Buckhead Tales: Guardian of the Key

I guess I was part of what they called the Baby Boom. After World War II all the soldiers and sailors came home from the bloody fields of Europe and the Pacific and tried to put it all in their rear view mirror. Just pretend it was all a long, bad nightmare and get on with the American Dream. That meant a steady job, a family, and a house. Settle down and hope the worst was over. Meanwhile my parents got busy having kids. My sister was born in 1946, my brother in 1948, and 1950 was the year I came calling.

By 1955 we were living in the Buckhead community of Atlanta. Seems like we were part of a big wave. All the houses up and down Wieuca Terrace were packed with kids. Two of my sister’s best friends, Susan Flaherty and Coverly Mitchell, lived right across the street. My brother and I could always scare up enough boys for a football team. Kids were everywhere and we probably outnumbered the adults 2 to 1. It was a demographic anomaly that might never happen again.

Of course, with that many kids roaming around there was always somebody to hang out with and in the summer our moms would have to do some serious screaming to get us to come home. This was long before serial killers and random shooters brought The Fear into our lives. It was ‘easy come, easy go’ and we wandered near and far without concern. Our parents would stash a house key outside so we could get in if no one was home when we did finally decide to drop by for a meal.

Every family I knew, both on Wieuca Terrace and then later over on Millbrook Drive, kept a key outside for the kids. Hidden in imaginative ways under flower pots or behind the ivy, a true thief would have discovered the key in minutes but that didn’t really matter. The idea of a secret hiding place for the key carried more that a little magic for us. In the 1950s my parents started hiding the key under a reclining garden gnome made of concrete. With every move for the next sixty years the gnome went with them to protect and hide the key. When they died a few years back, far from Buckhead, that gnome was in their little yard, protecting a key.

That gnome is now mine and remains on active duty. 60 years of protecting the house key is an awesome responsibility and warrants more than a little respect. I wonder if there are still house keys all over Buckhead that have remained in hiding places over the decades, forgotten due to sudden moves or unexpected deaths. All those keys hidden in their secret stash place year after year just waiting faithfully. Waiting for a child to come with a warm hand and use them to open the door to a home that no longer exists.

Jim Tate
Author, Buckhead Tales

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