A Picture and History Lesson
By Bill Shepard
I have seen memorials to lost soldiers in other places, in memory of those that were often buried in unmarked graves far from their home, but none are as meaningful to me as the one that stands on the courthouse lawn in my hometown. The picture and story of Darlington’s Confederate Veterans Memorial in the Feb. 4th issue of this paper stirred a bunch of memories in this old writer’s mind. The picture and history lesson brought back a lot of memories, and I am indeed grateful to Samantha Lyles for both. In our daily conversations by phone, my sister and I shared memories of that time long ago when the children of St. John’s Elementary would place flowers on the 20 foot tall monument on the lawn of the courthouse in Darlington.
I will never see a Scotland “Bluebell” or “Harebell” as they are sometimes called, that I will not visit that “marker” located on the Darlington Square! The deep blue flowers grow freely in most parts of the south, and are sometimes referred to as the “Cornflower.” They grow profusely in my yard at Piedmont, and each spring when I walk among them, I am reminded of time long ago.
Ah, what memories! J.C. Daniels, the kind old school master at St. John’s, would have been reminding the children for days of the coming event; the day that we would march to town and place our bouquet of flowers on the Monument. We could hardly wait for the day to arrive.
My sister remembered how she picked flowers that grew along a fence at the old mill.
I recalled how I would scramble over the old village cemetery near where we lived. The bluebells were plentiful along the roadside as well as inside the old graveyard. It was a beautiful sight, the morning when the children would arrive at school with their flowers and dressed in their best clothing. The deep blue color of my bouquet would match well with my Sunday pair of overalls and matching blue shirt. Ah, how proud I would be! Assembled in the large school auditorium, we would listen intently as Mr. Daniels would give his final instructions for the day. Back in the classroom, we would listen intently as Mr. Daniels would give his final instructions for the day. Back in the classroom, we would hear more instructions as to the way we were to behave. We were to walk in line, keeping our hands by our side, and our mouths shut. Not even a whisper! And believe it or not, we followed those instructions!
Outside the building, standing in straight lines, clutching our bouquets in our hands, we were like little soldiers on parade, and indeed, we were. What a beautiful sight…long lines of children, marching two by two, with hardly a sound except for shuffling little feet on the paved sidewalk. Not many, if any, schools in today’s world would dare such an undertaking! That kind of exercise calls for strict discipline, a jewel that is missing from many of our schools today.
By the end of the lines, after the last child had placed their bouquets of flowers, the tomb would be one solid mass of color from top to bottom. The flowers would remain for several days, and then be carried away. The flowers died early, the children are now old men and women, and many are gone. But the memories still linger; at least, in the minds of a few.
Do you remember? Let us hear!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. Signed copies of Mr. Shepard’s books “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” are available for purchase at the News and Press office. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.