East Cedar Street - A Great Place to Grow Up


When Elaine Phillips (now Elaine Pennington) celebrated her sixth birthday on August 18, 1945, a party was held at her home on 211 East Cedar Street in Livingston. Friends and neighborhood children joined in the celebration. Some who attended that party have shared some happy memories with me of playing and visiting with the families who lived on East Cedar, Windle, and other nearby streets in that neighborhood during the 40's and 50's. Here are some of their memories:

Elaine Phillips Pennington: "There was no place better to grow up than on East Cedar Street in Livingston. Even though our house was right in the middle of town, it was like living on a farm. My parents raised a very large garden every year. We also had a milk cow, chickens, and later on, we raised goats. I had lots of friends in that neighborhood, and at school and church. My father helped me to learn to ride a bicycle with one he put together from other bikes. It was smaller than a regular size bicycle and was an aqua color. Bill Davis was one of my best friends on East Cedar Street. We rode bicycles together up and down the street. One of our favorite games all the neighborhood kids played was Tarzan. Billís older brother, Tom, always got to be Tarzan and one of the other neighborhood girls usually played the part of Jane. The only thing about playing that game that I didnít like was I never did get to play Jane. I usually had to play the part of Chita. I always thought the Davisí kidsí mother, Blanche, was not like most of the mothers the rest of us had. It wasnít anything unusual for her to get out a ride a bicycle with her kids, something no other mother I knew ever did, and that made me wonder why my mother didnít ride a bicycle with us too. When Jane Davis was a baby, I remember that she had to be watched closely because she loved to eat dirt and would also put rocks in her mouth if she got the chance to.

"Before I was born, my mother had a problem keeping my brother, Jimmy, at home. He would often wander off, and one day she decided she would fill a tub with water out in the back yard to let him splash and play in. He was happy and content for a while, but a little later when she went to check on him, he was gone. She found him across the street at Sam and Marie Cowardís home sitting on the swing on the front porch with Mrs. Coward. When Mother went to bring him back home, Mrs. Coward said he walked up on the porch with no clothes on, climbed up in the swing beside her and asked, "Arenít you going to swing me?"

"We were always glad when the weather got warm enough to go barefoot, and usually I would always step on a bee before the summer was over. One of our favorite places to play in the neighborhood was in the graveyard next door to my home. It was kept up nicely in those days, and we always had a lot of fun playing there.

"Jerrye Sue Myers was another close friend I had on East Cedar Street. She and I loved to roller skate together. One of our favorite things to do if we had some money was to go to Mitchellís store near the corner of East Cedar and Goodpasture streets and buy a cold drink. I usually got a strawberry soda and we tried our best to make that drink last all day long. Jerrye Sue and I would sometimes climb out the upstairs bathroom window and sit on the roof of my house.

"I enjoyed playing with the Weakley girls who lived in the Methodist parsonage just down the street from my house. I also enjoyed going to see Mrs. Julie Speck who lived right across from our house. The front bedroom in her house had french doors and on the bed in that room was Mrs. Julieís beautiful doll collection. She would always let me look at the dolls when I came to visit, but I was never allowed to play with them. She had an apartment in the back of her house that she often had renters living in. One of the things I remember about Judy Howard, another friend in the neighborhood, was her paper dolls. I always thought she had the best paper dolls.

"My grandmother, Florence Eubank, lived at the corner of Windle Street in a house that faced East Cedar. She rented out half of her house, and I can remember my Aunt Lola Eubank living there for a while and later, Mrs. Benson, Dillis Bensonís mother, lived there.

"I can remember when we added an indoor bathroom to our house. After all the work was completed, I ran water in the bathtub for my first tub bath, even though no one had told me to remove the newspapers that had been placed in the bottom of the tub. After that bath, I got out with newspaper print all over me from sitting on top of wet newspapers.

"When I was small, kids who lived in town usually walked to school. I remember when I started first grade, that classroom was all the down to the very end of the hall on the right side of the building. The tables for the students in that room were all painted different colors. My mother took me the first day of school and when it was time for her to leave, she asked me if I could walk home by myself. I told her I could, but when school was over that first day, I realized I had no idea how to get out of the building. I was terrified, but I just walked along with everyone else, and somehow I ended up outside, and from there, I knew how to get on home. There was always someone on duty at the end of a school day to help us get safely across the street near the school. Sometimes I would walk to school with Anna Evans who lived not too far up the street to Rock Crusher mountain. And other times, Betty Sue Ashburn would walk home with me when she would be going to Miss Conway Leaís home after school.

"Jerrye Sue and I and Gail Qualls and I got in trouble on two separate occasions over playing pranks on Miss Conway. My mother made Jerrye Sue and I go apologize to Miss Conway once, and when we did, Miss Conway told Jerrye Sue she believed she was sorry for what she had done, but she (Miss Conway) didnít think I meant it when I said I was sorry.

"Iíll never forget when I learned about who the real Santa Claus was. I was helping my mother break beans and for some reason, I made a comment about not understanding how Santa could deliver gifts to every single child all over the world in just one night. My mother then asked me if I wanted her to tell me how that was done, and what she said simply devastated me. She explained that Santa was really Mother and Daddy, and she went on to say that I absolutely could not tell Jerrye Sue. And of course, the very first thing I did was to tell Jerrye Sue, but she didnít believe me. She didnít want any part of knowing that Santa wasnít real."

