If you drive down the main street of a small town on Saturday night, you wonít find much going on. Itís not one of the busy evenings, these days.
However, if you had driven down that small town street back in the 20s or 30s, you would likely have found lots of activity. Saturday night was trading night when rural folks came to town to sell their produce, replenish their supplies and just plain socialize. Most everyone looked forward to going to town on Saturday night
In the small town near where I grew up, things started happening early on Saturday. The stores were open early as merchants cleaned, polished and filled their grocery shelves with fresh merchandise. The local butcher shop usually slaughtered a beef, a hog or two, and some chickens. Their meat was fresh on Saturday. The local bakery set an extra sponge dough on Friday night and, by noon Saturday, fresh hotloaves were coming out of the oven.
If one of the local farmers needed to purchase a major piece of equipment, he came to town in the morning to complete the transaction so he could visit with his neighbors in the evening.
Saturday was the day the local farmers brought in the week's accumulation of cream, eggs, chickens, ducks and other produce. These produce items were their weekly cash flow for groceries and other necessities. The cream and eggs and other products were tested, counted, weighed, and usually paid for in cash. The farmers' wives then proceeded to do their weekly shopping while the men folks gathered on the sidewalk or street corners to exchange the latest news (or gossip), whichever the case might be.
As soon as the womenfolk finished their shopping, they, too, gathered about to exchange news and just plain visit.
The children played on the sidewalks or, sometimes, in the city park, supervised by one or two young adults. The teenagers spent most of their time "cruising" all four of the city blocks. In those days it wasn't sensible to see how fast your vehicle would go up and down the street, for a number of reasons. Instead, it was follow the leader, seeing how slowly you could drive. The object was to move so slowly that the one following you would be forced to shift down from high gear or kill his engine. It sorted out those teenage boys who could fine tune a motor from those who couldn't. Those who had six or eight cylinder autos had an advantage.
About 10 o'clock, the kids were tired, and the adults had exhausted all their information, so the crowd thinned out as rural people went home. By midnight about the only lights on were at the pool hall where a few town boys were finishing up a late game of snooker.
Many of the niceties that we know today were missing. But in my opinion, Saturday night in Small Town USA played an important part in developing the social structure of our nation. I think we have lost some of the art of being neighborly --- the kind I remember that was practiced on Saturday night in most small towns.