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JANAURY 7, 2004


Column

By:Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
January 7, 2004

Change, change — the constancy of change
(Note from Virgil: Two things happened on Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, to inspire this column. I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few items for Christmas and Enoch Brown died.
The minute I heard of Enoch’s death, my mind went back in time more than 20 years.
With the help of Reba Parks and her staff at the County Clerk’s office, we found it: the 1981 bound volume of The Jackson Herald. Ironically, the story I was looking for appeared on January 7, 1981, exactly 23 years ago today. I think it is appropriate to reprint it on January 7, 2004.
You may not see the connection between my visit to Wal-Mart and the death of Enoch Brown. To me, it speaks volumes, because, 23 years ago, there was another death in Jefferson. That’s what this story was (and is) about.)
* * *
I cried when I read the story.
Brown’s? Closing?
Say it isn’t so, Enoch.
How could you do it, Tubby?
Enoch Brown never said two words to me. Not words that were distinguishable, anyway.
But he was always there. Available. And his grunting, or whatever it was, was a friendlier greeting than you got in a lot of places. And I could always count on him to shown me where the charcoal and lighter were.
That, plus a little ginger ale, club soda and Alka-Seltzer — in that order — was about all I ever bought at Brown’s.
It was fun trying to find the Alka-Seltzer amongst all the candy bars, snuff and other patent medicines. You never saw “A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place” hanging on a wall at Brown’s.
That was one of the reasons why I liked the store. Whoever said a family grocery had to be lily white, clinically clean and surgically sterile — and smell like it?
Come to think of it, though, Enoch was sweeping or mopping the floor just about every time you went in. I am sure the last thing he did before he went home at night was clean the place up.
The store reminds me of home, I guess. I grew up with Brown’s. Only in the rural west Tennessee town of McLemoresville (population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens) it was Carter’s.
Brown’s. Carter’s. Makes no difference. They are a tradition that is all but gone from the American scene, and America is poorer for that.
We ought to have a memorial service every time a small family farm folds or a mom and pop grocery closes. Whoever said “Bigger is Better” had ideas far bigger than his brain. Oh, well....
I knew that Enoch and Tubby were college graduates and that Enoch is a poet and painter and has had some stuff published. I’ve tried to get up nerve enough to talk with him about his writing, but when you are a piddling columnist and he is into poetry and literature, you aren’t quite sure you’d be comfortable in such conversation.
I could always count on Tubby to share weird gardening experiences with me. Only when I got home and tried them, they weren’t so weird. Some of them actually work.
I’ll say this for Enoch and Tubby. They never paraded their knowledge. They couldn’t care less whether anyone knows about their college degrees. They may be educated, but I got the idea they always wanted to come across as simple folks. And I mean simple in the finest sense of the word.
That may be the reason they attracted simple folks. And that is one reason I enjoyed visiting the store occasionally. I am a rather simple man myself. Think I am, anyway. And I like to be with my brothers. I could do that at Brown’s.
I guess that is the reason a lot of people who aren’t simple never went there. Just not their kind of place — or folks.
Brown’s customers wouldn’t know an organization, institution, political party, establishment or denomination if it walked up on them carrying a sign. They aren’t long on formality, either.
The place was always slow, unhurried. You could take as little or as long as you liked to find something. And you never had to be embarrassed at Brown’s when someone in the family sent you to buy something personal and you didn’t know what it was or what to call it or what size. You could get relief at Brown’s.
And if you had trouble figuring price and tax, and weren’t sure about the denomination of your bills, coins or food stamps, you didn’t have to worry. Mr. Enoch would see that you got back what you had coming.
That is not to say other places in town don’t give you a fair shake. They do. It’s just that the folks who frequented Brown’s weren’t comfortable there. There was an element of trust at Brown’s, and that was important.
They didn’t have to hurry, or put on airs, or worry that they would have trouble making the clerk understand. Communication just happened. It didn’t make any difference that it wasn’t spoken plainly. Sometimes not even sign language was necessary. Some folks just understand for some reason.
I don’t know where they will go now. Kesler’s, Tabo’s, Mac’s and Billy’s, I guess. But those establishments should look for no big increase in sales and profits. Brown’s didn’t do all that much business. But it was a store rich in tradition and atmosphere.
I will miss it: the place, the proprietors, the people who came and without pretense tried to meet their daily needs with such meager means as they had; and who, for the most part, lived their lives virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world.
Brown’s. Closed.
* * *
Final note from Virgil: Mac’s and Billy’s are closed, too. Kesler’s is now a convenience store. Tabo’s is still open, but under new ownership and management. Tubby, as well as Enoch, passed away last year. The place where their store used to stand is now a parking lot. Of all places, the parking lot is next to the Crawford Long Museum.
Change, change — the constancy of change.
Virgil Adams is the former owner-editor of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: Oscar Weinmeinster
The Jackson Herald
January 7, 2004

