It was really east of New Haven, but somehow when we made our very frequent and prolonged visits in the late forties to our grandparents we always went “up to Lebanon.” Butch seemed to live there when he was a little kid. He was the clear favorite with our aunt Verna who lived at home with her parents, Hawee and Daddy Abell. Their closeness lasted to the the end of Verna’s life after she passed the century mark a few years ago.
Usually, when I went up to Lebanon it was on the train and I always seemed to arrive after dark at the station there. Then alone, I would walk the several dimly lit blocks, always a little uncertain where to make the turns, until finally reaching the front door on Spalding Avenue. We slept in the attic, pretty warm in the summer but still exciting as our own house had no upstairs.
Daddy Abell had a garden, a wonderful grape vine and chickens. Hawee ruled the roost around
there in more ways than one. When it was time to fix fried chicken, she grabbed one by the head and with a sharp twist of her wrist it was flopping all over the ground, headless. Then you dipped it into a tub of scalding water to loosen the feathers, plucked them out, gutted it and cut it up for the frying pan.
Lebanon was a city compared to New Haven and they had a regular movie theater, a couple
department stores and traffic lights. Verna worked at the post office; May had a job with the
government in Louisville. It was a great treat to buy 15 cents worth of lemon drops and watch a Frankenstein movie. I would cower down behind the last row of seats at the really scary scenes. One dark night after a particularly frightening movie, the walk home alone seemed endless as every shadow was a monster lurking behind trees along the way.
Daytimes were spent at Abell’s Liquor Store where Joe Bob and Howard worked behind the
counter while Daddy Abell sat in the large wooden rocker at the rear of the lobby area. Later when I was a little older, Hugh Louis and I would go up to Lebanon and spend a few days working for our uncle Buck, spraying for insects on all the streets and alleys downtown. He headed up the City Sanitation department.
One night, a blaring car horn awakened me and looking out the attic window I watched Joe Bob’s car burn as an electrical short had started a fire. Did I just dream that?
Another night I awakened to hear Daddy Abell downstairs calling out in a nightmare, “Wake me
up, wake me up!”