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: https://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

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Plunderer’s paradise

CouldHaveBeenRogersBrothersFurnitureMy grandmother always called me a “plunderer.” I preferred to call myself an explorer, I just explored closets and chifferobes, kitchen cabinets and junk drawers.

You never knew what you might find in a dresser drawer at Mimi’s, stray pennies, nails, jar lids or rubber bands.

And in the early 1960’s the curiosity and snoopiness caused no doubt by my plundering gene hadn’t diminished much. I went shopping one Saturday afternoon for inexpensive pots and pans, cereal bowls and silverware.

My household budget was fairly small. I had dropped out of college to get married and although my family graciously threw me a bridal shower, these more mundane items weren’t among my shower gifts.

I browsed through the stores of downtown Florence, deciding to comparison shop a bit before making my selections. My little notebook was getting crammed with descriptions and prices of current needs plus future wants as I walked out of the back door of Kresses, meaning to cross over to McCown-Smith Department Store.

It was a pretty day, I was in no particular hurry, so I decided to stroll north on Dargan Street. I made note of several places I might like to check out later, especially the shoe repair shop.

I paused at the end of the block in front of the Army-Navy Store. No pots and pans were visible through the window glass, so I turned to cross the street and discovered a treasure — Rogers Brothers Furniture.

The front of the store seemed completely open to the street. Blue and black enamel cook pots, brooms and mops, mop buckets and chamber pots sat on the sidewalk and floor, while small tables held stacks of thick white china plates and saucers and cups, assorted farm utensils interspersed with more housewifely gadgets.

One side of the entrance was lined with leaf rakes and circles of garden hose. Hanging high on the walls were a variety of household items like coils of clothesline and sacks of clothespins. Rogers Brothers Furniture had more than furniture!

To a born plunderer, Rogers Brothers seemed a virtual paradise to browse through and snoop in to my heart’s content. I entered the store proper and found the furniture: dining room tables that could seat ten or twelve, overstuffed sofas, white metal kitchen tables and straight-back chairs, dark wood end tables and tall skinny magazine racks.

There were stacks and stacks of wood furniture, some shiny and expensive looking, some pretty ordinary and more my budget.

In between larger pieces were small rolled-up throw rugs and larger rolled-up lengths of linoleum in floral patterns of pink, green or yellow. No amount of space was wasted in that store.

As I explored, I stopped and counted the items in one furniture pyramid that rose to the ceiling. Anchoring the bottom was a dining room table, a smaller kitchen table topping that. Then came several kitchen chairs fitted into each other like a jig-saw puzzle, two end tables laid on their side atop those, with one large table lamp crowning the peak.

Milk-glass what-nots and large ceramic ash trays covered what space was left over on the bottom tiers of the pyramid. Multiple furniture pyramids occupied the store front to back, some with sofa bases, some with armchairs, but all decorated with knick-knacks galore.

Nestled here and there among the various pieces of household furniture were man-of-the-house tool chests and lady-of-the-house tool kits. Stacks of hand towel “seconds” wrapped with cord ready for the yard mechanic’s use lay next to kitchen towels and washcloths for the housewife.

As I slowly made my way toward the back of the first “aisle,” I found the kitchenware. Laid out helter-skelter on top of a table were piles of pots and pans of every size, plus soup bowls, spoons and forks, and more stacks of plates and cups.

None of the pots came with lids, but that was okay. Over on the floor to the side of the table was a large pasteboard box overflowing with pot lids, metal or enamel. Everything on my shopping list was right there, all well within my price range.

One of the twin Rogers brothers spotted me and came over, asking if he could help me find anything. He pointed out other sections of the store for me to peruse, including books! An old wooden bookcase stuffed with water-stained paperbacks, recipe books with loose pages and out-of-date magazines attracted me like a magnet.

I spent a very pleasant few minutes tugging books and magazines out to look over, finally adding a Fannie Farmer paperback recipe book with browning pages to my stack of purchases. A practical purchase it proved to be over the years, held together in its last days with rubber bands.

