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1950’s Dime-Store Shopping

One memorable Father’s Day shopping trip… I can still see, hear and smell those neat downtown dime stores.

SC Family Memories

Evans Street looking west, 1937. Postcard. Evans Street looking west, 1937. Postcard.

The 100 block of West Evans was a shopping mecca in the 1950’s. Downtown Florence had everything a kid could want, all in one block. Of course, we had our share of department stores and grownups did a lot of shopping in those. But for us kids, the five and ten cent stores were the place to go.

Saturday when the movie was over and it was too early to go home, you went dime-store window shopping. And if sometimes you had to go present shopping, naturally you had to make the rounds to be sure you got the best thing.

One Saturday in early June, I declared my desire to pick out daddy’s Father’s Day present all by myself without mama tagging along looking at every blooming thing in the store. With a smile and shake of the head, she gave me some…

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Minding the Store

Summer’s coming up, bringing back fond memories of Minding the Store at Mimi’s.

SC Family Memories

CountryStoreShelvesMinding the store was one chore I didn’t mind, the summers I spent at Mimi’s house during my teen years. She always kept an ear out for the little bell hanging outside the store, but occasionally it rang when she was busy with more important chores, like removing the innards from a soon-to-be-supper chicken.

When the bell jingled at such times she’d call out, “Betts, go mind the store, please.” I enjoyed the responsibility that gave me, acting as store-keep for a while. It might be a farm wife looking for canned goods or gossip, or one of the local kids looking for an after-school soda pop and penny candy.

CocaColaDrinkBoxMimi and Da had built the little country store next to their house on Stagecoach Road out in Florence County. It served near-by neighbors and farm hands with one gas pump, one kerosene pump, one cold drink box, one large…

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The Blizzard of ’73

Wonder if we’ll get any snow this winter? I’m recalling one memorable snow storm from 1973…

SC Family Memories

HogInSnowSooooie, pig, pig, pig!

Sooie was a friendly pig, at least we called her a pig, even though she must have weighed close to 300 pounds. We fed her grain, sometimes weeds, and housed her in a nice, roomy electric fenced pen with a soothing, cooling mud hole.

The children didn’t really look upon Sooie as pork chops, sausages and bacon, but that’s what she was. Groceries on the hoof.

Of course, it helped that the children weren’t as attached to Sooie as they were to the yard dogs and house cats, but to save everyone’s sensitivities, we never referred to hog-killing time around Sooie herself.

Things were going very well, Sooie was gaining appropriate poundage and we were anticipating sugar-cured hams and real hickory smoked, vinegar and hot sauce-based barbecue, when it happened.

The Blizzard of ’73. One February morning we awoke to a wonderland of snow, and ice…

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

SC Family Memories

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…

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Mama’s Christmas Room

I can still see that room…

SC Family Memories

ChristmasCandlesAround 1955 my mother had a brainstorm about Christmas decorations. She loved them. And she wanted to make them. Lots of them! Lacking any other space, and seeing as how it wasn’t heated and wasn’t used in cold weather anyway, the living room became mama’s workshop. This was no small room, mind you, probably 12 by 20 feet front to back.

The living room was so big and so cold with the door kept shut, it was easy to store greenery of all kinds in there. Holly branches full of red berries piled in a corner. Long lengths of ivy stretched beside a wall. Pine boughs bunched up beside the sofa, and leaves — magnolia, mainly — overflowed a large box off to the side. And then there were the twigs of mistletoe ready to be thumbtacked overhead in each doorway.

In the middle was the work area, the floor…

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Remembering Tim Cox

(The following article, The Tim Cox Story, was written by Bette and appeared in the Fall 2004 edition of “Voice of the Diabetic” Magazine, published world-wide by the National Federation of the Blind. The photo accompanied the article.)

timandbettecoxTim Cox “Sees” a Lot More Life than Most Folks Do, reads the article headline from the Florence Morning News of Sunday, May 4, 1986. This just one of dozens written over the years about the 58 year old native of Kingstree, South Carolina, who at age 5 developed juvenile diabetes. Insulin shots became a way of life for this little boy, in the days when there was very little sugar-free anything to satisfy a child’s craving for sweets. A constant dietary balancing act became his mother Ora Lee’s way of life; as were frequent trips to the doctor’s office or hospital.

