Now that we have had our fill of hot dogs, hamburgers and watermelon during the July 4th holiday weekend, it brings to mind a time when I could never get enough watermelon.
They seemed to taste better back then. I argue with my wife that those seedless melons she brings home don’t compare with those back then. She tells me that I think everything was better then.
A few years ago I submitted the following story to a book publisher and it was published, along with others stories from the area. My adventure happened about this time of the year.
On a hot summer day in the 1950’s, before air conditioning was common, there was nothing like an ice-cold watermelon to cool you off. I was a sophomore at Corbin High School in 1955 with little to do during my summer vacation. My entrepreneur brother-in-law, Eddie Steele, who was just a few years my senior, came up with a sure fire way for us to make some extra money that summer, that is, we could sell ice cold watermelons.
Eddie had a lot in south Corbin that faced U.S. 25, which made a perfect spot to sell the melons.
So the adventure began. He borrowed an F-600 Ford truck from his friend Bill Davis and we headed south to get a load of melons. Back then there were no Interstate highways so it meant traveling over winding roads with plenty of steep hills. With just enough money borrowed to buy a load of melons we had to watch our expenditures. We took along a big box of Moon Pies that Bill Davis gave us from his grocery store. We ate the pies and drank colas the entire trip. At night Eddie slept in the cab of the truck and I slept on some hay in the back.
After one night on the road we were headed to the Atlanta Farmers market to buy the melons. To our dismay the melons were selling at the same price there that they were in Corbin, 75 cents apiece. Only one thing to do, keep going south.
Next stop was Cordele, Ga. They were also selling for 75 cents each there. Back in the truck and off to Wildwood, Fl. There we found them at a lower price. To save money Eddie loaded them as I drove the truck through the field. For 400 melons we saved $4.00.
Eddie fixed us a watermelon stand, complete with a cooler that he made from an old gas tank. He painted “ice cold watermelons” on an old Coca Cola sign. He built a stand with a metal roof and we were in business. We even spent a few hours each day selling out of the bed of the truck at the fork of the road going to Cumberland Falls.
At the back of the lot he owned a small trailer that I stayed in to watch the melon stand. It was a great hangout for me and my friends. We listened to WLAC in Nashville and WLOS in Chicago late into the night and ate melons during the day. We probably ate as many melons as we sold, but we had a ball. As for my brother-in-law’s profit, well let’s chalk it up to experience!