When I finally left the store with my finds, I had acquired several more items than on my shopping list, including the recipe book — isn’t that always the way? I still have the assortment of pot lids I bought that day, although the cook pots they were bought for wore out long ago.

Some years later Rogers Brothers moved to a larger location in the center of that block, and later still to a location on the edge of town where the family business morphed from furniture to fabrics. I browsed through there one day, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

I still have fond memories of my shopping trips to Rogers Brothers on North Dargan Street. I’ve never found another plunderer’s paradise quite like that one.

Note: The photos are not of Rogers Brothers Furniture, alas – I couldn’t find any from those day. These are internet photos of similar shops across the country, still popular with young housewives and curio collectors.

Spending time with Granddaddy

MimiDa01I was the first-born grandchild to Marena and Dewey Powers (Mimi and Da to us grandkids). Although I spent most of my summer-time visits indoors with Mimi, Da tried on occasion to teach me the finer points of outdoor country living.

Lynches River always offered prime fishing for a variety of fresh-water fish. One morning Da decided to forego plowing and took me fishing. He baited both our hooks, then we dropped our cane pole lines over the side of a little bridge and waited.

“Watch the cork, now, watch the cork. The fish’ll take the bait and the cork’ll disappear and then we got him, but you got to watch that cork.” I watched the cork for a few minutes, then watched a butterfly, then watched a few birds, then watched the assorted branches and turtles floating by in the black river water.

“Doll baby, your cork’s bobbing, you got one, pull him in!” Da helped me land whatever kind of fish he was and there he lay, flopping about on the bridge and gasping for breath. His glassy eyes seemed to look right into my soul as he gave up the ghost, and I cried.

“What you bawling for? That’s your dinner, you caught your dinner, a pretty good one, too.” Da took my catch off the hook while I grieved over the poor little fish that I had killed. He fished a little while longer while I sniffled.

As we packed up our poles he kept shaking his head and muttering to himself, wondering what on earth was wrong with this girl, where’d I think seafood dinners came from. That was our first and last fishing trip together.

Da didn’t give up on me, though. Later on he decided I needed to learn to ride a pony or a horse. Since he didn’t have either one, the plow mule seemed a good substitute. The mule was very gentle and good natured, but very tall!

Da brought him around from the stable, let me pat his nose, look into his eyes and feel his hide. Then Da lifted me up to the mule’s broad back, showed me how to hold on tight to the bridle and slowly began to walk the mule forward.

After the first few steps I began to cry. I was so far up, so far from the safety of the good earth, “Let me down, please let me down!” I begged. And so he did.

Shaking his head as he walked the mule back to the stable, I could almost hear Da muttering his earlier sentiments, what on earth is wrong with this girl. That was my first and last mule ride.

In between attempts to countrify me, Da was spoiling me in other ways. Dimes and quarters often appeared in the strangest places, like mantelpieces and kitchen cabinets. Every time I’d spot one I’d exclaim over my find. “Guess the money fairy meant for you to have it, since you found it,” he would say with a twinkle in his eye.

Then I spied him pulling change out of his pocket one day, fingering through the silver before carefully placing several dimes among the dinner plates. I never let on that I knew who the “money fairy” was, I just kept enjoying my good fortune.

I was about fourteen when Da decided to teach me the tried and true traditions of bird hunting. His bird dogs were raring to go the day after Thanksgiving. We piled into his pick-up truck, dogs yipping behind our heads as they trotted from one side of the truck bed to the other.

On reaching our destination we met several other men, some with grandsons but no other girls. Da had demonstrated safe shotgun handling, pointed out tips to targeting a likely bird, and Mimi had loaned me her very own lightweight 410 shotgun.

My aim was perfect. I hit the first bird I aimed at and the dog brought it proudly to my feet. I took one look at it and cried. The poor little bird, I had killed it!

The men and boys looked at me like I was a real sissy and I guess I was. I spent the rest of our hunting trip camped out in the pick-up truck.

Granddaddy brought his and my bounty home that evening, cleaned and cooked the birds for supper. I probably ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All I could see was the poor little feathery creature lying dead at my feet and the puzzled look on the face of the bird dog.

