Category Archives: Interviews

Ora Lee’s first taste of iced tea

Ora Lee Cox, 1919-2008

Ora Lee Cox, 1919-2008

Ora Lee Tanner Cox (my mother-in-law) remembered her very first glass of iced tea, when she was about ten years old.  This photograph was taken at her birthday celebration at the Tanner family farm, July 2005.

Ice was a rare thing in my house growing up. Once in a while daddy brought home a load of fish packed in ice. He’d sell the fish off the back of his truck and after being in with all those fish the ice wasn’t good to use for anything else.

On special occasions we’d have iced lemonade to drink, like daddy’s birthday when all his family would come to see him. Daddy had two complete sets of children, eight with his first wife (she died in 1917). All of them were married with families and some lived up in Gastonia, North Carolina where the men could find work in the factories. Then daddy had seven more children with my mother, and we all lived at home.

The ones living up in Gastonia had to drive on dirt roads all day to get here. Mama would take one mattress off of each bed and put down on the floor so at least the grown-ups would have a place to sleep and they’d make pallets on the floor for all the kids. The next morning the children would all go out to play and the women would go over to the kitchen and fix breakfast, then immediately start on dinner.

The kitchen was in a separate room built off a little ways from the house, for fire safety sake. Cooking for that crowd would take a long time in those days, considering you had to start from scratch. Like frying chicken. First you had to catch a chicken, or two or three.

tannerreunionThe men would set up long tables outside, using planks on top of sawhorses. Sometime during the day, they would go into town to the ice house and bring back a block of ice for the lemonade.

Lemonade was made in a big barrel with lots of lemons and real sugar, and that block of ice kept it cold. That cold, sweet lemonade was a real treat. In the afternoon everybody would bring out their fiddles and guitars or banjos and we’d have a lot of music and singing before supper time.

In school (1920’s and 30’s) I was a member of the 4-H Club. One year our club was invited to a 4-H meeting at the high school in Kingstree. I had never been to Kingstree in my life and I was excited to get to go. I had to catch a bus over on the Hemingway Highway not too far from our house and I waited for the bus in front of Miss Grace Stuckey’s house.

She must have seen me standing out there in the hot sun, because she came out and asked if I would like a glass of iced tea. Since I was pretty warm I said yes ma’am and she brought me a glass. I thought it tasted like Black Draught, but she was so kind to bring it to me that I had to drink it. At least now I knew what iced tea was!

When I was in high school the 4-H Club took a three-day trip to Charleston. In high school the club didn’t meet during school hours but you’d meet in a lady’s house after school. I needed to go home right after school so I had to drop out of 4-H. But a friend asked me to go on the Charleston trip with her that summer, so I did.

We rode to Charleston in the back of a cattle truck, a large open-bed truck. There must have been benches down the sides but there wasn’t any roof. I stood up all the way, looking in amazement at everything we were passing. I especially remember crossing the old Cooper River Bridge. I also remember that by the time we got to Charleston I was sunburned.

The club slept that night at the Citadel and the next morning we all piled back into the truck for a sightseeing tour around the city. We went to the Museum and the zoo, and also to the Isle of Palms to swim. I don’t remember there being a lot of houses at the Isle of Palms, just beaches where we could all swim.

And we had lemony flavored cold drinks but no iced tea. That was just as well to me, I remembered iced tea as tasting too much like Black Draught!

Short-cut home from Turkey / Six Day War

By Harold W. Motte, Florence, SC

During the hostilities leading to the Six Day War in 1967, I was a Navy radioman on the ammunition ship Mazama in the Mediterranean Sea. When our ship hit port in Turkey, I got word that my mother was very sick and I had to come home.

The Turkish Air Force got me from the ship to the dock and took me to the end of a commercial air base where I boarded a military plane. I flew from there to the big naval base at Rota, Spain, where you took off to come to Virginia or New Jersey.

So I’m just sitting there waiting on my flight and about 3:00 that afternoon, a Navy petty officer comes and wants to know if anybody there has any kind of secret clearance. He said they needed a guard to go with the courier, an Air Force colonel, on a C130 that was leaving in 30 minutes and would arrive about midnight in Norfolk, Virginia.

I’m thinking, okay, I’ve got clearance. I’m not supposed to take the jet out of here until about midnight and we’d get to New Jersey about 3:00 or so in the morning. But if I go on the C130 now as a courier guard, I’ll land in Norfolk about 12:00 o’clock and I’ll be a lot closer to home. Makes sense, right? So I agreed to go.

He took me over to a hangar where there’s this pallet about 15 feet square piled with canvas bags, all classified material going to the States. Then he hands me a 32 revolver in a shoulder holster and four bullets taped up in masking tape, in a little row like you buy screws.

I felt like Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show and I’m thinking, what good would that do me — “Just a minute, let me get these bullets out of this tape and load up my gun before you do anything”?!

Then a fork lift hoisted that pallet and me, my 32 revolver and my taped-up bullets up into the back of this giant C130 cargo plane. The colonel is already there, and all there was in the back of that huge plane was me, the colonel, two little cots, this pallet of stuff, the Cargo Master, and the pilots.

Well, we take off and we’re flying along when all of a sudden, the Cargo Master comes back and says, “Y’all come up to the cockpit, we got to descend to about 2000 feet — the back of this thing didn’t close up like it’s supposed to.”

So we went up with the pilots, they descended to 2000 feet, opened up the back end of the plane and re-shut it, re-pressurized it, and we went on back to our cots.

A little later I’m sitting there talking to the colonel when I noticed a small box strapped down on the belly of the plane. I was curious, so next time the Cargo Master came by I asked him what it was. He hesitated a little, then he said, “That’s white phosphorus.”

See, we’re on a plane with all this classified material and if something was to happen, such as somebody tries to get that material, then the white phosphorus would be ignited. And if the plane crashed, it would ignite.

If you even breathe on it very closely and you have hot breath, you’re liable to disappear! White phosphorus is highly volatile at a very low flash point, and it would literally disintegrate that whole plane and us and everything around it.

I said, “Okay, how much longer before we land somewhere and I can get off of here!”

Well, the next thing we know, the Cargo Master comes back again and says, “We’re landing.” I said, “Landing?  We’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!”

He said, “No, we’re not that far out, we’re going to have to land at the Azores, we got some write-ups.” I said, “I’ve just got two more questions — what’s a write-up, and how many we got?”

He said a write-up was something wrong with the plane that needed fixing, and we had eight write-ups, “nothing major.” Yeah, right. By this time I didn’t want to know anything else about that plane!

So we land and taxi all the way down to the end of the airstrip, way away from everything. You know, what with the white phosphorus on board and all.

Here comes two vans, each with a driver and one other guy. One guy takes the papers the colonel was carrying and the other guy wants my gun and my four bullets. These were replacements to stay with the plane so we could have some liberty while it was being fixed. The colonel got in one van and I got in the other van.

Well, it’s late at night by this time and while the Colonel was probably relaxing in the officer’s club or something, most everything else was closed up. So my driver took me to the civilian bar at the airport terminal.

They started serving me rum and cokes in tall, skinny bottles about eight inches tall. I don’t know how many I drank. I vaguely remember the guy taking me back to the plane, but I don’t remember anything else until we landed in Norfolk about 8:30 the next morning.

Now, if I’d just waited on that jet to New Jersey and got another flight from there, I’d have been home in Florence, South Carolina long before we ever got to Norfolk, Virginia!

(Harold had forgotten his very first military lesson: never volunteer.)