The Darlington I Like to Remember: #2 Looking Back – The Town Square
By Bill Shepard
Which is correct – Uptown, downtown, or across town?
I have heard the story told many times as to how Darlington Town Square came to be and where it was located, but whether it is true or not I cannot say. The design is rather unique. I know of only one other town in South Carolina built around the courthouse, as in Darlington.
I treasure the many memories I have of the mill town, the place of my childhood, the place of my yesteryears, over 100 years ago. I would not trade them for any others.
When I was in the military (WW II), I invited a friend home to Darlington with me. My friend was ready to return to the base before I had to leave. I recall that he went to the bus station to inquire when the next bus would be through Darlington and going to Florida. My friend was told that only one bus per day passed through Darlington in that direction. My friend said, “ Good, where is the train depot?”
“Soldier,” said the clerk, “there hasn’t been a train in or out of this town in twenty years!”
My friend never tired of telling that story. Evenings when days were ended on the base, the men would often gather in small groups and the subject of home would arise. Minds drifted back and stories about the faraway places would begin. After I told of my town, my friend in a fun sort of way would break in and tell the story of the town that had one bus a day and had not seen a train in twenty years! Laughter would always follow. That was good! Memories flowed!
Saturdays when Dad would ask, “Bill, do you want to go uptown?” Of course, he already knew the answer before he asked. I would get ready immediately for the going.
With my small hand tightly in the grip of his hand, we would be off to one of my favorite places, that of the Darlington Town Square. I would see more people than I had seen since the last visit there. For a six-year-old in the nineteen twenties and early thirties, this would be exciting.
I would need to run to keep up. Dad’s steps were much longer than mine, so I would hop and skip but would never complain. We would enter the square by way of Pearl Street or sometimes Orange Street. Pearl Street was more exciting. All along both sides of Pearl, there were small stores and people a-plenty shopping inside them.
The smell of peanuts parching filled the air and small groups of men, mostly farmers from the nearby countryside, would be huddled here and there swapping stories while eating the parched peanuts from Moody’s Market on the Square.
The smell of vanilla coming from Metropol’s Candy and Ice Cream store on the corner of the square would fill the air and competed with the smell of the peanuts. Even so, nothing was equal to that of the peanuts.
The most exciting thing of all was the people. There were people everywhere one looked, entering in and out of the stores around the square. I can picture them all in my mind’s eye as I write today.
Beginning at Roses Dime Store, I can name all the stores that were around the square when I was a small boy, but the people would be missing. I have often said that the square has remained with little change since I was a boy except for the lack of shoppers. Yes, I remember.
For many long years, I have carried a picture of the town square in my mind and have longed to see it come alive again. Will it ever happen? Only God has the answer. Meantime, I will hold dear the memories I have of a little boy, holding tightly to his dad’s hand while traveling about the town square of Darlington.
Another memorable moment on the square was on my first visit home to Darlington after joining the Army in 1942. It was a surprise visit, and no one knew that I was coming home for a weekend visit – no one!
I hitched a ride from Drew Field Air Base in Tampa, Florida. Just outside of Jacksonville, Fl. I caught a ride from there to the square in Darlington. Lucky me!
The driver went out of the way to her destination to go by Darlington to see me home. Her car stopped in front of the courthouse. I was home and as proud as a peacock in a barnyard! I thanked the driver, and she was on her way, and I was too. I looked for a familiar face. Not seeing one, I headed off down Pearl Street toward the mill village.
I was home for a short visit and Darlington was never more beautiful. I did not want anyone to stop and pick me up. My stay was short and full of surprises. I have carried that proud moment in time for as long as I have lived, and it gets more precious each time I share it.
To My Readers: It is good to be back in the paper after my long absence from sharing my memories of The Darlington I Remember. My latest book just off the press, A Boy, A Girl and Their Journey Together, tells the story of the life of this mill village boy. The story has its beginning when my dad moved his family to Darlington in the early spring of the year 1922. The book may be purchased by contacting the author at his home address. The cost is $25 which includes postage.
324 Sunny Lane
Piedmont, SC 29673