Ever since I started down this road to capture in words the remembrances I have of my childhood
while growing up on Church Street in the 40s and 50s in Sumter, SC, I knew that eventually I
would reach this chapter.

I know now that all my memories collectively –- especially all those forged during my childhood in
the 40s & 50s -- have made me who I am today.

Me -– my character, my personality, my beliefs in life -- were born, nurtured, molded and set into
motion, as it were, by all that I saw, was taught, shown, or observed while growing up at “410.”

I can still hear my grandmother telling me while I sat in her lap while she read the Sunday paper
to me, “Boy, when you lay in bed tonight and close your eyes, they ain’t going to be nobody else
inside with you and if you don’t like who you are and what you stand for, then you’re going to have
a bad night!”

I was six years old when she told me that and not one single time in the past 65 years have I ever
not liked who was inside me when I closed my eyes at night and drifted off to sleep!

I was literally born at “410” in my mother’s bedroom in 1942. Whatever spirits watched over that
old house and all those that lived there took me under their wings and watched over me as I grew
up and finally left home in the fall of 1960 when I went off to study at the University of
South Carolina.

I stated at the very beginning of this book that one of the characters associated with “410” –-
lived there -– was none other than my father.  When I say lived there, I should point out that was
only in short spurts every now in then whenever he was sober enough to act halfway decent around
the others that lived there.

Without dredging up again horrific memories of him and his physical and mental abusive behavior
towards my mother, brother, sister, and even me, let’s just say that my growing up at “410” without
a father turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

As it turned out, I had the great fortune of having three father figures to help mold and guide me
as I grew through my childhood years and slowly molded into a young man who left the safety and
comfort of home when I was 18 as a self-assured, determined, and totally confident person headed
off to college and not long after that, into the military and the real world outside of Sumter.

First, there was my Uncle John, who without wavering in his convictions, taught me the principles of
responsibility and the value of hard work and its rewards. He constantly made me, and all my
friends for that matter, aware of the principles of private property, and was passionate about how
we as young adults, had to learn how to respect those things and most importantly, the
consequences of failing to carry out that responsibility.

I can still hear him standing in the back yard at “410” or at his cabin down at Santee as he handed
me (and any friends who might be there with me) a rake and said, “Got to work a little first then
you can play a little.”  

That was his motto -– “Work a little, play a little” and those simple words stayed with me all my
life and guided me in my actions. Playtime, in his world, was a reward for carrying out your duties
–- whatever they might be –- to the best of your abilities. Failing that, you failed yourself first
and then all those that depended on you.

Next, there was Uncle Andrew –- the ultimate Southern Gentleman if there ever was one. Through
his actions I constantly observed and his words that I heard over the years, I learned how to
conduct myself in the presence of not only my family members, but more importantly, in the
presence and eyes of others.

His always gentle and totally disarming smile and actions not only guided his life and everything
that he did but showed me a way, if you will, of how to treat people with love and respect.  

And finally, there was one dominate male figure in my life that I guess by all accounts, affected me
more than anyone else for it was he who I looked up to for strength and the courage to push on and
be like him –- taller than life itself and totally convinced that there was nothing in life that he
could not do or achieve if he desired to pursue it.

I am, of course, talking about my big brother Storm for he was there when I needed him and he
taught me, instilled in me, the value of standing tall and being counted. He helped keep me on the
straight and narrow -– and his threatening to whip my butt if I messed up helped a lot, I
might add.

He in my childish eyes, was my hero growing up for he was bigger than life, could do anything, was
super smart, good looking, and walked with a confident swagger that said to the world, watch out -–
here I come. I lived each day following the path he unknowingly laid out for me to follow.  

Of course, there were others that molded me as I grew up at “410” like my Aunt Ethel who taught
me how to laugh, giggle, and to just let it all out and have some fun.

Then there was Mama who more that all, taught me the value of unconditional love for through all
the good times and bad times, she never, ever wavered in her support or love for her three
children. That rock steady commitment to loving us three kids showed me the way I wanted to live
my life and to love those that became my family or part of it.

So as I close out my remembrances of my childhood, I’d like to thank my grandmother one more
time for a lesson in life she taught me when I was very young and searching for who I was.

She told me the story from Matthew in the Bible where Jesus was talking about the man who built
his house on solid rock and when the winds and tides came, the house still stood because it was built
upon a strong foundation. He then told of the man who built his house on sand and when the winds
and tides came, the house fell down.

Grandmother told me that story to tell me that I should build my character -- the essence of who
I am -– on strong, solid principles and beliefs and that not only should I be of strong and honest
mind but have a good, loving, and caring heart for those that I will meet on my journey through life.
She said if I built my character on those beliefs that I would stand tall and be of good character.

Here I am some 65 years later telling her that she was right and that I did follow her guidance for
me and have been forever thankful to her that I listened to her.

“410” as much as anything else in my life was like a nurturing parent that I was lucky enough to
have had in my life as I grew up.

I cannot begin to count all the life lessons I learned from her during all those years she nurtured
me and gave me the will and strengths to grow as a man who believed in himself and his abilities to
survive in an ever-changing and fast-paced world.

When I had joined the Navy and had first walked the gangplank over to my WWII era diesel
submarine tied up there at the Naval Base in Charleston, SC, I realized then that I had come a
long, long way from Church Street.

With all these things in mind -– “410,” parents, family, friends, and resources available to help
guide me like joining the Navy -– I still managed to go on through life on my own terms.

To steal a line from a great song, “I did it my way.”

Who could ask for any more than that?
I suspect all of us think back to our childhood days a lot during the time of the year when the
Christmas season arrives and slowly and gently fills our hearts with wonderful, fun-filled, and
loving memories of past seasons.

In my mind, Christmas time at “410” was some of the most wonderful, exciting times of my life
growing up in Sumter.  What was amazing to me is that I was a grown teenager before I honestly
realized that everybody did not celebrate Christmas like we did and knew for sure that no one had
a Christmas tree larger than the one we had at “410.”

I guess all of us as kids felt the same way -– ours was the best, our tree was the largest, etc. --
and as I think about it now, that is how it should have been.

My Christmas season always started when Uncle John would start bringing strands of Christmas
lights home to “410” with him from the fire department to work on. Since he was a City of Sumter
Fireman and in his off time, he had his own electrical company, he was elected to fix all the broken
strands of lights that the city used for decorations.

Anyway, he and the other firemen were the ones (they had all the neat ladders in town) that strung
up all the lights that crisscrossed overhead all along Main and Liberty Streets at Christmas time in
Sumter in the 40s and 50s (that I can remember).

These were the large 60 watt size light bulbs and as you can imagine, with the number of sockets
and strands of wires involved, they had their share of Christmas Lights that were burned out. This
is another one of those things that never seems to change as we are still faced with this same
problem to this day -– finding and replacing burned out Christmas tree lights!  I would help him
test and repair/replace damaged wires and sockets as he knew I was an eager worker that
worked cheap!

Anyway, to anyone who can remember that far back, one of the greatest thrills at this time of the
year was coming into Sumter via the Overhead Bridge from Manning Avenue and when you topped
the bridge and could see all the way up Main Street all lit up with thousands of multi-colored
lights -– well it was just absolutely spell binding is all I can say.

We would drive over the bridge slowly and let all the lights just mesmerize us as we continued on
down Main Street. When we reached Calhoun Street, we would turn right, go over to Magnolia
Street, turn right again and head for Liberty Street.

At Liberty, we would turn right and come back into the heart of downtown and once again be
greeted by thousands more of brightly colored lights strung high overhead. By the time we got to
Trinity Methodist Church and turned right on Church Street to head back home, I was a
happy camper!  

Those lights meant Christmas was coming to Sumter and of course, to us kids, that meant one more
important visitor was coming –- Santa Claus!   

Back at “410” on Church Street things were also starting to swing into action. Almost as soon as our
huge Thanksgiving Day dinner celebration with lots and lots of people there for the festivities was
over, Mama and Aunt Ethel switched into Christmas mode big time.

While I reminisce about just kitchens in more detail in a separate chapter, I want to share just one
special memory related to kitchens I cherish from my days on Church Street. Hopefully since the
memory is closely associated with the Christmas season, it will trigger some similar ones with you.

When I grew up in the 40s with my grandmother and she was still in charge of the kitchen,
Christmas fruitcakes were made the first Saturday after Labor Day by her and my Aunt Ethel.

While I know that a million jokes have been made about how bad fruitcakes are and also realize it
is probably one of the most maligned food items in the world, I personally loved them (and still do).
I also know from worldly experiences, that there is a lot of truth to some of the bad jokes about
fruitcakes because believe me, in my short 70 years, I have run across some that were truly awful
by any standard.

However, fruitcake baking day when I was growing up on Church Street was super fantastic for all
us kids -- licking all the mixing bowls, munching on all the leftover ingredients like nuts, cherries,
etc. –- a good time was had by all in the kitchen at “410.”

After baking, they let the cakes -- usually cooked four big ones -- cool down to room temperature
and then wrapped each one in a heavy cheese cloth and then placed each one on a tin cake pan.
Next, Grandmother took a bottle of top grade (high proof content) brandy and started soaking
down all four cakes. By the way, this was the only time alcohol was ever, and I mean ever, ever
allowed in her house.

The tin cake pans caught the spillage and she would later pour any that was caught back onto the
wrapped cakes. After thoroughly soaking all four cakes, they were then each wrapped in wax paper
and then all placed in a huge 5-gallon tin container, complete with sealing the lid on with tape.

Next, the tin went into the dinning room closet, placed in the back and left to start doing its
magical curing process. They would open the container about every 3 or 4 weeks and re-soak the
wrapped cakes and then reseal them back into the tin container. All of us, especially the kids, were
under threat of a beating or worst (never did understand what that threat was) if we even touched
the tin in the closet, let alone opened it.

Oh, we peeked in there, sniffed the wonderful aroma that was so enticing to our young noses but we
never dared open the huge and very heavy tin buckets.  

When the tins were finally opened at Christmas time and the cakes brought out for eating, they
were absolutely wonderful and eagerly devoured by all in the house. By Christmas night, they were
all gone. Generally, there were usually 30+ people -- all family -- at the house for Christmas dinner.

I do not know what brand of brandy was used but those were the best fruitcakes I have ever
tasted. After Grandmother died in 1952, my Aunt Ethel switched to some sort of sherry for the
fruitcakes and a few times, even tried some red wines. They were good but Grandmother would
have said, “Poo … tastes like one of those things they sell at Stuckey’s.”

One of her sons lived in Miley, SC and there was a huge Stuckey’s on US 301 that we traveled on to
reach Miley for visits. While Grandmother may have scoffed at their cakes, she loved some of their
other sweet treats and no trip to Miley was complete with a stop at Stuckey’s to load up on some of
her favorite treats.

Anyway, looking back on all this now, I think Grandmother was right all along and the brandy
soaked fruitcakes were the best.

The next major thing to put into place was the Christmas tree that went in the living room at the
front of the house.  

When you entered “410” via the front door, you immediately came into sort of foyer area where
off to the right was the large living room with fireplace and off to the left was a recessed area t
hat was bounded by a large staircase that wound its way up to the 2nd floor.

The steps, guarded by beautiful wooden railed banisters, went up in three sections. The steps first
went up to a 4x4 foot landing, then turned left to go up to another 4x4 foot landing, then turned
left for a final set of steps up to reach the huge enclosed landing room on the second floor.

This winding masterpiece of wooden craftsmanship provided the back drop for our Christmas tree
as it looked like it was literally built around our beautiful tree. Since the ceiling heights in the
downstairs at “410” were very high (12+ feet as in most of the older homes of the times), the tree
that was selected to go there was usually at least 10 feet tall.

Anything less than that as far and Mama and Aunt Ethel were concerned just wasn’t right. Aunt
Ethel was a short lady, maybe 5’1, and would always tell Mama when picking out the tree, “If I can
see the top, it ain’t tall enough.”

Needless to say, she could never see the tops of the trees at “410” unless she walked up the
staircase and stopped on the 2nd set of steps and looked down on the tree. The steps, by the way,
made for an ideal ladder to help decorate such a large tree.

However, it was not the size of the tree that was so amazing to all of us kids that celebrated
Christmas at “410.”  

What was amazing was the number of presents that eventually were stacked up around the tree. I
am not kidding when I say there were years that the pile reached five feet high. To the left of the
tree was an open area (access to a huge closet under the stairs) and by Christmas Day, access to
that closet had long since been blocked off.

Keep in mind that when I came along in the 40s and growing up there at Grandmother’s house
(“410”), there were lots of folks there (living there) with me. There was Grandmother, Mama, Aunt
Ethel, Uncles Carl, Andrew, and John, and my brother and sister and occasionally my father.
During Christmas time, Grandmother’s oldest son, Uncle Roy, came home from Miley, SC with his
wife (Aunt Florine) and their two sons who also slept there in the house.

