Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Missing Mayberry...

Every generation fancies itself special, and mine is no different. Which, when you think about it, is quite unspecial in the universality of it all. For those of us in Chandler who were children in the late 70's and 80's, I've often held that we were special because of our proximity to the "good 'ol days." Maybe it was all the Gunsmoke and Happy Days I watched, but I feel as if I caught the tail end of a time long forgotten.

Before the large regional grocery chain, the one with the motion sensored door opener, took over in the early 90's, we had the small regional grocery chain, the one where you had to step on the rubber mat in order to swing the door open. But just down the road, in the downtown building like the ones that exist in many small towns, the ones that were two storied before the tornado or fire passed through, we had Tucker's General Store. Hardwood floors on the inside, busted wood front porch on the outside, wherever you walked it creaked, and not a health inspector in sight to make judgements about the amount of dust allowed to accumulate on the shelves.

Tucker's was owned by Mrs. Tucker, the widow of the late Mr. Tucker (I never knew their first names,) probably the richest person in town. Although, having grown up dirt poor, from what I understand, she never wanted to draw attention to her wealth. My dad actually told me once that we were distant cousins with Mrs. Tucker. My first reaction was why we weren't asking her for money. But we weren't those type of distant relatives, so dad wouldn't agree to my prodding.

Mrs. Tucker came to the store every day to work, which, for her, consisted of sitting on her rocking chair on the front porch of that downtown building and greeting people as they came in. If you strained your head hard enough, from where she was sitting, you could also see down the road and around the corner to those going into the small regional grocery chain, the one where you had to step on the rubber mat to swing the door open. I imagine this would have been helpful for Mrs. Tucker when keeping her ledger of those for whom she should be holding a grudge.

She died in the early 80's and the store closed very shortly after. I seem to remember my parents saying that her children spent so much time and energy fighting each other over her inheritance, that the business was doomed to fail. After the General Store, what remained of that old downtown building was sectioned off and housed various start-up businesses through the 80's and early 90's. There was a couple of BBQ places, an Tae Kwon Do studio (ala Napoleon Dynamite,) and about a half-dozen Pentecostal, NonDenominational, and Bible churches.

Eventually, however, the rural residents of Chandler became the suburbanites of Tyler, and the draw of the City of Roses proved too alluring for the simple, dusty ways of those Main Street buildings right next to the railroad tracks, where Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadors played to a crowd full of neighbors and friends in the late 70's. The large regional chain grocery store with the motion sensored door opener moved in, on the east side of town in the direction of Tyler, appropriately. The small regional chain grocery store with the rubber mat to swing open the door couldn't compete, so it shut down as well. Before you knew it, the memory of Tucker's was a bit too distant, and the building was demolished.

If anything good can be said about the tearing down of that building, it's that nothing has been put up in it's place. Of course rumor tells me it's not a deliberate communal decision to reclaim green space, but rather a bunch of rich people fighting about whether or not to put a gas station or a strip mall up. But for now it's bare of any human residue, allowing the ghosts of a time in-between, but long-gone, to remain at arms length, if only for a little while longer.

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