I think central air conditioning was a contributing factor in the loss of neighborliness. Unfortunately, I’m not quite ready to give it up.
I grew up in a house that’s only form of air conditioning was a box fan placed near an open screened window. In the late spring and early fall, the fan was off and you could hear all sorts of things, like crickets chirping to lull you to sleep.
If I was late coming in, my daddy knew it. You couldn’t miss the sound of a car on our gravel driveway. If there was a fire in the middle of the night, you would hear the siren calling out the volunteer firemen. When the night got still, you could hear the horn which meant the phone was ringing for the Social Circle Police.
The police department didn’t have a dispatcher, and Arnold Huff or Dinky Williams would answer the calls on outdoor boxes mounted near the bank, down by the barbershop. If somebody tried to rob the bank during the day, the alarm would sound in the Social Circle Drug Store. I’m not sure what would happen after that.
My daddy liked to listen to the Atlanta Braves on the porch. He kept it low, but you could hear it if you were out in the yard trying to catch lightning bugs in a jar.
We have a front porch with two rocking chairs at our current abode. We don’t sit in them often. They could use a little touch up of paint.
My late neighbor, Rufus Dean, used to sit out on the front porch in the afternoons. I would roll down the car window and throw up a hand and wave when I was coming or going.
Recently, his wife, Edwina, started putting the front porch to good use. Edwina is one of those folks who has never met a stranger. She is known by many at Lakewood Baptist Church, where she is an active member.
Edwina has taken to hosting luncheons for a friend or two on her front porch. There is enough room to keep a safe social distance. Recently, on what would have been Rufus’ birthday, she had an overflow crowd with folding tables and chairs spread out across the front yard. When I drove out the driveway, I waved to them and told them to behave, lest folks think they were Methodists.
Many of those who attend Edwina’s soirees, are of the age where they are limited as to places they can go during the pandemic. I just smile when I see the porch has been turned into a setting for lunch, and there are lots of smiles to go along with good food. Over 40 guests have paid her a visit, and she calls it “her ministry.”
No one knows exactly who coined the phrase, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Now, Edwina didn’t invent the front porch, but she has found a way to revive it back to good use. A tasty lunch, a lively conversation and some fresh air would do us all good. Dust off the table and chairs and have at it.
If I see you out there, I’ll wave.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Weekend Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.