As Tim grew, he determined to never let diabetes stop him from accomplishing the important things in life. He joined the high school tennis team, played french horn and the trombone in the marching band, he water skiied, and he had a ton of friends. In 1964 he graduated from Kingstree High School (celebrating their 40th class reunion with Tim as primary instigator June 2004). He went on to business school, began work as a computer programmer, and got married. His daughter Angelia was born.

And then Tim started having vision problems. He underwent laser treatments, traveled to Dukane University in Pittsburgh to be trained as a blind programmer, and by Labor Day 1974, Tim began losing his eyesight. A month later his kidneys failed. Up until that time, diabetics in South Carolina had never been put on dialysis. They were left to die.

But Tim wouldn’t give up, and after many agonizing days of praying, pleading and waiting, he became the first diabetic ever to be put on dialysis in South Carolina. His wife learned how to do home dialysis, but the many pressures of his illness soon led to separation and later divorce.

Once again Tim had to rely on his parents, family and friends, and a lot of prayer. Eventually Tim’s mother learned to operate the home dialysis unit, and the family settled into a precarious routine. Tim refused to settle for being “disabled.” He got involved with his whole heart in the community — serving on local boards for the American Diabetic Association (ADA), American Cancer Society, Kidney Foundation, and Jaycees. He helped found the Black River CB Club and organized such activities as the “Coffee Club Patrol,” calling drivers in from the highway to raise funds for house fire victims.

During these years, Tim won many awards: Outstanding Jaycee in South Carolina, 1978; Kingstree Jaycee of the Year 1979, and the Adam Fisher Award of the ADA, 1981. He was a member of the Committee on Computers for the Physically Handicapped based in Chicago, Illinois, the South Carolina Physically Handicapped Society and the National Federation for the Blind. He kept very busy between dialysis treatments.

In 1978, after four years of ups and downs with dialysis, Tim and his mother traveled to the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston and Ora Lee donated a kidney. Tim arrived home from the hospital at 12:05 AM, Christmas Day 1978. A month later, he became public affairs director and talk show host for WKSP radio in Kingstree. He owned a 1976 Datsun 280Z, and with driver Joel Stone, in 1979 he competed in several Sports Car Club of America races, coming home with first or second places.

He Has Battled Death and Won. So reads a December 17, 1979 Charlotte Observer headline. A State Newspaper headline of December 25, 1979 reads, Christmas Very Special to Tim Cox. And it was, indeed. Tim celebrated by arranging for the Brass Ensemble of the Charleston Symphony to play two public concerts in Kingstree, “as a Christmas gift to the community.”

Blindness Didn’t Stop Him, reads the headline from a Florence Morning News article of 1983. Tim had determined to get on with his career and enrolled in Francis Marion University in Florence. He moved to Florence, rented a room in a boarding house, and still owned a car. “It’s a lot easier to bum a ride if you have your own car,” he said.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in December of 1982 and went to work as the only blind instructor in the state’s technical college system. He had all his text books audiotaped and recorded his class notes on tape also. “Talk about a challenge, whew!” he said. He moved into an apartment complex and “sometimes I would be known to run into the hall asking my neighbors, what was in the box of Lean Cuisine, and for how long did I set the microwave!”

About that time, Tim met Bette Gaymon at a Full Gospel Businessman’s meeting in Florence, where she served as pianist. They began dating and were married on Christmas Day, 1984. Diets and insulin shots became the way of life for yet another person in Tim’s life. When Tim’s contract with the technical college ran out, he and Bette opened their own business, Executive Services of the Pee Dee, Inc., a full-line secretarial service. It was May, 1986.

Tim and Bette both got involved in their community. With Bette at the wheel of his car, Tim became a popular spokesman for the ADA, speaking to civic and church groups across the state. Both joined the board of Crimestoppers of the Pee Dee, and Tim took up playing his french horn again, joining Bette in the music ministry of their church. Their business grew and expanded along with their community activities.

Tim Cox Receives President’s Trophy, reports a May 1988 headline from the Florence Morning News, as Tim was named Florence’s Handicapped Citizen of the Year. This award was followed by being named South Carolina Handicapped Citizen of the Year for 1988, as well as Employer of the Year of the Handicapped, recognized for hiring handicapped employees for his business.

