Can’t Get There From Here

SC Family Memories

NDarganStGuarantyBldgFor a while in the late 1940’s, my father worked as a professional photographer.

“Where was your daddy’s photography studio?” a fellow asked me one day.

“Well, I went to his studio once or twice when I was little. Remember when the China Shop used to be downtown? (No.) Next door to the old Post Office on West Evans? (Okay.) I thought it was upstairs in that building but then somebody told me his studio was somewhere else. (Where?) Remember the bank on West Evans with the back door on Dargan Street?” (No.)

“Well, remember the Kresses downtown that had a back door on Dargan?” (Oh, yeah.) “The back door of the bank was next to the back door of Kresses. There were some offices upstairs in that building. Daddy supposedly had a studio up there.”

Notice all the “remembers?” Well, there’s no China Shop downtown any more. No bank…

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Where and When are You?

At my brother’s house a while back, I sniffed the fragrance of a blooming shrub at the side door and suddenly I was back in the 1950’s… I was standing beside my mother in the back yard of that same house, handing her a home-made milk shake.

Mama loved planting, pruning, or digging in the dirt, always doing something with the flowers and bushes. When she got hot and sweaty she’d call me outside and request a milk shake, usually just sweetened milk with vanilla flavoring in a glass full of ice cubes.

Not interested in gardening myself in those days, I was grateful she didn’t make me stay out there to help rid the world of errant bamboo. The sweet smell of that shrubbery had taken me back fifty years in an instant.

Back at home, I recently rearranged seldom used dresser drawers and came across an old yellow nightgown. Not mine, though – my mother’s. It was probably my imagination, but the faint fragrance of her cologne seemed to still cling to it. Though mama died in 1970, I couldn’t possibly throw that gown away. It helps me visualize her, not like she looks in her posed portraits, but sitting at the breakfast table on weekend mornings, sipping a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. I can see one bedroom slipper dangling from her foot as it swung it back and forth in time with music from the table-top radio.

One day I pulled up in my condo parking lot, opened my car door to get out and was greeted by “whoo, whoo?” from an owl perched somewhere in a nearby tree. Suddenly that distant sound seemed to be coming through my childhood bedroom window. I was back in the 1940’s and 50’s again.

With no central air-conditioning, our windows were open on warm nights to catch a cross-breeze. We’d occasionally hear the cry-baby call of a bobcat prowling deep in the swamp behind our house, but we could always count on the owls. Their mellow “whoo, whoo” has always sounded like home to me.

Walking across the parking lot at a nearby Food Lion, I sniff that hot pavement smell and think of Harvey’s Thriftway, only a block and a half from my rented house in the early 60’s. I would push my son in his stroller down to Harvey’s for a quart of milk or loaf of bread, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine on our short, slow walk. When I needed a whole list of items, I simply telephoned Harvey’s and someone shopped for me, then brought my order right to my front door.

But I preferred to shop in person, and sometimes we walked around an entire block or two before heading to Harvey’s, the baby jingling his rattle as we stopped to visit with the elderly spinster sisters who lived down the block. One or the other was usually snapping peas or shelling butter beans on her front porch as we strolled up, oohing and aahing about how big the baby was getting, what a handsome boy he was. I liked that.

One year’s Mother’s Day the children in our church distributed long-stemmed roses to all the moms in the congregation. I smiled as a determined-faced little girl stretched out her hand with my rose, and I saw again the cut stems from my own rose bushes, gathered for a dining room vase in the 1980’s. Their first growing season those bushes thrived in the flower beds surrounding our back deck.

Tim and I had planted those roses soon after we were married, along with several dozen red-tips against the back yard fence. The memory of the roses made me think about the red tips, the dogwoods and river birches, the azaleas, honeysuckle and wisteria, all gracing the yard of the house we eventually moved away from. Amazing what the sight of a single rose bud can do.

As I drive around Florence these days, recollections and remembrances carry me further than my car does. Nostalgia can sometimes be bittersweet, but I’m glad I grew up in this town, glad I still live here. All my best and some of my worst memories are here, and I’m grateful for the hometown sights and sounds and smells that bring them all back.