Crowded -– you bet –- but it was the most wonderful times of my life. Anyway, you might be
starting to see why so many presents showed up under the tree. Oh, did I mention that three more
of Grandmother’s children (Uncle Hugh and Aunts Louise & Sarah) also were close at hand and there
a lot during the holidays and especially on Christmas day?

On the last few days leading up to Christmas Day, “410” (like a lot of other homes in Sumter, I am
sure) became sort of a Grand Central Station of sorts and people by the bus load it seemed to me
came there to visit and/or stay. Of course until Grandmother passed away in 1952, things really
were busy at “410” as all her children, their spouses & kids, etc., came home to see and be with
their Mama or Grandmother at Christmas.

When I look back on this now, I realize that this is/was as it should be as some things never seem
to change as evidence by during this year’s Christmas season as in all those in the past, all my brood
will be coming home to be with their mama and grandmother.  

Playing Canasta or Bridge were two card games always in full swing at “410” before Christmas.
There was generally two or more card tables set up in the living room or the den where brothers,
sisters, aunts, uncles, and lots of cousins kept the rooms filled with joyous chatter, laughter, and
the constant sound of card decks being shuffled along with the sounds of moans & groans as yet
another bad hand had been dealt to some unlucky card player.

“410” had one more thing other than lots of card tables that helped keep everyone entertained –-
a huge upright piano that was in the hallway that ran between the living room and the dining room.

During the holidays it seemed like someone was always sitting on the old piano bench (lid lifted up
to store sheet music beneath it) and banging away on the keys. My aunt Ethel and Uncle Andrew
and my sister Sabra were all top-notch ticklers of the ivories and were instrumental in leading
many a song fest as family members joined in around them in song and laughter.

Not only could these three play well but had beautiful voices as well. Uncle Andrew was a lifetime
member of the choir at Trinity Methodist Church up at the head of Church Street and reveled in
all the singing festivities.

What was really great for us kids was when the adults -- while usually belting out many traditional
Christmas and religious songs, hymns, etc. -- also took time to play our fun-filled songs like “Jingle
Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Up on The
Rooftop,” etc. The music, the singing, and the laughter in that old hallway all made for a lasting and
warm memory shared by all of us.

Through it all, we the kids, loved it for it meant the more tied up the adults were with all the card
games, singing, and/or were back in the kitchen prepping some Christmas Day item, the more free
time we had to play and not be fussed at.

On Christmas day, Uncle Hugh and his wife and 3 kids, Aunt Louise and her husband and two kids
along with Aunt Sarah and her husband down from Hamlet, NC were also there at the house. To add
to this jovial crowd were Aunt Sarah’s son and his wife from Columbia, and Mama’s sister Aunt
Jenny from California if she could make it.

Maybe the word pandemonium would be a better term than jovial!

As dinner time approached around 2 in the afternoon, things were absolutely crazy at “410.”  I am
not sure how many people congregated in the kitchen to help prepare the Christmas dinner but I
know that there were a lot.

“We’d better not see you kids anywhere around the kitchen or dining room until dinner is served -–
you got that?” were the standard marching orders for Christmas Day at “410” for us kids. As a
general rule, all of us kids were relegated to the outdoors where we had to strictly follow rule
number two which was, “Do not get your clothes dirty, you hear me?”

As you can imagine by now, the dinning room didn’t even come close to holding all the places need to
feed everyone. While the huge oak dinning room table (which I now have in my house that my
grandfather built by hand as a gift to his bride when they got married in 1890) seats 16 people
when fully extended and all filler boards are inserted, that table didn’t even come close to getting
everyone seated at “410” for Christmas dinner.

There were card tables set up in the living room and den plus the kitchen table itself was used.
The house was literally packed from the front door to the door going out to the back porch. Oh,
did I mentioned that cousins from up around Camden also showed up plus usually, Uncle Andrew
had invited some lonely airman from Shaw Field to join us for Christmas dinner?

Only the senior most members of our extended family were allowed to sit in the dining room at the
big table as it was called.

Everyone else was relegated to card tables spread out through the house. No matter how long (in
years) a family member (one of Grandmother’s children) might have been away from “410,” when
they came home they always sat in the same seat they occupied when growing up and seated around
Grandfather’s huge dinning table.  

Grandmother had 13 children so I guess seating positions and pecking order were standard rights
of passage. None of them, especially Aunt Jenny who lived in California or Aunt Sarah who lived in
Hamlet, NC would hesitate one second to tell anyone, including the preacher if he was joining us for
a meal, “You’re in my seat … move!”

Anyway, I was 33 -– thirty three -- years old before I finally made my way up the ranks in the
pecking order at “410” before I was allowed to sit at the big table in the dinning room!  33 -– You
hear me -– 33 years old!

What ticked me off more than that was my first cousin Bill Humphries from Miley (he and family
stayed at “410” every Christmas with us) who was in the Air Force at the time and just happened to
be stationed at Shaw in the mid 60s while I was roaming around in my submarine off the frozen
north coast of Russia while I was in the Navy, got to sit at the big table for Christmas dinner at
“410” before I did!  

I love you Bill “Hump” but you ticked me off sneaking into “410” and sitting at the big table before
me and I am 1.5 years older than you!   I had to wait until 1975 before I made it!  

The grand finale of the Christmas Day dinner was of course, getting to sample all the mouth-
watering and delicious looking (and tasting) deserts that had been prepared for the holidays.
Mama, Aunt Ethel, and a host of others had spent many days and hours in the kitchen leading up to
this day preparing some of their favorites -- cakes, pies, etc. -- and of course so many of the
visitors who came to “410” also brought some of their favorites.

The top of the huge sideboard in the dinning room was a sweet tooth’s paradise of every great
desert known to man (it seemed). Spread out over the top was Red Velvet, Carrot, Coconut, Carmel,
and Chocolate Cakes, Banana Pudding, Custard Pies, Apple, Lemon, and Cherry Pies, several versions
of Fruit Cakes -– the list was endless -– it was wonderful!  

Even those fruitcakes that had been sealed in the tins in the dinning room closet had finally been
unsealed and spread out for all to enjoy. I still say that all those made with my Grandmother’s
recipe using Brandy to soak the cheesecloth in to wrap around the cakes while curing in the sealed
tins were the absolute best!  

Looking back on all this now, I reckon there must have been at least sixteen million calories worth
of good stuff up on that sideboard just waiting to be consumed!

Besides the Christmas dinner at “410” – which was an event like no other -– the other hours and
days during this time were special also.

As I mentioned before, my two 1st cousins from Miley spent every Christmas with us at “410” and
when, as Mama called them “them boys” came, it was all hell to pay for we all basically stayed in
trouble with our elders who were trying to keep us contained.

Between Miley and Sumter -– up US 301 and other major north-south routes at the time -– there
must have been 100 firecracker stands alongside the highway. By they time they got to Sumter,
between what the boys had bought and what I had already amassed, we had enough Cherry Bombs,
M-80s, and other assorted firecrackers to start a war with.

Before we were of driving age, we roamed widely around “410” blowing up stuff with our
firecrackers, had shootouts with the neighboring kids with our homemade Cherry Bomb shotguns,
and in general, shooting off a whole lot of Cherry Bombs and M-80s and other
assorted firecrackers.

After I got my driver’s license in 1956, things got even more hectic. We would drive around in
Mama’s car, a virtual tank as I have described before, and spread our bombs out over a much
larger area, like driving down Broad Street and dropping then out the windows as we sped past Big
Jim’s or rounded Cole’s Restaurant.

This went well for a while until one fateful night at Christmas time in 1956 when one of my 1st
cousins, who shall remain nameless, made a boo-boo -– Big Time!

While I drove with two other friends in the front seat with me, Leroy (forget I mentioned him by
name) and his brother Bill were in the back seat of the Olds and we were flying down Broad Street
chucking Cherry Bombs out the windows.

This went well for a while and while we were cruising around to find new targets, the back seat
windows got rolled back up as it was freezing cold outside. Anyway, as we approached a new target
area, my nameless brilliant 1st cousin lit a Cherry Bomb and threw it out the window.

However, there was only one problem -– all the windows were still rolled UP!

I can to this day still hear that unmistakable sound -– “TINK” -– as the lit Cherry Bomb hit the
window glass before it bounced back into the car and straight into an old heavy metal pail we had
on the floor to store/carry our stash of M-80s, Cherry Bombs, and packs of regular firecrackers.

As my cousins screamed out what had happened, I slammed on the brakes and everyone started
frantically trying to bail out of the car right there in the middle of Broad Street in front of where
Clark’s Department Store was.

Thankfully, Mama’s car was a 4-door sedan and everyone was able to exit the car is a split second
it seemed. In another stroke of good luck, the metal pail that had all our firecrackers in it got
turned over as the guys in the back seat hastily piled out of the car.

BOOM -- and a WHOLE lot more of them -– shattered the peace and quit of Broad Street that
night. All this was of course immediately followed by a one final BOOM and a hole being blown
through the floor of Mama’s car behind the front passenger seat. Because the pail had been turned
over, the force of the huge main blast was directed straight down through the floorboard.

Unfortunately, a few of the lit Cherry Bombs and other packs of firecrackers, etc, had also been
flipped out first and within seconds, Mama’s beautiful car had lots of holes in the headliner and
rear seat.

I had just got back out of the car after getting back in and pulling it over to the side of the road
when here came Sumter’s finest roaring out Broad Street with siren and red light flashing in hot
pursuit of the disturbance. We stood there in the road frantically waving at them as they slowed
down where we were and started yelling at them, “Those crazy kids with firecrackers went that
way in a green ’55 Buick” as we pointed out Broad Street towards Big Jim’s.

The cops still not knowing what the true source of the disturbance was, gunned the motor in the
squad car and took off in hot pursuit of the would be noise makers. As they roared off, we all piled
back into Mama’s car and we high-tailed it for home laughing our heads off all the way!

To make another long story short, that almost disastrous stunt ended the “riding around and
throwing Cherry Bombs out the window” escapades for good.  

Oh, the hole in the car’s floorboard -- let’s just say that Mama was not, let me repeat, not a happy
camper. Thankfully, a welder friend of Uncle Andrew welded a piece of metal over the hole and
repaired the floorboard for me. I had another friend who worked on cars as a hobby and we
replaced the headliner. Unfortunately, to complete the repairs to Mama’s car, I had to just sew
patches into the burned holes in the rear seat and back rest.

All in all, her old tank was none the worst for the ordeal and continued to give lots of joy for many
more years to those that got to go cruising around in it.

When I think back on that night now and think about what all could have happened, I get cold chills.
That pail of firecrackers that all went off (just about all at once) was like lighting sticks of
dynamite and dropping them on the floor and yelling, “RUN for your lives!”

Christmas Time was indeed a very special time not only for me but for all of us that grew up in
Sumter during these times.

Families celebrated the season with get-togethers and there were lots of visits from long lost
relatives and just friends in general –- all wanting to share in the love and fellowship that this time
of the year generates.

Of course for a lot of years, it was the excitement and anticipation of Santa Claus coming and
trying to figure out, guess what he might bring us.

Since my two 1st cousins stayed upstairs in my and Uncle Andrew’s bedroom, Santa came to see
them by the stove that was in this room. Santa visited me by the fireplace in the dinning room
downstairs. On Christmas morning, it was a mad dash by me and my cousins up and down the stairs
to see what all we had gotten from Santa.

It was at this fireplace in the dinning room where I sadly figured out, “you know who” didn’t come
down that chimney and leave my beautiful set of double holstered pearl-handled six-shooter cap
pistols that my older sister was holding in her hands as she knelt down by the fireplace.

“Oh hey, I, ah, uh … he just left them here and I was, ah, I was just propping them up for you so
you could see them in the morning!”

“Yeah … right big sister!”

I am sure there were a few other disappointments here and there but overall, I think we all fared
fairly well and in general, all our wish list items showed up -- either left by Santa or in the form
of a special Christmas gift from under the tree.

On Christmas morning, 10 AM sharp, the presents that had been dutifully stacked all season long
under the huge tree in the living room at “410” were doled out.

Everyone gathered in the living room. Chairs from all over the house were brought there and lined
up like we were all gathered around a campfire or something and awaited for our names to be
called by the presenters -– those unlucky enough to get called on to pass out the presents.

The hardest part was that you had to wait until all the presents were passed out before you could
open yours. As a child, let’s just say I hated this rule! Anyway, when the tree was finally empty of
presents, everyone tore into their stack of presents.

In so many ways, this was all so funny. Everyone was laughing, talking, exclaiming joy or sorrow at
a present, and all in all, enjoying a very special event in all our lives. Within a matter of minutes, it
looked like a bomb had gone off in that room and people in some cases, looked like they were
buried in boxes, yards of ribbon, and reams of wrapping paper.

