Watching the pretty girls go by

Posted November 2, 2016 at 7:58 am


In late 1990 I started working at Ferguson Brothers Hardware in Albany. Anyone that is at least my age and has lived or been in or around Albany during the 80s and 90s has seen George Ferguson sitting at the front of the hardware store in his over-stuffed chair. George was most likely asleep if you saw him sitting there, and Clara was probably doing some knitting in her chair across from George. They were two people that, in my mind, have summed up what it’s like growing up in a small town.

The job was still new to me when, one day, George called my name. “Dave, hey Dave, come up here a minute.” I walked up to the front of the store to see what George wanted or needed me to do. “Sit down here next to me, Dave, and let’s watch all the pretty girls go by.”

I didn’t really know what to expect or what to do, but George was the owner, so I sat down next to him for a few minutes, listened to him talk about some random things, then got up and went back to work.

This happened about every day. George would call for me to come up and sit with him, and he always said it the same way. “Sit down here next to me, Dave, and let’s watch all the pretty girls go by.”

We would sit there and watch the traffic passing outside, and George would almost always start talking about what he called “the bad times.” George was a veteran of World War II, and he would tell me about some of the experiences he’d had, and soon he’d fade off to sleep and I’d go back to work.

One day, same as most days, George called for me to come up and sit with him to “watch all the pretty girls go by,” and I laughed and said, “George, what if no pretty girls go by today?” He smiled at me, tilted his head sideways, and said with a laugh, “Well then, we’ll watch the rest of them go by.”

It wasn’t long after that day that I informed George that I was going to join the Air Force. He stared at me for a few moments, then grabbed me and hugged me. He said he wished me the very best, said he was proud of me, and said I’d always have a job to come back to if I needed or wanted it. And then he wiped tears from his eyes. We sat there, pretending to watch all the pretty girls go by, and soon George was snoring softly with his chin resting on his chest. I got up and went back to work, and had to wipe my own eyes.

While I was away on duty, George passed away at his home. I think of him often, always with fondness and a smile. I never go into Ferguson Brothers Hardware without looking at the spot where George and I would sit and talk and watch. Wherever George is now, I hope he has a comfortable chair, takes lots of naps, and that there’s a lot of pretty girls going by.

David Bowlin

David Bowlin served in the United States Air Force and was honorably discharged after almost 10 years of service, eight of which were with special operations command, specializing in aircraft hydraulics systems and computer network security.