Sunday, June 10, 2012

Making the Drag

When you grew up in a small town in the 1940's/50's you inherited a very interesting world—or at least one that I found, and still find, interesting. I realize that I only remember fragments but everything I remember about that world is a treasure. There were traditions, school traditions like running the belt line hazing as you entered high school, the yearly Junior/Senior fights, Hooky Day, and the biggest of all, Friday night football—Summer traditions like skinny dipping along Red River or the nearest stock tank, plinking tin cans or an occasional rabbit or coyote. And some that were more imagination or verbal bravado than reality like claiming to run our cars on drip stolen from the gas wells that surrounded Burk—at fifteen cents a gallon for gasoline, who needed drip even if it was free. We most often referred to Burkburnett as Burk or possibly Big B on the Ragin’ Red, of course Burk was not big nor was the Red often raging. Those are among the traditions that can be talked about in polite company. But probably the biggest tradition of all was “making the drag.”

Life, as I discovered it, was devoted to football and automobiles. One taught valuable lessons, the other I am not sure how any of us survived into adulthood. Friday nights, during the football season were strictly devoted to football whether you were on the team or not. Off season, Friday nights became an extension of Saturday nights—when everyone at least started the night making the drag.

I got my driver’s license on my fourteenth birthday so I most usually had a car available. Many of the other guys, and gals also, similarly received their driver’s license prior to their sixteenth birthday or just drove anyhow. Life, to a great extent, was spent in a car. It was a place of comradely, a place of bonding that has lasted over half a century and I suppose will last until the final breath. I probably shouldn’t mention that it served as our private saloon as well as brothel—but those are other stories.

On the south end of the downtown area of Main Street were the railroad tracks; on the north end, the ice house. This is not the present usage of ice house as a place to down a cold one—this ice house actually sold ice, big square blocks of ice, not long necks. At the railroad tracks was a wide area where you could easily do a U-turn and the ice house had a drive through in front that wasn’t being used after hours. We would spend hours cruising between the two turn-arounds that terminated each end of the drag. Everyone with a car, everyone who could hook up with someone else that had a car would be on the drag. On the Fourth of July we threw cherry bombs at each other and so I’ve heard, on Halloween, paper bags of fresh cow manure from the tops of the buildings. We waved, we cheered and we cursed each other on the drag. What we did on the drag was not nearly as important as being there. If you were to ever meld into the society, you had to be on the drag at least occasionally and the more frequently the better.  

The drag of course looks little if anything like it did in the 1950’s, but I had stopped to photograph the old train depot and decided to walk out into the street—something that is perfectly safe to do in Burkburnett—for a photograph of the drag. The pool hall, that would have been on the right side of the street is gone, the Boyd Building, probably the only “fancy” building on Main, burned some years ago and the marquee and sign is gone from the Palace Theatre. The Famous hasn’t been there in years, the Corner Drug is gone along with Heine’s Drug. The Ford House where we drooled over the ‘57 Thunderbird, and where I purchased my first automobile,  is now a bank and the myriad of small businesses are antique stores, few of which have survived leaving a blight of empty storefronts.  The roadway, worn by the hundreds of cars making the drag I feel certain has been paved over many times since. But the memories remain.

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