It was a joyous, wonderful site and even to this day on Christmas morning in our house, our living
room looks pretty much the same way as “410” did all those years ago. I find myself each year
looking at all the chaos and smiling to myself and remembering wonderful times in my life so many
years ago.

Yes, Christmas Time each year (in my life, at least) brings back wonderful and joyful memories of
events from long ago from our past. My memories (of Christmas) never really centered on what I
may have gotten (or not) for Christmas but instead, centered on the simple acts of giving and
sharing -– love, laughter, companionship, smiles, hugs, songs, visits from other wonderful family
members and friends, delicious foods, and special sweet treats.  And yes, the fruit cakes were
great too!  

Those great memories help give meaning and purpose to our lives today.

“Merry Christmas” to everyone who may some day read this and may you and your families be
blessed with a wonderful holiday season this year and all that follow afterwards.
Church Street Memories - Part 3
Church Street Memories - Part 3
by Mike Bailey
Church Street Memories - Part 3:
Library Rules:  All works/images are Copyright © 2012, 2016 by Michael T. Bailey Sr., Marietta, Georgia.  All rights reserved. Reproduction, adaptation,
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.  Contact information:
Menu to help you read about my love for Church Street, Part 3
 
 
 
 
 
Seeing a picture a while back in my Edmunds 1959 Hi-Ways Yearbook of Miss Ethel Burnett,
assistant principal at Edmunds High School for a lot of years including my years there from the
fall of ’57 until June of ’60, reminded me of two events that related to me and the FBI during my
years growing up in Sumter.

One day in early January of 1959, Miss Burnett knocked rapidly on the door of one of my classes
and bounded in and said, “Mike, ah, um, you have got to come with me right now … ah, we have got
to go to the office … right now!”

With that, she then nervously grabbed my arm and hurriedly led me out the door as the teacher
and the class just watched in awe, like they were all saying to themselves, “Oh Lord, he must have
REALLY done something bad this time!”

I had no idea what was going on and since I knew that I had not done anything lately, except
maybe ask Mr. Lyles (Principal) was it really true that some kids had held him by his feet and
then dangled him out the window at his last school in Florence, but then I thought, that was last
week and surely he wasn't going to get on me again for asking him.

Then I got really scared as we hurried down the empty halls and thought, “I have never seen Miss
Burnett act like this before … maybe something bad has happened at home…” and just as I was
about to ask her, she blurted out in her famous stern assistant principal’s voice, “Young, man I
don’t know what you've done but the FBI is here and they want to talk to you right now!”

“Whew!” I said and smiled to myself … this is cool … for I knew what was it was all about!

During the summer of 1958, I had worked as a lifeguard at Myrtle Beach State Park. My brother
Storm was the Water Front Director at the park. He had been Superintendent at Edisto Beach
State Park (was closed at the time and Storm was getting it ready to be opened) and had been
asked to come to Myrtle Beach to help straighten out the lifeguard program that was in place
there at the time.

If any of you knew or know my brother, you know that he runs/ran a very tight ship and all of us
young lifeguards –- wantabe playboys -- were drilled and trained rigorously every single day like
we were in boot camp at Paris Island. Every day was started off down on the beach, swimming out
to the end of the fishing pier described later below, and then swimming a mile down the beach
towards Surfside Beach while dragging a red metal lifesaving torpedo buoy behind you.

While we were on duty, there was absolutely no tolerance from Storm for anything except 100%
professionalism on our parts as lifeguards. In his words, our duty was to protect and save lives,
not chase girls. Off duty, we could be kids again.

Anyway, at the time, the State Park fishing pier I mentioned was located on the beach right on the
northern border of the park next to Springmaid Beach. Also of note, it was only seven tenths of a
mile from the end of the runway at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

All the pilots who came over to the park to swim in the ocean, or up in our huge freshwater pool in
front of the bathhouse, told us they all used the pier to line up on when coming in for a landing
from out over the ocean.

On days when they did land from that direction, they flew directly over the concession stand on
the pier so close that you could count the rivets in the wings and wave at the pilot.

We performed our lifeguard duties by rotating in half-hour tours -- first in the left lifeguard
stand/chair down on the beach close to the pier, then over to the chair on the right about 300
feet away, then back up to the pool chair, and finally ended at the bathhouse (selling tickets,
drinks, candies, checking clothes, etc.) for a final 30 minute tour before starting all over again.

Anyway, one day I was on pool duty and when in this chair, you are looking directly towards the
fishing pier.

Because the pool there at the park was built up on a man-made hill about 10 feet above the
surrounding beach area, and then when you sat atop the 7 foot high lifeguard chair next to the
pool, you had an unobstructive and commanding view way out to sea and then the beach itself, the
pier, the parking lot, the buildings at Springmaid Beach, and finally, the trees towards the
airbase itself

Then it happened -- I heard and then saw an Air Force T-33 Jet Trainer flameout about 3 miles
out to sea as the aircraft was coming in for a landing.

The flameout -- jet engine physically cuts off, no flame, no power, no thrust, nothing –- lasted a
second or two, and then, boom, it started back up and the plane lifted back up. Wow, I thought,
was he lucky –- he got the engine to start back up and he’s OK now.

Wrong.

A few seconds later, he flamed out again and then moments later, the engine once again fired back
up. By now he was probably only a quarter of a mile from the head of the pier (concession stand
area by parking lot) and still on his glide path to land on the runway at the airbase just under a
half mile away.

Then disaster struck with a vengeance -- he flamed out once again and within seconds, he dropped
down towards the beach and he crashed through the concession stand (right wing cut completely
though it and killing the concession stand operator).

Then the plane came to a crashing, grinding, smoking (fire had started in the nose) halt in the
parking lot by first landing on top of a car and squashing it flat and shredding it to pieces as it
drug it across the parking lot. This last event in the final moments of the crash killed a man and
his two sons who were leaving the park after one last day of fishing before going back home as
their vacation was over.

Long story short, because of my “observation position high up in the air in the pool lifeguard chair
and thereby had a totally unrestricted view of the entire sequence of events,” I ended up as the
lead official government eyewitness to this unfortunate and deadly Air Force Jet crash.

I was interviewed extensively that day by Air Force crash investigators and then, as the days,
weeks, and months went by, I was interviewed by many more investigators. Then the FBI got in on
the act -- not sure why -- but I suspect it was because the wife of the man who was killed in the
parking lot along with their two sons was suing the crap out of the U.S. Government.

Oh, there was one more small detail that might have had a tiny bearing on why they kept coming
back to me over and over again to get me to tell them just one more time what happened on that
tragic day!

The detail -– I would never change my official statement that based on all that I saw and
observed, it was my opinion that since the plane was at least 3 miles out to sea when the first
flameout occurred out, that the eventual crash was caused by pilot error in that he has sufficient
time to bail out and ditch the disabled aircraft into the sea but did not do so because of the
perceived threats that all of the pilots were flying under from the flight commander at
the airbase.

Every pilot that had ever visited us and swam at the State Park had basically told us they were
told (perceived to have been threatened, their words) by the flight operations officer over and
over and over again that, “If they took off from Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in one of HIS
planes, that they had better bring that aircraft back home no matter what … even if it ran out of
gas and they had tow it home or carry it home on their backs, whatever, he didn’t care … else they
were going to be transferred so far away from civilization that the only thing they will be flying
is home-made kites.”   

On that tragic day, it was of my opinion that the pilot (who survived the crash) was trying as best
as he could to tow his jet back home and didn’t quite make it.

Meanwhile -- back to Edmunds High School -- Miss Burnett led me straight to Mr. Lyles’ office
where he and two serious looking FBI agents were waiting on me. Mr. Lyles turned to the agents
and said with his hand on my shoulder, “We can all go in here (his office) and talk.”

“No sir, this is just between us and Mr. Bailey and we appreciate the use of your office.”

As I followed the two agents into the office, I could see Mr. Lyles and everyone else just
standing there wide-eyed and speechless. Keep in mind that they did not know why the agents
were there in the first place as the agents had absolutely refused to tell them anything.

An hour or so later after me telling them the same story all over again from start to finish at
least five times (like I was going to say something different), they opened the door and we all
walked out. You would not believe how many more people had showed up and just happened to be
hanging around the front office by the time my interview had ended.  

Then one of the agents who I knew from several previous interviews (and more that would come
in the years to follow), turned to me and said, “We want to thank you, Mr. Bailey, for all your
time and valuable help in this matter,” and with that, they walked out the door.

I started to ask Mr. Lyles if it was OK if I went back to class but he looked like he was in a
trance so I turned and asked Miss Burnett if it was OK. She looked at Mr. Lyles and came to the
same conclusion as I had and sort of mumbled, “Yes, ah, sure, ah, you’re not going to tell us what is
going on?”

Of course I could have -– I do not think I had ever been asked not to say anything -- but taking
my clue from the now departing FBI agents that had told them zero about what was going on, I
decided to play along with the mounting drama and simply said, “I am sorry, Miss Burnett, but they
said this was a matter of national security and that I was not at liberty to say anything about it.”

With that, I walked out of the office -- biting my tongue (so hard it started bleeding) -- to keep
from laughing out loud. The looks on their faces was priceless –- total bewilderment and confusion.
By the time I got back to class I was absolutely giddy with what all that had just gone down.

By the way, to this day and to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Lyles, Miss Burnett -- none of those
that saw all this go down -- ever knew or found out what had happened and why the FBI came to
Edmunds and talked to me in private. I heard over time that it about drove all of them crazy.

After another summer of lifeguarding at Aiken State Park and back to school in the fall of
1959 finally as a full-fledged, big bad high school senior, the last thing on my mind was that
1958 plane crash.

Unfortunately, that carefree bubble soon got reset when true to form, one of the two same agents
returned again right after our 1959 Thanksgiving break. Once again, the same routine as before
went down -- me being called out of class, meeting with the agent behind closed doors, and then
him leaving and me saying nothing to Miss Burnett or anyone else.

By now, this agent –- who I would meet with two more times (which are two more long stories in
themselves) –- and I had become friends enough that when my latest interview with him at
Edmunds after Thanksgiving was over, I told him, “If you come back again, I am almost certain
that I will no longer be able to remember anything whatsoever about that tragic plane crash
in 1958.”

Maybe I was growing up or something, but the whole thing was now starting to wear thin on me
and I just wanted to move on and let all those horrible memories just quiet down in my mind. I
was told later that the suit brought by the wife of the man and two boys killed in the crash had
ended as all of it was settled out of court.

Memories -- keep in mind that on that faithful day in 1958, I watched a horrific plane crash
from start to finish right in front of me.  I knew it was going to crash the moment it flamed out
the 2nd time and had then stood up on my lifeguard stand at the pool and started blowing my
whistle in bursts of short three whistle blasts -– the international signal for an emergency.    

Another guard just happened to be standing by my chair there by the pool and I jumped down,
told him “he had the chair,” and then I ran with my brother and others to the crash site just 500
feet away from us to see if there was anything any of us could do to help.

None of us were prepared for what greeted us at the crash site. The pier concession stand looked
like a bomb had gone off in it -- it was nothing but a pile of shredded wood and metal with all of
the store’s contents strewed all over the place and worst still, the bloody and mutilated body of
the concession stand worker was just lying there in the rubble.

While some of us ran towards the plane and to the car, others ran to the concession wreckage to
see if other people might be there in the rubble. As it turned out, thankfully a miracle (if you
will) had occurred and this normally busy and crowed place was empty of people the moment the
right wing of the jet tore through the building.

The car with the jet sitting just past it was crushed and looked like it had been through a
shredder as the jet had smashed down on top of it, then drug it across the parking lot with it on
top before finally, slipping off the car and onto the ground by itself.

A small fire had broken out in the front of the jet and the pilot was frantically trying to get out
-– could not because his canopy was jammed shut. We could hear the crash trucks from the
airbase coming and in a matter of minutes they were there and pumping foam on the plane.

Before they arrived, an old man we knew that lived/worked at a nearby restaurant/bar found a
ladder and propped it up against the plane and climbed up to the canopy while we held the ladder.
He used something in his hand that he had brought with him -- don’t remember what it was -- to
pry open the red hot canopy, slide it back and then help the pilot crawl out of the burning plane.

What is neat as a side story to all this, is that later on, this brave WWI Army veteran who
severely burned his hands helping the pilot get out of his aircraft was greeted by
representatives of the Army who were sent to Myrtle Beach. They had come to meet with this
aging “old warrior” as he referred to himself and to award him some sort of a special military
award for his unselfish and brave actions on the day of the plane crash.

I always thought that someone went above and beyond the call of duty themselves to take this up
on themselves to honor the elderly veteran with a formal recognition event.                            

