When Ralph Stout Park was your second home
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
R.A. Mathis wrote, “There may be no secrets in small towns, but there are no strangers either.” If you grew up in Mountain City, you feel this quote in your soul. Growing up, there wasn’t much to do outside of school activities (if you were even in those). Our parents would pick us up at the bottom of the hill, or if you drove a car, you’d pile into one of your friend’s car with six other people and cruise down the hill to freedom. When the 3:15 bell rang, it meant time to go home or go with a friend to eat, maybe take a nap, then go to the park. If you graduated anywhere near 2012, you know exactly why this is nostalgic.
For some parents, the park was a place where the “bad kids” hung out, or maybe parents weren’t exactly sure who went there but figured it would be okay. I bet there were some parents who probably encouraged their kid to go. Most parents, like mine, got tired of hearing every day “after I eat, I’m going to go to the park.” My parents would always want me to stay home to spend time with them, but the park was the place to hangout. I’m sure if you didn’t go to Johnson County High, you’re thinking, what was so special about the park? Well, there’s not really anything that special about it, really. It was 30+ cars (on a good day) all lined up, by clique obviously (jk), with hatches open and JoCo school kids hanging out, decompressing from such a hard day of high school. Friends parked beside friends, but mostly the crowd was cohesive. People would play pranks, ride together to get food, walk around, maybe or maybe not smoke a cigarette or two, skateboard, jam to music together, and duke it out on occasion. It didn’t seem so special back then, but looking back at it now, I would describe Ralph Stout park as extremely special.
We’d tell stories, chase each other around, cry over heart breaks, and laugh until we couldn’t breathe. Some of the craziest memories I can remember were made there. Some of the greatest memories I can remember were made there, too. Beyond weekdays, hanging out at the park became a weekend thing, too. Don’t have any plans this weekend? Come chill at the park. Need to get away and lean on your friends? Come to the park. Need to surround yourself with others to help cure the loneliness? The park can fix that.
I think the reason most of us stay close after high school is because we didn’t just get to know each other at school or during school activities and functions. We got to know each other’s story. We got to see each other vulnerable. Now that we’re adults, we celebrate victories and cry together because that’s what we’ve always done.