Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Billy Shoolbred 3/1/43 - 12/9/07

Photo Courtesy of Ralph McConigly. Used by Permission.

Billy Shoolbred and I used to strike out early on a Saturday morning, meeting somewhere in the neighborhood between where he lived on Juniper, between 10th and 8th, and I lived on 14th Street to ride our bikes down the center line of Peachtree Street to the Paramount Theatre, across the street from the intersection of Forsyth St, Carnegie Way, and Peachtree. We leaned the bicycles against the side of the building, no bike racks, no locks. We spent the day inside watching adventure serials, cartoons, and double-feature Tarzan movies and westerns. The price of admission was a dime. When we left the movie in the late afternoon, we climbed back on our bikes and rode home down the center of Peachtree St. The year was sometime during the second quarter of the Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.

Billy was the first friend I made when I started the fifth grade as the new kid at Clark Howell Elementary School, which once existed on 10th Street, between Juniper and Piedmont. For the remainder of my elementary school years, whatever I did, Shoolbred was at my side. His mother worked for her cousin, Mary Mobley, who owned a picture framing business and adjacent real estate on Peachtree, including a large and rambling apartment building with a courtyard in the back, the site of countless cookouts at which I was a regular guest, almost a member of the family. The first baseball glove I ever owned was a hand-me-down from Shoolbred, as were all the part-time and after-school jobs of my teenage years, working for Mary Mobley’s fellow members of the Tenth Street Business Association. When Billy turned 16, he became the owner of the 1949 Pontiac station wagon that had been the delivery vehicle for Mobley Frame Shop. He and I spent an afternoon painting over the business logo on the front doors. I learned to drive in that station wagon, well known at Henry Grady High School as “The Jungle Cruiser,” after an indestructible tank featured in an adventure movie serial called Tim Tyler’s Luck. I attended countless high school football games, proms, and other social events double-dating in Shoolbred’s “Jungle Cruiser.”

When we graduated from high school, neither of us any longer going by the name of “Billy,” except within our own families, Bill Shoolbred did what young folks often have the internal imperative to do; he re-invented himself. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard, although I have no knowledge that he had ever been on a boat before doing so. He navigated a successful career for himself in the Coast Guard and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer. The last time I saw Bill Shoolbred, he came to my house for a farewell party in 1976, before I went to Egypt to work for the American Embassy in Cairo.

Last week, Ralph McConigly, another grade-school friend, contacted me on behalf of our high school graduating class, planning its 50th reunion, scheduled in four years. Ralph had located me through my blog. This is the second time this year I have been hunted down on the internet. Ralph reported that Bill Shoolbred had died almost a year ago. I am not surprised to learn that people my age die. I came very close to doing it myself in 2006. What I mind is the thought that my old friends might die without my knowing it. Vanish without a trace. As if somehow I need to salute and honor them and whatever our lives meant. In my heart, and if possible, in writing, which is one of the ways I get to my heart.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter


Anonymous said...

Charming old photo, which I assume relates to the subject. Maybe some captions?

dawn ellen said...

Great story, Uncle Bill. Which one is you in the picture?

John Allen said...

Bill, why did you and Shoolbred go all the way downtown when the old Tenth Street Theater was much closer, and showed the same Saturday Matinees. For 25 cents Mom didn't have to worry about where I was for Half a day. I wish I had a list of names from the photo. I see some faces that look familiar. I sat with Ralph at the reunion, where were you?

Paw Paw Bill said...

You are correct, and we went to the 10th Street Theatre also. I just love the memory and the image of kids riding their bicycles down Peachtree Street. I am trying to put together the identities of those in the photo. I welcome all the help I can get.

Paw Paw Bill said...

OK. Here's my best effort at identifying the photo of Mrs. Johnson's seventh grade class at Calloway Gardens in 1957.

r-l (standing)

Charles Kuffrey, Sue Morgan, Eve Adams, Mike Marie. Billy Shoolbred is in front of the tree. Coleen Roberts is behind Billy. I am standing in the middle, the tallest and last boy standing. Billy Lee is at my left shounder. Sharon Eikel is second from my right. Mrs. Johnson is second from the left on the end. To her right is Sandra Chandler.

r-l (seated)

Robert Winters, Angelle Powell, Ralph McConigly, Larry Entriken, Sherry Higginbotham, Pascal Grubbs.

Seated on ground Bobby Burgett. I

I welcome any further assistance. Ralph helped me with a couple of these already.


Ok, I think you have ID'd most of us in the picture except for a few. Carmen Collins is on your right and Barbara Bartlett? is between Sharon and Mrs. Johnson; next to Pascal is the new kid who was only there a short time..think his name is Darryl. He lived in an apt. on Peachtree at 7th (I think).


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