Thursday, August 31, 2017

the geneva walmart

So, the Wal-Mart in Geneva, AL, turns 30 today, this the last day of August.

Here you see Birmingham, Troy, Samson,
and Geneva. The pink dots are bigger than
the actual towns themselves.
Let me set the geography for the many of you that have no clue where I'm talking about. I'm from a little town called Samson, population 2100, with 2 red lights and a caution light, and 40ish members of the graduation class of 1993.  Our family moved to 201 N. Johnson Street in 1984, then across the side street to 211 North Johnson Street in 1985, and finally, 208 N. Johnson Street in 1986... yes, we moved one house over, across a street, then moved across N. Johnson to another house, and that would be the home I lived in until I moved off to college in the fall of 1993.

Samson has two main roads - the aforementioned N. Johnson, which runs north to south, and Hwy 52, which runs east to west, and essentially is the "downtown" part of Samson, Alabama.  So if you left my house, took a left once you hit town at Hwy 52, and then drove 8 miles... past the Subway/Dollar General (is that still there?) and the old peanut mill, past the log cabin house, past the pipe plant thing, past the McInnis' veterinarian office, past the caution light, past the cutoff road to go to Joey Stephens' old house and where Forrest & Charlotte Wright live (and Sandy and Cristie too), and yes, past the Sunny Meadows Cemetery (rest in peace, Jennifer W-B) you'll come to the Geneva County seat, a small city called Geneva, Alabama.

And if you did all of these things on August 31st, 1987, you'd see the brand spankin' new Walmart. To my 12 year old self, this was amazing.  I had only heard tale of such discount stores, but to have a Walmart here?  Eight miles from my house??  I mean... that was even cooler than the McDonald's in Geneva (which would be about 9 miles from my house), or the movie theaters in Enterprise (around 20 miles from my house), or even the brand new Wiregrass Commons Mall in Dothan (I lived 45 miles from a mall... those were the days).

This Walmart was amazing!  It had records and tapes, and clothes, and cool things and other cool things and it was HUGE.  I mean, not as big as that new Walmart Supercenter that opened in Enterprise in what, 1989?  But still.  A Walmart was 8 miles from me.  So awesome.

And I frequented that Walmart.  Frequently.

As a matter of fact, I can tell you with certainty that in the time it opened until I moved to Troy in 1993, I purchased the following:

The majesty of the Walmart in Geneva. To 12 year old me, it was a castle.
To 42 year old me, its a quaint reminder of childhood. 

  • Debbie Gibson's "Out of the Blue" album on vinyl, and considering it just turned 30 itself, this might be the first thing I ever purchased from a Walmart.  
  • The soundtrack to the movie "Cocktail", also on vinyl
  • A Valentine's gift for my high school girlfriend Cindy H, which I believe was pajamas
  • A birthday gift for my friend Stephanie Phillips, who said after her birthday that I didn't even get her a card. She was kidding, but I bought her a shirt.  Nowadays, a "shirt from Walmart" doesn't sound as nice as "a shirt from Target" or "a shirt from Macys", but to me, it was an awesome gift. It was white with pink stripes. It had shoulder pads. Yes, looking back, it was probably not very fashionable, and to Stephanie's credit, she wore it at least once.  But I bought it with my own money, so it's the thought that counts, right? Right.
  • Tons of paper and notebooks for the stories I wrote in junior high and high school, and I wrote a ton. By hand. I wore mechanical pencils slap out (of which I also bought at Walmart)
  • Starship's "Knee Deep in the Hoopla" and The Jets' self titled album, both on cassette. I loved The Jets
  • A pair of silk boxer shorts, just because I wanted to find out what silk boxers felt like. They ride. Bad.
  • My first tennis racket. I was inspired by Jennifer Capriati and Wimbledon back in the day, and I played tennis regularly for the next 15 to 20 years. 
  • Amy Grant's "That's What Love is For" on cassette single. I still have it.  Love that song.
  • Cathy King's baby shower gift, which was a carseat.  She was a classmate of mine, and to be fair, High School Girlfriend Cindy H and I bought it together.
  • Angie Jay's homecoming gift, because she was my date in October 1992. Until Bradley Miller screwed that up.  Don't remember the gift, but I never gave it.  There's a high school story for you. 
  • A ficus tree for Ms Peterson, my civics teacher, because her kindness saved my Troy scholarship. I left after my last final as a high school student, sped down to the Geneva Walmart, bought it and sped back, putting it in her classroom before her planning period was over.   

This Walmart holds a ton of memories for me, and I'm glad it's still open. And I'm actually glad it's not 24 hours -- its hours are something like 7a to 9p or maybe even 10p on the weekends.  And whereas the Walmart (formerly a "Supercenter", but now just called "Walmart") that is about 4 minutes from my home through traffic is a behemoth of a building, the Geneva Walmart is less than 150 paces from one side to the other.  I know because I've counted it.  150 paces would get you out of the grocery department and maybe past the self service checkout at the Walmart on Hwy 280, close to me.

And when I have a few extra minutes as I'm coming through Samson (with my old house being sold, there isn't a lot of "coming to" Samson now), I'll drive down Hwy 52, stop at Sunny Meadows and see my friend Jennifer for a minute, then stop in the Geneva Walmart. Sometimes just to walk around, though that doesn't take long. Sometimes to remember where I used to purchase records, then cassettes, then the Plexiglas case that had CD long boxes -- CD players were too fancy for my blood in 1992, I tell you.

So, happy 30th birthday, Geneva Walmart. May you be around another 30, and I'll see you soon, I'm sure.

(Many thanks to my friend Amy Warr for retweeting the WTVY-TV link that alerted me to this great holiday -- you can read their story here, though mine is better)