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Memory Lane

By Byron Crawford from January 2014 Issue

The first words of David J. Griffin's story had me hooked: "In a simpler time, kids played outdoors almost every evening."

From then on until I finished his column, whatever else he wrote was a reunion of his memories and my own, chasing each other across the page like children of bygone days playing a game of hide-and-go-seek at twilight.

At their best, that is what good nostalgia writers do—sweep us into our own world of remembering, and then lead us gently along forgotten pathways to rediscover pieces of time that are lost in the shadows.

In other columns, Griffin would write about his grandparents' Warm Morning stove, his grandmother's "pocket book," blackberry season, "Pop's" push mower, his first "pizza pie," hub caps and white walls, summer date night circa 1960, "Mommie Katie's" apron, a chicken house, The Little World's Fair at Brodhead, Joyland Park, August football memories, his slingshot, and on and on.

Scanning the story subjects above, your mind may have wandered off to those golden days before lightning bugs, marbles, kick the can, and tag were replaced by Xboxes, PlayStations, iPhones, and iPads.

We discussed it all a while back when I spent the better part of an afternoon reminiscing with Griffin over a "deluxe" hamburger with fries.

He was born in Rockcastle County and spent a lot of time with his grandparents, Eugene and Katie Stokes, in Mount Vernon. His father, Hobert Griffin, was a taxi driver there, and his mother, Ruby, was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time mom. David became a chemistry teacher, writing teacher, football, and baseball coach. He worked at Campbellsville and Mount Sterling high schools, and then at George Rogers Clark High in Clark County.

He often began chemistry classes with a homespun story related to the subject of his lesson. Many of his former students still thank him for bringing chemistry to life with his stories.

Today, Griffin, 69, and his wife, Kathy, members of Clark Energy Cooperative, live on Furnace Mountain near Stanton in Powell County. His weekly column, Rockcastle Memories, in the Mount Vernon Signal newspaper, often draws responses from as many as 75 readers a week. More than 50 of his stories are reprinted in his book, View from the Mountain.

Many people today have no concept of having a party line telephone that would ring a certain number of times for each party who shared the line, or of living in a house that was heated with a Warm Morning stove, Griffin reflects.

"So if you don't write these things down, the majority of young people today will never know about them, because they don't have any reason to talk about them," he says.

The popularity of Griffin's writings reminds all of us that as we grow older, we each have valuable memories to share—of life as we once knew it.

What are your memories of those simpler times?

Byron Crawford is Kentucky's storyteller—a veteran television and newspaper journalist known for his colorful essays about life in Kentucky. E-mail him at bcrawford@KentuckyLiving.com.