The Courthouse was the center of our universe as well as the only "skyscraper" in the county. It was the gathering place, especially on Saturday afternoon, for many citizens and their children.
Around the square in 1950 were three drugstores, three movie theathers, three dry goods stores, two hardware stores, two feed stores, two shoe repair shops, a dime store, a grocery store, a cafe, two banks, a photo studio, several beauty shops, a dentist office, two doctors' offices (over the drug store), lawyers' offices, and more small businesses that came and went. Due to this high concentration of services and goods, much activity occurred in a very small geographical area.
My earliest memory of The Courthouse was when I would go with my parents on election night to the square. Local and national election results were posted as soon as the polls closed. There was a huge blackboard with white painted lines to form a spreadsheet-looking chart. A man would stand up on a ladder and write with white chalk on the board. As the vote results came in, he would erase the previous numbers and update the box to the most recent count. People would stand around and visit between updates but when we saw the man emerge from the Courthouse, all would become silent while anticipating the newest set of numbers.
I don't recall hearing my parents say who they wanted to win, and I don't think we were there to support any certain candidate. We were there because it was the only thing to do on Election Night.
My other and more often occurring memory of the square was Saturday afternoons. My mother's best friend and her two children would come to our house then we would all five jump in the car and "go to the square". What we did when we got to the square still seems a little bizzare to me. The Mom Driver would drive around the square as many times as necessary until she would find the most valuable parking spot on the square. The primo spot was in front of Cox's department store. There were three spots in front of that store but the one on the right was the best because it was in the center of the long row of parking spots and meters.
After we parked, we kids would usually go to the Majestic Theater because it was the cleanest and had the most recent movies. Musicals and cowboy movies were the main fare but we could always count on the short subjects for additional entertainment. Popcorn and a pickle then Thin Mints made for a perfect movie event. Later, an orange sherbet push-up became my favorite.
What did the moms do while we were at the movies? They held court from their primo parking spot and didn't move until we came out of the theater. Sometimes their old friends who had moved from town to a far away place like Fort Worth or Dallas would be back in town for the weekend. Of course, they came to the square, too, and would stop by The Mom Car and visit. If there was no one to talk to, the moms would gossip about whoever was walking by. Gossip back then was not especially cruel but was just one of their forms of cheap entertainment. The worst I ever heard was something about an outfit some lady was wearing and how "ridiculous" it looked or observations about the way someone walked. Our moms were nice and decent women, and to this day, I don't believe their chatter about others was meant to be mean or cruel.
After the movies we would walk around the square and maybe buy something at the dime store or Cox's.
As I think back now, I realize how a place may change but people still have old habits in their hearts. An example of this is when my parents were in their 80's in 1996. All of the stores downtown were gone, and all that was left was the Courthouse and a few lawyers offices. There was no longer a central gathering place. On Saturday or Sunday afternoons when they had nothing to do, my mom and dad would go park in the handicapped parking at Wal-Mart and watch the people go in and out. Sad but true.
Everyone's experiences are a variation of everyone else's experiences. Today, people hang out at the malls. I almost feel sorry for them that they cannot park their cars by their favorite hang-out spots.