Even now, 54 years later, I can still see the horribly crushed and torn bodies in the car (it was a
convertible) and the body of the concession stand worker that was killed. In the car, the man’s
left hand was half bone and skin and broken off completely from his body and was still gripping
the steering wheel. The rest of his body was torn apart -– his brain matter literally hanging out of
his head. In the back seat were the crushed and torn bodies of the two young boys. All together,
it was one of the most violent scenes of death I have ever seen.

Anyway, the Air Police soon arrived to secure the site there in the State Park and for the next
week, we helped them guard the area and keep onlookers out. Over that week, the crash
investigators were there also and they literally hauled off everything -– every scrap of wood,
metal, whatever -- including having a huge sifting device set up near the plane and car where they
dug down maybe 5-8 feet into the parking lot and sand and sifted every inch of it for even the
tiniest of parts, metal, whatever. One of the crash investigators told me that something the size
of a dime could have caused the jet to flame out.  

I did a guard shift with the APs that first night and around 2 AM, we caught a couple of guys
(well fortified with many beers) that had snuck into the area and were trying to steal the front
landing wheel and support strut that had broken off upon the plane’s impact with the ground and
had bounced way off into the bushes and sand dunes beyond the fishing pier parking lot.

You gotta love a bumbling, falling down couple of drunks trying to be sneaky and quiet.

I was only 16 at the time and those images of the torn and crushed bodies played heavy on my
mind. I found out rather quickly, they did not just go away for they have haunted me all my life.

Anyway, I think my FBI agent friend who interviewed me last at Edmunds finally saw (and was
able to convince his superiors later) that even after almost a year and a half later, my “eye
witness account” of the events I witness had not and was not going to change and that I
steadfastly refused to “take back, recant and/or change” my statements.

Even now, I can still say without hesitation that it was pilot error that caused the crash of the
jet aircraft into the Myrtle Beach State Park fishing pier.”

Bottom line, did I enjoy all this FBI attention at the time while I was a student at Edmunds High
School –- you bet I did -– every single dark secret minute of it?  

The above memory about the FBI talking to me at Edmunds High School was not the only time that
the FBI came to Sumter in reference to “Mr. Bailey.”

One morning in August of 1963, Mama was awakened by a very insistent ringing of the front
doorbell that was also accompanied by repeated knocks on the front door at “410.” As Mama
worked the 3rd shift at Tuomey Hospital, she was sound asleep upstairs in her bedroom and was
highly annoyed that her sleep was being interrupted.

Also annoying her was the fact that the housekeeper/cook had not gone to the door which she
normally did. I learned later that she was in the back of the yard picking vegetables out of Uncle
Andrew’s garden and never heard the visitors at the front door.

Anyway, Mama got up and came downstairs and opened the front to be greeted by two very stern
looking men in suits standing there with FBI identification IDs in their hands that asked her,
“Was she Mrs. Bailey?”

Keep in mind that by now, I had long since left the University of South Carolina (recruited by
personal invitation in the fall of ’61 to go work for NSA and then join the Navy to see the world),
spent over a year in various special ops schools in the US, Panama, Canada, and Morocco and was
already stationed onboard my submarine and at the time, was “in” Cuba.  

Mama, knowing all this and now seeing two FBI agents at her front door, immediately thought the
worst and started to cry. One of the agents quickly realized they had probably scared her and
started telling her, “It’s OK Mrs. Bailey, your son is OK.”

Mama told me later that she didn’t believe them at first but she finally settled down and realized
that I was OK because of what one of them asked her next.

“Did your son, Mr. Bailey, receive a letter today from the Russians, I mean, The Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics?”

“Do what?” was Mama’s first reply.

I never realized until that day just how much or how seriously the U.S. Government took the
business/act of conferring and monitoring Top Secret (and higher) security classifications on
people that received them (in or out of the military).

I had TS clearance with additional compartmental certificates for fixed station and mobile
crypto operations, repair, & analysis plus satellite communications/image reconnaissance and
SIGNIT (signals intelligence). Oh, I was trained in other skills but they didn’t need
TS clearance.  

Anyway, to bring the events occurring with the FBI agents at the front door of “410” into focus,
I have to go back to around 1950 to set the stage, so to speak.

I guess I was around 8 or 9 years old when I first got bitten by the short wave listening bug. As
the years went by, just about all of us kids in the neighborhood had a shortwave radio -– either
store bought or we built one with one of the many kits that were available  the time.

Some of our better sets were what we called “Frankies” -– short for Frankenstein -– meaning we
had assembled our own sets from various parts we had scavenged from thrown away sets we found
in the trash, from behind repair shops around town, whatever.

Anyway, the bigger (frequency bands available) the radio, the better it was. My main partner in
crime during my radio years was Sam Porter and he and a few others beside me had radios to die
for –- it looked like we were running a military communications facility. And yes, we got lots of
stuff from surplus dumps like out at Shaw Field.

Outside of our houses were all the special antennas that we had built and erected -- fixed, metal
antenna ones or ones made by strung up by wires stretched between the trees with the frequency
of the bandwidths we wanted to capture from all over the world determining the types antennas
we used (were hooked up to at any given listening time).

From all over the world -- this was for real as we listened intently at night & early morning (best
time on the east coast of the United States to listen) with mounting excitement as we carefully
turned the dials on our radios -- tuning through the frequency bands.  We were looking for
stations like Radio Quito (Ecuador), or Radio Havana (Cuba), or Radio Sofia (Bulgaria), or Radio
OTC, Leopoldville, Belgian Congo, or the prize of the bunch, Radio Moscow in Russia broadcasting
music or whatever over the shortwave bands.

Our Medals of Honor for participating in this radio activity (received transmissions only) were
something known as QSL Cards.

These cards confirm either a two-way radio communication between two amateur radio stations
(HAM operators) or a one-way reception of a signal like from a shortwave broadcasting station
such as Radio Moscow.

These highly prized and sought after cards were mailed out by the various shortwave radio
stations to listeners -- who had sent them a letter detailing the exact day and time, transmission
frequency, and content of a specific broadcast, etc. -- to acknowledge officially that you had
heard their broadcast.

By 1958 or so, I literally had 100s of them from stations all over the world and of course, my
most cherished ones were from Radio Moscow. Not only did I have their QSL card (probably 10
or 15 different versions of it over the years) but in truth, I think they were actually the world’s
first junk mail spammer.

I say this because for once you got one of their QSL cards in the mail, you were on their mailing
list -– forever it seemed. They continually sent program guides, updates to shows, and changes in
frequencies, whatever.

All this brings my story back up until 1963 and the FBI agents standing at the front door of
“410” asking Mama, “Did Mr. Bailey receive a letter today from The Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics?”

Yes, as late as 1963, Radio Moscow was still sending mail to my address in Sumter. Only problem
was that now it seemed that certain government agencies (departments, groups, or maybe just a
few secret people, who knows, whatever) was keeping a very close eye on a lot of people who had
very special and secret clearances with Uncle Sam.

As such, the FBI knew (someone did) that the U.S. Post Office in Sumter, SC had delivered on
this date, a letter of correspondence from the Russians –- our number ONE cold war enemy in
the world at the time -– to a Mr. Mike Bailey at 410 Church St., Sumter, SC and they wanted to
know what was in that correspondence!

Mama’s response was, “You kidding, right?”

After assuring her that they were not, Mama told them she had no idea what it could possibly be
and for that matter, didn’t even know if the mail had even been taken out of the mailbox (mounted
right there on the wall by the front door) yet and brought into the house.

She reached over and opened the box and sure enough, the day’s mail was still inside. She
retrieved all the mail and there it was -– a letter from Russia to Mike Bailey.

She handed it to one of the agents and said, “Is this what you are looking for?”

Mama told me later that the agent she handed it to first asked her, “Is it OK if we open it?” and
she replied, “Sure, why not!”

Then she said, she almost laughed because the agent who opened the letter acted so funny. She
said he carefully opened the large envelope, pulled out the contents and then just dropped both
hands to his side –- holding the envelope with one hand and the contents in the other -– and just
shook his head and laughed as he gave the contents to Mama for her to look at.

“What is this,” she cautiously asked?”

“The 1964 English Speaking Broadcast Programming Guide for North America from Radio
Moscow,” he sheepishly said (Mama’s words, not mine).

“Why he’s received lots of those and a bunch of cards from them and Lord knows who else since
he was 8 years old and playing around with those crazy radios he likes to build. Wait right here,
I’ll be right back.”

A few minutes later Mama returned with a handful of my old QSL cards from all over the world
and other letters (programming guides/schedules) not only from Radio Moscow but other foreign
shortwave broadcasting stations as well and handed them to the agent.

Mama said he looked pitiful just standing with his shoulders dropped down and just staring at the
cards and guides in his hands. She also said that he looked like I used to as a kid when I got
caught red handed with my hand literally in the cookie container in the kitchen trying to sneak
few cookies.

“We’re sorry to have bothered you … have a good day, Mrs. Bailey,” and with that, Mama said he
handed her back the stack of cards and letters and they turned and left the house

I guess they were satisfied that some of our countries top secrets were still in tact and that I
had not gone over to the dark side because after they drove off, they never returned again.

Lesson one. Childhood hobbies carry over into your adult life.

Lesson two. Childhood hobbies can come back to haunt you.

Lesson three. If you go to work for NSA, the U.S. Navy, etc. and get TS clearances, cancel your
subscriptions to shortwave broadcast stations operating out of current or former Iron Curtain
Countries.

Lesson four. Don’t ever think that no one is watching you.

I continued to get mailings (at “410”) from Radio Moscow well up into the 90s. Like I said earlier,
I think they were the first worldwide bulk mail spammer.

The only bad thing about all this was that Mama and her ever-thinking that I was now a grown man
and no longer need such childish things, threw all of my shortwave guides and QSL cards that day.

I have only recently discovered that some of those QSL cards all of us kids collected back in the
early 50s are very collectable today and some are quite valuable. Mama dumping all these ranked
right up there with her cleaning out my bedroom after I started attending the University of South
Carolina and when her cleaning was completed, proceeded to throw out all my baseball and football
cards that I had religiously collected since I was 8 years old saying,

“Boy, you’re a grown man now … you don’t need them any longer” was her quick reply.

“But Mama, some of those were signed rookie cards of some very famous baseball players today,” I
mournfully stated at the time.

“Yeah, like who?” she quickly replied.

“Oh, like Bobby Richardson … you know, friend of Uncle John and Bobby even came here to the
house to see Uncle John and gave him his baseball card and a few other’s cards for me.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot!”

With that event and the final curtain coming down with the disposal of all my shortwave
memorabilia, all my days of collecting stuff as a child had almost come to an end.  I say almost
because in Mama’s zeal to let me become a man, she missed finding the girlie magazines I had
hidden out in my old clubhouse in the backyard and my foreign coin collection tucked away safely
in an old desk in my former bed room that I shared with Uncle Andrew.

I found both of these jewels from my childhood in 1997 after the last three of my grandmother’s
15 children passed away in 1996 -- Mama the last in October of that year -– and we were closing
up “410”.

This was because despite some of us grandchildren wanting to keep the old house, we were settling
my grandmother’s estate whose will stated in unbreakable language that “The house and all contents
therein were never to be sold if any child of hers was still living and upon the death of the last
surviving child, the house and all the contents therein where to be sold and the monies received
from such sale to be evenly distributed to any and all surviving grandchildren.”

It was Grandmother’s life-long and dying wish, I guess, that her children always had a house to
come back home to no matter what happened in their lives.

Well, that about concludes my FBI capers I encountered that directly related to my years
in Sumter.   

I had two other capers with the FBI, but they were not related to Church Street. One event took
place in the summer of 1961 out at Poinsett State Park and another took place at the University of
South Carolina in the fall of 1961.

However, their stories will have to wait their turn to be told.
I've always been fascinated by events that on one hand seem to have no connection to other events,
but later in the future, come together or are connected to the later events that are far removed
from the original event(s).

For example, most of you would probably think that the 1939 World’s Fair that was held in New
York in 1939 and 1940 (from April to October both years) would have no bearing or effect on
those of us growing up in Sumter in the 40s and 50s.

Those of us that could be considered (in Sumter anyway) the first generation of TV kids owe our
ability to see the early TV broadcasts from Channel 3 out of Charlotte and later, Channel 10 out
of Columbia, due in a large part to the April 30, 1939 opening day ceremonies for the New York
World’s fair.

Our days in front of the tube in Sumter, starting in 1949 when Channel 3 went on the air, were
born in a new park built over a reclaimed ash dump in Flushing Meadows in Queens when the
opening day ceremonies for the World’s Fair held in the new park launched the future for us (in a
way) in that the ceremonies were televised by NBC as their first day of regularly scheduled
television broadcasts to the public in New York City.  

