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The Joys of a Small Town Soda Shop

It was a late summer day in August of 1962. With the wind at my back as I, a newly minted 14 year old, walked into downtown Clinton, Kentucky, I mentally contrasted the world of my grandparents in Clinton to my world in Jacksonville, Florida.

This was the summer of my first train ride from Jacksonville, Florida to the small town of Fulton, KY. Young and loose upon the world, my experience surged each hour with new people, new places, new ways of transportation, new hopes and dreams.

It was the age before Wal-Mart. Big cities were at their busiest, loudest, air dirtiest, and most expensive. Jacksonville during that summer was my first experience with a stand alone book store, called the Golden Fleece. It was just across the street from a very busy Greyhound Bus terminal and two blocks from over 300 pawn shops.

For 25 cents I could ride the seven miles from my home in the outer sections of the sprawling port town to my newly discovered bookstore, two blocks from sailors' pawn shops and 10 blocks from the inner city downtown mega theaters. Many a Saturday I would catch a bus, ride to the bookstore, see a movie and return home before 4:00 pm.

Small towns were just the opposite.

The summer of 1962 I discovered small town America up close and personal. The family had decided that I should spend at least two months with my grandparents, MayBell and Charles Cauthorn. I think they feared that I would forget my family roots, living inside the intense pressures of such a large urban world.

Clinton, for me that summer, was a trip in time travel and geography. Before Wal-Mart destroyed the town, every store front and building in the central business district had businesses. There were grocery stores, clothing stores, and home appliance stores.

The small town noise was to me just a whisper of people moving about each day and hour. One could stand at the corner of Clay St. and Highway 51 looking north to Chicago and still see the two story mansions of the more well to do business families from the history of another time and age in Clinton's history.

On this particular day, my grandfather dropped off early in the day. From 10:00 am till 12:30 pm I just walked the streets enjoying the flow of ordinary people shopping and talking to each other. In this time I soon realized how the many people were part of and extensions of a vast network of families. Here people sought each other out.

Talking about their lives. Trading stories about their plans for the future.

With an August wind following me in my small town adventures, I entered the Clinton Drugstore on North Washington Street. (The space is now the law office of my wife, Mary Potter)

Besides filling prescriptions, Clinton Drugstore sold gift cards, candies and all sorts of interesting stuff. There was even a small soda counter with real milk shakes and fountain drinks.

But to me Clinton Drugstore was an oasis of common culture between my life in Jacksonville and my time in Clinton. This was the summer that I discovered paperback books. This was time that reading and books took me away into the future and let me become immersed in politics and international relations. This was my fun time.

On this particular day, I had a dollar - a small fortune in those days.

Throwing caution to that summer wind, I purchased a thick (400 pages) paperback on American vs. Russian Spy Agencies from the drug store's collection of 200 paperbacks and a cherry iced drink.

Grabbing my booty, I made my way two blocks to a high hill just north of the store where there a church sitting in between two large aging oak trees. The time was 1:30 pm and for the next three hours, I stretched out on the grassy hill top (later the site of Hickman County High School).

Clinton Drugstore was a portal into the outside world. Lying on that hill, with cherry drink in hand, I realized I wasn't that far from the rest of the world.


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