The Medicine Show leaves behind a diamond of memories

Bill Shepard

In my recent column, “The Medicine Show,” a reprint from a time past, I have heard from one person who vaguely remembers the time and the event. I am wondering if there are others.
The Medicine Show came to Darlington on a large and obscure lot on Phillip Street. Phillip Street is a short street that runs by that part of the old Mill Village often referred to as Across the Creek. The site was behind a large house and a store building that was in operation at the time by one W. Timmons.
This show seemed to have come from out of nowhere and when it left, it went back to nowhere and was not heard from again. The question in this writer’s mind is, “Does anyone remember the event? Anyone?”
In that long-ago time, such an event as the Medicine Show was rare in Darlington and especially so, on the Mill Village. Its only equal would have been the appearance of the travelling preachers who came each year with their large tent. At that time, the Village folk came out in large numbers to listen to the preaching and singing that was lively in those days. This writer has keen memories of those times and the happenings on the Mill Village (Across the Creek), of which I have written numerous times over the years.
When the Medicine Show came and the work began in getting everything set up, the Village folk were astir. I was a boy not yet in my teen years, and I had never heard the words Medicine Show! I was not alone.
I had watched the traveling preachers put up their tent many times, but this happening was different! The tent was much smaller, and it had a wide platform erected in the front of it. It was fashioned in such a way that one could step out of the tent onto the wide platform. I know now, but I did not know then, that the platform would be the stage where the actors would perform. It is doubtful that any person on the Village had ever been to a Medicine Show. Many questions were asked but answers were hard to get.
The work of getting everything ready was over and opening night arrived. The place where the tent and the stage were built was covered with people. For most, if not all, this was a first-time experience.
The entire cast of entertainers was made up of three persons, the Medicine Doctor and his two comedians. The old doctor and the comedians brought the crowd down with laughter, as they joked back and forth at each other. The jokes were clean and wholesome, and the folk of the Village accepted their way of entertaining. This writer never missed a night of it.
The folk who read the previous article about the Medicine Show, which appeared in the News & Press July 15, already know about the show. I told about the various medicines that were sold. The doctor had a remedy for most any ailment that a person had. I do not have the space to name them all.
There were coupons on the items that were sold and the person at the closing of the show who had the largest number of coupons would receive a prize. As was stated in the previous article, a large board listing the names of those entering the contest was posted each night at the start of the show. As the show continued into weeks and folk lost interest, the names for the prize dropped from the board. At the end, only two names were left!
I recall very vividly, the closing night and the Medicine Man announcing the winner of the contest. When he called for the winner to come to the stage, my Dad lifted his small daughter to the Medicine Man, who seemed shocked to see that a 5-year-old was the winner of the contest that had gone on for weeks. The prize was awarded to Virginia Shepard, better known as Jenny!
Jenny has lived all her years in Darlington. After her marriage to Brastice Howell, now deceased, she moved from the Mill Village where she was born. She now lives on Spring Street in Darlington and has no wish to be any other place.
She is a true, lifelong Darlingtonian. After reading the article in last week’s paper, Jenny called to say, “Bill, I still have the prize that I won at the Medicine Show. It lies tucked away in my hope chest where it has been for all the years that have come and gone.” The prize is a beautiful, genuine diamond ring! It is proof of the existence of the one and only Medicine Show to visit Darlington long ago.
As stated earlier, the Medicine Show seemed to have come out of nowhere and when it left, it went back to that same location. It left many memories and this writer has shared his. Are there any others?

Author: Rachel Howell

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