Originally this page was dedicated to a collection of few stories Joe gave me the privilege of posting to the internet. I kept those memoirs below because a few of them are not included in this copy. Well...after much prodding I am proud to provide you all access to The Book by Joe Friday Sr.
Now everyone should know that Joe Friday did not create this web site. I have read many of his memoirs and after creating and maintaining my own web site, I asked Joe if he would share his memoirs via the web with the rest of us that know him . I am honored to know Joe and everyone he has touched in his life has reaped the reward of just knowing him. These are the first of his memoirs and hopefully for the rest of us...not the last that he shares with us.
This site was last updated 10/27/10
Author: Hitec Redneck
By Joe Friday
IN THE 1940’S AND 50’S MY FATHER, J. FRED FRIDAY SR.,(1901-1986) WAS
THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DALLAS PRISON UNIT, DALLAS, NC. FROM
1940 THRU 1957 HE MANAGED THE PRISON WITH A FIRM HAND, BUT JUST
ENOUGH DISCIPLINE AND FAIRNESS THAT LEFT THE PRISON POPULATION
RESPECTING HIM AND THE JOB HE HAD TO DO. OVER THE YEARS I RAN
INTO PEOPLE WHO HAD SERVED TIME AT THE PRISON WHO WOULD TELL
ME WHAT A FINE PERSON MY DAD WAS AND HOW FAIR HE HAD TREATED
RUNNING A PRISON REQUIRES MANAGING A LOT OF DIFFERENT AREAS.
A PRISON FARM, PRISON LAUNDRY, KITCHEN, SUPERVISING THE GUARD’S,
AND OTHER PERSONNEL.
AND ONE MORE PROJECT THAT DAD HAD A GOOD TIME WITH WAS HIS BLOODHOUNDS.
HIS DOGS WERE THE BEST IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, AND THEY HAD
A REPUTATION TO PROVE IT.
THAT’S WHAT THIS LITTLE STORY IS ABOUT.
A CALL CAME INTO DAD’S OFFICE ONE HOT SUMMER DAY IN 1951. HE
WAS BEING CALLED TO COME HELP WITH A SEARCH FOR TWO PRISONERS
WHO HAD ESCAPED FROM A ROAD GANG WORKING ON HIGHWAY 90,
ABOUT SEVEN OR EIGHT MILES NORTH OF STATESVILLE.
DAD CALLS FOR JACK, HIS DOG HANDLER, GET THE DOG LOADED WE
GOT TO GO. IN A MATTER OF MINUTES THEY ARE ON THEIR WAY.
REMEMBER THIS IS 1951, NO INTERSTATES, ONLY TWO LANE BLACK TOP
WINDING ROADS ALL THE WAY TO STATESVILLE.
ARRIVING IN STATESVILLE THEY THREAD THEIR WAY THRU
DOWNTOWN AND TAKE HIGHWAY NORTH TOWARD THEIR DESTINATION.
IT WAS NOW PAST MID-DAY AND VERY HOT. OF COURSE THERE WAS NO
AIR CONDITIONING IN THE TRUCK.
ABOUT TI-TREE MILES OUT OF TOWN JACK TELL DAD, "THE DOGS SICK.”
THE BLOODHOUND HAD LOST HIS LUNCH IN THE BACK OF DAD’S PICKUP.
THE HEAT AND WINDING ROADS HAD MADE THE DOG SICK.
DAD LOOKS FOR A STOPPING PLACE AND FINDS A WIDE SPOT NEAR SOME
SHADE TREES AND PULLS OVER. HE SAYS TO JACK, “GET THE DOG OUT
AND WALK HIM AROUND, GET HIM SOME FRESH AIR.”
THEY HAD BEEN ON THE GROUND MAYBE FIVE MINUTES WHEN DAD
HEARD SOME YELLING AND NAME CALLING FROM WITHIN THE WOODS.
