“Attic Salt” for Nov. 4, 2012

Saturday a day of freedom

As people on the Internet debate whether it was Henry Ford or the unions that gave us the five-day week and the eight-hour, workday, I come in praise of Saturday.

My parents worked in department stores in a small Southern city. At our house, Sunday was the relaxed day. Both mom and dad worked Saturdays.

We were among the many Southern households that employed a maid, not from luxury but necessity.

A maid afforded a certain freedom that one’s parents did not, and I roamed Vance Street, its tributaries and City Park Bayou in Alexandria.

The buses ran by our house in a timely, regular way. I could hop on a bus and minutes later walk into the stores where my parents worked on my way to the Paramount Theater.

There were radio shows just for children on Saturday morning. Those mornings felt different because they were set apart from school mornings. Saturday was a neutral day between the demands and strictures of school and the itchiness of wool trousers in Sunday church pews.

People from what the urbanites of Alexandria considered “the country” came to our big town to see the doctor, visit patients in the hospital, shop for everything from jeans, shoes and dresses to animal feed, and worship at the altar of Hollywood at one of the downtown movie houses. The Paramount, a former opera house, was the grandest.

Those Saturday mornings that became afternoons in downtown Alexandria began my appreciation of the day after Friday.

Today, I wake on a Saturday morning full of the expectation that only good things await me. What lies just beyond the bedroom door is a hallway, a cat waiting to be tripped over and freedom.

It would be nice to ride a bus downtown on a Saturday morning, but in this town that requires more time walking and waiting than riding. We want freedom of a Saturday, not limbo.

So, I cycle downtown, a downtown sleeping off Friday night, to the life of the Main Street Farmers Market.

Mostly, I watch people at the Farmers Market, people and their hats, caps and footwear. Footwear starts at flip-flops and ends at orthopedic with all the shoes in L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, REI and Chico’s in between. The children wear river sandals. Their grandfathers dress as oversized children in T-shirts, cargo shorts and running shoes.

All this footwear built for speed allows shoppers to ankle from homemade pies to homegrown vegetables to milk so pure you know you’ll be a better person for drinking it.

Then, I ride home, some plant I can’t grow from seed held securely in the stiff darkness of a saddlebag. Main Street and the rest of Saturday stretch before me.

Advocate writer and columnist Ed Cullen welcomes comments by phone at (225) 388-0306 or email to ecullen@theadvocate.com.