School sports in the 1950’s

SC Family Memories

Recess at McKenzie Elementary School was often sports centered – not baseball, football or basketball, but tag, hopscotch, jump rope, and other “team” activities. The boys had their side of the yard, the girls had ours and never the twain did meet, so I can’t speak to what the boys engaged in, but tag and double-dutch jump rope were big things for us girls.

We did have real teams, too. The leader, whoever that might be, picked her best friend to captain the opposing team. Sides were then picked, always a daunting necessity. Some girls were good at chase, being taller and long-legged. Some were better at jumping, some at hopping, and some at tripping up the rest of us.

I did okay getting picked until about the fourth grade. That’s when the visiting eye doctor checked everybody’s vision and I started wearing glasses. Of course I could see the…

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First Grade at McKenzie School

Anyone else remember McKenzie School? Or Miss Leftwich?

SC Family Memories

bettefirstgradeThe first day I walked into McKenzie School I loved it. Except for McLeod Infirmary (where I’d spent a memorable few hours in the X-ray department once after swallowing a nickle), it was the most interesting building I’d ever seen. 

There were so many fascinating niches and stairwells to explore, steps going up here a few steps, down there a few steps.  Down a long hallway were corners leading to short hallways and more corners.

My mother accompanied me that very first day, knowing I was academically ready for the work but not sure I would find the right room on my own. She was too familiar with my innate curiosity and snoopiness, I guess.

The academic aromas at McKenzie were interesting. I could stand in the front middle hallway and smell the odors of hardwood floors and fresh bread baking in the school kitchen. School lunchrooms had working kitchens…

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Sunday Go to Ride in Cuba, SC

SC Family Memories

Mercury1949SedanDa bought a new Mercury  almost every year (this is a 1949 model). After I got my driver’s license  he let me drive it when we went anywhere together. Those were happy days!

Summer Sundays at my grandparents Mimi and Da’s house were laid back, restful, and full of fun things to do. Everyone but Mimi slept as late as possible, rising to wonderful smells wafting throughout the house of her bacon frying.

Breakfast was dependable, good old grits, eggs however you wanted them, bacon and maybe ham, fluffy biscuits slathered with butter, and milk to drink for Harold and me, coffee for the grownups.

Actually, after I was six or so Mimi allowed me a cup of coffee too, a lovely pale brown liquid, mostly hot milk with a splash or two of perked coffee and lots of sugar added.

I’ve loved coffee ever since I first tasted Mimi’s…

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Happy Father’s Day

SC Family Memories

DaddyInUniformSmallWhen I was two years old, I knew my daddy, in some ways. I didn’t know him as a WW II veteran of the US Army Air Force.

I didn’t know him as an airplane pilot or airplane mechanic, small engine repairman or insurance salesman.

I didn’t know him as a brother, uncle or son, or as a husband, son-in-law or brother-in-law.

I didn’t know him as a house painter, screen door fixer, lawn mower, or light-bulb replacer. Or as a banjo player / barbershop quartet singer, neighbor, friend, or as a ballroom dancer. Yet he was all those things, to other people.

Bette'sFamily1947ReducedTo two-year-old me he was just a marvelous big creature who loved me. He was a smiler. A carrier-on-the-shoulder. A hugger and tickler who got down on the floor and played baby dolls with me, or wound up the wobbly spinning top for me, over, and over…

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Rolling stores and locker plants

SC Family Memories

RollingStore1939TennesseeI tend to wait till my cats run out of food before I go grocery shopping. Of course, by then we’re nearly out of people food too and by the time I get everything checked off my list, my buggy is piled high.

Back at home I try to find a way to wedge more stuff into the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. Bags of broccoli, boxes of waffles, shrink-wrapped corn on the cob and trays of hamburger — try as I might they refuse to stack neatly. Oh well, maybe the air can circulate better if things aren’t too orderly.

I usually shop in the supermarket closest to home for convenience sake. I don’t have to drive too far, there’s a handy drug store, a gas station on the corner and even a Burger King in case I don’t want to cook some of that stuff I just bought.

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Treasure City in the 1960’s

Still remember…

SC Family Memories

On-line is my favorite holiday shopping method these days.

Is it laziness to want to avoid the malls and big store crowds? Maybe so, but I no longer go from store to store looking for the right gift, or right size, or right color of anything. I let my fingers do the walking — not through the yellow pages, but through my computer keyboard.

