By Bill Shepard
I think that most old men, women and even children like to reminisce about their yesterdays. Since I fall into one of the above categories, I shall continue on. The big problem about reminiscing is that too often, some of us repeat the same stories over and over again! I have a book before me, written by a long time friend. The front cover of the book is very attractive and shows two little boys talking to each other. One of the boys says to the other, “Have I told this one before?” The other boy answers, “Yes, twice!” I wonder if my friend was trying to tell me something when he sent the book.
I have learned that most folk are kind and will listen (and read) patiently as old folks ramble on with their memories. They even pretend they are hearing for the first time! So, here I go again with a story I like to tell about reminiscing!
It happened more than fifty years ago, when I was a student at Lander College, now a University, in Greenwood, South Carolina. Dr. Charles Manse taught Physics at the college and I was a student in his class. The old professor had come out of comfortable retirement to fill a vacancy at the school.
Yes, the old professor liked to reminisce about the days of his childhood that were spent along the Hudson River in New York. One of his favorite stories was about helping his father to build icehouses along the river in the wintertime. He would tell, in detail, how his father would cut block of ice from the frozen river and stack them according to the design he had in his mind. Often while listening, my mind would escape the classroom and I would find myself wading and splashing along Swift Creek in Darlington. I enjoyed his stories much more than I enjoyed the Physics that he taught. One student who sat near me would sometimes speak out and say, “I remember that!” I thought he was rude and I would say to him, “Be quiet and let him tell his story!”
The problem came at the end of the semester and it was examination time! I recall sitting and staring at the blackboard and pondering as to how to solve the problems the old professor had placed on the board. At that time, my friend sitting by me leaned over and whispered, “Draw an icehouse on your paper.” I could have done that more easily than trying to solve the problems on the test! I was tempted, but refused and I’m glad I did. I made a passing grade and moved on. The memories have followed for all of the years since.
Often when I am visiting in Darlington, I drop by to see my old friend, Harold Timmons. Harold and I go back a long way in time. Harold often says it is farther back than he can remember! Harold was just a little boy when his father operated a small store on Phillip Street in Darlington. Harold had two older brothers, Monroe and Clarence, and we helped his Dad at the store. Harold would visit with his Mother at various times. Harold’s father was one of the most influential men in my young life. My visit with Harold is always punctuated with stories out of that long time ago. Harold will listen as I carry him back in time and often will break into my story with…”Bill, how do you remember that?”
My wife, sister, daughter and her husband are usually present and will sit quietly listening and pretending they are hearing the stories for the first time! They are kind and so are you! Have you read this one before? I can hear someone saying, “Yes, twice!”
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.