afternoon train had some kind of hook, and he would snag that bag off the platform without stopping. If the term High Tech had been invented back then, that’s what I would have called that mail pickup.
After I started driving, my horizon expanded. I spent less and less time in old Dora. After graduation, I started to college and later got a job on the night shift. Old Dora slowly became a ghost town.
After returning from a stint in Panama with the U.S. Army, Dale Short hired me to take pictures and write stories for The Community News in Sumiton. We covered all the hot topics in East Walker County. 
Dale had an old 8 mm movie camera, and we decided to have a fun day at work. We had a lot of those during the three years we worked together. We loaded our cameras and headed to old Dora. That was in 1975. 
Buildings were only on one side of the street, and the other side was a concrete wall. Beyond that was railroad tracks. I don’t recall any graffiti in those days, but through the years that changed. Seniors from local high schools started spray painting their names and some interesting poems on that wall. 
There were a few hold-out businesses in 1975, but most had moved on. Dale and I spent hours exploring and photographing the old vacant buildings that loomed large in the memories. 
At one point, Dale was exploring the old Masonic Lodge (I think), and I climbed the stairs to the railroad depot. I sat down on the platform and dangled my legs off the edge. An old faded Frisco boxcar sat vacant on a sidetrack. 
In my youth, Dora was a bustling town, and if you closed your eyes, you’d hear the sound of commerce, but all I heard that day was the sound of crows cawing.
This past week when I got home, I searched YouTube for the video that Dale posted almost 10 years ago. Seeing those old images of my hometown made me both happy and sad. 
If you’d like to see the video, search YouTube for Exploring Old Dora 1975.


  1. It must be sad to see your hometown become a ghost town now. I watched video which reminded me of old silent film shorts of over a100 years ago. I am surprised that there were still stores/diners open at that time since the place looked so poorly even then. It would be neat to see some present photos of your old hometown of today...if you can go there without feeling too much sadness

  2. Precious memories. Generously seasoned with that bitter-sweet feeling.

  3. Great column Rick and the video is neat. Oh how many times that must be played out over a life for folks with a home town to remember. That is so very strange Sherry's hometown was dying but is now alive. It has become a bedroom for the neighboring city of Charlotte.
    Amazing how those 8mm film became a treasure....
    Sherry & jack

  4. PS: Who is the young skinny guy running around taking pictures? ;-)

  5. When I visit my old childhood haunts they are crowded, noisy and built up beyond my some ways, all most as sad.

  6. I'm unfamiliar with Grapico, but cherish similar memories harvesting empty bottles. Today I shudder at the thought of crawling around inside a Dempster Dumpster, but the reward seemed great!

  7. It's hard to go back. Trying to fit memories with the way things look now is heart-wrenching at times.

  8. You took the bottles back and you got a chocolate shake, a bag of peanuts AND a kite. Those were the days..
    Time and life moves on, you only have to look in the mirror to see that. :-)

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