I’m sure he was wondering along with Da, what in the world is wrong with this girl. You guessed it — that was our first and last hunting trip, too.

Some years later after I was married, Da would drop in occasionally to see how I was doing. Each time after he left I’d find a five dollar bill in the sugar bowl, a ten under a coffee cup or a twenty in the silverware drawer.

I knew it was my granddaddy’s way of saying that he loved me just as I was, city girl and all.

Jealous of mother’s hair

MotteBerthaAndBetty1944“Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair…”*

Black-haired and hazel-eyed, my Irish mother was the only girl in a family with four brothers. All her brothers’ hair began to turn gray at an early age, but mama’s didn’t. She just had a narrow streak of white from her right temple straight back through her lush, black waves.

Unfortunately, my hair took after my English daddy, who had brown hair and blue eyes. I was always jealous of mother’s hair.

When I was fifteen years old or so, mama took me to her hairdresser. The shop was centrally located in a storefront beside Sears, Roebuck and Company on North Irby Street. I thought I was getting a hair permanent, an event I dreaded. Frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Easter. More frizzy, smelly, itchy curls for Christmas.

I pouted as I was draped in plastic and the leather chair pumped up to the appropriate level. My mood didn’t improve as mama whispered something to the beautician, gave me a pat and said she’d be in the cubicle next door.

The next thing I knew the circumference of my face and neck was being wrapped in cotton batting, as usual. Cold smelly chemicals were dabbed on my hair, just like usual. My head was encased in a plastic shower-cap, an egg timer was set and a magazine plopped into my hands.

Determined to make the best of it, I got engrossed in the romantic short story in the Redbook and tried to ignore the drips escaping down the back of my neck. “We’ll do the roll-ups in a bit,” the smiling lady said as she went out for a chat with mama.

Eventually the timer went off, the breezy beautician returned, peeked under the plastic, pronounced it “just right” and whirled me around to the sink for a rinse. Huddled under the noisy hair dryer, I finished Redbook, McCall’s magazine and an old Readers Digest before we got to the un-roll and the brush-out. Finally the smiling beautician presented me with a hand mirror.

Holy cow! My hair had undergone a miracle! It was no longer a mousy ash brown – it was now a lovely auburn brown. (I have never seen my natural hair color since.) I suddenly loved my mother fiercely – she understood, she really understood how much I had always admired her hair, how much I had always deplored mine.

Soon after that my whole family, grandparents and all, went to a movie at the Carolina Theater. It was rare for the grandparents to attend a movie – raising their family in the depression years they didn’t “hold with frivolous foofaraw.” But there they were standing in line just behind mama, daddy, Harold and me. 

In a gruff whisper, Da spoke into Mimi’s ear. “Betty’s sure gotten to be red-headed, ain’t she…” You could hear the question mark in his comment, wondering how on earth my hair had gone from brown to red. 

Da’s brand of Irish were Black Irish – mostly black or dark-haired, not red-haired, and they didn’t change their gene structure at fifteen. I can still hear Mimi shush-shushing him, trying to explain in a few words about beauty parlors and hair dye.

Since it goes better with the fire-engine red shirts I favor, in recent years I tended to stick with medium brown hair. When too much familial gray was first showing up around the edges, I visited my neighborhood drugstore. My tried and true brand was out.

I browsed through the hair-color selections. “Brown with auburn highlights.” Hmmm. A bit of auburn again might be fun. I shampooed it in, read a few chapters of a murder mystery, rinsed, dried, and –

My hair was the most unnatural pink you ever saw. Highlights? Forget highlights, where was the brown? I prayed I didn’t see anyone I knew as I drove back to the store and bought brown with NO red in it, according to the label. I re-colored, re-rinsed, re-dried – and it was still red. Darker red, but still not brown.

Now, I was a busy person, work, church, grocery-shopping, bill-paying, errands around town, you know the drill. I had no choice but to go out in public. Some folks were kind enough to say they liked it. A few giggled until they saw the set of my jaw.