While it is true other stations/networks including NBC had been transmitting TV signals as early
as 1928 and through out the 30s, it was not until the 1939 World’s Fair broadcast that things
started to really settle down -– especially the transmission quality of the signals themselves.          

With the start of this daily broadcast service, watching TV became a reality in the U.S. and has
grown leaps and bounds ever since.

As the World’s Fair was coming to a close in October of 1940, a young (18 years old) man asked
the ride operator for the Ferris wheel there in the Amusement Section of the fair what were they
going to do with the Ferris wheel after the fair closed. The ride operator said they wanted to sell
it –- they had no use for it.

The young man was John Vivona and he asked if he could buy it. “Sorry, but you are too late …
someone else wants it. Tell you what though, he is supposed to buy it at noon tomorrow … come
back then and if he doesn't show up, it's yours!”

John rushed to his home in Newark, NJ and told his father about the sale. The next day, John, his
father Antonio, and a brother, Morris, went back to the fair. Noon came and went and the other
buyer did not show up. The Ferris wheel became a Vivona family asset and a new dream for the
family, starting an amusement business, was born.

How does this relate to Sumter you might ask? Well, the Ferris wheel was dismantled, taken back
to Newark and soon the family, called the Vivona Brothers Shows, was traveling around the local
area and proving amusement rides at local fairs, etc.

By 1953, they had grown quite large and had not only changed their name to Amusements of
America (AOA), but were traveling up and down the east coast of the U.S. and had reached as far
south as the annual county fair in Sumter, SC.

AOA liked Sumter so well that by the next year, they established their winter home in Sumter for
their traveling amusement show and for the next 18 years, stored and repaired all their equipment
during the winter time there in Sumter.

The cool days of fall brought the county fair to Sumter there at the fairgrounds out off West
Liberty and Artillery Drive. While I realize that fairs, with accompanying amusement attractions,
still go on (even in Sumter) all over our great nation, you have got to understand how time affects
what we see.

For example, in today’s world, we are absolutely totally bombarded by a never ending barrage of
information via TVs, movies, the Internet –- everything from fashion shows, home remodeling,
cooking, dancing, singing, survivor of this or that, crime shows, how to make or do anything, secret
tapes of cheaters, liars, crimes, exploitation of women, children, families –- the list is endless.

Therefore, when you go to the fair today in your home town or state and walk around, other than
being very bright and possibly noisy, there is nothing new or exciting or out of this world to tease
your mind. Why? Because you most likely have already seen and heard everything that is there in
front of you -– there are no surprises.

However, in sleepy, quiet Sumter in say the 1950s, nothing could have been further from the truth.

We were just barely getting use to TV and what was on (by today’s standards) could bore a brick
to death. However, when the fair showed up back then and we got to go walk around that fantastic
traveling show and see things that we didn’t get to see all the time, it was exhilarating to say the
least – especially when we heard our parents say “OHoooo NOoooo … cover your ears, your
eyes,” etc.

When you heard that, you knew you were getting close to the good stuff! Mixed in along with all
the fantastic rides were of course all the sideshows –- from games of chance and skill you could
play right there along the midway and actual shows that you could go into (tents/trailers) that
had either exhibits or live entertainers.

By the way, the term midway is another gift from a fair from a time long ago – The Chicago
World’s Fair held in 1893. The amusement area at the fair (also known as the World’s Columbian
Exposition) was held in the mile long park on the south side of Chicago known as the
Midway Plaisance.

Before the Chicago World’s Fair was even over, the term midway was already being used to
designate the amusement area there and rapidly spread across the land in the years that followed
as the term used to describe that part of any fair where the amusements rides and games
were placed.

Meanwhile -- back in Sumter.

“Hurry, hurry, step right up!”

The sounds of that beckoning call was heard over and over thorough out the midway as we walked
around as wide-eyed kids being totally mesmerized by all the sounds, smells, and sights that
teased every sense we had.

That sound, that call, that rhythmic chant by a man standing on a small stage was an invitation to
adventure, excitement, to possibly see something that was taboo or strange beyond words -- it
was mesmerizing.  It some ways, it was like the Sirens call to Ulysses -- tempting him to stop his
journey and seek out the unknown on their island.

“One quarter, yes sir, one shinny quarter … see the Wild Man of Bor...n…eo” the stage barker
would sing out to the crowds that stood before his tent.

Also inside might be a Bearded Lady, a sword swallower, huge people like a giant or weightlifter,
or something as weird as a kid named Carl that was supposed to be half frog. All these sights and
creatures (supposedly) could be seen in the one and only, “Cavalcade of Wonders.”

While a lot of the sideshows only costs just one quarter to slip inside and see some wild and crazy
stuff, the one show us kids wanted to see cost a lot more than that.

“Yes sir folks, just one dollar … just four of those shinny quarters in your pocket … hurry, hurry,
step right up and see these beautiful girls show you dances you have never seen before in
your life!”

Unfortunately, even though we all had lots of quarters in our pockets, they would not let us
teenagers enter their tents. Rumor had it that if you gave your four quarters to a man standing
around back of the tent, he might look the other way if you ducked under a loose flap in the back
and stood there in the back stage area and watched the girls dancing on the stage.

Of course, being just a rumor, I can not confirm or deny that ever happened.

Keep in mind that this was the late 50s and the girly shows at the fair were hot, exotic, exciting,
taboo, and naughty. Compared to today’s TV shows, any of those girly shows that performed on the
midway at the Sumter Country Fair back then could be on during family hour on TV today. But in
1958 -– SMOKING -- “Ohoooo, bad for you kids!”

Meanwhile, back out front of the tent on the main midway, we would continue our travel around
the well worn sawdust covered walkways.

One of the things I can still recall to this day the most about the fairs I attended there in Sumter
during the 50s -- other than possibly seeing some dances Mama would not have approved of -- was
how the sense of smell was heightened to levels that just seemed to overwhelm you.

I can still smell the enticing aroma of the French fries, hot dogs, and hamburgers waffling through
the air that came from all the vendor booths set up there to provide food to the masses.

I do not know what made it so different but everyone I have ever talked to about going to the fair
always talks about the taste and the smell of the French fries that filled the air with a tantalizing
aroma that made you crave them -- like it was some sort of mad-scientist experiment turned loose
on the unsuspecting masses to make you buy, buy, buy French fries!

Maybe it was just the grease in the air but whatever it was, it was wonderful.

Anyway, my Uncle Andrew was a member of the local Lions Club and their club had a food booth
there and for years I went with him every day to the fair when it was in town. After I helped him
do some chores around the Lions Club booth (and a couple others that he lent my services to), I
was free to roam the midway and ride rides, play some games to try and win a prize (yeah, sure),
and then head for the exhibition barns.

To this day, I love the exhibition barns/halls, whatever, that are present at any fair worth its
salt. Whenever Deanna and I go to the huge Georgia National Fair held here in Georgia down just
south of Macon in Perry each year in the fall, we both are drawn to the exhibition area to see all
the exhibits and animals.

As soon as we walk into the barn area where the horses, pigs, cows, etc. are, I am immediately
transported back in time and it is 1953 and I am in the barns there at the fair in Sumter and
smelling all the animals, seeing the kids cleaning them, combing out the hair on horses, cows,
and goats.

I loved seeing all that back then (still do, for that matter). There were so many neat things to see
in the exhibition halls. In addition to all the great animals, there were all sorts of other things to
look at –- like art exhibits and pictures drawn by school kids (and some adults), quilt/sewing type
things -– the list was endless. All of the arts and crafts side of people’s hobbies that were
presented, including all the food things like jellies, jams, breads, etc., were also judged and
awarded ribbons just like for the livestock shows and presentations.

I was always amazed in the livestock area of all the stuff kids did when showing off their prized
(pet?) cows, pigs, horses, chickens, whatever. I mean they were back there washing cows down,
then drying them off, brushing out the hair like they were oversized dogs or cats. They brushed
out the feathers on their strutting roosters, braided the tails and manes of horses, and trimmed
the beards on their chew-on-everything-in-sight billy goats, and tied bows to tails on their
prized pigs.

I have noticed in recent years when Deanna and I visit a big fair, that it seems like nothing has
really changed in the livestock areas from my visits in the 50s except now, the kids have their
hair dryers and hair curling irons with them to help their prized cows, horses, donkeys, etc., look
their best!

You have got to admit that seeing a cow with 100 pink hair curlers all over it is funny. Even the
cows know it -- they stare at you with this pitiful expression on their faces like they are saying,
pleading, “Please help me!”

Back out on the midway -- we rode everything they had -– and as many times as we could come up
with quarters or 35 cents some times, for the tickets to get you on a ride.

I think we all loved the Bumper Cars the best as it let us take out our aggression and excitement
on each other. Although the rules plainly stated “No bumping into cars,” we immediately (and so
has everyone else worldwide since the day this ride was invented) set out to ram hard into one of
our friends.

I can close my eyes and see a host of my school friends grinning from ear to ear as we chased each
other unmercifully around and around the race track – the sounds of our cars whacking together,
the electrical pick-up metal straps scraping along on the metal ceiling and sparking, and shouts of
hysterical laughter as we hit our closest friend -- all together filling our ears with pleasure and
feelings of great adventure and excitement.

Between numerous trips to one of the many food places to keep stocked up on French fries, Cokes,
maybe a quick hamburger or one of the hot dogs to die for (never knew what they did to them to
make them taste like no other hot dog in the world) -- all to help keep the hunger pains in check --
we went from ride to ride strung out along the length of the midway.

Of course, when we were older, riding the Ferris wheel, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Octopus, the
Scrambler, or the Sky Dive was best when we (us boys) rode them with our girl friends.
Our laughter, closeness, and being fearless and brave – all combined to make for memorable
moments on the midway.

I have also heard rumors that there was also some sort of ride on the midway that went banging
around inside a dark tent and that couples used it while riding along in the darkness to sneak in a
kiss or three but again, that is just a rumor I heard about that I thought I would pass along
to you.

I guess in many ways, it too was just part of the fun and magic of the county fair in the fall.

However, there was one attraction that got everyone’s attention -- the “Wall of Death” – a large,
circular wooden structure where the motorcycle daredevil “Speedy McNish” went zooming around
and around inside.

He, and other stunt riders, did this by actually riding motorcycles on the upright walls (about 25
feet in height) of this structure and only the speed of their bikes and centrifugal force kept them
from falling down to the bottom and hurting themselves.  

By the way, I heard many years ago, that Speedy did fall many times over the next 30 or so years
and ended up over time, breaking just about every bone in his body.

Anyway, way -- standing at the top of the wooden structure (maybe 30 feet in diameter) on a
circular walkway, it was scary and fascinating at the same time to look over the edge and down
into high-walled structure and watch the motorcycle riders zoom around and around and do stunts
while going so fast in such a tight circle.

One of the scary things to do was to hold a dollar bill out in your hand and eventually, Speedy or
one of the other stunt riders would race their motorcycle high enough up on the wall to reach out
and snatch the bill from your hand. Talk about a hard way to earn a buck -– this was it!

While I enjoyed other rides on the midway -– like the merry-go-round, a favorite of all ages -– I
think I enjoyed the Ferris wheel the most. It was not because it raised us up high in the air and
was scary when we rocked the seats when we were at the top of the rotation, but because of the
view it afforded us.

The view –- from the top of a rotation at nighttime -– was beautiful and almost magical.

As you rode higher and higher into the nighttime sky, you could start to see the whole fair open
up before you. The midway with all of its thousands of lights –- bright and many of them blinking,
twinkling, or running in sequence -- mixed with hundreds of sounds coming from people laughing,
talking, and screaming in delight on a ride and from the motors on the rides whining and the power
generators growling away in the darkness.

At the top of the rotation, it all came together as you could then see the entire midway spread out
beneath you -- twinkling, flashing, talking, and vibrating with sounds of excitement as it all merged
together into one gigantic collage of entertainment and lasting memories.  

There was also one more thing that sitting there at the top of a rotation on the Ferris wheel that
allowed you to experience -- you could still hear the beckoning chants of “Hurry, hurry, step
right up…!” being sung out far below along the midway.
The Background:

It was not hard growing up on Church Street -- especially at “410” -– and not liking and being
involved in all sorts of transportation.

What kid could not grow up wanting to drive a car so bad that he dreamed of it all the time –-
especially one who had a mother whose heroes were NASCAR drivers “Fireball” Roberts and
Richard Petty, and thought she could have done a better job of driving the ’51 Ford (bootlegger’s
car) that Robert Mitchum drove in the 1958 movie, “Thunder Road”?

Mama’s comment at the time about Robert Mitchum’s driving was, “Why heck, I can drive better
than that in reverse!”