SIXTY YARDS TO THE LEFT AND DOWN IN THE WOODS STOOD THE TWO
ESCAPEES WITH THERE HANDS RAISED CALLIN DAD BY NAME, OFFERING
TO GIVE THEMSELVES UP.
THEY BELIEVED DAD HAD SOMEHOW LOCATED THEM AND WAS ABOUT
CAPTURE THEM. SO THE ONLY THING LEFT TO DO WAS “GIVE UP.”
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR REPUTATION PRECEDES YOU.
THE BACK OF THE TRUCK WAS KIND OF MESSED UP, BUT IN GOES TWO
MEN AND A DOG FOR A RIDE BACK TO THEIR SQUAD.
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by Joe Friday
The phone rang just before noon on a cold cloudy day in February 1950. My dad answered on the
second ring. Rules in his office were to not let the phone ring over three times. The long-distance call
was from Mr. Don Phillips, Superintendent of the Alexander County Prison Camp in Taylorsville,
North Carolina, with a message that five long-term prisoners had escaped from a road gang just over
an hour ago. Mr. Phillips was asking for Dad’s help in their recapture.
Just a call of notification would have been sufficient because Dad was expected to go. The courtesy of helping your friend at a time like this was common throughout the Ninth Prison Division in Western North Carolina. And besides, Capt. Friday had the best bloodhounds in the state.
Anytime catching someone on foot was necessary Capt. Friday’s dogs were called for. I was fifteen years old and lived to go with my dad. I begged to go along. Dad told me to go by the house and get me a big coat and he would pick me up at the drive. I couldn’t run fast enough to get home, grab a coat and meet him and the dog-boy out at the road. Dog-boy is a dog handler, usually a prisoner, a trustee and one with a lot to time to build.
I piled into the prison truck, a 1950 Ford pickup with my dad and Jack, the dog-boy. I had no idea when we would eat next as Dad didn’t stop for soda pop.
We traveled at break-neck speed for 80 miles. No interstates then, just two lane blacktop roads for the next hour and a half. Dallas to Lincolnton, Maiden to Newton, Conover to Taylorsville and out into the mountains of Alexander County. Dad’s truck was equipped with a two-way radio on the highway patrol frequency. Today, his radio would be described as ancient. And, it was, but it worked. Others in the hunt knew when we arrived at the scene and we were taken immediately to a point where there was known to be a hot track. True to form, Dad’s dog was on the ground running within minutes of our arrival.
Standard procedure for those involved in the chase was to ride around the territory where the escapees were last seen. Vehicles were spaced out, sometimes within sight of each other. There were prison trucks, local sheriff’s cars, Highway Patrol cars and as many police officers as could be spared to help.
If the bloodhounds cross the road, the dog-boy or his helper puts a pine-top in the road with the sharp end pointed in the direction of travel. This lets others know that they have crossed the road at that point and moved into a new territory. Dad and I were now part of a rather large manhunt, circling the territory where the five escaped convicts were last seen.
It was cold and a light snow had started to fall. The Ford truck did not win any awards for its heater. I was slouched against the door trying to stay warm when Dad hit the brakes real hard and slid to a stop on this narrow mountain road. I sat up quickly and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Dad said, “Didn’t you see that rabbit run across the road?” Well, no I didn’t see it, but Dad did and he knew that rabbits don’t run in the daylight hours, unless jumped or scared out of their nest.
To my surprise, Dad reached in the glove box and brought out the biggest gun I had ever seen. It was a .38 caliber revolver, six shot with a six-inch barrel, a standard police issue.
“Here,” he said, “Take this and get over there behind that large tree, face away from the road, look into the woods, sit down, be quiet and listen. I’m going back up the road about a hundred yards and do the same.”
In a moment he was gone and I did as I was told. I sat there less than five minutes when above the wind rattling the leaves, I heard them coming. There were five of them, three in stripes and the other two in brown prison clothes.
The rest of the story is a bit sketchy, but as Dad told it later, I brought them all out onto the road, hands up, in single file and very much under control.