But …

By 1987, Ora Lee’s donated kidney had begun to fail. Despite the tightest blood sugar control Tim and Bette could achieve, diabetes had taken a toll on the transplant, and Tim began to study the possibility of a pancreas transplant to stop the diabetes completely. There was one obstacle — he also had coronary and other major artery disease, likewise a result of diabetes. “Get your arteries fixed, and then we’ll talk,” said the physicians. That didn’t seem to be an option at the time. But in May of 1987, Tim was admitted to the hospital with unstable angina, and while an inpatient on the cardiac floor he suffered cardiac arrest. An emergency pacemaker saved his life and ten days later he underwent triple bypass surgery. Later that year, his right leg had to be amputated due to gangrene. Diabetes had wrecked the peripheral arterial system in the leg.

After recovering from all that, Tim made another call about the pancreas transplant, and after traveling alone in September 1988 to the University of Minnesota Medical Center for a complete examination, he was accepted as a candidate for a double kidney-pancreas transplant. Since the kidney was already weak, they must replace it also. While Tim awaited a donor, this time he began fund raising efforts for himself — in 1988, insurance companies considered a pancreas transplant experimental and wouldn’t cover those costs.

Tim Cox Never Gives In To Fate said Charlie Walker in a December 14th newspaper column in the Kingstree News. “Tim Cox believes when you’re handed lemons, you make lemonade,” quipped Charlie. He pointed out all the other people Tim had helped over the years, and the fact that now Tim needed help. Charlie organized a Jail-A-Thon to help out. Civic clubs, church groups, friends, business acquaintances, and even strangers — people all over the state began helping out. Billboards went up all over the county: “Tim Cox Needs $100,000.” A trust fund was set up by a local civic club, a beeper was donated, and money started coming in.

On December 23, 1988, the call came in. “We’ve got a perfect match. You need to get here within twelve hours.” But the private planes Tim had lined up weren’t available due to the holidays. And all the major airports connecting to Florence were fogged in, so he couldn’t get to Minneapolis on a regular airline, even though Florence skies were clear. Desperate calls went out for a private plane, and one was finally found in North Carolina. Friends, family and news reporters waved goodbye as Tim’s parents, Tim and Bette flew out of Florence, headed for Minneapolis. By this time Bette’s daughter Shelby Powell was helping run the business, a tremendous blessing over the weeks ahead.

The transplants took place on Christmas Eve. All day long Tim’s parents and Bette sat, stood, paced the floor and prayed in the nearly deserted waiting room, and finally Dr. David Sutherland, head of the surgical team, came out with the news. The pancreas and kidney were working fine — the pancreas fired up immediately when the last stitch went in and Tim no longer needed insulin shots. Over the next two days, bleeding problems necessitated two more surgeries, but thirty days later Tim was back home in Florence and well on the way to recovery.

Diabetes was no longer a problem but fund raising had to resume, with talent shows, gospel sings, auctions, and a myriad of other events. Slowly but surely, the community responded and enough funds were collected to defray most of the medical bills and medications not covered by insurance.

Today, over 15 years later, Tim is busier than ever. The transplants are still working fine, and Tim is a true advocate for pancreas and kidney transplants, and of course organ donation. The disease was stopped in its tracks, but the damage already caused by diabetes wasn’t reversible. Tim lost his other leg in 1989 and later most of his fingers. He’s had several small strokes which affected his hearing. However, he still runs his business, still plays his french horn for church, and is still active in community affairs and politics. In 1991 he organized the UP (for Used Parts) Club, a support group for transplant patients of all types, and established the Carolina Transplant Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to assist patients in fund-raising. He received WBTW-TV13’s “Giving Your Best” Award in 1991. In 1992 he added another division to his company, Advanced Insulation. He was named Florence County Republican Party Volunteer of the Year for 1993-95, and received the James B. Edwards Award of the state Republican Party in 1998.

Advantage: Attitude is yet another headline about Tim. “I don’t consider myself handicapped, I’m handicapable,” declared Tim in the 1992 business article in the Morning News. That really sums it up well. Tim Cox is Not Special; He’s Stubborn, said another Morning News column in 1997. “I like to surprise people. I like to do things they think I can’t do.” And he’s still doing it. Tim is now a grandfather with a two year old granddaughter, Bella. He and Bette recently added a new division to their company, Family Memories, which conducts interviews for personal histories, biographies or memoirs. Visit their web site and take a look at Tim’s resume. (No longer active.)