Anybody that knew my mama knows she was probably right. Before she would eventually let me get
my driver’s license, I had to duplicate her ability to go from where she parked her car in the
backyard and then go all the way out to Church Street –- and do it going at least 30 miles an hour
in reverse and not touch a single leaf on any of the bushes near the driveway by the house.  

Believe me, there were many anxious moments over the years that she allowed me to try to prove to
her that I could do it -– including letting me start learning how when I was TEN YEARS old. By the
time I did get my license at age 14, I thought I was a seasoned driver!  

Of course, in so many ways, the path from the wonderful dirt driveway at “410” to cruising around
Cole’s and Big Jim’s was a long and wonderful trip -– one filled with trials and errors, happy and
sad times, and a whole lot of wonderful memories.

As I have mentioned before, the driveway at “410” was long and curved at the end. If measured
from the street to where Mama finally slid to a stop after coming home from her job at Tuomey
Hospital, I guess that racetrack would be close to 180 feet in length.

Actually, the driveway ended in a three-way split.

At the split’s intersection in the backyard, the left fork went straight ahead with the driveway
ending inside the old barn/shed that I have mentioned before.

The right fork actually made a hard right turn and the driveway ended up under an open-sided shed
that was next to the kitchen on the back of the house. This was where Uncle John parked his car.

Then there was the middle fork -– Mama’s driveway – where she parked her car. This part of the
overall driveway system at “410” was different than the other places in that it clearly showed
signs of high speed arrivals and departures -- ruts in the sand, skid marks, sand sprayed onto
grassy areas near driveway, etc.  

At the beginning of this racetrack out near the street there was another parking place between
the sidewalk and a giant oak tree. This off-to-the-side of the main driveway spot was where Uncle
Andrew parked his car.  

He always said he parked up against the oak tree so it would be between his car and Mama’s car
when she was backing up out of the driveway at 40 MPH to go somewhere in town. He figured the
gigantic oak was big enough to keep Mama’s tank -– a big, black 1948 4-door Oldsmobile -– from
running into his car!

Then there was Uncle John’s truck. As you can tell by now, there were lots of vehicles in and
around “410” to keep a young boy interested in driving.

As I mentioned before, Uncle John was a City of Sumter Fireman and as such, was on and off for
24-hour duty cycles.  On his days off, he was a licensed residential electrician and owned his own
company -- “Sundown Electric Company” -– which was prominently painted on the side of an old
green 1947 Chevrolet Panel Truck.

One of the first set of rules I learned early in life were car parking rules at “410” -– Uncle
Andrew’s car out by the sidewalk, Uncle John’s by the back door, his truck by the shed, and
Mama’s by the fig tree.

No one else was allowed to park in their designated places. I never did figure out how everyone
else (visitors) knew the rules but some how or another, they did

Anyway, Uncle John’s truck was mesmerizing to a young child because it was full of stuff.
Everyone accuses me of being a pack-rat –- “You never throw away anything,” I've been told –-
and I know I must have inherited this trait somehow from Uncle John.

He never threw away ANYTHING –- “Ain’t nothing wrong with that -- might need it one day,” he
would say as he tossed another item into the back of his truck or into the barn/shed out back that
I mentioned earlier.

The old barn/shed structure lasted about 80 years until around 1975 when it was finally torn
down and replaced with a simple but modern structure to “Keep her good stuff in,” as Mama would
proudly tell anyone that asked.

As I have described before, the old barn in its heyday served many uses as time went by.
Originally large enough to house two two-horse wagons, tools, stalls on the side for animals, and
even chicken coops attached on the back side, the once proud barn/shed structure had become a
just a huge storage place by the time I came along in the early 40s.

Where the wagon space used to be was now a large open floor space (full of piles of stuff that
belonged to either Mama, Uncle Andrew, or Uncle John) with shelving on the left and back sides
that reached the rafters (all full to the brim with stuff) and as I have mentioned before, the stalls
on the right side had turned into a huge coal bin and another bin to store 55 gallons drums
of kerosene.

The chicken coops on the backside remained in tack and in use until maybe the mid 50s when the
huge chicken yard behind the shed and another structure use for chickens were also retired and
the yard space reclaimed by Uncle Andrew. He wanted to grow more flowers and Mama wanted a
new place to put up a large clothes line that was out of the way of her parking place. While he
and Mama got what they wanted, I converted the former chicken coops into club houses for me
and my friends.

The one thing the old shed did keep though, was it use as a place to continue to store stuff. When
I think about it, hardly anyone at “410” really threw anything away because the shed was always a
treasure trove of stuff that kept an inquisitive kid busy for a lot of years.

Anyway, what was amazing about all this was even though all this “Junky mess,” as Mama called it,
cluttered up Uncle John’s truck or the barn/shed, if you moved one thing -- even if deep inside
one of the piles –- Uncle John would know it and say something like, “Well, I see somebody has
been messing around my stuff … ain’t none of their business what I got and what I do with it!”

By the way, up to around 1949, Uncle John’s car was a black, 1938 2-door Ford Coupe with a
“Rumble Seat.” Talk about wanting to grow up quickly and drive something really cool -– this was
it! Riding around Sumter or down to Santee in the rumble seat of that car was the best thing ever
-– coolest thing going (I thought at time).

While I’m sure there were many cars like his in Sumter at the time, what made his car so special,
to me anyway, was that best as I can remember, I never saw another car like that. I thought
Uncle John had the only one in the world like that (with a rumble seat) and that made it even more
special to all of us that got to ride in that rear seat and feel the wind blowing on our faces and
we roared down the street.

However, the car did have one minor flaw –- the right passenger door would not latch securely.

To fix this, Uncle John had a make-shift wire device mounted inside the car that had to be
wrapped around the door handle to keep the door closed.  This simple but flawed trick of his
presented me with my first introduction as to how dangerous automobiles could be.

Long before I was born there at “410” (in Mama’s room) and up through the 80s, “410” had a
cook/housekeeper that worked there 6 days a week. One wonderful lady named “Louise Charles”
who lived down on Bee Street in Shannontown (area south of the railroad tracks after you went
south over the “Overhead Bridge” on Main Street), not only cooked and did housekeeping but also
helped raise/take care of me in the 40s since Mama worked at night and slept up until about
3 PM every day.

Anyway, one day in the summer of 1945, Mama was driving Uncle John’s car and taking Louise
home and had me (I was 3 years old) in the car with them. After letting Louise out at her place,
Mama  proceeded to switch into race car driver mode and after backing out Louise’s dirt
driveway and on to the dirt street, she whipped the car around and floored it go roaring back
down Bee Street.

Unfortunately, there was only one problem -– I was not in the car.

Mama told me later that she heard Louise screaming at her and when she looked in the rear-view
mirror, Louise had me in her arms while running after the car and yelling, “Miss Bailey, your boy
done fell out your car!”

You guessed it –- Louise had forgotten about Uncle John’s temporary door latch wire and after
she got out and Mama did her fast turn to the left to go back down Bee St., the door popped open
and I slipped out through the partially opened door and went bouncing into the dirt street!

Thanks goodness Bee Street was not paved back then –- it could have been bad for me. To
everyone’s relief and surprise, I didn’t suffer any injuries. Actually, I thought it was kind of fun!

The driveway at “410” was in reality, a multi-purpose asset that enriched my life in so many simple
ways. Because the driveway was so long and dirt, it was used for so many different things.

For example, in the beginning, it was just one huge sand pile that seemed to go on forever. Then, it
was a place to pull or push wagons -– complete with rivers and ponds to splash through when we dug
ditches across the driveway and filled them with water.

While these water attractions were a ton of fun, neither of my Uncles or Mama thought they were!
Needless to say, these rivers and ponds play devices fell out of favor at “410” real quick.

All this so far sets the stage I guess, for my eventual love for things that I could ride on, ride in,
and finally drive all by myself.  

Wheelbarrows, Wagons, and Bikes:

These three magical wheeled devices were my first introduction to the world of transportation and
helped fuel my burning desire to one day drive a car all by myself.

Some of my earliest memories of growing up on Church Street involved being pushed in a
wheelbarrow by my Uncle Carl as he went to tend to one of Grandmother’s gardens located in two
empty lots across the street from “410.”  

I can still see in my mind those memories of when I was just 2-3 years old -- hanging on to the
sides of the wheelbarrow for dear life, laughing all the way and hearing Uncle Carl laughing as we
bounced along and then went bumping across the tilled rows in the garden. I thought those rides
were the greatest things in life -- they were so much fun and in many ways I guess, they put me on
the road so to speak to loving riding and driving things.

Tricycles were great out on the huge sidewalk that ran from the front porch of “410” to the
sidewalk that ran along side Church Street -– fast raceways for young peddlers -– but they (all
the sidewalks) could not hold a candle to the thrills and spills that a good old dirt driveway
could provide.

Our dirt driveway provided an excellent opportunity to explode the thrills of airborne travel on
a tricycle and later on a bicycle. As I have mentioned before there was a huge wood pile off to
the side and in front of the old shed. Up until 1954, the kitchen at “410” had a wood burning stove
and needed a constant supply of firewood.

Fortunately for us kids, the wood (all of which was mill ends from a local lumber/sawmill site)
provided for a lot of play activities -– like building forts by stacking the boards and you guessed
it, for making effective launch ramps, etc., for daring wagon riders, tricycle peddlers, and
eventually, fearless bike riders.

We built all sorts of ramps, bridges, and various other devices to test our skill and daring. Some
times these devices were spread over the ditches I mentioned earlier that were filled with water
to make the daring jumps even more excited. Sometimes, we just plowed through all the water --
skipping the ramps we had built –- so as to go for the gold immediately, that is, get rewarded for
a daring ride by getting soaked by the water splashes.

As we got older and migrated towards bikes full time, the daredevils acts and stunts we all pulled
got more involved.  One of the craziest things we did was build our own bikes. I know people had
new bikes but I swear, I don’t ever remember having one. It seems like most of the bikes in our
neighborhood were 2nd hand at best but that was never an issue as we were all proud of our bikes
and everybody tricked out theirs to suit their own fancy.

While we dutifully added things like lots of red reflectors (wedged in the wheel spokes), and had
stiff cards attached via clothes pins to the fender supports so as to make the card bounce/rub
against the spokes as the wheel turned to make a sound like a motor, we also experimented with
various fenders and baskets we found.

Found -– like in we roamed the city and dump places looking for bicycle parts, old bikes, whatever,
to get needed parts. A prized find was a complete chain –- the life blood of any bike -– for when
you broke a chain link, it was game over time. We used all our scavenged parts to keep our stable
of bikes up and running in pretty good order.

Remember that old shed I mentioned earlier? Keep in mind that in 80 years, all sorts of good stuff
had found a home in that old shed. I’m talking about things like all sorts, sizes and shapes of nails,
bolts, screws, washers, thing-ah-ma-jigs, and thing-ah-ma-bobs, plus various sizes of do-dads, and a
whole lot of various versions of what-the-heck-are-those-things rounded out the almost endless
supply of things to either fix a broken bike with or enhance its appearance around
the neighborhood.

We also did some crazy things with the stuff we found. For example, one time my across the street
neighbor and friend Mike Gilchrist and I found a pair of bikes dumped somewhere and after we
drug them back home, he came up with the brilliant idea to bolt two frames together and make a
bicycle built for two.

While the idea was sound, and the finished product looked awesome, it ended up being the bike
from hell as I think we both ended up with so many cuts and bangs from it wrecking so much that
we were given new marching orders from the responsible adults that seemed to think they had
control over us. “DO NOT RIDE that piece of crap again,” seemed to be the gist of the messages
we got in spades.

I still do not know why we wrecked so much because we both were skilled bike riders. It must
have been the poor quality of the parts we found. Yeah, that sounds better because I’m sure racing
it up and over a 2-foot high ramp to jump over a water-filled ditch had nothing to do with the fact
we got dumped on our crazy behinds while laughing all the way to the crash site!

Our bikes also gave us our first real taste of freedom as they allowed us to roam far from home.
Covering the city limits of Sumter by foot in the late 40s and early 50s was easy -- we were
young, eager, and seemed to never get tired of walking anywhere.

The older we got, the more adventuresome we became in our bike trips. By the time we were 10, 12
years old, taking long rides like out to Poinsett State park to swim for just an hour or so was a
piece of cake. I can not even begin to imagine parents (in Sumter) today allowing their 10 year old
kids to ride their bikes on that 36 mile round trip out to Poinsett and back.

We’d ride out to Cane Savannah off the Wedgefield Road, or to Boykins Mill on Swift Creek up
off US 521 going to Camden, or Whites Pond up on US 15 North on a whim -– “Let’s go throw rocks
in the water … or something,” and boom, we were off and peddling.  

Yes, bikes became and were an important mode of transportation for all us chomping at the bit to
explore the world around us. However, not wanting to leave out one method of transportation that
was also actively used in our growing pre-teen years was our ability to use skates to travel far
and wide.