I was not cold and didn’t shake. I don’t remember being scared, but I do remember being very proud. My dad let me fire the three shots into the air to signal capture to the dog-boy and the guards.
It was a good trip back home, but the story never became a big deal... until now!
**************Mountain Capture is a true story written by Joe Friday of Denver, NC, while a member of a class called “Writing the Stories of Your Life” held at the Lake Norman Lutheran Church.
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ALL DAY AND INTO THE NIGHT
THE ONLY JOB MY DAD EVER HAD, WAS WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT. FIRST HE WORKED FOR THE COUNTY OF GASTON, DALLAS, NC AND A MAN NAMED C. W. COSTNER. MR. COSTNER’S PEOPLE MAINTAINED THE ROADS IN GASTON COUNTY. MOST ROADS THEN WERE DIRT AND REQUIRED DRAGGING OR SCRAPING IN AN ATTEMPT TO KEEP THEM SMOOTH TO SOME DEGREE. IN 1935 (TO THE BEST OF MY MEMORY) THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA TOOK OVER MAINTENANCE OF ALL COUNTY ROADS.
DAD THEN WENT TO WORK FOR THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA. BASICALLY DOING THE SAME WORK, KEEPING UP THE ROADS IN GASTON COUNTY. WHEN THE COUNTY AND LATER THE STATE KEPT UP THE ROADS, PRISON LABOR WAS USED. UNDER THE STATE SUPERVISION THEY WORKED MEN IN SQUADS OF 8 TO 10 PRISONERS. AT SOME POINT DAD BECAME A FOREMAN, SUPERVISING THE WORK OF A SQUAD.
THEN IN 1940 DAD WAS ASK TO BECOME SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DALLAS PRISON CAMP, NO: 905. THE NEXT YEAR DAD BOUGHT A LOT AND HAD A HOUSE BUILT JUST ACROSS THE ROAD FROM THE PRISON, SO HE COULD BE CLOSE TO HIS WORK, AND HE WORKED MANY HOURS A DAY.
HE WAS GOOD AT HIS JOB AND HE LOVED IT.
WHERE THERE ARE PRISONERS THERE WILL BE ONE TRYING TO ESCAPE. AND OF COURSE THAT WAS THE CASE AT THE DALLAS PRISON. SOMETIMES THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL AND DO GET AWAY.
THIS LEADS TO WHAT METHODS DO YOU USE TO CATCH A RUNAWAY. DAD BRED AND RAISED SOME OF THE FINEST BLOODHOUNDS EVER SEEN IN NORTH CAROLINA. HE ALWAYS HAD TWO OR THREE DOGS THAT WERE WELL TRAINED AND COULD BE USED ON A MAN HUNT AT ANYTIME.
THE REPUTATION OF DAD’S BLOODHOUNDS WAS WELL KNOWN ALL OVER THE STATE.
ABOUT THE MIDDLE OF THE MORNING ON A SUMMER DAY IN 1952, DAD STARTED LISTENING TO SOME RADIO TRAFFIC FROM THE PRISON RADIO FREQUENCY ORIGINATING OVER IN MONTGOMERY CO, TROY, NC.
A PRISONER HAD ESCAPED FROM A ROAD GANG NEAR THE TOWN OF MOUNT GILEAD. THERE WAS NOTHING UNUSUAL ABOUT THIS, IT SEEMED THAT THERE WAS ONE OR TWO ESCAPED SOMEWHERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA EVERY WEEK. EXCEPT THEY COULDN’T SEEM TO CATCH THIS MAN. THE HUNT CONTINUED ALL DAY.
WHEN AT ABOUT 5 O’CLOCK DAD RECEIVED A PHONE CALL FROM THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF PRISON. HE HAD JOINED THE HUNT JUST AFTER MID-DAY AND IT SEEMED THEY WERE NOT MAKING ANY PROGRESS AT ALL. THIS ESCAPEE WAS DANGEROUS, HE HAD BEEN CONVICTED OF RAPE
AND WAS SERVING A 25 TO 30 YEAR SENTENCE.
THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR WAS CALLIN' FOR DADS HELP. BRING YOUR DOG AND COME GIVE US YOUR EXPERTISE. THE REPUTATION OF DAD’S DOGS HAD THEM CALLING FOR HELP.
FROM DALLAS, NC TO MOUNT GILEAD, NC IS PROBABLY NO MORE THAN 75-80 MILES BUT YOU MUST GO THRU THE CITY OF CHARLOTTE TO GET THERE.
IT WAS APPROACHING 7 O’CLOCK WHEN DAD ARRIVED WITH JACK, THE DOG HANDLER, AND HIS BLOODHOUND.
DAD TOLD THE STORY OF HIS ARRIVAL AND BEING MET BY A VERY CONCERNED ASST. DIRECTOR. THIS ESCAPEE WAS VERY DANGEROUS AND HAD THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY UPSET.
DAD ASK FOR AN UPDATE ON WHEN THEY LAST HAD A TRAIL AND WAS TOLD THAT HE HAD BEEN TRAILED FROM NEAR MOUNT GILEAD ALONG THE RAILROAD TOWARDS TROY AND THEN THEY LOST HIM. WITH ONLY THIS BIT OF INFORMATION DAD TOLD THE DIRECTOR HE WOULD BE BACK,
HE WANTED TO LOOK THE AREA OVER. HE DROVE OFF AND DOWN TO THE AREA WHERE THEY LAST HAD A TRAIL. AFTER SURVEYING THE PLACE DAD ASK JACK, “WHY DO YOU THINK THEY
LOST THE TRAIL?’ JACK REPLIED, “I THINK HE HOPPED A TRAIN AND RODE IT TOWARDS TROY, NOT LEAVING A SCENT FOR THE DOGS.” WITH THIS IN MIND THEY RIDE THE HIGHWAY IN THE DIRECTION OF TROY. FOR A LONG DISTANCE THE RAILROAD TRACKS RUN PARALLEL WITH THE HIGHWAY BETWEEN MOUNT GILEAD AND TROY AND NOT VERY FAR AWAY AT ANY POINT. DAD AND JACK DECIDE BETWEEN THEM THAT THE ESCAPEE WOULD NOT RIDE THE TRAIN ALL THE WAY INTO TOWN FOR FEAR OF BEING SEEN. AND IF HE DID HOP A RIDE THAT HE WOULD PROBABLY DROP OFF OUTSIDE OF TOWN AND WAIT TILL DARK TO MOVE.
IT IS ALREADY DUSKY DARK AS THEY NEAR THE TOWN LIMITS OF TROY. DAD TELLS JACK TO TAKE THE BLOODHOUND DOWN TO THE RAILROAD AND START WORKING HIS WAY BACK TOWARDS MOUNT GILEAD.
BY NOW DARKNESS HAS BEGUN TO SETTLE IN AND JACK MOVED DOWN THE RAILROAD SLOWLY AND VERY QUIET. TRUE TO THEIR THINKING THE PRISONER WALKS RIGHT UP TO JACK AND THE DOG BEFORE HE SEES THEM. DAD IS MOVING ALONG THE HIGHWAY CLOSE BY AND IN ONLY
A MATTER OF MINUTES THEY HAVE HIM IN THE TRUCK. THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA FURNISHED DAD WITH A PICK-UP TRUCK AND A CUSTOM MADE CAGE THAT FIT ON THE BACK.
