Revisiting Old Memories
By Bill Shepard
It was just an old newspaper lying in a cardboard box waiting to be thrown away. How long had it been lying on my basement floor and going unnoticed I am not sure. There were other old papers in the box also, all were less important than the one that caught my eye and demanded my attention. I stooped, picked up the box, and reached inside. The newspaper had been folded to make a small bundle, and was beginning to fade and turn yellow. I unfolded the paper and discovered several articles that had been cut from previous copies of other old newspapers. The one that got my attention right off was that of a picture of St. John’s Elementary School in Darlington.
In appearance the school remains as it was the first time that I laid eyes on it and that happened nigh on ninety years ago. The one thing that got my attention was a fence that surrounded the front campus. There were other writings that had been cut from previous editions and they too stirred some long ago memories within me.
One clipping, an obituary really got my attention. It was about a person I’d bet some of my readers will remember. Raymond Smith worked at the BC Moore store on the square in Darlington for all of his working years. As I read the obituary I recalled the time that Raymond carne to school with one finger missing! He said he had been chopping sweet potatoes with a hatchet and accidentally cut one of his fingers off. Raymond acquired a job at the BC Moore store and I believe he remained an associate of that store for as long as he lived. I read his obit with much interest, telling of Raymond’s participation in World War II. There were other interesting clippings that I read but they will have to wait until another visitation.
The picture and the story that reached out to me and would not let go was one of a man holding a violin in his hand. The picture and the story about him covered the entire page of the newspaper. In large bold letters at the top of the page was printed the words, Angus Gainey, A Man and His Music. Heading the article that followed were the words …..Founder of State’s First High School Orchestra, to be named to South Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. By now memories were really flowing. This old writer became a little boy again and was standing in the auditorium at St. John’s Elementary. Memory can be a beautiful thing!
There were pictures of the “Old Bam”, the building on North Main where Mr. Gainey operated a business, and where he taught violin lessons. I recalled the many times that I visited that old bam-like store when I was a boy. So many memories had been awakened inside the old mind, including the one regarding the newspaper that was before me.
I glanced at the top of the page I was holding in my hand. The date on the paper was November 1997. Everything fell into place! I had visited a former teacher of St. John’s Elementary who at the time was living in Greenville, SC. This lady, Miss Edna Anderson, had been my third grade teacher way back in 1930! Miss Anderson made such an impact on my life that I once wrote of her as “my most unforgettable teacher. That was long after I had become a teacher!
On my last visit with Miss Anderson she told me that she taught at St. John’s for fifteen years beginning in 1930 until 1945. She moved to Greenville and continued to teach until she retired after forty-five years of teaching. She had a good memory and we often shared memories of Darlington.
On my last visit with Miss Anderson she picked up a bundle of old News and Press newspapers and handed them to me.
“I have kept these for a long time”, she said, “and I know of no one I’d rather give them to than you, Willie.”
I thanked her and left. She died not long afterwards and today she is back in my memory and it all started with a bundle of old News and Press newspapers! If you are reading from somewhere above, Miss Anderson, thanks for the memories!
Never underestimate the value of the printed page!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.