While I have previously mentioned skates and our love for them on Church Street, I did not talk
about their use beyond our neighborhood.

One of the greatest assets that Sumter gave to most all of us that grew up there in the 40s and
50s were sidewalks -– those wonderful wide, concrete pathways that not only allowed us to safely
walk to just about anywhere within the city limits of Sumter, but to also ride our bikes there and
also, to skate to just about anywhere we wanted to go.

However, there were a few drawbacks along the way, and with the skates having the smallest of
wheels on all our rolling methods of transportation -- wagons, tricycles, bikes, and skates -–
broken sidewalks (cracks) poised a challenge to our abilities to get past them without talking a
nose dive over into the bushes.

While I am on the subject -– nose dives -– I also recall another fun thing we did during the
heydays of our bicycle riding. As we got older, the more stripped down our bikes became, that is,
fenders, baskets, etc., were for sissies and little kids –- not daring stunt riders like us. Therefore
we zoomed around with the water spraying up on us from the wheels after it had rained and
laughed at how wet and dirty we became. The only draw back to this stunt was our parents didn’t
think it was funny at all.

Then there one more thing we did that was cool (at least we thought so at first).

Some genius in our riding community found out that since there was no fender covering the front
wheel, you could jam your foot in between the underside of the frame where it attached to the
steering post and press down on the wheel.

This rubbing action created (after you practiced the technique long enough) a high pitched
screeching noise and when we used to come on people who were walking, we would jam our foot
down on the wheel as we approached them from behind and scare the devil out of the unsuspecting
person ahead of us.

As with most not thoroughly tested new ideas, this one also had its drawbacks which in the summer
of my 11th year of growing up in Sumter, cost me eight weeks of bicycle riding. I was flying home
along the sidewalk on Crescent Street, coming from Brown Street and headed towards Church
Street, when I saw a lady walking in front of me.

Being the ever thinking genius that I thought I was, I thought that if I used BOTH feet to press
down on the front wheel, I would make TWICE the noise and really scare this lady.

Wrong!

I found out very quickly as I started flying through the air head first over the handle bars and
saw the sidewalk rapidly approaching my body that applying both feet to the wheel in motion
created an absolute brake to the wheel –- freezing its motion immediately -– and hence, I learned
the hard way that day about Newton 1st law of motion -- a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

In other words, the concept of inertia was introduced to me in the cruelest way when the second
part of this law which states “unless the body is compelled to change its state” came into play by
the front wheel not turning and I was launched head first over the handle bars.

The hard part of this lesion was the landing on the sidewalk as I stopped (broke) my fall with my
two outstretched arms which immediately broke both of my writs.

Let’s just say that Mama was not a happy camper when the lady I tried to scare woke Mama up at
home and she had to take me to the Emergency Room at Tuomey. The only good thing (I guess) that
came out of this was my two badges of honor (white, plaster of Paris wrist casts) I got to wear for
the summer and to collect signatures with.  

I remember one time around 1949 a bunch of us kids were riding our bikes on the sidewalk past my
house and near the corner of Church and Crescent where the sidewalk had been built to actually go
around a huge tree (imagining doing that today).

As we started around the tree, we almost ran head-on into Hattie Mo pushing her bike along the
sidewalk. Hattie was a local fixture in those days in Sumter. She roamed far and wide on her
bicycle and scavenged for things in the trash plies along the streets in town. Some say she was
actually a rich lady, had a house, etc., but to us kids, she looked scary.

We slammed on the brakes and just stood there on the sidewalk, frozen in time -– most were afraid
of her -– so many crazy stories were around about her (like she was really a witch).

Anyway, she just stared at us and then while reaching down into a dirty old bag she was carrying,
she looked at us and cackled, “You boys know what I got in this bag?”

No one moved or said a word and then in perfect unison -- boom -- we were turned around and
peddling like crazy and heading for Riley Park two blocks away as we heard her laughing out loud
behind us.

We never knew or ever wanted to know what was in that bag!

Soap Box Derby, Jalopies, and Cruising Cars:

Moving on up to the big time! By now, my story should have convinced you that nothing was going to
stop my continual quest to drive my own car and then be able to really strike out on my own and
explore the world around me.

As we approached driving age (legal age in SC at the time was 14 for driver’s license) most of us
were getting real yancy to drive –- anything!

Between the ages of 10 to 14, we were at that age when soap box derby cars were so exciting.
After seeing newsreels about them at the Sumter, Carolina, and Rex movie theaters downtown , I
think we all dreamed of building that special racer and then come zooming down a hill and taking
the checkered flag as the crowds yelled and cheered us on to victory!

The only problem was with this was there were no hills in Sumter. The closest thing to it was the
Overhead Bridge on S. Main Street and the city took a dim view of us kids trying to use it for
anything except to walk over and ride like the wind on our bikes when no one was looking.

However, being the ever resourceful kids that we were, a little thing like a lack of a proper hill
or an elevated starting gate for a beautifully built soap box derby car didn’t deter us one bit.  
Why is this, you might ask? Because we could build one ourselves!

Three discarded 12-foot long pine shelf boards spliced together, then two of these 36-foot long,
8-inch wide rails placed about 16 inches apart and attached/held apart by several 2x4 cross
braces on the underside, and one end propped up on a 3-foot high stand (two 55 gallon oil drums
with a square wooden “launch pad” attached to the tops) made for one heck of a soap box derby
race car launch system.

The only problem was it seems we couldn't’t steer them worth a crap on the narrow ramp and after
several failed attempts to negotiate the great looking launch ramp with our brand new soap box
car (read that, fell off the rails and got dumped hard out onto the ground) we decided that maybe
this was not such a great idea after all.

We even tried dragging them behind our bikes but that quickly got to be real tiring and it just
wasn’t the same thing. When the girls in the neighborhood started ragging us with chants like,
“What’s the matter, little boy … your car won’t run?” we knew it was time to hang it up and
move on.

Meanwhile, getting back to cars -- I guess in the great scheme of growing up, one of the greatest
achievements or rewards that we all could work towards obtaining was that small piece of paper
that basically said, “South Carolina Driver’s License.”

Ba da bing, ba da boom -- I had ARRIVED in April of 1956 when I walked out of the SC Driver’s
License testing location there in Sumter with that piece of paper in my hands!

We ALL (the new emerging official drivers in Sumter as my generation was finally hitting the
roads) thought that with that paper in hand, “You had made it -- you were grown up,” or so
we thought.

While adults, parents, and the local police (God love them … they really tried to just keep all of
us safe and alive) generally thought otherwise, we were on our own and cruising about the world we
so desperately wanted to tour and explore on our terms.

As I have stated before, Mama let me start learning how to drive when I was 10. Her excuse given
to the others living there at “410” for allowing me to drive her car was, “Well, he might have to go
to the store for me.” By the time I turned 12 in the spring of 1954, I was already over 6 feet tall
so I had no problem sitting behind the wheel of Mama’s 1948 Oldsmobile and driving/looking like I
was older and going to the store for her was a regular occurrence.

The store at the time was an open air market over on the corner of Pine and N. Main Streets. Since
it was just 3 blocks away, I could make it there and back in less than 10 minutes.

Pine Street -– at the time (1956) -- was still dirt from Church Street to over past Rowland Avenue
and then on beyond there and then around the curve when Pine turned into Corbett Street.  

With the Waters Works on the right side all the way down and nothing but the big field (we called
it the back field) on the left down to Rowland and then nothing but woods with a Lover’s Lane in the
middle between Pine and Pear Streets, we had a excellent place to try out several driving skills not
normally taught in ANY driving schools.   

Here, we practiced the fine art of sliding, fish tailing, and skidding, and all the while keeping
control of the car as we maneuvered all over the dirt road and eventually went sliding around the
curve at the end and heading for Broad Street to celebrate the fact we made the turn.

It was during this time of learning new skills that two of my next door neighbors and partners in
escapades growing up on Church Street -– Michael & Danny Hill -– were also heavy into car building.

One day Mr. Hill drug an old Model T type jalopy home with him and dumped it into their backyard
and basically said to his sons, “If you can get it to run, you can drive it.”  To his surprise (I really
do not think he thought they would ever get it to run), the boys (Michael & Danny) had it running
like a sewing machine inside a month.

They also stripped the old jalopy car down to the absolute bare metal frame –- just enough to hold
the front & rear axles/wheels, motor and drive train. There was NOTHING else on the car except
for a seat. I’ll never forget the day when Michael came roaring down Church Street, grinning from
ear to ear as he sat up on a discarded Love Seat sized sofa he had found and had tied to the frame
with a rope to be used as a car seat!

With the exhaust pipes spitting fire and smoke (no mufflers) he raced back forth on Church Street
in front of our houses proudly showing off his scavenger expertise in the form of his beautiful, soft
seat he had found for the race car as they now called it.

Michael did pursue this adventure (stock car racing) for a while out at the Sumter Speedway but I
think having several wrecks (best as I can remember, he kept running off the track on turn 4
because he never would slow down) convinced him that maybe race car driving wasn’t for him.

However, we all did have fun with the old Model T jalopy race car they kept around the house and
it provided for lots of fun -– especially over on the dirt part of Pine Street. Somewhere during
this entire car craze time (building, modifying cars –- we all were doing it) Danny found a hood
from a 1940 Ford.

One day, we were in their backyard, tinkering with the old Model T when someone looked over at
the hood laying there upside down on the ground and exclaimed, “Boys, I think we are in luck!”

To make a long story short, within minutes, we had the hood strapped to the back of the Model T
and we all piled on and headed up to Pine Street and then went over to Rowland Ave. before
stopping. There we took the hood off the Model T, sat it on the ground -- still upside down -- and
tied it behind the Model T with a 20-foot length of rope.

You guessed it –- within seconds we were hauling tail down Pine Street with one or two of us
holding on for dear life and riding in the stupid hood as it was drug along behind the Model T.  
With the foot-high sides to the hood and the pointed boat nose, it made a perfect dirt sled.

The best part was of course, was when we reached the end of Pine Street and had to make the
sharp left turn and the hood would speed up and start climbing the dirt bank on the side of the
road as we sped around the curve. Not one time did the hood ever flip over or throw one of us out.

It was a rush like no other at the time. Dangerous, stupid -– you bet -– but we did it anyway.

Doing stuff like this -– even with our cars sliding around this same curve and on all the dirt roads
down around Santee where so many of us spent a lot of time -- helped us (I believe) in learning how
to handle a car in real driving situations (like with ice, snow, water on the road conditions, etc.).  

Cruising –- the ultimate reward of a teenager’s driving privilege –- sort of a right of passage
type thing.

After all the prep time -– wheelbarrows, wagons, tricycles, skates, bikes, soap box derby cars,
hand-made cars, backing up lessons in the “410” driveway, and going to the store for Mama -- I
was READY when I got my SC Driver’s License in April, 1956.

Two hours later, I was stuck in the mud out behind the Sky-Vue Drive-In and had to be pulled out
of the flooded corn field by Bob Abbot in his trusty jeep. There used to be an old dirt road that
ran all the way from Broad Street over to Jefferson Road but when they started building the
US 76 By-pass around Sumter, they plowed right through this road thereby cutting it in half.

Trying to turn around in a rain-soaked, freshly plowed corn field next to the now dead-end dirt
road in Mama’s 4-door, 4,000 pound ’48 Oldsmobile TANK was not the best decision I made on the
day I got my driver’s license!

Anyway, back to cruising.

Friday and Saturday nights in Sumter in the 50s and 60s and up until the time two of the key
players in the art of cruising closed their doors was not only dating nights but were cruising nights.

The two key players in all this was of course, Big Jim’s Restaurant on Broad Street and exactly
nine tenths of a mile further out on Broad at the intersection of Broad Street and present day
Bultman Drive was Cole’s Restaurant.

Starting with and counting a complete circle around Big Jim’s, then out to Cole’s, and all the way
around it and then back to the entrance at Big Jim’s was exactly 2.13 miles –- the best distance
any of us ever had in traveling in a car while growing up in Sumter.

With gas at about 20 cents a gallon and Mama’s Olds getting about 14 miles per gallon, I could buy
$2 worth of gas from my Uncle Hugh’s gas station up on Main Street on Friday afternoon and have
enough gas to do about 30 round-trip cruises each night on the weekend.

Everybody cruised -- except when not parked at one of the restaurants to eat and more
importantly, hanging out at each others car and socializing and waving at all the other cruisers,
etc., as they dutifully made their way around the two cornerstones of our growing years in Sumter.

Earlier I mentioned that even the police looked out for us, including the Highway Patrol officers
that patrolled the many roads into and out of Sumter. They all cared for us and would stop by the
two restaurants, talk to us, knew all of us by name, and constantly tried to give us advice, tips,
etc., on how to stay safe while driving.

