Way back when – Life on Hwy 77

As my 68th birthday approaches, I have been thinking a lot about my past, especially my childhood here in Italy and the things and people that made it special. I now call this “way back when” which tells me I might just be getting old.

Way back when as I was growing up, Italy, Texas was so different than it is now. Interstate 35 was nonexistent and Hwy. 77 was the main thoroughfare between Dallas and Waco. We lived right on Hwy 77 between a vacant lot (now the old nursing home) and the Gulf Station (now a vacant lot).

We never locked our doors even though our house bordered the highway. Many times I can remember people pulling into our driveway and asking my parents if they could park there for the night before heading on to their final destinations. I can only remember one time she refused. One evening a very nice family with three small children asked if they could do that. My mother promptly told them no and offered them a place inside to rest. She fed them and bedded the children down on pallets. When we awoke the next morning they were gone but had left a sweet, heartfelt note of thanks.

I guess that was one of the times my mother taught me to be kind and care for others even without saying a word.

Living next to the highway could be so much fun at times. We would sit on our front porch and wave at the soldiers in convoys from Fort Hood. Of course as a teenager I made sure I did my hair and put on makeup just in case.

Times were not always happy living by the highway. We witnessed so many accidents that they almost became commonplace. My dad was always the first one there to render aid and do whatever he could for those involved. When the weather was warm, because we did not have air conditioning, we could hear screeching tires, loud crashes and people screaming and crying. As I look back now, I realize something that I never realized way back when. My dad not only would render what aid he could, he also comforted those that needed it.

I can remember one little girl with a cut on her head. She was inconsolable until my dad sat on the grass, put her in his lap and began to sing to her. In no time she stopped sobbing. I love that memory when I think of my dad.

Mom and dad taught me how to love others and give when someone needs something. One of the most vivid memories I have of living on Highway 77 was a horrible frigid day right after Christmas. A man was hitchhiking in front of our house in pants and a short sleeved shirt. He was moving around trying to keep warm. My dad went to the closet and grabbed the brand new coat he had received from us for Christmas. Without any thought of what he would wear to stay warm, he walked out to the highway and gave the man his coat.

I am thankful for the lessons I learned from my parents way back when. I sometimes wish to go back to times like those because life was simple then. We made the best of things way back when. I am thankful for that. The end for now.