BetteAtPhotoShopCropped11May2007I let my hair enjoy its redness for a week. This time I bought DARK brown with no red, and this time it did come out brown. Dark brown. Really, really dark brown. Almost black, it was so brown. Oh well, I looked more like my mama. That wasn’t a bad thing, really. 

It looked pretty good with my fire-engine red shirts. I thought I might just keep it that way for a while. (And I did… for a while. Story written in 2006.)

* Traditional Scottish folk song, though this video says it’s Irish. Beautiful either way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3rbRX675JE

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.

We didn’t need a car

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, locally-owned grocery stores sprinkled around. If you weren’t driving a car, the clerk would bag up your purchases and a nice fellow would bring them home for you.

Harvey’s Thriftway would even take your order over the telephone and deliver it, if you couldn’t make it in to buy your meat and canned goods.

Milk from Coble Dairy was plopped down on our front step every morning bright and early, just like the morning paper. Pickup trucks loaded down with produce fresh from the farm drove throughout our neighborhood, just like the ice-cream man. Mama selected our cabbages and butter beans and tomatoes just a few yards from our own kitchen.

Need ice? An old-fashioned ice box occupied a spot in our kitchen for much of my younger years. The mule-drawn ice wagon, later the flatbed ice truck, stopped at our address to haul in whatever we needed for the week.

One of my earliest memories is strolling down Pine Street sidewalk, headed to Sunday School at First Baptist Church where Daddy was a member. Daddy walked on the street side in case a car came along and splashed a mud puddle or something and mother on the house side. I usually walked in front of them, skipping along in my white Mary Jane shoes and frilly white socks.

They encouraged my brother and me to keep our young feet on the sidewalk and off the neighbors’ lawns, and discouraged us from taking a minor detour to chase a neighborhood cat or squirrel. After Sunday School, we all walked another block to attend the 11:00 o’clock worship service at Central Methodist, where Mother was a member.

BostonCafeSmallAll that walking naturally worked up an appetite, so after church we walked several more blocks to the Boston Cafe on Dargan Street. The few restaurants in downtown Florence were really busy on Sundays after church.

The Boston was one of our favorites, offering meat loaf and fried chicken and pork chops, butter beans and corn and string beans, dinner rolls, tea or coffee. Dessert might be vanilla pudding, chocolate cake, or lemon meringue pie.

We regularly saw a lot of Mama and Daddy’s friends there with their kids in tow and the low-back booths allowed easy conversation between families. If you cleaned your plate before Mama and Daddy were finished, you could go sit with a buddy in his booth and chat.

After lunch, the pace was a bit slower and this time the family split in two. Around the corner and up East Evans Street we would arrive at the Sanborn Hotel, where Daddy and Harold would sit in the great lobby and catch up on the week’s news with friend Sanborn Chase. (See photo above.)

Mother and I continued on, crossing East Evans Street to peruse the showcases in Belk’s before heading up one side of West Evans and down the other. We carefully examined every shop window. Dresses in Gladstone’s, shoes in Miller’s Bootery. Pocketbooks. Jewelry. Hardware. Men’s ties and suits.

Window displays changed every week and we needed to keep up with the newest merchandise, just in case we needed to come back and buy something in the near future. By the time we closed the circle back at the Sanborn, Daddy and Harold were ready to call it an afternoon. We might return home by a different route so we could check out somebody else’s lawn, or cat, or squirrel.

Families and kids walked other times, too, of course. There was always something entertaining to do, and sometimes getting there was part of the entertainment.

 

Easter: Vinegar, Hardboiled Eggs and Granddaddy’s Hound Dog

EasterAtMimiShelbyI opened a vinegar bottle one day and suddenly Easter popped into my mind. Vinegar, food coloring, hardboiled eggs, and granddaddy’s hound dog…

In the early 1950’s Easter had several meanings around my house. Jesus’ resurrection was first and foremost. All the other meanings sprang out of that one, like new Easter dresses. We had to have new clothes for Easter, because Easter represents new life, new beginnings, a new start.

