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Thirty years ago, we arrived…

September 5, 2022, 6:10 PM

August 31, 2022 marked 30 years from the day that my family came to Virginia, after having lived in Arkansas for the previous seven and a half years.  Thirty years is a little less than three quarters of my life thus far.  It just seems so weird to think about it that way.  But it really does mark the beginning of an era in my life, because unlike more recent moves, the move from Arkansas to Virginia was a clean separation, leaving a lot of elements of my life behind and starting new in Virginia, especially in those pre-Internet days, when there was no social media to keep in contact with everyone.  Additionally, having no family out there, I have not been back since we left.  The moves since then were not quite as clean of a break as the move from Arkansas was.  My 2007 move to Maryland was only me, and my parents stayed where they were.  Plus, as it’s only a few hours away, I can go down there almost any time I want, including down and back in the same day.  Then my 2017 move was local, so nothing else changed in my life other than the location of my house, and my commute to work.  I just upgraded my living situation, and that was it.

The move to Virginia was the culmination of something that was a long time coming.  My parents never really wanted to live in Arkansas to begin with, but it was a good career move for Dad with Scott Nonwovens, so they begrudgingly did it, and so we left New Jersey for Arkansas in February 1985.  I remember Mom’s mentioning a number of times early on about wanting to move back to New Jersey.  And in all fairness, that was understandable.  Dad had something to do in Rogers, as he was the one with the job.  Mom didn’t know anyone, and her primary role at that time was to take care of a newborn and a preschooler.  She had left everyone she knew when we left New Jersey, and it took a while to meet people and form new relationships, though that improved once Mom got a job at the Walton Life Fitness Center in Bentonville.  We also didn’t get along with our next door neighbors on one side, as their kids were out of control.  That ultimately led to something of a falling out.  We put slats in our existing fence on that side so that we wouldn’t have to see them when we were in the backyard, and they built an entirely new spite fence on their side so that they wouldn’t have to see us.  The neighbors on the other side were a retired couple, and they were awesome.

Meanwhile, the education situation in Rogers had really come to a head.  I had just completed fifth grade, which was my worst year from kindergarten through high school, without question, and that had followed third and fourth grade years that were pretty rough as well.  My parents had gone about as far as they could with the school system, and no one was looking forward to another year at Bonnie Grimes Elementary.  I was also hearing all kinds of rumblings at the time from my parents about changes afoot.  One was that we would not be returning to Grimes Elementary again, and I was also hearing things about moving, which made me think that something big and life-changing was coming, but nothing concrete as of yet.  It had been rumored that Scott had wanted to transfer my father to their corporate office in Philadelphia, and so it seemed like we would probably be moving back to New Jersey, as Mom had wanted all along.  I didn’t want to move, because unlike my parents, Rogers was pretty much all that I knew, and I was used to it.

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Yes, I really did meet Andre the Giant back in 1991…

July 26, 2022, 7:42 PM

Back in the summer of 1991, my life was quite different than it is now.  We lived in Rogers, Arkansas back then, and I had just completed fourth grade.  My father worked as a quality manager for Scott Nonwovens (now part of Berry Global following a series of acquisitions over the years).  My mother worked as a fitness instructor at the Walton Life Fitness Center (WLFC) in Bentonville, i.e. Walmart’s corporate fitness center.  That job of Mom’s provided a lot of benefits for the entire family, as we all got access to the fitness center facility, of which we made good use.  We were there so much that the fitness center almost felt like a second home at times, what with my taking swimming and Taekwondo classes there, as well as a little fitness camp called “Kids Kamp” during the summers.

One of the benefits that came with the fitness center as far as Mom was concerned was the Walmart employee stock purchase program.  I participated in it when I worked for Walmart in the mid 2000s, and as far as I know, the company still has this program.  Basically, you elected to set aside a certain amount of money per paycheck, which was then used to purchase shares of Walmart stock in your name.  As such, you were afforded all of the rights and privileges that came with being a shareholder, such as voting on issues presented to the shareholders, as well as attending the annual shareholders’ meeting.  Back then, Walmart was a much smaller company than it is now, so much of the annual shareholders’ meeting occurred at their corporate headquarters in Bentonville.

One part of the Walmart shareholders’ meeting, at least at that time, was a trade show.  A bunch of companies that you’ve probably heard of if you’ve ever shopped at Walmart had booths set up and they were showing off all of their new offerings.  In 1991, this was held at the Walmart corporate office (in 1992, it was held in a former Walmart store nearby that they had recently vacated following a relocation).  Among various things that we saw there, I got to take a Super Nintendo for a spin and play Super Mario World for the first time at the Nintendo booth, about two and a half months before it was released to the public.  I remember being surprised to see so many different buttons on the controller (six compared to two on the original Nintendo), and seeing Mario do two different kinds of jumps, i.e. the spin jump and the regular jump.

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Categories: Arkansas, Childhood, Walmart

A time to heal?

