The Pleasure Ride
By Bill Shepard
Merrily we bounced along over the rough dirt road!
Long before there were asphalt roads and comfortable cars, there were pleasure rides through the country. They were much enjoyed by this writer during the years of the 20’s and 40’s of the last century. Some of the fondest memories of my childhood years were made while on the Sunday afternoons pleasure rides.
During the early spring and summer months, the weather being suitable, the Shepard family looked forward to enjoying a pleasure ride each Sunday afternoon. Some of the early preachers, where I attended Sunday School and preaching, taught that pleasure riding on Sunday was a sin. Dad wasn’t a strong “Believer” o that didn’t bother him. They also said that cooking on Sunday was sinful! Mama always cooked her biggest meal on Sunday, so Dad had thought if Mama prepared a Sunday meal, the family should have a pleasure ride after the meal.
Dinner being over, and the dishes and pots washed and put away, the announcement we waited for would be heard. Dad would say, “Let’s go for a ride in the country!” Mama would pull off the bright flowery apron that she always wore when in the kitchen and cooking, and then she would be ready. The three boys, including this writer, would dash to the car to claim a choice position in the back seat. One of the three would have to sit in the middle, between the other two; that was the least desirable position, but Mama said it was the safest place to sit. The doors of Dad’s T-model Ford would sometimes swing open when the car would hit a deep pothole in the road, and they were plentiful along the rough dirt roads.
All seated, no seat belts to buckle in those days, we were off for our Sunday pleasure ride! The old Hartsville Road passed through the village and on to Hartsville, fourteen miles away. It was fourteen miles of the toughest dirt road in Darlington County. The County scraped the roads occasionally, and that would last a short time; but the rains would come, causing potholes and deep ruts in the road. So, we went bumping along on our ride through the country. There were more horse and buggies on the road than there were cars. We jostled along, dodging potholes, pigs, chickens, and cows. On sunny days, we would see young boys and girls out for an afternoon stroll. We might see a farmer’s mule or horse running loose along the road, and Dad would stop the car until the animal passed by. We seldom made the trip that we wouldn’t have a tire to go flat. The roads were hard on old tires. While Dad repaired the flat tire, my brothers and I would play along the road. If the time was right, we might pick blackberries and plums that grew along the edge of the road.
The road ended at a place called Kelley-town in Hartsville. We could see the big cotton mill in Hartsville, and the mill village that surrounded it. In town, it seemed the Coker family owned everything. I often wondered why the town was not called Cokerville! The stores were all closed on Sunday, but we would not have shopped anyway!
Our Sunday pleasure ride sometimes went another direction toward Timmonsville, or Lamar. It didn’t matter which direction Dad chose to travel, the roads were the same – and so were the experiences. Pleasant and lasting memories were made on those rides.
Often today while traveling along the crowded highway, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I recall my Sunday afternoon pleasure rides and say to myself, “Is there such a thing as a ‘pleasure ride’ anymore?” Is there?
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.