Highway 11

This is an excerpt from my memoir, "Highway 11," that I am working on this summer. These pages provide an overview for the book.

            Highway 11 is a swath of road between Monroe and Winder, Georgia where I grew up. “Follow the beer cans to Winder,” Uncle Perry Hugh said because no liquor was sold in Monroe, but Winder had plenty of beer joints. He and my dad frequented the beer joints of Winder or bought moonshine from the local distillers.  My dad drove to a house deep in the woods for moonshine. Down a dirt road, the house sat in a clearing. It stood on rock pilings off the ground. Dogs lounged about in the dirt yard.
            “Stay in the car.” Dad slammed the door.
            We three kids, ages 8, 6, and 4, sat in the back seat of that 1939, convertible, Buick Road-master, with the rusted out floor board, so we could see the road spinning beneath us.We waited while our father walked up the broken wood steps to the porch with no furniture. He disappeared inside the darkness of the open door to make the transaction. After a few minutes, we saw little black faces peeking out. One by one, they stood in the doorway, stuck out their tongue and disappeared.
           A barefoot boy came first, maybe 8 years old, wearing white shorts and no shirt. Next, came a girl with braids sticking out. She wore a white dress made from a flour sack. We could tell it was once a flour sack because part of the name, Pride of Sussex, was still there though upside down, and only part of it showed. A smaller boy wearing a white shirt and shorts stepped into the doorway. The little girl came last: a two year old in a flour sack dress also stuck out her tongue and disappeared. Those kids lined up on the porch: a parade of pink tongues against black faces as our father walked down the steps with his purchase.
            We called him Dan, because Mother did, even though all the church ladies said we would go to hell for calling our father by his first name.

                        "Never mind those busy bodies," Mother said.
"You’ll have to do something much worse than that to go to hell."
              Mother had a way of taking the fear out of life. Mine was a whiskey soaked upbringing, probably the reason I enjoy my martini cocktail hour today. Dan also influenced my love for the convertible. My first car was a convertible, and I drove two of them. He may have unknowingly influenced my soul searching. While Mother practiced the strict rules of the Southern Baptist religion by taking us kids to church, Dan sat on the couch watching Billy Graham on TV. I saw there was more than one way to find God. I converted to Judaism, when I married my husband, Bob.
            Though Dan was a drinking man, he was also a great story teller. His could be the voice I use in my book, Highway 11. He had all the relatives laughing with his sound effects and stories of the good old days, when he was a boy. Dan also told some great drinking stories. One of my favorites was when he and Uncle Perry Hugh picked up some moonshine one Saturday afternoon and had their young sons in the car with them, my brother, Wayne, and our cousin, Jimmy. The car broke down on the side of the road. Perry Hugh and Dan got out and walked to the neighbor’s house to make a phone call. They left the two boys in the back seat of the car. The police stopped to offer their assistance, when Wayne hung out the back window holding a paper sack and shouted, “Hey, Dan, you forgot your liquor."         
            I sat outside with Dan on a hot summer night, before air conditioning. That paint- chipped bench rocker was the coolest place to be in the south. Under the dark, star- lit sky, he sang, “Carolina Moon,” in his booming voice, way down low and then up high. I can still hear his baritone voice. He smelled of hooch and Camel cigarettes, a salty blend I will always remember.
As a baby boomer, the first generation to see world events unfold on TV, I saw blacks being beaten and hosed during integration. The three black students who integrated my school in 1965 were quietly accepted. I saw both Kennedys assassinated and watched Walter Cronkite during the Cuban Missile Crisis while the grass grew on the banks of Highway 11, until my cousin and I set fire to it.                
      The driver of an 18 wheeler pulled over to help us beat out the flame before it reached Winder. A few years after that I drove off to join life in my brand new MGB convertible that my dad cosigned with me against Mother’s protests.
“You have delusions of grandeur,” Mother said.
She was probably right.
            My first stop was Atlanta, in 1969, for the “Age of Aquarius,” where I was a hippie and smoked pot, never dreaming it would be legal one day. During that “Peace, Love, and Rock and Roll” existence, I protested the Vietnam War along with students across the country including the “Four Dead in Ohio,” shot down by the National Guard on May 4, 1970, when the government felt threatened by the student protests. Crosby, Stills and Nash immortalized the four students in their song, “Ohio.”
            I survived The Atlanta Pop Festival of 1969 with 200,000 people in attendance and very little food or water. 
            “Hey Judy, we’re driving up to Woodstock next month. Want to go?” my friend asked.
            “No thanks.” I was sure I would perish.
           When the Bohemian lifestyle of trying to make ends meet landed me in jail for shoplifting, it was time to find new friends. I had dropped out of the University of Georgia on scholastic probation, but I went back to school looking for a husband.
           At Georgia State University, I met Bob, a nice Jewish boy. When he wasn’t ready for marriage, I took off for the “Friendly Skies” of United Air Lines in Washington DC.  
            As a flight attendant, based in Los Angeles and Honolulu, I traveled the world and was introduced to many famous people and different cultures. In Washington D.C. during the Watergate Scandal, I read Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, journalists for the Washington Post that landed on my doorstep each day. The following years I moved to L.A. and like many young girls I was star struck.

           Seduced by the movie and beauty industry, I wanted to be a movie star, and I did some
modeling. I went back to school and graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in Drama. I performed in Sweet Charity at the Westminster Playhouse with two retired Las Vegas show girls from Les Folies Bergere, who danced in pasties and heavy head dresses for years onstage before retiring to the stages of Los Angeles. They taught me a lot about dance, as they were more expert than me and instructed me to just “Sell it.” 


   "Baby Dream Your Dream” from Sweet Charity.


        The pinnacle of my career was acting on TV with Carroll O’Connor in Archie’s Place, at CBS studios. My baby sitter made more money than I did on the set that day.

I retired from flying and acting and had three children in seven years after Bob and I eloped in Atlanta with a soap opera playing loudly in the Judge’s chambers. We lived in Newport Beach, California for 20 years and raised our children in the Jewish faith before moving our young family across the country three times. Each move had its challenges. As the children got older, I started acting again with the Pumphouse Players, and The Grand Theater in Cartersville, Georgia where Bob and I reside today with our dog Buck. 

         I kept a journal for thirty years. When my short story “Nursing Home Cafeteria,” was published in Deborah Ford’s, Grits (Girls Raised in the South) Friends Are Forevah, I took writing more seriously and went back to school for an MA in Professional Writing at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia where I graduated in 2017 with a thesis on my memoir, Highway 11.


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