These hot, humid days of summer always remind me of growing up in my little hometown of Nolan. I’m sure most of you who lived in the small hamlets and hollows throughout the area can relate.
We didn’t have laptops, I-Phones, color TVs with 200 cable channels or air conditioning. We didn’t have 4-wheelers or dirt bikes. But we still found plenty of ways to have fun and file away those long hot summer days.
We loved playing baseball and many of us would dream of one day playing for the Cincinnati Reds. We played baseball and softball at the old Nolan Grade School playground. We also played at the old Thompson general store/boarding house/post office after most of that building was torn down. The front of that wood-framed structure served as our backstop.
We also – somehow – played on a flat area beside of the Norfolk-Western railroad tracks. If you look at that today, you wonder how we ever played in such a confined area. When a noisy train rolled by, we had to pause until it cleared.
I also enjoyed playing whiffle ball in my yard. I would love to have a quarter for every pitch, swing and catch we made during the mid to late 1960s and early 1970s. I threw a great curve ball, but who didn’t with a whiffle ball.
The Nolan Boy Scout softball teams were some of the best in the area and we won the championship many times here in the Tug Valley. Those trips to away games were fun as we piled in the back of pickup trucks and a car. At our home games we drew big crowds from the community. We were proud to wear the red and white jerseys and hats of the Nolan Hornets.
Many of us liked to fish, and the nearby Tug River provided a great place to drop a line in the water. We didn’t have fancy rods and reels, but a nice limb from a sycamore or birch tree, some line, a nut or bolt for a sinker and a hook was just good enough. We would dig up earth worms for bait and catch catfish or carps out of the old Tug.
Sometimes we were lucky enough to go to the pool in West Williamson. That was a real treat. As I got older I spent most of my teen years at the “cement pond” in West End, but if not, many times we would hit the Tug River to swim. My mom didn’t want me to swim there, so I had to sneak. I guess because there had been a couple of drownings there. There was an especially deep hole at the remnants of the old sand plant dam just over the bank from the Nolan Grade School. (Some of that concrete structure is still there.)
Some of us were lucky enough to have bicycles. We rode up and down the “backway” as we called it, the asphalt streets of our little town of Nolan. Someone discovered that when you tied a balloon to your spokes, the thumping noise made it sound like you were on a motorcycle. At least we thought so in our imaginations.
We would sell returnable soda bottles to Slone’s Grocery to get enough money to buy a cold pop and sometimes we had enough for a candy bar.
There was Fannin’s and Curry’s Restaurants, Marcum’s Grocery and many other places to hang out in our little tight-knit community. Fannin’s hot dogs were some of the best around. There were pool tables and pinball machines Curry’s, activities that were always fun.
In the evenings we had to be home by dark. But the fun didn’t stop then. We would catch lightning bugs and put them in an old jar, punch holes in the lid and sit them on the front porch. It was like having a sparkling lantern – twinkling away.
Our front porch was a great place to sit and converse with neighbors as they walked by. We had a wooden swing, which hung by chains, a glider and a couple of other chairs. The bannisters also provided a good place to plop down.
It was so hot and humid and we didn’t have the comforts of air conditioning or central AC. So we were hoping for a breeze to get a break from that hot, humid weather we typically have in this area. We had window screens for the house and a window fan, which blew out. This helped with a little breeze and some circulation when we finally laid our weary heads down to sleep. But not very much, it was pretty uncomfortable at times.
Many times I would fall asleep listening to the AM radio. I would tune in to the Cincinnati Reds or try to pick up a strong signal in this mountainous area to hear the latest hit TOP 40 tunes.
I’m sure many of you baby-boomers can relate to these summertime memories. I hope this has brought back some of those fond recollections for you as July winds down and we head into the “dog days” of summer.
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)