A tribute to the Thomas family and the News & Press
By Bill Shepard
A special thank you to the Thomas family for their service as publishers of the News & Press for 64 years. Wow!
I can recall some of my earliest visits to the office of the News & Press, long before I knew that the name was that of a newspaper. The office was located on Pearl Street and at that time, they sold the textbooks used at St. John’s Grammar and High schools in Darlington. There were no free textbooks in that early time.
My memory of going to the office reaches back more than four score-plus years ago. I could never have dreamed that one day, at the age of 98, I would be writing this letter. Life indeed is often a long and winding road and it may lead in undreamed-of directions.
Fast speed ahead!
Now, the News & Press was in the hands of its new owners, the Thomas family. This writer was a much younger man, living in Florida, but staying in touch by way of this newspaper with the place he has always called home.
Morrey Thomas Sr. was then the publisher. I wrote my first article, “The Wash-Hole on Swift Creek,” and sent it to the News & Press for publishing. I still have a copy of that letter and the note that I received back from Mr. Thomas.
In his note, he invited me to visit the office, now on South Main Street, on my next visit home to Darlington. I accepted his invitation and then met the man who encouraged me to write a book about my growing up on the Mill Village in Darlington. My first book, “Mill Village Boy,” might have been born in my mind on that day.
It came off the press in 1995. True to his promise, the book was sold at his office and without any cost to me. I will forever be indebted to the man for his encouragement to continue my writing.
On the pages of this newspaper, I could relive my life as a boy growing up on the Mill Village during the years of the Great Depression; I called them “the awful ’30s.”
On the pages of this paper, I waded the shallow stream of Swift Creek, stopping along the way to fish for the red-fin pike that were plentiful in its waters.
On the pages of this paper, I gathered the red and yellow plums that ripened each year, along the edges of the farmers’ fields. Mama would turn them into delicious jelly. The jelly would be so good.
On the pages of this newspaper, I was given the opportunity to gather ripening blackberries, along the ditch banks and pastures near the Village. In the fall of each year, I knew where to go in search of the wild grapes that tried to hide in the tops of the tallest trees in the forest!
On the pages of this paper, I relived hours of working in the farmers’ fields of tobacco, cotton and corn. There were no tractors to be driven in the fields, during those times, but I followed behind the mules that pulled the plough through the hardened earth, around and around until the good earth was ready for planting.
The stories of all the above have been written on the pages of this newspaper and have been read by people who live in faraway places! Letters in my files bear witness to that truth!
My personal thanks to Morrey Sr., his daughter, Ann Boyd, his wife, Margaret, and his son, Morrey Jr., for allowing me to relive my life as a Mill Village boy on the pages of this newspaper. On my occasional visits to the office in these latter years, I always have been made to feel a part of the News & Press family, as Morrey Jr. has taken time to update me on the events in Darlington and talk with me until I remember that I have stayed too long.
Then, I make my apologies and leave, feeling good and blessed to have this opportunity.
So, I close this article with another heartfelt “Thank you” to the Thomas family for making a big part of my life’s journey a pleasant one.