Days Gone By

early SmithBobby Dean Bray past away last week. Those of you that did not grow up in the bedroom community of Forest Park just south of Atlanta, Bobby Bray was a wonderful husband and father, a good friend to many in the community. He was the Dad of my classmate Linda Bray Thompson , but I knew Mr. Bray years before meeting Linda in middle school.

Second SmithMy Dad would ask me if I wanted to go to Smith Hardware with him and I would be slamming the uninsolated door of his 1963 green Chevrolet step side pickup before he could finish his question. My memory fails me of going to the second location of Smith Hardware, but the new hardware store was a substantial brick building on Main Street FP. Even as an adult the store’s footprint was large for a small town’s hardware. Bobby Bray was also a businessman owning part of Smith Hardware.

Last Smith HardwareSmith had everything from appliances in the front to sacks of concrete in the back on the loading dock, but my favorites were the long guns in the back corner also the pistols and knives in the glass rectangle display case in the center isle near the front of the store where the cash register sat. The wood of the display case was worn smooth from hand oils of customers and my greasy little fingerprints on the glass from me and saying, “Dad, Dad, Dad, LOOK!” as I pointed to the pistols and knives I wanted.

It was the original Cheers, where everyone knows your name even a pipsqueak like me. Mr. Bray was so kind to me growing up and never missed an opportunity to tease me. I can still hear his laugh. He was very handsome. The only place I saw striking looking people as a boy was on TV so I knew Bobby Bray was a movie star.

Service was first class at Smith’s and those guys knew everything about hardware. If by some slim chance they did not stock what you needed they knew where you could locate the item at other enterprises, on the rare occasion the guys were stumped they made phone calls until locating your need. I do not remember cash being exchanged for purchases until I was older, “Put it on my account.”

As I reflected on Mr. Bray’s passing I thought of the good man he was, the good memories and what he represented that is gone. We traded the Smith Hardwares of small communities for the convenience of warehouse one stop shopping and competitive pricing until the monopolies put all of the Mom and Pops out business. Was it worth it? The price was too high giving away the way of life that made this country second to none.

Linda and Bobby BrayI say so long to a wonderful man and all Bobby Dean Bray brought to make Forest Park a real Mayberry. See you later friend and thank you! Linda, I am very sorry for your family’s loss.

Have a great day! dj

Thank you Sim Banks for the photographs!

7 comments on “Days Gone By
  1. Lisa Thompson Strong says:

    David and Sim- what a beautiful memoir. I truly enjoyed reading it and loved the pictures! Thanks for taking me back on time…Lisa Thompson Strong

  2. Linda Bray Thompson says:

    Thank you so much for writing this David. I am so glad that you remember my Dad and he touched your life like so many others. He was a wonderful man and the best Father ever! Thank you so very much!

  3. Dan Slagle says:

    Heart-warming tribute. Made many a trip to Smith Hardware with my daddy, though he is a Ford man. Mr. JW and Bill Smith attended church with us and both have passed away. Perhaps they and Mr. Bray are having a good chat.

  4. Rhonda Lanier Moye says:

    David this is awesome! I was the same way…don’t ask me do I want to go…heck yea! That place was amazing! And the true gentlemen that worked there…well let’s just say they were pretty great! They were all alike…just like Linda’s dad…cool as a cucumber!

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