2009-03-14 / Viewpoints

Through An 'Old Timer's' Eyes

BY HOWARD 'MAC' MCDONALD

Travel has really changed over the

years. Today you can buy a car with a built-in GPS or you can buy a

hand-held unit. If you are looking for a particular address, the GPS will take you right to the front door.

GPS has helped many a private pilot in his small aircraft avoid becoming lost. Some people use the GPS for a hobby or game called geocaching.

I remember a trip to Fort Benning, Ga., in 1939 where a GPS would have been helpful. In those days there were no interstate highways. Most states had their own highways and, depending how wealthy the state was, that determined how good the surface was on the roads.

I was ten years old when my mother, grandmother and I started to Georgia with two other ladies in a 1937 Ford sedan. Every few miles we traveled, we went through a town. We always stayed at a tourist home, which was cheaper than a motel.

At bed time, those four women would take safety pins and pin their money inside my underwear top. They figured a robber would not think that a 10-year-old boy would have any money.

There were no fast-food drive up windows. Every place we stopped was a sit-down type eatery. I don't remember having a bad meal. It was the first time I was exposed to grits.

When we were passing through the Great Smoky Mountains, the curves in the roads were very sharp and banked like a racetrack.

One time we stopped on top of a mountain to eat lunch. This place had a nice restaurant and boasted that it had tourist cabins. These were all constructed out of logs and the place looked like a small village. They also had several different animals in large iron-barred cages.

I was standing pretty close to this big black bear and I had a bottle of pop. That big old bear reached through the bars of that cage and grabbed my bottle out of my hand. He sat up like a dog begging for treats and downed that bottle of pop with a gulp.

He scared the devil right out of me, but I calmed down and went and bought him a bottle of pop of his very own. My mother saw me give that to the bear and just about had a bird. I got a good lecture about wild animals that day, but no slap alongside the head and she didn't pull my hair. I guess that was my lucky day.

When we got to the main gate of Fort Benning and saw all those troops running here and there, I figured we would never find my brother in that sea of Army brown. I was wrong. With the help from the MPs at the gate, we were hooked up with him. We stayed there for the weekend and we were quartered in the guest house.

We ate in the mess hall with the troops and I was amazed at the amount of people there. We spent a lot of time in the service club, where I learned how to shoot pool and play ping pong. My brother was almost through with radio school and had orders to Fort Bragg, N.C. My dad, my mother and I visited him there the following year. I remember that we stayed at Dinty Moore's Tourist Home in Fayetteville, N.C.

I have no memory of the trip home. I guess by then it was old hat going home. By the way, I still like grits.

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