The Home Place
Taking the road to fond memories
By Tom Bryant
It was a perfect spring day. Most of the pine pollen was gone, and a late night rain shower had cleaned the air as fresh as only it can be in the early morning. I was on the way to the little farm I lease for bird shooting, but really more as a place in the woods where I could get away from everyday hustle and bustle. Turkey season had been in for a week, and I had yet to venture into the woods to see if this would be the year I would be successful in my quest of bagging that long bearded, elusive bird.
My route to the farm takes me through the little town of Pinebluff; and on a whim, I turned down the road where my old home place sits up on a little hill. I left the Sandhills right after high school when I went to college. Soon after that, my family moved to Florida where Dad took over management of a large ice plant. The only thing holding me to the village was the home place where I grew up, so I only visited the little town when passing through the area.
After my father passed away in the ‘70s, Mom sold the old house and I rarely visited. The small village held too many memories, and I was afraid that our home for many years wouldn’t look the same.
I was right. As I drove slowly down our street, I realized that only the bare bones of good memories were left. The old place seemed to be listing a little to starboard and badly needed a coat of paint. The yard was overgrown and a ragged pickup truck sat in the front, right next to the porch. I eased by with only a cursory glance then drove on down the road to Pinebluff Lake.
The lake still looked the same, although it has had quite a few improvements including a new pier jutting out over the spring-fed black water. I pulled up close to a picnic table, got out and walked down to the shore. A bright sun in a cloudless sky was high overhead, and the heat on my shoulders felt good. I went back to the table, sat down, looked up to the headwaters, and memories tumbled over in my mind like falling dominoes.
In the late ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, Pinebluff was a great place for a youngster. With only about 300 residences, the little village could have been right out of a classic book like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; and as a kid, I could have played the main character.
The small Village Grocery, where I had my first charge account, was only about two blocks from our house. I could buy a coke for a nickel.
The local phone company was headquartered at Mom and Pop Wallace’s house with the switchboard in their living room. Our phone was on a party line, and the number was 212. Mom Wallace knew the whereabouts of all the kids and many of the adults. If you wanted the latest scoop and you were on her good side, all you had to do was give her a call.
The police force consisted of the town constable, Mr. Deaton, and I have to admit he knew all the local kids and kept most of us under control. It wasn’t a hard job, though, and I honestly can’t remember any major law breaking in Pinebluff, or as far as that goes, in any of our surrounding towns. My parents very seldom locked the house, maybe when we went on vacation, and then only latching the screen door and turning the doorknob lock. Those were different days and a simpler time.
Aberdeen was three miles away; Southern Pines, six; and Pinehurst, about seven or eight. The major highways were two-lane connectors with very few homes or businesses interrupting the pine forests on either side. Pinehurst was another world, and not many young folks ventured past the city limits. The village actually closed in the summer. Many of the downtown stores put plywood shutters over the windows until they reopened in the early winter when folks from the frosty North would reappear just like migrating birds.
I had the opportunity to work for a brief time for Mr. Carl Moser, owner of The Pine Crest Inn. I was between colleges, having just graduated from Brevard Junior College and right before my adventure in the Marine Corps. This was a real experience for me and opened the door to a world I had no idea existed. It was during the middle of the Pinehurst season, and the hotel was maxed out with guests arriving and departing every day. I was hired as one of two desk clerks, and Moser also helped when the desk was really busy. Several