As a young child growing up in the 60s there were things that excited me.
The drive-in theaters, car hops, Christmas (yes Ebeneezer Grinch was excited by Christmas as a child), Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving (in fact all the holidays), my birthdays, School, summer vacation , Vacation Bible School, Ice Cream trucks, Baseball games at Ernie Shore Field, The Dixie Classic Fair, and just riding in the car with my family, while perched on the “hump,” elbows on the back of the front seat, and watching the world go by through the front windshield. (back before the government found the revenue stream in mandatory seat-belt laws) Times were simpler and there was still a little wonder and awe left in the world.
This was back in the day before the lawyers and licensing fees killed using nationally recognized characters in local advertising runs. You can see a nod to that in the movie, “A Christmas Story” where the “Wonderful World of OZ” characters get in a tiff with Mickey Mouse and Disney Characters in the Parade. In the 60s you could see plenty of it in local advertising. It was a tit-for-tat where the local guy got some recognition from using a nationally known character and the parent company got free publicity for their characters which they re-released every eight or nine years. Which brings us to the item at hand.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was re-released in 1967. I was 4 years old at the time and I don’t remember if I saw it at the Drive-in or the indoor theater. But it was about that time that the houses, and plywood cut-outs of Snow White and the Dwarfs showed up in a clearing at the corner of Silas Creek Pkwy and Reynolda Rd. I remember I would get so excited to see them when we drove out that way. Eventually it became a yearly Christmas tradition for our family to go drive by and see the little houses decked out for Christmas. There was a Blue house, a Yellow house, I believe a Red on and a Green one?? or maybe one of them was white? Any-who, it was a landmark in Winston-Salem in the late 60s – early 70s.
This past fall I caught a glimpse of them one day when driving down Reynolda Road and told myself I needed to stop in and document what I could before they were torn down or completely rotted away. Today I made it a point to stop and go take some pics. I parked over in Reynolda Village and crossed Reynolda Road at one of the busiest times of the day but it didn’t matter, I was on a mission to visit a piece of my childhood 46 years after the fact.
It was surreal as I stood there looking at the little houses that had so fascinated me as a little boy. As I took photos the memories of those drive by encounters with the houses and characters I had seen as a child kept flooding my memories. Now, here I was visiting them for the first time almost a half century later. I was a bit shocked, and excited to see one lone character still keeping guard over the little buildings, a Christmas choir boy. It was as if live wire was laid across my memories recharging them and given them new life. There he was, just as I remembered the Christmas scene from so long ago. I did not disturb him. I merely captured him for posterity.
These days, I find myself reminiscing more and more. I have more days behind me than I do ahead and my mind seeks refuge from the storms of modernity. I know I can’t go back but I find comfort in the past… my past. Times were just a bad, but our response to them was different. I wasn’t old enough at the time to understand Viet Nam, the Civil Rights movement, and the sexual revolution. I only knew my family and the good times we shared in taking a simple drive every so often to view and to share in the art of someone’s handiwork, who had created a visual fantasy that a small boy found joy in seeing… and an old man enjoyed finally meeting face to face.