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A Summer of Living Dangerously - Part 1

Posted by Admin on March 17, 2015 at 11:15 PM


Delivery boy


I turned fourteen the summer I delivered groceries for my uncle Whit Griffin, who owned a neighborhood grocery store on Lenoir Street in Jackson, Tennessee. Uncle Whit was married to my mother’s sister, Betty Grace. This was in the days when neighborhood stores offered free delivery service to their regular customers.

When I worked there the delivery vehicle was a red Schwinn bicycle with a huge wire basket over the half-size front wheel. The Schwinn was a one-speed, not geared for climbing hills, or switching over for easy pedaling. When that gigantic basket was filled with groceries it took some kind of huffing and puffing just to get the whole load moving. I built up some knotty legs that summer.

Nobody in that neighborhood of East Jackson had more than one car. Most didn’t have any, and the ones who did had them for the husband to drive to work. Housewives were left to run the households without transportation. Grocery deliveries were more of a necessity than a luxury.

Delivery boys from the different stores were always crossing paths. The kid who delivered prescriptions for Hays Avenue Pharmacy was the envy of all. He sizzed around town on one of those small entry level Harley Davidsons they used to make. He never even worked up a sweat, the little punk. I’d see him zoom by trailing a plume of blue smoke and I’d itch to jerk him off that noisy wheel and bust him right in his weasel rat face. Me pumping my guts out in the hot sun, and him sitting up there in the middle of that padded seat not breaking a sweat. Just didn’t seem fair.

One day I had to make a delivery to a section of the neighborhood that smelled perennially of chitlin’s. It was down on First Street in the low swampy ground along the creek.

There was an order from Miz Stitz, and another for two unmarried twin ladies who lived together in a shotgun shack on First. I had a case of bottled Cokes in the bottom of the basket, with a watermelon on top. The groceries, including a dozen eggs, canned stuff, vegetables and meat, were sacked up and put in boxes, one to each customer.

The oversized basket was overloaded when I pushed the bike off its sturdy kickstand. Luckily, First Street was on a slope that fell away behind the store, making it easier for me to get the load underway without too much wobbling. After crossing Belmont I didn’t even have to pedal. Actually, it was necessary to keep light pressure on the brakes to keep from building up too much speed as I coasted down the increasingly steep hill.

My first stop was at the twins’ house.......

Continued next week.......

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