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Summertime, sundaes and ‘The Shadows’

The sunglasses were so dark, I don’t know how he was able to even see well enough to play the drums while wearing them. But he had to wear them—they made him look cool.

He had a drum set made up of the typical snare drum, bass drum and cymbals. His three band mates all played guitars, some wearing sunglasses as well.

They called themselves “The Shadows.”

My oldest brother Van Grayson loved the Beatles, and he loved playing and singing with The Shadows.

I love how all the local bands back then were the “something or others” just like The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and The Byrds.

Daddy always told the story of how whenever Van played “Wipeout” on the drums, the teenagers came dancing into the American Legion Hall and promising to pay the entry fee after the song was over. My mama said he could sing “House of the Rising Sun” like nobody’s business—sad enough to make you want to cry.

What makes me want to cry is how I never got to hear him sing it. Being 16 years apart in age will do that. By the time I could walk, he had been sent to Vietnam.

Believe it or not, I have summer on my mind. As I look at my 8×10 photo of The Shadows, which was taken in front of the old Big R Drive-in in Greenville, it makes me long for the sheet of cold air that would literally take your breath away as you walked into the Dairy Queen in Greenville. When I was a kid, daily bike rides to the Dairy Queen were an absolute necessity during the summertime—there was no way to survive without them. A large hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top could make even the worst of life’s problems disappear.

Or hearing the mosquito truck as it made its whirring noise passing by—even though we had to put up with the smell of it after it had gone down another street. After all, the windows were wide open, and sitting on the front porch steps contemplating your navel was a must during the summer.

Softball season would start with the parks and rec department, and off I went. Mama fussed at me because every summer I was supposed to stay in the kitchen and let her teach me how to cook. Somehow or another, I always found my softball glove and I got the heck out of Dodge. Needless to say, I’m paying for that to this day.

Sitting on my grandmother’s front porch shelling peas with about five or six other great-aunts was always an adventure—you never knew what they were going to be talking about or, more importantly, whom. I quickly learned as a kid that I wasn’t too good at shelling peas and butterbeans, but I was really good at listening to their stories.

Summertime. Graduations are over, people begin traveling to the beach for vacations, the sun beats down on us, and my aging body and hormones become even more thankful for air conditioning.

Even so, what I wouldn’t give to sit out in the Big R parking lot on a sultry summer night, listen to The Shadows, eat a hot fudge sundae and swat mosquitoes.