Second Son Is A Real Gas
Apparently, a handful of people at least claim to look forward to reading my column. If you are one of those people, fear not, I shall not name names.
I mention the above because I have had several people ask me when I planned to start writing embarrassing observations about my younger son, Turner, who as of yet has been the most minor of characters in stories where Jack, the 2 year old, is almost invariably the protagonist.
Part of my trouble is that there hasn’t been much to say about Turner that would fill up 600 words of space. He’s quiet, he smiles frequently, and he sleeps a lot. While Jack’s been out falling off the front porch banging his knees, elbows, backside and head on everything from bricks to sticks, Turner’s been sitting peacefully in his bouncy seat, observing the action, occasionally uttering an ambiguous, “Aaaa,” then smiling again. Wonderful from the parents’ perspective, but not very juicy stuff when you’re coming up with material to write about.
So what is it about Turner that’s unique or unusual that at least a handful of people might find remotely entertaining? For starters, he’s tall. At four months, he’s at 90 percent on the pediatrician’s growth chart and his feet are dangling off the bottom edge of the car seat. As far as I know, he’s the first Weinmeister ever to earn either of those distinctions. Still, a tall infant is probably more exciting news for short people than for people of average height or taller.
Another thing: Turner is one good-looking baby. I know that my judgment may not be entirely objective in this matter, but I am convinced that he’s going to be considered to be very handsome when he gets older. If you care to dispute this fact, I have many pictures that may help to bring you around to my way of thinking. I also understand that this characteristic is not necessarily interesting to everyone.
However, when you combine the above information about my youngest with the following fact, you may think otherwise. This is about as lowbrow as it gets, but Turner has prolific, horrible smelling gas. I’ve had months of internal conflict concerning whether or not I should sink so low as to share this with the many thousands of readers who subscribe to The Commerce News, but I also thought that if you’ve read all the way down to the stinky revelation, surviving the earlier gushy parental trumpeting, then you must also be a parent of someone in diapers, or you used to be, and so your standards for humor have sunk accordingly.
Turner can clear a small room, and he continues smiling the whole while. We have gotten used to his, um, habits, but if for some reason we have to take him out in public, we’ve got to have the explanation handy, that explanation being, “It’s not me, it’s the baby.”
We have visions of Turner some 12 years hence, standing on one side of the gym at some middle school dance, tall and handsome. Across the wooden floor, a young beauty gives him a sidelong eye, and he returns the favor. Perhaps she is so bold as to make the first move and cross to his side; perhaps they meet in the middle of the court.
However they approach one another, she begins to reconsider her position once she gets within five feet of him, and manufactures some quick excuse about needing to brush her hair. There Turner stands, alone on the dance floor, tall and handsome, yet miraculously safe from any unsavory teenage behavior.
This way, we see Turner’s condition as a gift, which is especially helpful when we’re stuck in line somewhere with people looking for the culprit.
Oscar Weinmeister is the assistant administrator of BJC Medical Center. He lives in Commerce.


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