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Yalobusha Native Publishes Memoir

The cover of “Gravel and Grit” features a split picture as author Al Price looks back into his boyhood years growing up in Yalobusha County.

Al Price was born in Oakland, spent his childhood in Coffeeville, and graduated from Water Valley High School in 1959. A resident of Henderson, Tenn., he enjoys coming back to Yalobusha County for class reunions, the Watermelon Carnival, and to visit where he spent his growing-up years. This summer his memoir of those years has been published under the title “Gravel and Grit.”
“The reader will experience many different emotions and will recall similar events from their own life,” Price said about his memoir.
Price’s professional career has involved serving as a mental health clinician, a professor of sociology in college, and in church ministry. The memoir covers mostly the first 25 years of his life to around 1965.
This week is the first in a series of excerpts from “Gravel and Grit,” that will be published in the Herald.

Gravel And Grit: Week One

Mother and Dad met soon after his discharge from the CCC camp in Coffeeville, where boys were made into men of strength with a strong will to believe they could do some things well in life. These boys were attractive specimens admired by women who frequently placed themselves in the social life of Coffeeville on weekends,where they met these fine looking prospects for marriage. My mother and father were married in 1939, and I was born on April 11, 1941, on Route 1, Oakland, MS.
Actually 1941 was an eventful year in other ways. First, FDR was the greatest transformational president of the United Sates that was ever had. But signs of impending war were everywhere. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7 “a day that will live in infamy”,  Roosevelt said. We declared war on Japan, and Roosevelt named the “four freedoms” for Americans: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from war, and freedom from fear. Bob Hope made his first radio broadcast from a military base with the theme song. “Thanks for the Memories”.
A number of first were attributed to the year. The first network TV commercial was aired. The Chicago Cubs were the first Major League Baseball team to play an organ at games. The first FM radio started in Nashville, Tennessee. Cheerios are sold for the first time, and penicillin treatment because available to help treat infection.
In the entertainment realm, some of the top tunes were “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. The best movies included How Green Was My Valley, Citizen Kane, and The Maltese Falcon. Jimmy Stewart was the best actor, and Ginger Rogers was the best actress.

My parents lived on what was called the Old Robinson Place, at the back of the Hunt Place, out in the country from Oakland. Since it was a log house, I thought, “Now if I ever wanted to enter politics, I could claim an Abraham Lincoln kind of upbringing. Use to, these houses and any land that might go with it were named after some previous owner. The house was located about a mile off the main road, where it would not be seen by anyone just passing by.
In earlier days, houses were built near a spring for a source of needed water if no well had been dug. The  house design was usually the same, with a front porch, one or two rooms on the left side, and two rooms on the right side, with at least one fireplace in one of the front rooms and a flue in the kitchen for a wood cookstove.
Sometimes there was a hallway from the front to the back of the house, called a dogtrot. A back porch was a luxury. In the backyard was a woodpile for the stove and wood for the fireplace, a washpot for washing clothes, and a clothesline. Not all houses had an outhouse. Occasionally, some folks had a chicken coop containing roosting poles and with hen’s nest for laying eggs. Some of the places even might have had an old leaning barn for hay and the cattle.
For some reason, Daddy was able to get Old Dr. Donaldson to come deliver me. Maybe they felt that their first born deserved to be delivered by a real doctor. I really don’t know. He had to come a far piece out in the country. Usually, the doctors parked their cars out on the main road, rather than try to drive down a cow path, trail, or a field road. From what was aways told, my home birth was normal.
But I still think of what all could have happened because on occasion, there were complications when neither the mother nor the child survived. In a home birth, nothing could equal the magnificence of  new life surrounded by loved ones contrasted with a birth in an institution amid strangers. At least that’s the way I explain it.
My relatives have told me about how delighted Mother and Daddy were to have their bundle of joy in the world. My parents attempted, as best they could, to make sure I had opportunities they never had. They sent this announcement to the Coffeeville Courier: “Mr and Mrs. Alvin Price, Oakland, Rt. 1, are rejoicing over a fine boy born the 11th. His name is Alvin Helm Price.”
There was now a new incentive to work even harder. I am sure they envisioned a brighter future for me than what they had. There must have been times when the future looked hopeless, making only enough money to get by. But this generation always thought there would be a better day just around the corner, and you would often hear a person say, “You just never know what another day may bring.” They knew of their own willingness to work, to persevere, and to “go savin”.
Mother told me about her happiest moments when she gave me a bath in a wash pan, put clean clothes on me, and laid me in the middle of a fresh bed. She fanned me for a while and then made me laugh. It was hard to hold me on one arm and carry a bucketload of water in the other up a steep hill. She never left me alone. If anything I was probably over protected all those years I was home. My mother collected sayings about babies: “Of all the joys that lighten suffering earth what joy is welcomed like a new born child?” (Caroline Norton). And she found this one by Larry Barretto: “Babies are bits of stardust blown from the hand of God.”
She sang to me a popular song of the time titled, “You Are My Sunshine”, made famous by Jimmy Davis, former governor of Louisiana.
Once when I was cranky and couldn’t be satisfied, my parents tried everything to make me happy, and nothing worked. Finally, I said, “Sing shun shine”, and I suppose that worked.

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