THIS IS WHERE HE HAULED HIS DOG AND WHERE THE PRISONERS WERE PLACE! WHEN BEING TRANSPORTED. IN THIS CASE IT HELD BOTH THE DOG AND PRISONER. IT WAS A SHORT TRIP BACK TO THE STAGING AREA WHERE THERE WAS A LARGE GROUP OF PRISON PERSONNEL, LOCAL DEPUTIES, STATE HIGHWAY PATROL AND OTHERS MILLING AROUND. DAD PULLS UP IN HIS BROWN PRISON PICK-UP AND IS IMMEDIATELY MET BY THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR. “WELL CAPTAIN FRIDAY, WHAT DO YOU THINK?" “HAVE YOU GOT ANY IDEA’S WHERE HE MIGHT BE?” ALL DAD SAID WAS "I GOT HIM."
(NOW REMEMBER, IT’S DARK) THE DIRECTOR WAS RATHER SHARP WITH DAD IN SAYING, “LOOK CAPTAIN FRIDAY, THIS IS SERIOUS AND NOW'S NOT THE TIME FOR KIDDING AROUND.” EVERYONE SOON KNEW THAT THE CAPTURE HAD BEEN MADE AND WAS RELIEVED THAT IT WAS OVER.
A CHASE THAT LASTED ALL DAY AND INTO THE NIGHT.
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I GREW UP ON THE PRISON FARM, SO DOING FARM WORK WHEN I BECAME OLD ENOUGH WAS SECOND NATURE. MY DAD WAS THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DALLAS PRISON CAMP FROM 1940 - 1959, MY GROWING UP YEARS. I NEVER THOUGHT TWICE ABOUT HELPING ON THE FARM BECAUSE I KNEW WHAT I DID PLEASED MY DAD.
I LEARNED TO DRIVE A MULE TO A PLOW, THEN TWO MULES TO A PLOW, A FARM TRUCK, A SMALL FARM TRACTOR AND FINALLY A BIG CRAWLER
TRACTOR. ALL BEFORE I WAS SIXTEEN YEARS OLD.
EVEN IN THE 40’S AND 50’S PRISONS WERE EXPENSIVE TO MAINTAIN. PART OF THE SUPERINTENDENT’S RESPONSIBILITY WAS TO KEEP THE COST DOWN. COST WAS MEASURED BY WHAT IT COST TO KEEP A PRISONER BY THE DAY. SIXTY-FIVE TO SEVENTY-FIVE CENT A DAY FOR A PRISONEWS KEEP AND YOU RAN A GOOD SHIP. LET IT GET TO EIGHTY CENTS AND OVER AND RALEIGH BEGAN TO ASK QUESTIONS. (RALEIGH WAS HEADQUARTERS FOR THE STATE PRISON SYSTEM.)
SO THE QUESTION AROSE, HOW TO KEEP THE COST AT A LEVEL THAT MADE EVERYBODY HAPPY?
SINCE ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE PARTS OF KEEPING AN INMATE WAS FOOD, IT WAS PRACTICAL TO RAISE FOOD AND PRESERVE AS MUCH AS YOU COULD. THE DALLAS PRISON CAMP HAD A GOOD RECORD OF KEEPING WITHIN THE PRESCRIBED AMOUNT BY HAVING A GOOD WORKING FARM. THAT CONSISTED OF A PAIR OF MULES. SEVERAL MILK COWS.
A FEW BEEF COWS, SEVERAL TRACTORS AND VARIOUS WAGONS AND
SPREADERS. MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY THING WAS THE HOG FARM.
THE HOG FARM DREW MOST OF THE ATTENTION BECAUSE IT PRODUCED
ENOUGH PORK TO FEED THE INMATES AT THE DALLAS CAMP AND
ALSO SHIP PORK TO OTHER PRISON CAMPS FOR CREDIT TOWARD THE
OVERALL OPERATING COST.
HAD IT BEEN UP TO “US" THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH PORK TO
FEED THE ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION. IF DAD EVER KNEW ABOUT THE
THINGS WE DID WE WERE NEVER AWARE OF IT.
