Towns change. People generally do not.
As a newlywed, I lived in a red-brick rental right beside the police station. The location made some of our friends nervous.
We painted the kitchen bright yellow, the better to learn how to cook. Most of the cooking was done in a pressure cooker, which made dry beans edible and tough meat tender. Not to mention a satisfying, alternating hissing and rattling sound. If the meal turned to mush, you still got good audibles.
The landlord was a nice man, Dutch Higginbotham, whose name now graces a building of a local community college and a road. He didn't care how we altered the house, so long as we paid the rent on time. We usually did.
The movie "Norma Rae" was filmed here while I was working for the paper. Its star, Sally Field, came to town and wore sunglasses to the grocery store. Everybody recognized her anyhow.
One scene was filmed at the little Golden Cherry Motel. The Golden Cherry is still in business, with fresh aqua paint as trim. I wouldn't mind spending a night or two there. It's infinitely more inviting than a Hampton Inn, for instance. You can park your vehicle right outside your door.
Sally Field was dating Burt Reynolds at the time, and he made an appearance on "The Tonight Show." Burt was wearing a T-shirt that asked the arrogant question: "Where the hell is Opelika?"
The movie was about the unionization of a textile-mill town. Norma Rae was the unlikely heroine. A lot of my friends got parts as extras in the scene when the all-important union vote was taken. Having seen the sausage being made, we were surprised how good the movie was when it finally appeared onscreen. We saw it several times to catch glimpses of our hometown stars.
The old mill has gone the way of all America's textile industry: bankrupt or overseas. The hull sits empty, too big to tempt entrepreneurs in sour times.
The newspaper isn't where it used to be. There's now a fine new plant at the edge of town. The old office was in a converted warehouse and had a perverse charm. I loved working football Saturdays, when you could wear bluejeans and leave the radio on loud during an Auburn game. One Yankee fan used to call from Minnesota or Michigan or one of those "M" states and ask that the phone be left off the hook for the game's entirety. Such loyalty impressed me, especially considering what a struggle it was to pay my own phone bill.
The photographers would straggle in after the game with dozens of rolls of film to be developed. It was magical watching the game you had heard on the radio come to life beneath a red light in darkroom trays.
If Auburn won, the headline sizes were the size usually reserved for war. I'd love to be working in that old plant Jan. 10 this year, using the defunct technology, running a headline through the wax machine and sticking it on the blank paste-up page: TIGERS KILL DUCKS; AUBURN NUMBER ONE.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist who lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.