grandfather's family was from there. My granddaddy was named Charles
Alva Modesette, and he was one of nine children. They had a house
with a big wraparound porch there somewhere. My great grandmother
used to refer to the mishmash of doings and goings on as "The Modesette
They had a sleeping porch, with suitcases and beautiful old linens
on the bed. There was a large, detached garage, that had that wonderful
old musty smell. Without fail, if I looked down into the dirt surrounding
the garage and the driveway, I could always find little treasures,
like old keychains, or old coins, or bottlecaps of beverages I had
never heard of.
There was a tree, probably a Live Oak, that was tailor-made for climbing,
as it had one tremendous thick branch that dipped down to the ground
to scoop you up. At night, when the grown-ups were playing cards,
we kids could laugh and run around in the dark in the neighborhood,
past people's gardens and porches. Each of those nights felt like
the Fourth of July, warm and happy and safe.
died in August of 1974, the summer before I turned 10. He was laid
out for viewing at The Goodnight Funeral Home, and I remember how
sad the name of that place made me feel.
My cousins and I, being kids, also managed to make that particular
visit to Bartlett memorable, and
not just sad. We went to Bill's Dollar Store and bought lots of pieces
of apple bubble gum. We took a walk all around downtown, and went
and played pool in the old pool hall. I think it was called The Centennial
|We walked in
that dry heat, past the railroad tracks, and the railway cotton bins
that looked like cages, with cotton still clinging to the sides. I
remember taking my shoes off, walking near the tracks, and feeling
the exhilaration and excitement of laying out pennies to be squished.
When we got home, my feet were black, and my cheeks were bright red
from the heat. And the great aunts were horrified, tut-tutting that
we kids had gone into an old beer hall. We didn't know any better,
the place was empty, as it was probably only 2:00 in the afternoon.
The bartender was really nice.
granddaddy played the piano. We used to sit in the stuffy parlour
where the candy dishes were laid out, and listen to the beat he kept
with the heel of his right foot, as he rinky-tinked out Georgia
Brown. He was really good, and played in country bands in honky
tonks. He was a sports writer, Charlie Modesette -- in Fort Worth
and in Bisbee, Arizona, and I guess my mom and my aunt went to schools
in both towns. But Bartlett was
the family hub.
not been back in years, but I heard that the town was experiencing
a scandal. Clearly, the innocence of the "Good Old Days"
has been replaced somewhat, and that is sad. But I'll bet if I head
there, and drive around, and get out and walk a bit, it will still
smell the same. The railroad tracks and the cotton will be there.
There will still be old brick buildings with fading advertisements
printed on the sides. And maybe the old family house is still there.
- Carolyn Ripper,
May 07, 2006
Photos courtesy Genevieve B. Shockley, April 2006
shoe horses, don't they?"
May 11, 2006 Guest Column
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