Living on the West End: Come, reminisce with me

By Bill Shepard

Did you know that the city of Darlington once had a landfill where stuff that no one wanted was carried and thrown away?
Of course, the word “landfill” had not come into my vocabulary at that time. We called places like that “trash piles.” Of course, when I was a boy, folks didn’t have much to throw away! I suppose that might be the reason I have a hard time, even to this day, throwing anything away!
The landfill or the trash pile was located near the creek bridge behind the old mill. Two times each week, trash collected from uptown was hauled to the trash pile and deposited. Mr. Tarleton (I never knew his first name) drove a large white horse hitched to a big wagon filled with stuff he had collected.
The boys who lived on the village nearby would meet him there and plunder through the trash for things they could use. This writer was one of those boys.
Cardboard boxes to sit in could be used for sliding down the railroad embankment. That seemed so much fun when I was a boy. Old, worn-out tricycle or wagon wheels could be used to make a wagon to play with. We never knew what we might find and that was especially true when he brought the load he had collected from around the town square!
The yard men who collected and disposed of junk collected from the mill also used the spot to deposit their stuff. The place was filled and then left for time to take care of it. It finally grew over with undergrowth. I suppose relics from that time could still be found at the spot.
Only a few hundred yards from where the city deposited its trash, there was a large artesian flowing well. The well freely spilled a large flow of water day and night. Some said that the well furnished all the water used at the mill and in the houses on the village.
I have questioned how the water from the well was pumped to that part of the village that lay across the creek from the well. One has to keep in mind that there was no large earth-moving equipment available when the village houses were built! Besides, the water would need to run across the creek, under the road and then through the railroad embankment to the first house. This writer lived in that first house for 10 years and cannot believe this is the answer.
The mill and that part of the village might very well have been furnished water from the well. There came a time when the mill company enclosed the old flowing well. No longer could a pedestrian stop for a cool drink.
Today, if folks pass along the road nearby, all they could see would be the trees and undergrowth that has taken over. Like the landfill nearby, nature has hidden it from view.
While we are traveling along the back roads in our minds, let’s visit another place and time where many hours of wholesome pastime were had. How many have memories of the baseball field called the Diamond?
That was the spot where the Milliken Nine played ball. The Milliken Nine was the team that got its name from the large textile mill owned by Milliken and Deering Co. All the players held jobs in the mill. As far as I know, none was paid for being on the team.
There was never a charge for watching the team play and there was always a large crowd. On some occasions a person might pass his hat through the crowd for a donation to help pay for balls and bats.
One of the players went on to play professional baseball, I learned in my later years. His name was Rock Stroud. Some of Rock’s relatives returned to Darlington to be in the reunion being held in honor of the old mill, and I talked with them about Rock. He played center field.
Some names of other players I remember are Oscar Cline, called Oz for short. Oz played shortstop between second and third base. Oz was also a good batter. Seldom did he fail to get on base while playing.
Pappy Bradshaw was a jolly, big man and played as catcher behind the batter. Sun Strickland played first base and was an excellent player. Azee Taylor and his brother were in charge of the team, along with one Mr. Stroud who was superintendent of the spinning room at the mill. Yes, there were other members of the team, too many to name even if I could recall all their names.
The teams were from surrounding localities. Those I recall were Oates, Lamar, Mechanicsville, Dovesville, Mont Clare, Timmonsville, Indian Branch and a few others.
This writer spent many pleasant hours watching the players play ball on the Diamond. They are all gone now, but they left behind some good memories to be recalled by folks like myself and I wonder how many others. Do you, the reader, remember?

Author: Rachel Howell

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