A Belated Thank You
By Bill Shepard
A great big “Thank You!” (long overdue) to Mr. Douglas Lee, lifetime resident of Darlington.
Just when I was about to think that my memories of the “wash hole” was a figure of my own imagination, his letter and pictures of the old place came in the mail. Thank you, Douglas. Your letter, along with the pictures, saved me! Someone had wondered if I had a picture of the historic old site on Swift Creek, now I do!
Following Mr. Lee’s letter, I called, and what a good time we had as we shared memories of the old place, and of our growing up on the old cotton mill village. We might have talked all night long if the batteries in his phone had lasted.
Douglas and I are of different generations, and years apart. By the time that Mr. Lee was born, (1938) my wash hole days were over and I was ready to move on to other parts of my career. I spent a big chunk of my long lifetime living on mill villages in other parts of our state. One thing they all had in common was a wash hole! In the early years, cotton mills were built on or near a small creek or river. While serving as pastor at churches at various locations on mill villages, little boys would share their stories about their swimming holes on creeks and rivers. You can know that I was always eager to listen and to tell my own story!
I did some math, and it amazed me as to how long the swimming hole in Darlington has been in existence! My memories of splashing and bathing in its cool waters go back to more than four-score years! I feel certain that there were others before my time. Once, when writing on the subject in this newspaper, a letter of response came from a man living in New York! He wrote of his memories of the old place and said he was quite sure that he had hung his overalls on a nail driven in the large cypress tree that stood at the edge of the stream. His name was Hilton Trader; does anyone remember him?
Mr. Lee shared in his letter how as a little boy, he would slip away from his grandmother – who was taking care of him – and make his way to the wash hole!
After becoming an adult, Douglas said he built a road to the wash hole and hauled sand to spread along its banks and form a beach! He sent pictures to prove it!
In our conversation by phone that followed Mr. Lee’s letter, we shared memories of people, places, and events that we both remembered. When I said to Mr. Lee that there must be others who have stories they could share about that long ago time, and way of life, he responded with, “Bill, there aren’t many left who remember!”
That is all the more reason that those who can, owe it to those who can’t, to keep the old place alive!
If you, the reader, have a story you would like to share about growing up on the old mill village in Darlington, please do! If you don’t, who will? You can write to me, or better still, send your response to the Editor of the News & Press. I look forward to hearing from you!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. and 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