I was watching a television show called Home Town about a couple in Laurel, Mississippi who have a business renovating homes. Laurel is a small town that clearly has many old homes. The premise of the show is someone chooses an old, often distressed, home from a list of 2-3 equally distressed homes and the couple renovates the house and makes it beautiful.
In addition to the usual house remodel stuff, they showcase various aspects of small town southern living. When they show someone a house, they call it something like “The Edwards House” or “The Sikes House” and explain that houses in Laurel are known by the name of the person who built the house or the family that lived in the house the longest. Being no stranger to small town southern living, I know that, although places are often named this way, sometimes they are named for events that caused a stir in the sleepy little town that was usually followed by long term town gossip.
When I was a young boy there was a bridge everyone called Booker’s Bridge. The bridge was on a small county road in the same county in Georgia as “Roosevelt’s Little White House” and was probably built about the same time. There wasn’t much on this road, not even farms or cow pastures. It just wound through the pine trees and cut through the clay hills. While building the road and cutting through one of the clay hills, an ancient unmarked burial ground thought to be Native American was found. Not far from the burial ground was a crossroad called St. Mark, which had two churches and an old general store. The store had a pot belly stove and a pickle barrel where you grabbed your pickle to go with your saltine crackers, can of Vienna sausages and slice of red rind cheddar cheese. Even in the 60’s the store was so old you could see light through the wooden floor boards.
Booker didn’t travel this road to see the burial ground or the general store or even to visit one of the churches. The bridge was about three miles from St. Mark and the creek the bridge crossed was the county line. On the other side of the bridge was the only Package Store around, a place known to most of you as a liquor store. A Package Store had to sell alcoholic products in sealed containers with tax stamps and in the 60’s they put it in a brown bag to help disguise the contents. You see, that county in Georgia, home to “Roosevelt’s Little White House,” was “dry” meaning no alcohol could be legally sold or made in that county. So if Booker wanted to purchase alcohol legally he had to travel this road and cross the bridge that was to bear his name.
You were not allowed to consume alcoholic beverages on the premises of a Package Store. But apparently on occasion Booker was unable to wait and had an early taste of his purchase. I am not sure how much he drank but it is a well-known fact that while driving back from the Package Store, Booker drove his car off the bridge into the creek not once, not twice but on three separate occasions. Fortunately the creek was neither deep nor wide and cars were built like tanks back then so Booker was never badly injured. That bridge has long since been replaced but the new bridge is still known to this day as Booker’s bridge.
When I was about 25 I moved back to the county that is home to “Roosevelt’s Little White House” and it was still “dry.” There were now several Package Stores on various roads just across the county line. The first time I went in one I saw two people I knew from work and went over to say hi. They did not even acknowledge me. They just walked off. The next Monday at work I asked another friend if I had made people mad and explained the situation at the Package Store. She said “Oh my God no! You never speak to anybody at the Package Store because neither one of you are supposed to be there.”
One of my favorite jokes is about the difference between various religions, it goes:
Jewish people don’t recognize Jesus as the messiah,
Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the leader of the church,
Baptist don’t recognize each other in the liquor store.
It is especially funny to me because it was absolutely true in that small county in Georgia that is home to “Roosevelt’s Little White House.” I guess I should add that my mother was the Choir Director in the Baptist church in one of these small towns.
I hope this made you smile or at least think about how easy you have it when your packages of liquor are delivered to your front door. Keep your sense of humor.
Stay safe and take care of each other.