1954

hazel
The Garden City home of Mr. and Mrs. Jake Todd of Columbia was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel.  Shown above with a bed spring, one of the few things left on the home site.  The second story of the house is in the background a block away. From http://www.thestate.com/news/special-reports/state-125/article40879107.html

Moving seemed to be an annual event when I was small.  We went from small apartment to large, then to a duplex, and by early 1954 we had a whole house to ourselves at Coles Crossroads. The large frame house had a tin roof which made for interesting sound effects when it rained, and it had huge yards front and back.

I think dreams of being a gentleman farmer had attracted daddy to the place; an already-constructed, fenced-in chicken pen occupied a prominent position behind the house.  A visit to Kirby’s Hatchery downtown was in order and soon little yellow bitties were scratching their hearts out for store-bought chicken feed.  Several setting hens and a strutting red rooster completed daddy’s menagerie and we were all set to enjoy our own fresh eggs and delicious fryers.

To the left of our new town-and-country home was a fascinating new “playground” for Harold and me, an auction barn dealing in farm animals.  The dirt parking lot was frequently filled with trucks and trailers, farmers and farm hands in jeans and boots.  The patter of the fast-talking auctioneer competed with oinking, mooing or braying from whatever was being offered for sale.  We’d spent enough time on our grandparents’ farm to know the difference between a mule and a milk cow; farm animals by themselves weren’t an attraction.

But all those animals under one roof, all those people milling around, comparing the virtues and values of this versus that — the place was a natural magnet for a couple of mostly city kids.  This was better than the fair!

Behind our chicken yards lay several fenced pastures, one right behind the other all the way back to the railroad track.  During the summer that year a bull took up residence in the far pasture, no doubt awaiting auction.  He didn’t seem that scary to us and we thought we’d take a look at him up close.  We clambered over one fence, then another, until we arrived in his private pasture.  I guess we didn’t seem that scary to him either, and he thought he’d take a closer look at us.

When his gaze turned into a head-down trek in our direction, we’d looked at him enough.  We made for the fence as fast as our feet would carry us.

Remember that old joke about the two fellows being chased by a bear?  “How are we going to outrun that bear?” one guy asked the other.  “I don’t have to outrun the bear,” his friend answered, “I just have to outrun you!”  Well, that’s sort of the way it was with us and the bull.  I made it over the fence first, caring nothing for the well-being of my brother according to him.  We bid the bull goodbye, hoping we didn’t have to explain any scrapes to skin or damage to duds to mama and daddy later.

When school started in September, for the first time we had to ride a big yellow bus.  It was way too far to walk to school; no more detours, no more exploring new routes to McKenzie in the mornings.  All my old friends were back in the old neighborhood and everyone else on the bus had their favorite seatmates.  It took me a while to adjust.  Still, school was pretty much the same as always and we soon settled into a routine.  September came and went uneventfully.

The first week in October was a pretty normal one at our house.  School, chores, supper, and listening to “The Shadow Knows” on the radio before bedtime.  By the middle of the second week the weather had gotten a little funky.

You know, weird.  The sky took on a strange color, not exactly blue, not exactly gray, not exactly any recognizable color.  The hair on the back of your arms wanted to stand up.

We’d had storms before, lots of rain clattering our tin roof, followed by lots of warm puddles outside to splash in.  This wasn’t like that.  The sky was peculiar and still, and then it wasn’t.  Once the rain started it never seemed to stop.  It was Thursday, a school day, but we didn’t go to school and mama and daddy didn’t go to work.

The wind drove the rain sideways across our yard, so strong we couldn’t see through it.  The tin roof thundered overhead sounding like it might be ripped off any minute.  The rattling windows sounded like they might be blown right out of their frames.

We all hunkered down in the middle of the dining room, trying not to be afraid, trying to listen to the radio, trying to read, trying to do anything to take our minds off the mayhem outside.  Hours later the storm let up a little, the winds lessened and the pounding and the rattling quieted down.  We went to bed early, having done nothing all day but feeling exhausted anyway.

The next morning our family surveyed the damage in our neighborhood.  Limbs and debris covered the ground as far as the eye could see, up and down Irby Street.  A fully grown apple tree to the left of the house lay over sideways, half its root system sticking out of the ground.

Trees in the back yard were broken or leaning, the fences partially demolished around the chicken yard.  Daddy’s chickens were gone — not dead, just gone.  We never found any sign of them.

hazel_1954_trackHazel had hit in broad daylight.  It had come ashore just north of Cherry Grove at 140 miles an hour, a Category 4 storm that really only brushed Florence.  We didn’t know Myrtle Beach had been devastated, the entire coastline of South and North Carolina had been devastated, that dozens of people had already died and hundreds more still would die, as Hazel hit state after state on its track northward through the United States and into Canada.

That year was memorable to me for several reasons, a new house, a new playground (auction barn) next door, and a new mode of transportation to school, but for anyone living in South Carolina that year, Hurricane Hazel is what comes to mind when you say 1954.  We moved back into town the following year.

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One response to “1954

  1. Reblogged this on SC Family Memories and commented:

    Do you remember 1954? I sure do. Hurricane Hazel, among other things.

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