“US” WAS A GROUP OF NEIGHBORHOOD BOYS, ( WE ALL LIVED NEAR THE
PRISON). WE WERE GREAT FRIENDS, WHO PLAYED TOGETHER AND GOT
INTO TROUBLE TOGETHER. WE WERE, LARRY RANKIN, (LARRY LOST
SEVERAL FINGERS ON HIS LEFT HAND BECAUSE HE HELD A FIRECRACKER
A SECOND TOO LONG). LARRY’S YOUNGER BROTHER JOE RANK1N AND
THEIR FIRST COUSIN BILLY BEST. JOE DAN GARDNER, (WHOSE BROTHER
BILL LATER MARRIED MY SISTER). MY YOUNGER BROTHER JOHNNY
AND I WAS PART OF THE GROUP.
WHAT WE DID FOR ENTERTAINMENT, AND WHAT NO ONE EVER KNEW
ABOUT WAS TO SLIP DOWN TO THE HOG PENS (THEY WERE LOCATED
IN AN ISOLATED AREA ANYWAY) TO BREED SEVERAL HOGS EACH TRIP.
THE PENS WERE CONSTRUCTED WITH GATES AND RUNS TO DO JUST
WHAT WE WERE DOING. ALL WE HAD TO DO WAS OPEN THIS GATE AND
THAT GATE AND LET THE HOGS GO AT IT. NO ONE EVER THOUGHT A
BUNCH OF BOYS WOULD BE USING IT FOR FUN.
THE MILK COWS PROVIDED RAW MILK FOR MOST EVENING MEALS.
CORNBREAD AND MILK.
THE DALLAS PRISON CAMP WAS BUILT TO BE A HUNDRED MAN UNIT.
BUT MOST OF THE TIME THE HEAD COUNT WOULD BE 110 TO 120.
EVERY MAN WAS COUNTED AT MEALTIME AND AT BEDTIME.
WHEN SCHOOL LET OUT FOR THE SUMMER I SPENT EVERYDAY WITH
CAPTAIN HIRAM ENGRAM AND THE INMATES ASSIGNED TO THE FARM.
MR. ENGRAM’S RESPONSIBILITY WAS SUPERVISION OVER THE FARM.
HE STAYED AT THE CAMP DURING THE WEEK GOING TO HIS HOME
ON THE LOWER DALLAS ROAD ONLY ON THE WEEKEND.
ONE’ FIRST THOUGHTS WOULD BE THAT THERE SHOULD BE PLENTY OF
‘FREE’ LABOR TO DO THE FARM WORK. BUT I REFER BACK TO KEEPING
THE COST DOWN WHILE TRYING TO RUN A PRISON. A CERTAIN AMOUNT
OF CREDIT WAS GIVEN FOR EVERY PRISONER THAT WORKED THAT DAY.
BUT ONLY THOSE PRISONERS WHO WERE CHECKED OUT TO WORK ON
THE STATE ROADS CARRIED ANY CREDIT. THUS, A COOK, A DOG-BOY
OR DISHWASHER, OR A FARM HAND DIDN’T GET YOU ANY CREDIT.
BECAUSE OF THIS, SERVICE PEOPLE WERE KEPT TO A MINIMUM.
ROWS AND ROWS OF TOMATOES WERE GROWN, EATEN FRESH IN-SEASON
AND CANNED FOR EATING DURING THE WINTER.
UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF CAPTAIN BUB CROCKER, (MR. CROCKER
WAS ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT) LOTS OF VEGETABLES AND FRUITS
WERE PREPARED AND CANNED.
GREEN BEANS, PEACHES AND APPLES. EVERY YEAR DAD WOULD SEND
A DRIVER AND A DUMP TRUCK TO THE MOUNTAINS NEAR HENDERSONVILLE,
NC TO GET A LOAD OF APPLES. THESE APPLES WERE NOT BOXED,
THEY WERE LOADED LOOSE IN THE DUMP TRUCK AND THEN DUMPED
ON THE GROUND IN THE SHADE OF A BIG OAK TREE IN THE CAMP YARD.