There are lots of great buys on the internet these days, and from some of the same stores as at the mall. Except online they always have my favorite color, blue (blue jeans, blue shirts, blue towels, whatever).

In the late 1960’s I’d never heard of a credit card but most stores had layaway plans. For a few dollars down you could reserve holiday presents till a week or so before Christmas, when you hauled your goodies home and hid them under the bed or up…

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Thank You

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 13 years since Tim died. The following has been posted several times through the years, but some folks have probably never read it before. This time of year, memories flood back…

(Published shortly after Tim’s death.)

Dear Friends,

I’d like to thank you for all the expressions of love and sympathy Tim’s family and I have received since his death on December 15th (2006).

Many folks have asked if Tim died as a result of all the health problems he’d had over the years and that’s partly true, I guess. (See

Tim fell here at home on Wednesday, December 13th and broke his left leg close to the hip. On Thursday they operated to fix the leg and he had a heart attack in the Recovery Room. Although the doctors did everything medically possible to save him they could not get his blood pressure back up to anything near normal. Tim’s tired heart finally just gave out and stopped on Friday afternoon.

Psalm 91 was given to Tim’s mother by the Lord as an encouragement many years ago, and it promises long life to those who set their love upon the Lord. Tim was only 60 years old and that’s not really a long life to most people. It certainly didn’t seem long enough to me. But for Tim whose body had undergone so many attacks and challenges over his lifetime, it actually was.

Tim was the most courageous, kind, loving, and determined man I ever knew. He was my very best friend almost from the moment we met. Only my Lord Jesus Christ has ever been closer to me, and I miss Tim dreadfully. But today Tim can see, has both his legs, all his fingers and a strong heart, and I believe he is experiencing the greatest of joy with his Lord and with those who arrived in heaven before he did.

Some have said he’s playing his French horn with the heavenly orchestra, others have said he’s probably water skiing or driving his 280Z (if there is a way to do that in heaven), dancing, playing tennis, telling funny stories and all those other things Tim loved to do at some time in his life on earth. His daughter Angie said he’s probably already been elected President of some group, organizing ways to help somebody else! They may all be right.

And he is meeting and greeting family and friends who went ahead of him, especially his grandmother and his dad, but many others who Tim loved. Tim’s spiritual gifts included helping a multitude of other people and encouraging everyone he knew whether they were close friends or new acquaintances. I told someone that Tim could make a friend out of a wrong number, and that was true. He even put one lady who had dialed the wrong number on hold, then used our business line to get her the right number.

When I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, my heart hears a little voice telling me to “Look forward, not back.” I am striving to do that, to look forward as I work to make the Lord — and Tim — proud of the way I live my life from this point.

A number of people have asked me about the Family Memories column. Actually, my writing it was Tim’s idea in the first place. I think he would like for me to continue so I’ll try to get back to it in the very near future. If you ever met Tim, would you let me know? I’m making a little collection of the various ways people were touched by his life.

In the meantime, Tim’s family and I wish to say a heartfelt thanks to you for all the expressions of love and sympathy we have received. With gratitude and prayers for a blessed 2007 (New Year 2020) for us all,

Bette Cox

Although Tim’s family and friends have not been in touch much in recent years, I remember them fondly, think of them often, and truly hope they are experiencing God’s best in their lives.

We didn’t need a car

Good memories…

SC Family Memories

HMotte@SanbornHotel0001Daddy (Harold Motte, Sr.) enjoying Sunday afternoon visit with friend in the lobby of the Sanborn Hotel. Love those socks!

Florence was easy to get around in when I was growing up. We had a variety of transportation modes, car for out-of-town, bicycle for around-town, and feet for in-town. Kids and grownups alike did a lot of walking in those days.

Things were closer together then, homes, gas stations, grocery stores, fish markets, churches, parks, schools, theaters, the shopping district, everything. You needed a car if you were going out to the airport, out to Second Loop Road or out to Five Points, but if you went downtown, you walked.

Buying something too big to carry, like a sofa or refrigerator? The store would deliver it right to your door. Weekly groceries too. The A&P and Colonial Grocery Stores were both in the 200 block of West Evans with smaller…

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