By Bill Shepard
Most of us have heard the old adage – “take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”
I have a new one! “You can take a person out of Darlington, but Darlington remains in the person.”
I have letters from people who now live in faraway places, but grew up in Darlington. Without exception, they hold beautiful memories of growing up in the quaint old town! There is something about the place that grabs hold of a person and refuses to let go.
The proof of the above was made evident recently when two previous Darlingtonians paid this writer a visit in his home in Piedmont. The two visitors were raised in Darlington, attended St. Johns Schools, and were what this mill village boy once called “town-dudes!” The part of Darlington they called home was off-limits to this mill-hill boy! I know the reader is anxious to know my visitors’ names, and without their permission here they are! Mrs. Adelaide (Capers) Johnson and Mr. Lex Langston, both Darlingtonians who now live in Greenville, paid me the high honor of a visit in my home! Both of these people have lived in Greenville for many years, but it didn’t take long for me to know that their roots are buried deeply in Darlington soil! Mrs. Johnson’s mother was a teacher at St. John’s Elementary School, and my sister remembers being in her class. Miss Philson, who later became Mrs. Capers, was well known and loved by her students. Mr. Lex Langston graduated from St. John’s High School and has fond memories of his teachers, and especially of Mr. Cain, who was principal of the school during his years in attendance. After graduating, Mr. Langston landed his first job at the radio station WOLS in Florence. It was the beginning of a life-long career that continued until this day. Lex is now employed at a radio station here in the upstate.
Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Langston both have relatives and friends still living in Darlington, but both have been residents of Greenville for many years. Mrs. Johnson was in attendance at the meeting held at St. John’s Elementary School Auditorium, where I was invited to be guest speaker by the Kiwanis Club of Darlington. We later communicated by phone, and she told me about Mr. Langston, and we talked of getting together for a visit in my home. I could hardly wait for it to happen! Imagine, if you can, a village boy host to “uptown folk!” Who could ever have believed it would happen! I was so glad my daughter was there. We had a time catching up, and shared so much. Remember when? A name? Or event? I was surprised that our memories held so much in common. Especially considering our age difference and the locations of our dwelling places as children growing up!
Mr. Langston’s memories of the early years of WOLS and the people he knew there also sparked a lot of memories of the radio station when it was in its infancy.
As the visit continued, some unexpected, but welcome guests who also live in Greenville joined us. My two sisters-in-law joined in on our conversation, both having spent a short period of their early childhood in Darlington. Mrs. Johnson and one of my wife’s sisters learned that they only live a few streets apart in Greenville.
It is amazing how fast time goes by when everyone is enjoying themselves in conversation! If only we had thought to have a recorder! Lex should have thought of that! What a treasure piece we would have! I think we only scratched the surface of what each had to offer. After enjoying coffee and cake provided by my daughter, the visit came to an end. We promised that we would do this again and I am already looking forward to the day!
The barrier is down, the twain have met! Mill Village folk and Uptown folk have come together! It was indeed a fun visit!
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.