Memories of Shacklefords Funeral Home

Posted: December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

I write a lot about being eighteen because it was one of my most memorable and active ages where impressions for reflection after entering the world of an adult. Many years were crammed into that one age.

Tonight, I was thinking of the first and only time in my life I was introduced to the art of being dumped in a relationship, at a young age.
Never mind that eighteen is somewhere between fantasy and reality–it is; it was, and it still is.

Now, I elaborate.

My small town had a population of about 3,000 people, at that time (six-thousand now) few businesses but the most attended business was Shackleford’s Funeral Home, which is still in operation since before the American Civil War, albeit it has expanded into counties all over Tennessee, in keeping with the times.

Nice of Shacklefords to always send right-on-time every three months a small booklet of sorts with pages and pages of names, dates, and locations where the deceased was listed for that period.

Ironically, the back page was filled with the best jokes a person had the liberty of reading. For instance: “A man goes to bed one night and has a horrible nightmare. He dreams of eating a giant marshmallow. To his dismay and search, his pillow was not to be found. He’d eaten it.” Jokes, a bit like that, were listed with the deceased’ names on the front pages. Think back; think front.I sure looked forward to that joke page.

There I was with my eldest brother waiting in his truck on me making a call in a real phone booth–the genuine article that keeps you dry while you make your calls with your pocketful of quarters, dimes, and even nickels, lined upon a silver-cornered counter of sorts.

Shacklefords has been there forever and will have no shortage of clients. But upon this particular day, a funeral was underway as I used the phone in the now extinct telephone booth. See the eighteen-year-old kid yelling into the receiver at the nineteen-year-old Yankee fiancé, from Iowa, who was choosing his family’s money over a Rebel kid.

I shouted; he shouted. The funeral procession continued through my louder-than-life vocal displeasure. My brother, the intelligent one, was embarrassed that his sister had the nerve to project foul language into the telephone receiver while Shackleford’s went formal in the honorable way they have always been known for. My brother lowered himself into the truck seat, so as not to be connected to me, but back then everyone knew everyone else, so he was already “made” when he parked the truck and I pounced into the extinct phone booth. It was not soundproof, by the way.

I’d glance every other sentence to view the procession emptied by the chapel and marching in perfect precision toward the waiting black hearse. Four-six pall-bearers carried the coffin and I hadn’t taken the time to ask who the deceased was.

Living in a small town in a scattered county of small towns, I was pretty much related to most people via my maternal grandfather who had two families over time and all sons except one daughter who married, moved to Texas, and was never seen again until someone sent the telegram that she was deceased. She was never sent home.

That’s not what I concentrated on, nor my brothers pleadings to respect the dead and “cut it out” he would tell me. “Can’t you see a funeral’s going on? Have some respect for the dead!” His words couldn’t penetrate an eighteen-year-old’s in the throes of experiencing the first time a male would ever cast her aside. Nor was I ever to be cast aside by poor boyfriends or any fiancés throughout my life. It was always I who did the dumping and I still don’t understand why I did that. It would have been so much kinder to let a person know you were just enjoying youth and life with nothing serious coming to pass.

I yelled; he yelled and told me he’d send all my “stuff” back because his parents wanted him to marry a daughter of some state representative in their Iowa world. I fought with words and debates that zipped through that phone cord all the way to New River Air Station Marine Base in Camp LeJune, NC.

The parents were “cutting him off” if he didn’t comply and he couldn’t live without money and the extras that were flourished upon him. I was too young to understand money over love.

It was a long funeral service, for I was in that phone booth for an hour, in the heat of summer. Across the street from Shacklefords was a cafe where high school kids ate lunch. I had done the same thing six months earlier. Never mind the other clientele while the funeral proceeded or the commotion I was causing–the service and business went on as did my proclamations of attempting to convince my soon-to-be former fiancé that we didn’t need his parents’ money and he didn’t love the state representative’s daughter anyway.

Finally he compromised and said he’d think about it and call me back. I put the receiver down, picked up my quarters and glanced to the procession of cars lined up headed for a nearby cemetery.

Lots of men in suits and women in veiled hats came out of Shacklefords, so I figured the subject was a popular person of the town; although, I never bothered to ask who the person was, in the heated conversation between my brother and myself on the way home. He had a habit of shaking his hands in all directions when trying to emphasize a point; he was right, and I was wrong, which ever, if I seldom had been. Chalk it up to one time when I was the dumped and not the dumper.

Nevertheless, time passed and the eighteen-year-old grew up to be quite cold hearted from being dumped and forever became the dumper.

No one ever questioned raucous actions in front of Shacklefords Funeral Home. Not even my cousin, who worked in the embalming room and all other parts of the home, ask me questions. I suppose their memories were cast aside; mine were not, and the nineteen-year-old only called back once after the official dumping from the confines of a phone booth, emphasis on the word official.

I feel as if I have lived an adventurous and questionable life with never a dull moment, but I guess I am likely the only one left who remembers being dumped by a fiancé by words plummeted through a metal shell and echoing from the receiver of an antique–Southern Bell phone booth as business went on as usual at Shacklefords Funeral Home.
Wyn Sharp 17 December 2015

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