I don’t know when my brother Harold’s new outfits were acquired but mama always took me shopping for mine. We browsed through J. C. Penney’s dress racks. “Why don’t we change colors this year?” mama would suggest, examining pink selections with frills and bows and poufy sleeves. “What about pleats?”

Yuk. I really, really preferred blue. Since mama preferred not to have crying fits or temper tantrums on her hands, blue it was for my dress, again. Next came the bonnet, of course. Wide brim? Chiffon roses? Fabric or straw? Whatever matched the dress, that’s what we wound up with.

Dress and bonnet in hand, over to the shoe department we marched. That was a neat place. It was such fun to see your foot skeleton in the x-ray machine. “Can I have black this time, please, please?” No, Easter needs white shoes and white frilly socks.

Easter eve meant pulling out the vinegar, an assortment of coffee cups and tiny food coloring bottles. Mama boiled a dozen white eggs, then let Harold and me dip them one by one in the smelly dye. I had a blast making mine light blue, and dark blue, and darker blue. Of course I was dipping the same egg over and over.

But mama said we needed pinks and yellows and greens too so she put a stop to my experiment. (I was trying to make a black egg but my curiosity was never satisfied in that regard. Pity.) We set aside our masterpieces for the morrow and went to bed early.

Easter Sunday Harold and I awoke bright and early to see what the “Easter bunny” brought. We were well aware there was no actual bunny, but here was another meaning that went with Easter: gifts, representing the gift of eternal life in Jesus.

Green cellophane grass spilled over the edges of a brand new basket. Nestled atop the grass would be a chocolate egg surrounded with other candy goodies and a small toy or two. The entire basket was encased in yellow or gold cellophane, gathered and tied at the top with a big bow.

Easter1967We usually didn’t get up early enough for the sunrise service at Timrod Park, but 11:00 worship usually featured “Up From The Grave He Arose” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” The sanctuary was filled to capacity and a sea of new ladies’ millinery met your eye in every direction.

After church we didn’t go home for lunch. Still in our new finery we headed for Mimi and Da’s house, a sumptuous Easter dinner of ham, fried chicken and potato salad, and another meaning of Easter: family. Being part of a family. Being reunited with family. Our family Egg Hunt with Mimi, Da, aunts, uncles and cousins, included lots of in-laws and sometimes some of their family, totally unrelated to us except on this special day.

The kids had to stay inside while the parents hid the eggs outside, naturally. We champed at the bit until finally the signal was given and we made a mad dash with our baskets. Mimi’s large farm yard was full of likely hiding places. Climbing rose bushes adjoined chinaberry trees. A fenced chicken pen was lined with clumps of jonquils, border grass and assorted weeds.

Upturned foot tubs and cracked enamel pots were scattered amidst bits and pieces of farm tools. A rolled-up clothes line lay across a pile of clothes pins. Partially empty chicken feed sacks sat side by side with a stack of dried corn cobs at the edge of the porch. Porch steps! Truck tires! Every imaginable spot was a potential hiding place for a dyed egg.

HoundDogEasterEggsThere was an egg count, of course, and a prize egg made of plastic. If you found that one you were awarded something really special, perhaps a chocolate bunny.

The race was to see how many eggs we could find before time was called, and how many eggs granddaddy’s hound dog could find. He wasn’t supposed to take part in the hunt but somehow he had developed a taste for boiled eggs, shell and all. If we did our job well he would be disappointed. If not — oh well, the lost eggs wouldn’t go to waste.

While us kids compared our basket totals, folding chairs were set up outside. Cups of fresh perked Maxwell House were handed around with wedges of Mimi’s pound cake for the grown-ups. The kids quenched our thirst with Kool-Aid, and more Easter eggs accompanied by salt and pepper shakers were distributed to anyone interested in actually eating them. Many were.

All in all, my childhood Easters were wonderful times. There were weeks of preparation as choirs rehearsed musicals, schools prepared for Easter break and we shopped for the latest spring fashions. Easter meant thoughtfulness, forgiveness, newness, celebration, reunions, food, fun and fellowship. (It still does.)

Even granddaddy’s hound dog had a good time on Easter! And the smell of vinegar brings it all back.