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 Texas : Architecture : Courthouses - Memphis

Memories of the Hall County Courthouse
Memphis, Texas

by Wes Reeves, Amarillo, Texas

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Hall County Courthouse in Memphis, Texas
Photo by Wes Reeves
I know a place in my faraway memories where the Orange Crush is ice cold, and where laughter and friendly small talk comes back to me in warm echoes.

This place smells like ink and typewriter ribbons, cleaning solution and second-hand cigarette smoke, and anywhere I encounter those smells mixed together, I am transported through time to my grandmotherís office at the Hall County Courthouse. She is alive again, and cutting up with Gip McMurry from across the hall. She is writing in a huge ledger, and making whacking noises with an array of ink stampers with gears and parts that clink together. Everythingís mechanical here, and no one gets carpal tunnel syndrome from punching keyboards all day.
"Photo of grandmother (Lucile Wright) at her desk in the Hall County Treasurer's office in Memphis in 1965. The old Royal typewriter is visible in the foreground. I couldn't see the flyswatters, though." - Wes Reeves
I am exploring, looking for a lost passage. Fearful of going too far and losing my way back, I am looking for familiar landmarks. The janitorís closet with its naked light bulb leads me back to the end of the hall, where I once again hear familiar voices, bouncing in waves off hard-plastered walls that must have been painted over a thousand times.

My exploration takes me out the door to stand underneath those giant columns. I donít make the connection between Memphis, Texas and ancient Corinth, but the tops of those columns are really neat. They donít have anything like that in my hometown. And what a great idea to build slides into the courthouse stairs. No one worries about liability if a kid tumbles off the side. People donít take people to court over scratches and bruises yet.

Back inside, itís getting hot. The windows are huge and hard to open, but my grandmother has propped open a window with a sawed-off broomstick handle. Luckily sheís on the northeast corner, where itís cooler. Occasionally a fly or a wasp sneaks in, but she has a collection of fly swatters at her disposal. She can kill flying bugs faster and more effectively than anyone Iíve ever known, and seems to relish it. Dumb bugs. They never learn.

She probably doesnít get a lot accomplished when Iím there, but I donít think a thing about it. Iím a little kid, and the world revolves around me. We take early lunches and sometimes a quick afternoon nap before we come back. Iím not good at telling time, but Iím betting weíre leaving for home early that day, too. The wonderland that is the courthouse gives way to the resort of Nannyís house, where we can eat TV dinners on little metal tables that might pinch your finger when youíre putting them together. We can drink ice-cold chocolate milk (I never get that at home) and read the same old books we always read at Nannyís house.

Next morning, itís orange juice in bed and a cheerful good morning before we trek back to the Hall County Courthouse. The big Royal typewriter is waiting with a fresh piece of paper, ready to be pounded by six-year-old fingers. ... next page
© Wes Reeves
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