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Watermelons

Kenny Stallard

     In the early 1950’s newspapers were still delivered house to house by newsboys.  It was an early career aspiration to be a newsboy and carry a cool paperbag.  The Times-News would drop off bundles of newspapers at several locations around Lynn Garden and the boys would pick them up at their designated drop point.

     Several of us picked up our papers at McPherson’s Grocery on Virgil Street.  Many of us then had a walk of close to a mile before we began our deliveries.  We grew to hate Thursdays and Sundays, the days of the largest editions.

     On Sundays we would usually pick up our papers around 5:00 a.m. so we could get the deliveries made so our customers would have a chance to check the latest news and sales before church.

     After completing our deliveries, several of us would meet at Lynn Garden Grill for grilled donuts or honey buns.  These delicacies were made locally under the Hechts brand at the bakery on Market Street in Kingsport.  This was before anyone worried  about sugars and fats, so they tasted much better than modern donuts.

     After fully enjoying our yeast and sugar jolts with a Coke or Pepsi, we would the play the pinball machine until time to go home and get ready for church.

     A pinball game at this time cost five cents, the same as a soft drink.  Being enterprising youngsters, we found that we could slip a bottle cap under the front legs of the pinball machine and this would slow the descent of the ball considerably.  This would allow us to win “free” games and for a nickel we could all take turns playing until time to leave.

     One morning, shortly before we left, a couple of truck drivers came in for breakfast.  This was when Lynn Garden Drive was still US-23, a two-lane highway, known locally as the Gate City Highway.  If you were coming south from Gate City, it was the Kingsport Highway.

     When we left the Grill, we discovered the drivers had parked their truck just past the Grill, in front of Lynn Garden Hardware.  The truck was a 10-ton stake truck, loaded to the brim with watermelons.

     It didn’t take long for us to realize the truck was parked out of eye site from the Grill and an even shorter time to discuss getting watermelons for everyone present.

     One of our group climbed the sides of the truck onto the top of the pile of watermelons.  King of the hill.  He began to drop melons to each of us.  These were in the range of ten to fifteen pounds each.  We placed the melons into our paper bags and slung them across our shoulders.

     For some reason, one of the boys began to run.  Whether this was because he saw someone or just out of excitement from having participated in something most of knew we would get a whipping for if our parents found out we didn't take the time to discern.  We all followed suit.  We must have been a sorry sight, a group of 11 or 12 year old boys trying to run with our paper bags weighted down with a watermelon which had shifted to one corner.  The bags swung wildly from side to side, beating our legs severely.

     I don’t remember whether the watermelons were good or not, just the extreme difficulty of trying to run while having your legs beat by a wildly swinging watermelon.