Auburn, Kentucky


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Auburn’s Wealth is her People

                                                                                                                                                 by F. Marie Foley

 

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Front Porches made for good conversation

 Last night I was sitting at my desk putting the finishing touches on an announcement for the Auburn Historical Society concerning the Auburn Autumn Days Festival.

 Uninvited, but welcome guests from the past came to call and in my imagination I heard a screen porch door open and close. The sound brought back memories of warm summer evenings when I was a child on my grandparents’ front porch in Auburn.

 Before television and air conditioning put such a distance between people and the outdoors, a good front porch was considered as essential to a house as a roof. Porch furniture was mostly hodgepodge, and included old rocking chairs or straight backs.

 In the case of my front porch there was also a long, hard, church pew. One had to bring a pillow out to sit on, if one wanted to be comfortable. There were flowers in all sorts of pots lined up orderly across the front of the porch. An image of those pots always pops in my head when someone says, “Have you got all your ducks in a row?’ With me it’s pots in a row.

 In the warm months the porch was where all the story telling went on after the dishes were done. A porch still means communication to me.

 At night, as a small child, sitting just outside the circle of grownups, listening, the conversation inevitably turned to family. My grandfather would speak vaguely of England, my grandmother of Ireland; both of them beyond the memory of their past geography. But, I was a child who loved words and later when I recalled these conversations as an adult, they helped me to find eight generations of the Sams and Allen ancestors.

 In those years on summer evenings when the sun slowly slipped away and the air cooled, the people of Auburn collectively moved to their front porches of front yards. This was the best time of day for me. I would pass some time with Mrs. Ruth Pottinger on her side porch, move on to help Miss Nell Childress clap two boards together to scare the birds out of the trees in front of her house, thus preserving the cleanliness of her sidewalk.

 Retracing my steps, I would walk as far as the street light in front of Mr. Percy Hurt’s and his sister, Ms. Whitaker’s home. Usually they would be sitting on their side porch and so would Mr. And Mrs. Mize next door to them. They always seemed interested in discussing my busy day of play.

Next door to my home, my best friend, Gertrude Hadden, was too busy to visit in the evening.

 Mr. Pete, Sybil and Vernon were home and after all I had her ear during the day. Mrs. Blanche Apperson, another pal of mine, had a television and though it was inside, it was as close to the porch as possible; the long window beside it, open to catch the breeze and the sound of the street.

 After my other visits, I kept her company until I was called home for bed. We often discussed John Cameron Swazey advertising the waterproof Timex watch that “took a beating, but kept on ticking,” We felt sure, given the opportunity, we could disprove his claim. I never see the word ‘Timex’ today without thinking of her.

 By moving to the front porch and front yard in the evening, occupants extended an open invitation to the passerby and cast wide the net of community. Often “it’s been a hot one” would be enough for a passerby to stop for a chat about the weather. The knock on the front door that heralded winter visits was placed away like our winter coats.

 Sometimes we just sat and watched the fireflies light up the night to the tune of a cicada-song. Always in the background were the familiar voices of children and their families along the street, who gathered to talk about life, or simply to listen to it.

The wealth of Auburn to me now, is, as it has always been; its people.

 September 10, 2002

 

 

 
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