While it was neat and very friendly with the police while we were behaving ourselves at these two
restaurant hangouts, they (police) were all business if they caught us out on the road racing or
dragging each other in our cars, or just being dumb and doing 120 miles an hour on any of the roads
outside Sumter.  Then it was down to brass tacks and written rewards (tickets) as many of
Sumter’s finest found out the hard way!

A few years ago, Deanna and I were on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line cruise on the their beautiful
ship the “Freedom of the Seas” and I was up in one of the hot-tubs on the pool deck just chilling
out with a beer in hand and talking with several folks also in the tub.

Somehow, the conversation got around to our high school days, cruising, etc., and I started talking
about this one particular SC Highway Patrolman who took a keen interest in all of us at the time
and tried his best to give us good advice and tips on how to stay safe while driving.

As I was recounting how he told us about keeping our speeds relative to those around us -- like if
they were doing 30 for us not to being doing 60, or if they were doing 60, for us not to be doing
30, etc. -– I noticed this man across from me staring to cry, especially when I ended my little
speech about how I was sure that I and many other kids that the patrolman had spoken to were
alive today because the man gave us all such great, caring advice.

Thinking I had said or done something wrong, I asked the man what was wrong. His answer left
me speechless.

Wiping the tears from his eyes, he said, “The man you are talking about was my father. I have
heard stories about him all my life about how he tried to help kids when he patrolled around
Sumter and this is the first time I have ever met anyone that knew all this in person and validated
that all the stories that I had heard were true.”

Talk about a small world -– there I was in the middle of the Caribbean Sea in a hot tub on a cruise
ship, recounting a memory from over 50 years ago and a man sitting there listening to the story is
the son of the man I was fondly talking about -– a hero to so many of us that appreciated his
efforts to keep us all alive.

Yes, transportation and especially cars played an important part of my life growing up in Sumter.

From the long race track type dirt driveway that I learned to drive on, to having a mother that
could drive with the best of them (and a whole lot better than most), to riding in rumble seats with
the wind in my face and cruising Cole’s and Big Jim’s in Mama’s beautiful, black 4-door ’48 Olds
tank, cars helped shape who I was and allowed me the freedom to explore the world around me.

Thank you, Uncles John and Andrew, for introducing me to cars and trucks. Thank you, Uncle Hugh,
for helping a lot of us teenagers with some extra gas when money was tight on the weekend. Thank
you Aunt Louise, for letting me at 17 years old, drive your brand new, bright Canary yellow 1957
Plymouth Convertible all the way to Edisto Beach -– I was King of the Road all the way!

In closing this long memory about transportation, I’d like to relate a few more memories and facts
about Mama and her driving.

To the best of my knowledge, Mama never took a driver’s license test in her life but had a license
from the time the State mailed her one around 1920 until she hung up her keys around 1990 when
she was 84 years old. She swore that’s how she got the first one and always said, “They mailed me
one because they had heard we had cars up here on Church Street and that I was driving around
town and needed a license.”

I’m not 100% that’s the whole truth but it was fun listening to the story. Another story she used
to tell about her teenage driving times in Sumter in the early 20s was her confrontations with a
certain traffic policeman stationed in downtown Sumter in the center of the intersection of Main
and Liberty Streets.

On Saturdays when Mama got to drive Granddaddy’s car downtown, she swore that every time she
approached that intersection that the policeman would see her coming and start blowing his whistle
while throwing up is hands in the air and frantically waving them to stop all traffic and then shout
out loudly, “Watch out -– here comes a loose car!”

Even though Mama passed away in 1996 at 90 years old, she still holds the land speed record from
“410” to my home in Marietta, GA. If you average 65 miles and hour, that 300 mile trip takes at
least 5 hours and 15 minutes. The last time she did it in her 1975 Chevrolet Impala in 1980 (she
was 74 at the time) she did it in 3 hours and 20 minutes!

When I confronted her about this obvious very fast time after she told me how long it had taken
her to drive all that way, I exclaimed to her, “Mama, you had to average over 100 mph to have
made that trip that fast!”

She just looked at me with her beautiful, soft eyes and gentle smile and replied with her typical,
innocent shrug of her shoulders, “Well … I guess I was just letting it roll!” Richard Petty and
Fireball Roberts would have been proud!

I love you Mama and thank you for teaching me how to drive and letting me go to the store for you
when you needed something.
Not long after I got married (Dec, 1962), my wife was visiting my mama at “410” and she was just
getting to know my family while I was in the Navy and on patrol on my submarine.

At the time, still living together in my grandmother’s house was Mama, Aunt Ethel, Uncle Andrew,
and Uncle John. Uncle John’s nickname was “Rabbit” -- due to his hobbling along when he played
softball due to an injury he sustained in WWII.

One day, the phone rang and Deanna answered the call. “May I speak to Rabbit?” the caller requested.

“Sir, there is no rabbit living here,” exclaimed Deanna as she abruptly slammed down the phone on
what she thought was a crank caller.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang again and once again, the caller asked to speak to Rabbit.

Once again, Deanna informed the caller that NO Rabbit lived there and to please stop making
these crank calls and proceeded to slam the phone down.

A few minutes later, the same person called back and this time said, “This is Bobby Richardson
with the New York Yankees … may I please speak with Rabbit, I mean, John Humphries?”

Deanna fired back, “I don’t care if you are Mickey Mantle, there is NO RABBIT that lives here!”
and slammed done the phone.

At supper time that night, Deanna told the story about the calls. Uncle John let her finish before
telling her that yes indeed, that was his old friend Bobby calling. He told her that he had talked to
Bobby after the calls when Bobby finally called the Fire Department and told him some crazy
woman was answering the phone at his house!

Bobby called the house again the next day and he and Deanna had a good laugh about the
whole affair.

As it turned out, a “rabbit” did live there at “410” after all!
Some of my favorite memories I have while growing up centers around money –- not all there, having
it, not having it, or just laying round.

I do not recall ever worrying about money –- it just seemed like we always had it (at least I
thought we did) and basically, it never was a major issue in my happy go lucky environment.

I’m sure there were times when money was tight but all those (adults) that lived at “410” handled it
well and just got on with their lives the best way they knew how and with what resources they had
available to them. I think it was this mode of operation, so to speak, that slowly rubbed off on to
me for as I got older and then on my own and finally with a family of my own, I tended to follow
along in their footsteps and basically was never the worst for doing so.

For a lot of years while Mama was the head nurse and 11-7 night supervisor at Tuomey Hospital,
her sister -- Louise Lyon (Lyon’s Drug Store on S. Main Street and Lyon’s Newsstand out on Broad
Street) -- worked at the NBSC bank downtown in the accounting department.

Whenever Mama got paid, her check amount was some even number plus one penny -– say $210.01,
for example.

Mama hated cents and never recorded them in her checkbook and always rounded up to the next
dollar all of her entries. When she went by the bank to deposit her paycheck, she always waited
until Louise could come out and deal with her personally and they could use this time to talk and
catch up on things.  Mama’s dislike of cents was the same with her deposit slips because in this
case, she always made the deposit slip out for just $210.00 but gave her sister a check that was
actually for $210.01.

Since the sisters were so busy gabbing, the error of the one penny went unnoticed, that is until
later when the bank was closed to customers and they had to balance out all the money
transactions that had occurred that day. Every other Friday, they were out by one cent.

Louise complained about this all the time -- how every other Friday, they had to stay late and find
the missing penny. Why it took so long (over a year as best as I remember) to find out it was the
way Mama filled out her deposit slips I’ll never know but when Louise found out it was her sister
causing all the fuss, WWIII almost broke out!

I mentioned Mama’s dislike for cents above and how she maintained her checkbook. To her, it was
all very simple. When she got paid, she entered that amount in her checkbook and started all over
again with subtracting the amounts of checks she wrote from that new balance figure.

What was there before was irrelevant to her -– she always started off with the new deposit
amount as her new check writing session got underway.

As she wrote checks and entered them into her checkbook, she always rounded up her entries to
the next even 5 dollar amount. For example, if the actual amount on the check was $2.18, or $6.25,
or $17.40, Mama would enter $5.00, $10.00, or $20.00 in her check book. In her mind, how much
she had in the bank was how much she had left from her last pay check. It worked for her for a lot
of years and I guess that is all that counts.

A sort of funny side note to this was during all these years, Mama always worried about having
enough money to take care of her limited bills and then having some money left over to give to kids,
grandkids, or order something from Miller and Rhodes or Rich’s catalog. After she passed in 1996
and my sister and I were going over all her finances, we discovered her little checkbook accounting
system. What blew us away was how much money Mama really did have in the bank.

Mama never, ever looked at her bank balance when she got it in the mail every month when the bank
sent out its monthly balance sheet and returned all her cancelled checks. She just put it in one of
her bank boxes (old shoe boxes full of bank statement letters) as she called them and forgot about
them. In her mind, the balance number in her check book was how much she had.

Not only did we discover her checkbook accounting system but also discovered that Mama had
thousands of dollars in the bank that she did not know she had. All those years of rounding up her
checkbook entries paid off because she ended up with quite a large “savings account.”   

One of the routines I observed over the years I lived at “410” was the money ritual that occurred
in the kitchen every Friday. When you first entered the kitchen from the dinning room, there was a
countertop right there at the doorway. It went all the way down that wall to the corner of the
room and then turned to the left and ran along that wall to just past the sink about midway along
the wall.

Starting after breakfast, money in the form of fives, tens, and twenties started showing up in a
small basket placed there on the countertop. By the time supper was over, there was always well
over a hundred dollars in the basket. This was the grocery money and all those that lived there, the
adults, contributed to the cause, so to speak.

Mama bought all the groceries for the house and the money gathering ritual on Friday and her
Saturday morning trip to the grocery store were set in concrete. I can honestly say in all the
years that I watched this I do not think anyone ever said anything about the money, how much or
how little was contributed, or any questions about what Mama bought or did not buy.

If someone was going to be absent from the house for an extended period of time or if new people
(visiting family or friends) were going to be in the house for just one meal or many, the amount of
money contributed always seemed to work out perfectly.  

What I do remember though was when I was young, that going to the grocery store with Mama on
Saturdays were wonderful adventures as I eagerly went with her and then got to wander all over
the huge store and look at things. I still do this today in that I thoroughly enjoy going to the
grocery store on my weekly outings to our local grocery stores to buy our groceries.

Now that I really think about it, I guess in some ways I am just following along behind Mama and
totally loving looking at the items on the shelves and also ever on the lookout for something new
that might pop up on the shelves.

One of the things that happened at the grocery store every now and then and even later after I
was married and Deanna would go with her was what Mama did when the money didn’t work out
correctly, that is, the amount for the groceries was more than had been left on the
kitchen counter.

She’d just stand there and shrug her shoulders and say in her quiet but determined voice,
“Well … it looks like I am going to have to go into my side of the pocketbook!”

This meant she would use some of her own non-grocery money to fund the difference and would
recoup her shortfall from the others when she got back home.

While Mama hated pennies, her brother John was the extreme opposite of her as far as pennies
were concerned.

I think Uncle John kept every penny he ever got and either stored them in boxes in his room there
at “410” or just threw them into his car or truck. At any given time, I swear he had a 100 dollars
worth of pennies just laying on the seats and floor of either his truck or car! Anyway, he would let
me go through them every month or so to see if I could find any dates I might need.

What is funny about this (Uncle John not spending any pennies he got in change) is that I somehow
inherited this same quirk from him for I am the same way. I have a galvanized wash tub in my
bedroom that has pennies in it that I have been collecting for the last 40+ years. It is so heavy
(weighs over 200 pounds I suspect) that the tub can no longer be moved. Uncle John would
be proud!

While I was growing up at “410” I thought we were rich because in my mind’s eye, we never seemed
to lack for anything and everyone always seemed so happy and content with what we had.

All I saw were loving, laughing, and smiling people who were frugal in many ways (Mama saved,
cleaned aluminum foil and folded up for use again, dried out used paper towels, etc.,) saved things
crazily (Uncle John’s pennies, Aunt Ethel’s pieces of cloth and recipes, and Uncle Andrew’s flower
bulbs that never bloomed again), and made do with whatever was at hand and never openly pined
about not having something. To me, we had it all.

I guess it was high school time for me before money was really important. Even then, it was just
about enough gas money for that weekend and some date money for shows and refreshments, etc.
and every now and then, a new shirt or pair of pants.

However, I was also aware of the so-called snobbery that existed in town and amongst some of my
peers as I slowly became aware of how some people openly and/or quietly judged others simply
because of how much money they had or didn’t have.

When I look back on all this now, I am so thankful I grew up in “410” and saw first hand that
money had nothing to do with how people were –- on the inside or outside.
End Part 3 of 3 for Church Street Memories.

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