My childhood was riddled with day trips to museums, weekend-warrior getaways to surrounding cities, and relaxing fishing days with my family. My parents always tried to do at least one summer vacation when I was growing up. It is funny that I barely remember my trip to Disney World as a teen. I do remember tagging along on a few of my mom’s business trips to Hawaii and San Francisco. My larger-than-life trips did not officially start until I was in my late thirties and early forties. However, some of my fondest childhood memories were in and around my hometown.
As most of you probably know, I grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Most, if not all, members of my family were true outdoorsmen. I have jokingly said, “if we did not grow it, catch it, or kill it, we didn’t eat in my house.” My dad was a die-hard meat and potatoes guy. He did not try pizza until my son was born! Anyway, if he was not hunting or fishing, he was searching for the latest and greatest in supplies. His favorite store was near the riverfront, and it was called Surplus City. I think I can responsibly say that every time he was on “Daddy Duty”, we would find ourselves in this store.
For those of you who have never traveled to Vicksburg, I highly recommend you visit someday. It is known for antebellum homes, some with cannonballs still in the floor, and it has a wonderful Civil War Military Park. Vicksburg has some delicious restaurants too, such as Walnut Hills and Beechwood. A unique characteristic about Vicksburg is its hills.
To get to Surplus City, you had to travel down Clay Street towards the riverfront. My dad drove an old, blue Ford that I had to straddle the gear shift if mom traveled with us. I do not think the AC worked because I remember we always had to roll down the windows. Dad called her, Old Blue. If our journey started early on a Saturday morning, we would stop to visit Maw and Paw to chat over biscuits and coffee. Dad sure did like to go visiting on Saturdays!
Surplus City had a few broken and worn, unmarked parking spots near the river walls. If it was really busy, you had to park in the boat and truck parking on the other side of the walls. I do not remember when the tradition started for us, but I remember it happening my entire childhood. Dad and I would pull up to Surplus City, and I was bouncing in my seat in excitement, not to visit the store, but what I knew was about to happen. I actually hated Surplus City, but I loved the tradition Dad and I had. We walked up the 5 or 6 concrete steps to the top of the long walkway. The store entrance was little more than halfway, but that did not matter. The goal was to be the first to the end of the walkway.
Dad and I would take our positions at the top of the last step and the countdown started. When three was shouted, the race began. God help the people who happened to open the store door during this competition! They would get plowed! Every man for themselves-LOL. I cannot tell you how many times dad won or how many I did, but I remember every time we ran past that store door. It was about our tradition, and we did it every time we visited that store.
After dad finished his perusal of the new hunting and fishing supplies, we had to get Old Blue back up the hill. Surplus City was at the very bottom of the Clay Street hill. As we climbed in the cab of the truck, my nervousness would start. I knew at the peak of the Clay Street hill, there was a stop sign, and Old Blue had a 50/50 chance of going dead. She would roll until dad could engage the clutch and gas. I knew we were going to roll all the way back down the hill and not stop until we were in the RIVER! Dad would laugh and pat Old Blue saying, “come on Blue, you can do it!”
As with many businesses in small towns, the owners retired, and their kids did not want the hassle of running a family business. The building stayed vacant for a long time and eventually the city started beautification projects and the abandoned building was demolished. Ironically, the steps and the walkway were left.
After my dad passed in April 2020, my family and I were driving around town and for some reason, we drove to the riverfront. I snapped this picture of the place where the best daddy and daughter tradition started! I remember this like yesterday. Sometimes our fondest memories are not those from extravagant trips, but from the explorations in our own hometowns.
In loving memory of Buddy Hampton, the best daddy in the world!