Tim could never have survived, much less accomplished all that he has, without the help of his family, his multitudes of friends, and his faith in Jesus Christ. Every time there was a medical setback, a call for prayer went out across South and North Carolina and things took a dramatic turn for the better. A special Bible verse came to Tim’s mom Ora Lee during a critical period, and over the years it has been a great source of strength.

If you don’t remember much else about Tim Cox, remember that verse: “With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” (Psalms 91:16) That is the reason that still today, Tim Cox “Sees” a Lot More Life than Most Folks Do.


Tim died in December 2006, after falling at home and breaking his leg. He underwent surgery to repair the leg but suffered a heart attack in the recovery room. He lived only one day. Everyone expected Tim to bounce back – he always had before – but his tired heart couldn’t hold out. I miss him every single day, but I know that today in heaven he is well, healthy, busy, and still very much a “people person.”

Read this post in one of my other blogs to see what I mean:

Happy Father’s Day

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, and over.

He let me climb up in his lap when he was trying to read the newspaper, and read the funnies out loud to me.

He was a food taster who offered me little bites of his grown-up meals. He was a goofy “mareseatoats” song singer and a “once upon a time” story reader.

Sometimes he pointed a square box at me and called, “Smile,” which I probably did most of the time. I still have the black and white prints to prove it. I didn’t really understand the definition of father yet but I knew the word daddy.

And I knew my daddy, in all the facets of my two-year-old personal relationship with him, limited though they were.

A few years later I knew my daddy as mama’s best friend, who would dress up in a fancy suit and necktie and go somewhere with her, who herself was dressed up in a frilly dress and high heels. Off they’d go to some place I couldn’t go. Baby sitter time.

He was the chauffeur to any places we went as a family, the bill-payer when we went to the movies or out to eat, the final declarer of the absolutely perfectly decorated Christmas tree, the slow present opener who (like so many other gentleman of his era) used his pocket knife to carefully unstick the scotch tape and avoid tearing or wrinkling up the wrapping paper.

I also knew daddy as occasional nay-sayer and occasional deep thinker. “Can I, daddy, can I have that?” might result in long moments of deep thought before daddy’s well-meditated “no” answer was forthcoming, complete with reasonable, logical explanation. Only in cases of youngster temper-tantrum threats did he resort to “because I said so,” but if daddy said so, it was so.

In my pre-teen years I got to know daddy as a good tic-tac-toe player, Chinese checker player, and monopoly player. I got to hear him play his banjo and sing four-part harmony.

I also discovered that mama and daddy weren’t always in perfect agreement – sometimes they had slightly loud discussions, at least that’s what they called them. Not yelling, not arguing, not fighting, but discussing points of view that sometimes clashed. I never listened and therefore I have no clear idea what those differences were all about. It’s probably just as well.

In my early teens, I began to know daddy as the family bread-winner who sometimes couldn’t work, who was suffering from heart disease caused by rheumatic fever contracted during WWII. For several years he and mama corresponded with various veteran offices, attempting to meet the many paperwork requirements for daddy to get veterans / disability benefits for this service-related heart condition. Many thanks to Congressman Johnny McMillan, he finally began receiving the benefits.

In September 1959, daddy and mama took me out to dinner for my birthday at the P & M Steakhouse in downtown Florence. It was quite an event, to have such a nice steak dinner in such a nice place. And they gave me such a nice birthday present – a birthstone ring, gold filigree with a large blue sapphire stone. I loved it. Here I was, having a very special grown-up occasion with my parents!

1960 daddy and mama traveled back and forth to the Medical College Hospital in Charleston, where plans were made for surgery to repair daddy’s heart valve, damaged by the rheumatic fever. But a week before the date for that surgery, daddy died of a massive heart attack. I was 16 years old.

I never got the chance to know daddy in all the many-faceted adult roles that other people knew. A few people have shared with me over the years about daddy as their friend. He was a valued friend to many. My mother never really recovered from losing her best friend, lover and husband, and I never really recovered from losing my daddy.

Over the years I have come to realize that daddy was a multi-faceted person, including a multi-faceted father to my brother and me. I knew him, but not as well as I would have liked, and the opportunity to know him better ended for me in 1960.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I still miss you.