My hometown visit Memorial Day memories
By Bill Shepard
A line from one of my favorite songs says, “And in my mind, I am always going home.” There is something about the place of our beginning that keeps calling one back. That may be true of all of God’s creatures, the fowl of the air, fish of the sea, and folk like you and me. I have often asked myself, “What is it about the place that I like to call “home” that keeps calling me back?”
I have found that answer many times and in different ways. I have never been more proud to be a Darlingtonian than recently, when sitting in the Trinity Methodist Church and seeing faces and hearing words corning from those in charge of a well-planned program-Read on!
The car sped along Highway 26 in the direction of Columbia. I was sitting in what has become my favorite position, the back seat. My daughter and granddaughter that were visiting from Florida were in charge of the front seat. I have traveled that highway many times, but I don’t think I have ever noticed the many pine forests that can be seen covering the landscape on both sides of that highway. Of course, they have been there before but when one is in the driver’s seat, as I always was, one misses a lot of things that the rider in the back seat might see.
We passed through the busy city of Columbia and turned onto Highway 20, headed toward our destination. Not far out of Columbia, I saw a sign and read the words, “Fort Jackson.” It is strange how certain things can set the mind to remembering things and happenings that have lain dormant for a very long time. Sitting in the back seat of that car and reading the words on that sign, I became a seventeen-year-old youth again. Not another person in that car could possibly know where my mind had carried me.
The sign, “Fort Jackson,” had been Camp Jackson back where my memories were. I was a member of Battery F of the l78 th Field Artillery, located in Darlington. The National Guard Unit was stepping up its preparations for the maneuvers to be held in the weeks ahead. There was no place in Darlington to fire the large 155 millimeter Howitzer, so the Unit would travel to Camp Jackson to drill through the process.
As we traveled along, I recalled those times and faces of those I remembered, as they appeared before me. There was Captain McGinnis, Lt. Vaughan and Sgt. Buster Smoot, Harry Lee Lambert and Pappy Bradshaw. There isn’t space to list all the names here, but I could! They are all gone now but they left memories that continue til this day and time. The year of which I write was September 1939. Anyone remembering besides me?
Memorial Day, 2018, I sat inside Trinity Methodist Church in Darlington. Rain was falling on the outside and memories were flowing on the inside. The weather had not permitted the program to be held in the open; how fortunate we were to have such a comfortable place, as had been provided. We salute those who had given much of their time in preparing the program that we were there to enjoy. I sat, my eyes searching the crowd for familiar faces but there weren’t many. Could there be just one who could recall Battery F? Just one? As names of the various branches of military service were called, members were asked to stand. As each branch of the service was called and men who had served stood, my heart seemed to swell inside to be an American, a Darlingtonian American, and a part of what I was seeing and hearing. Hats off and a great big salute to those that made that day all that it was!
A whirlwind visit with my sister, a true and lifelong Darlingtonian-Jenny Howell-and we were headed back to Piedmont. Sitting in the back seat, my mind was not on the landscape but I was thinking of the memories I had just made and how I could share them with you, the Readers. I cannot! I hope you were there! If not, Next Time:
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington and we are delighted to share his stories each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.