March 14, 2019, 10:00 AM

I was checking my Facebook feed on a break at work on Sunday, and imagine my surprise to see one of my old elementary school teachers post this:

Lost a special teacher friend this morning.  Sharon Bradley made you smile, and was the best story teller!  She was also my neighbor for a few years.  Sharon was good to my children and the students she taught.  Prayers for her family and extended school family who loved her.

Apparently, my old fifth grade teacher, Sharon Bradley, died on the morning of March 10, at the age of 76.  As of this writing, I do not know the cause of her death.

You may recall that I wrote a very long Journal entry last June about my fifth grade experience, after Mrs. Bradley came up in the “people you may know” list on Facebook around that time.  Fifth grade was, without question, my worst year in school, from kindergarten through college.  I suffered so much emotional abuse under her over the course of those nine months, enabled by the school administration and the guidance counselor.  When presented with the opportunity to reconnect through Facebook and potentially make peace, I declined, choosing to keep her out of my life.

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Finding my old fifth grade teacher on Facebook…

June 4, 2018, 2:30 PM

Recently, a very familiar name came up in my friend suggestions: “Sharon Payne Bradley”.  In other words, this person:

Sharon Bradley in August 1991, posing with me on the first day of school

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I’m looking up my old stomping grounds

August 31, 2004, 12:11 AM

I went online and did a little Rogers-hunting here. As I found out that a former coworker of mine at Wal-Mart used to live in Rogers, it was interesting to share stories, as her family knew Mrs. Carmical, the principal at Grimes Elementary at the time, Wal-Mart store #1 (though I knew it as a regular Wal-Mart, and she knew it as a Supercenter – the 1991 store was converted), Beaver Lake, and all that. That was just cool. So I went online this evening and went to Rogers.

I actually was somewhat drawn to the parks and rec pages this time around. I found a page about Lake Atalanta in there. Although that name has four A’s in it, making it “Lake At-a-lan-ta” (to break it up by syllables), the common pronunciation in Rogers was “Lake Atlanta” (like the city in Georgia). You pronounce the extra “a” in there and I think that people will look at you strangely. But anyway, they show it as two parks. You have “Lake Atalanta” and “Lake Atalanta Dam Site”. Now I’m confused. I remember there being two major Lake Atalanta recreational areas, straddling Walnut Street. The older area was adjacent to Lake Atalanta itself, which had a large playground made mostly of large wooden beams (nice to play on, but watch for splinters!). They don’t make ’em like that anymore. They also had a skating rink which closed not long after we moved there. I think I went in that building once when it was a skating rink, and I was still not comfortable on roller skates, so my memories are of falling down in there. Most of my memories of the skating rink are of it as an abandoned building. I’m told it’s since been renovated and converted into banquet space. There was and still is a pool at Lake Atalanta, which I remember as being a really cool pool. Had two water slides. A small one for the kiddies (which I used as one of those little kiddies), and a big one that was like huge (but remember I was like eight). That was cool. Then there was the bait shop. There you could not only buy bait, but also rent paddleboats. Those were fun, as I got to drive and pedal the boats with Mom. When we left Rogers, the bait shop had closed. Presumably it’s opened back up since then, since the Web site mentions it.

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Categories: Arkansas

Let me tell you about Lake Moomaw…

May 21, 2004, 2:25 AM

What a wonderful day on Wednesday! I admittedly got a late start, not leaving for Covington until 1 PM. But I still had fun. Stopped at Wal-Mart in Covington to grab some cheap flip-flop sandals (palm tree print!) and some sunscreen, and then went off to the lake.

I found the swimming beach, and the little bath house next to it, and changed into my suit, and went to soak for a while. It was fun. Very cool and refreshing. Very quiet, with the Interstate and the city of Covington far away. It’s really a great place to let your mind just go. Way out in the mountains, where you can just let your mind relax. I do love Lake Moomaw. I need to go out there again some time.

Meanwhile, the Covington Wal-Mart is amusing. I think it’s perhaps the smallest Wal-Mart Supercenter I’ve ever seen. It’s also what I’d describe as a “transitional” store. On the outside, it looks like the older-style Supercenters, like Staunton. But on the inside, it’s just like the Dayton Wal-Mart, which is a newer-style Supercenter (the ones with “Always” over the entrances). But it’s painted gray inside like the older Supercenters. It’s also amusing about the signage. You know how practically every Wal-Mart says “Thank you for choosing your (city name) Wal-Mart”? Well, in Covington, over the Grocery entrance, it says, “Thank you for choosing your Covington Wal-Mart” (right over the doors, mind you, vs. over the cart area). Over the General Merchandise entrance, there’s nothing at all. My semi-humorous interpretation is, thanks for shopping at Wal-Mart if you’re buying groceries, but if you’re not, thanks for nothing. We realize that this is probably an omission rather than something done intentionally, but it’s amusing.

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