Memories from the Porch
By Bill Shepard
Long before there were shopping malls, televisions, computers, and all the other gadgets to occupy the mind, there were front porches. The designers of all the houses built on the mill village included a front and back porch on each house. The houses were made of two sizes, three (3) and four (4) rooms, and two porches. As a rule, made by the mill superintendent, only families with more than one person working at the mill could occupy a four-room house. That is why for the first ten years of my life, I lived in a three-room house. Mom, Dad and little sister in one room, three boys in the other. When my older brother was hired, we moved to a four-room house. The houses were wired for electricity but it was left to the occupant to have the power connected to the house where he lived. I remember the time well when my Dad allowed electricity to be run to our house. We had a light cord hanging from the ceiling in each of the three rooms of our house. The words “light bill” came into our vocabulary. It was fifty cents a month at the Carolina Power and Light company. I went with my Dad many times to pay the bill. We could now have a radio! Dad purchased a small table model and we would all gather around it and listen to Amos & Andy, and the Kingfish. The Kingfish was always getting the best of the other two! What fun we had, all the family, and gathered around the table where the little radio was. Another one of the family’s favorites was Lum & Abner, and Cedric down at Pine Ridge.
There wasn’t room in the house to have guests, so most of our visiting was done on the front porch. All of the mill houses were built with a large porch on the front, and a smaller one on the back of the house.
The long summer days provided time for nearby neighbors to visit and talk. Talk was often about what went on in the mill that day, who was hired, and who was fired. I liked those times, just sitting nearby and listening to the conversation being made. I enjoyed Sundays most of all. Those were the days when folk had a lot of time to visit, and visit they would.
WLOS Radio Station in Florence was new! Someone reading might remember the year it came into existence. It was in the late 1920’s or early 30’s of the past century. Put a radio on your front porch anytime and you could expect a crowd! The station opened by having an amateur program that lasted for weeks. Early in the morning those on the program would perform. One of my brothers sang and played with a group who performed on that program. All the family would arise early and gather around the radio to listen. One boy played the guitar and three sang songs. Folk were invited to write in and vote for the group they liked best.
One family on the village owned a large console radio. He would bring it on the front porch and folk, young and old, would gather to listen to the “Grand Old Opry” on Saturday night. The porch would be filled and others sitting nearby in the yard. All had come to hear singers like Roy Acuff, Grandpa Jones, and others pick and sing.
Those were the days before the world changed to become what it is today. Life was lived in a very simple way, but it was free from the fears that haunt our way of life today.
That unique way of life has disappeared and will not likely come again. Most of those who lived it have gone, also. The few remain and remember, including this writer, enjoy reminiscing and sharing their memories. Memories of a time, a place, and people, that were!
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.