School Years Continued
By Bill Shepard
My two years at Emmanuel College were behind me. The year was 1951; I had surprised a lot of people, including myself! I was the first in my family to attend college. I had a right to be proud of my accomplishment and I was!
My two years as pastor of the church at Calhoun Falls was also ending and my decision to move on had been made. I was asked to become pastor of a church in Ware Shoals, S.C., another mill town; it was moving time again!
Ware Shoals is located in Greenwood County and just ten miles, give or take a mile or two, from the city of Greenwood. It is a typical mill town. Like all the other mill towns in South Carolina, it is today a town that “used to be.” A large open space in the heart of the town tells the story. It is the spot where the large Regal Textile Industry stood. Like all other mill towns, Ware Shoals now lives with its memories of a time that has been.
In one of my visits to the old town, I talked with the mayor and he told me of the efforts they were making to attract a new industry to the town; so far, there were no responders! Ah, there are so many memories crowding my mind, but there isn’t space nor time to tell them all.
Lander College in 1951 was an all girl college. After moving to Ware Shoals from Calhoun Falls, and learning of Lander being close by, I wondered if I could attend. With my diploma from Emmanuel in my hand, I drove the short distance to Greenwood and to Lander. Inside I met with the Dean, and we talked for a while and I told him my story. He seemed interested and then he said, “Lander is an all girl’s college!” I had not known that! He stated that some young boys from Greenwood had also applied for entrance to Lander, but so far the decision to accept them had not been reached.
I arose to leave and he spoke, “Leave your address and I will get in touch if we decide to accept male students to Lander.” Not too many days passed and I was notified that the decision had been made, and it was in my favor! I was among the first male students to attend Lander College, now Lander University. Lander accepted all of my credits earned at Emmanuel and I entered as a junior. No Bible courses were offered, so I chose history as my major field to pursue, which would change in the future.
If I had thought that my attendance at Emmanuel was a challenge, this one was much greater! The church I had come to pastor was more demanding and some had not been in favor off my taking on this new challenge. I was determined to continue to follow on although I had no idea as to where I was leading.
One day the Dean, Dr. King, called me into his office. He was teaching one of the classes I was taking, and he had impressed that I would make a good elementary school teacher, and there was such a need for male teachers in the elementary grades. On his advice, I changed my major field of study to that of Elementary Education, a decision that was to shape my life for the rest of my years.
One day when I was sitting in the library at Lander, M.B. Camak, Superintendent of Ware Shoals schools, approached me. I had heard much about this man, but had never met him. Mr. Camak stopped at my table, introduced himself, and came right to the reason for his visit. He was at Lander in search of an elementary teacher to begin work at the mid-term of that year that was in progress. The Dean had advised him that I fit the bill!
“What are your plans after graduation?” he asked. I answered that I really had none at the time, but I had given some thought that I would like to pastor a small rural church and teach at a small rural school. He was silent for a moment, then he spoke, “Teaching is a full time job, and I would think pastoring a church is, also.” He continued, “In the future, small rural school will be obsolete, a thing called consolidation is on the horizon!” His prediction came true not many years following.
We talked on for a while, he seemed interested in my background, and if other members of my family were teachers, etc. He then asked if I would be interested in a teaching position at Ware Shoals Elementary. He needed a sixth grade teacher and preferred a man teacher. I would need to be available at midterm, which was only a few weeks off. I answered that I would consider his offer and be in touch. Our conversation ended and he walked away.
I sat, almost stunned at the conversation just ended. The question, “Would I be interested in a teaching position at Ware Shoals School?” kept playing in my mind.
Could this be me, the same me that had walked away from St. John’s School nearly 15 years ago? A lot had happened since that day in 1938 when I stepped inside Miss Susie Brunson’s office and announced that I was leaving school to begin work at the big mill at the west end of town.
Since that time I had been not only a mill worker, but also a soldier, postal worker, salesman, lineman, preacher, but never in a million years would I have dreamed that one day I might become a school teacher! Nor would anyone that knew me at the time.
The question continued echoing through my mind. I had no answer ready. I had been pastor at Ware Shoals for three years. I knew if I accepted the teaching position I would have to resign my church. The superintendent had stated that teaching was a full time job!
What should I do? Next time!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the 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