Gail Qualls Walker: "Elaine and I were not only friends, but cousins. Her grandmother, Florence Eubank, was my grandfather, Luther Quallsí, sister. Elaine's home was the place we all gathered to play. That neighborhood was always my favorite part of town. I knew most every family who lived on East Cedar Street and Windle Street too. Elaine and another friend, Jerrye Sue
Myers, who lived in the little stucco house on the corner of East Cedar and Goodpasture, both had bicycles. My sister, Carolyn, and I didn't have a bicycle since we really didn't have a good place to ride one out where we lived. I learned to ride on a borrowed bicycle, and it was going down
Windle Street that I somehow managed to survive the many crashes I had before I finally learned how. One of our favorite things to do was to walk or ride bikes to Mofield's store and buy penny candy. I remember my father, Gentry Qualls, taking us quite often to the First Baptist Church
parsonage across the street from Elaine's house during the time Bro. Jim Adkins and wife Bess lived there. Since we didn't have a television at our house, we usually went there on Friday nights so that my father and Bro. Adkins could watch Friday night boxing together. It was in that same
parsonage that my husband and I married many years later. One of my favorite memories about one of families that lived on East Cedar Street was seeing Mrs. Marie Coward coming in and out of her house from time to time. She was always very dressed up, and seemed to have an endless supply of beautiful dresses, but what fascinated me most about her was the platform high heels she sometimes wore. After seeing her come outside one day with one of her very pretty dresses on and of course, a pair of those platform high heels, just to put the trash in a garbage can that had a little pedal at the bottom to step on and a little flip top lid, I when home later that day and asked my mother why she couldn't dress up like Mrs. Coward did to do her housework. My mother's reply was "Because I'm not Mrs. Coward."

"Miss Conway Lea lived on the corner of East Cedar and Windle Streets, and everyone knew she talked to her chickens and she told everyone the chickens talked to her. Once Elaine and I got into a lot of trouble when we hid in the tall grass near Miss Conway's yard and repeated a rhyme we
had made up about her. Even though it wasn't anything too terribly disrespectful, she came over to Elaine's house to tell Elaine's mother what we had done. But what she had to say came as a surprise. She told Elaine's mother that her chickens had overheard the rhyme we had repeated
and they came and told Miss Conway what we had said. Mrs. Phillips gave us a very stern lecture after Miss Conway went home and we never did that again. When my mother was expecting my younger sister, Carolyn, we were living on the Lea farm near what is called the Wash Lea cave. Miss Conway would often drive out to the farm to check on how my father was taking care of the place. She drove the Model T she owned and after she arrived at the farm, she covered the car up with a tarpaulin, even though her visit wasn't all that long."

Elaine and I have been life long friends. She was always been a kind and very caring person. I don't ever remember her being anything but an extremely nice and loving person. I cherish my memories of coming to play at her house on East Cedar Street."

Barbara Sue Benson Stephens; "My remembrance of those days was my idyllic picture of childhood. When I described those years to others, I would often say it reminded me of a small community of kids, run by kids. We would have made a great movie. There were 21 kids at one time living on Windle Street. I was an only child and everyone around me was my "pretend" brother and sister. The Davis children taught me all about crafts and creativity. They could make anything out of clay, build communities or Indian reservations out of paper mache, and had enough siblings to play all sorts of games. The Puckett's had the first television set and all the neighborhood kids would go there to watch "The Shadow."

Billy Sullivan, whose family lived on Railroad Street just at the back of the Phillips property, told me he stayed in trouble most of the time with Miss Conway because he would often slip around in her yard shooting at birds with his B.B. gun. He said Elaine would sometimes accompany him on these escapades. Billyís family later moved to Rock Crusher mountain when he was around eight years old.

Nancy Reed Brownís home was on Church Street near the Maple Shade Grocery and Service Station that her father, R. D. Reed, owned and ran. Nancy remembered that many of the same children in Elaineís birthday party picture were often photographed at each otherís homes for other birthday parties. She has a picture taken at an Easter egg hunt at her home one year with all the children in that picture are holding their Easter baskets. Many of these same children attended that Easter egg hunt.

Linda Averitt said while reminiscing with Barbara Sue Benson Stephens, "I wish my kids could have had the kind of street that we grew up on."

The story concludes with another memory from Elaine Phillips Pennington: "Some of my favorite memories are from those childhood days on East Cedar Street. Friendships I made then continue on today. Gail Qualls Walker and I still enjoying looking back and laughing about the good times we shared together. East Cedar Street was a great place to grow up."


Elaine Phillips Pennington's 6th birthday party at her home on East Cedar Street in Livingston on August 18, 1945.
Little girl in very front sitting down:  Martha Ewing Weakley;
Next row:  Billy Sullivan; Ross Averitt; Linda Averitt; unknown; unknown; Barbara Sue Benson; and Patsy Verble;
Next row:  Nancy Reed; Elaine Phillips; Bill Davis; Jerrye Sue Myers; Gail Qualls; Rebecca Watson.
Back row:  Margaret Weakley; Judy Howard; baby unknown; Ruth Ann Eubank; and Anna Evans.