ON SATURDAY WHEN THE PRISONERS DID NOT GO OUT TO WORK ON
THE ROADS THEY WOULD GATHER AROUND THIS HUGE PILE OF APPLES
AND PEEL TILL THE PILE DISAPPEARED. THEY WERE PROPERLY
PREPARED AND THEN CANNED IN SILVER GALLON CANS.
THE SAME KIND OF TRIP WAS MADE TO GAFFNEY, SC WHEN PEACHES
WERE IN SEASON. BY BUYING IN BULK, WITHOUT BOXES I’M SURE
GOOD PRICES WERE OBTAINED.
THAT WAS JUST ONE MORE WAY TO KEEP THE COST DOWN.
IN 1954 AN EARLY MORNING FIRE DESTROYED THE HUGE WHITE BARN
THAT HOUSED SOME LIVESTOCK AND SEVERAL FARM MACHINES.
THE MACHINES AND ANIMALS WERE SAVED BUT TONS AND TONS OF
FRESH CUT HAY WENT UP IN FLAMES. IT WAS BELIEVED THAT HAY HAD
BEEN STACKED TOO CLOSE TO A LIGHT BULB IN THE HAY LOFT.
A REPLACEMENT BARN WAS BUILT, EFFICIENT BUT NOT SO MUCH OF
A BARN AS BEFORE. THE OLD BARN WAS ONE OF THOSE EARLY TWENTIETH
CENTURY BUILDINGS THAT HAD BEAUTY AND CHARACTER.
LIKE ANY FARMER SHORT OF ACREAGE, DAD FARMED LAND OWNED
BY OTHERS. PAYMENT WAS MADE BY SHARING THE CROP.
I REMEMBER ONE PARTICULAR LAND-OWNER, MR. BLAIR FALLS
HOUSER, THE LOCAL UNDERTAKER, WHOSE FAMILY OWNED A LARGE
TRACT OF LAND AT LONG CREEK ON THE OLD DALLAS-GASTONIA
HIGHWAY. THIS PROPERTY HAD A HUGE PIECE OF BOTTOM LAND.
BOTTOM LAND IS LOW LYING PROPERTY NEXT TO A CREEK OR RIVER,
AND TENDS TO FLOOD WHEN WE HAVE EXTENDED PERIODS OF RAIN.
USUALLY THE LAND IS FERTILE AND PRODUCES A GOOD CROP. BUT
SOMETIMES IT’S WET AND DOESN’T DRAIN WELL.
DAD MADE A DEAL WITH MR. HOUSER TO FARM THIS BOTTOM SOMETIME ABOUT 1950.
THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE PIECES THAT DIDN’T DRAIN WELL, SO BEFORE
WE COULD PLANT ANYTHING WE HAD TO DRAIN IT OR GET IT DRY.
THE LAND WAS FIXED TO DRAIN PROPERLY BY CUTTING A TRENCH,
(A LARGE DITCH) RIGHT THROUGH THE MIDDLE. DAD LET ME OPERATE
A LARGE CRAWLER TRACTOR PULLING A GRADER THAT HE OPERATED,
AND FOR TWO DAYS WE WENT ABOUT BUILDING THIS TRENCH.
THIS WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH A TRACTOR THIS SIZE AND I WAS
ONLY FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.
BY PLANTING TIME THE FIELD HAD DRAINED PROPERLY SO IT COULD
BE CULTIVATED. WE PLANTED CORN IN THAT BOTTOM FOR YEARS TO
COME, WITH ROWS LONGER THAN YOU COULD SEE.
CORN TO FEED THE ANIMALS AND THE INMATES. JUST ANOTHER WAY
TO KEEP THE COST DOWN.
[FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL IN THE SPRING OF ‘54 AND WORKED AT A
REGULAR JOB THAT SUMMER GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE.
FORTY-SEVEN YEARS LATER, I STILL HAVE FOND MEMORIES OF THE
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THE LONGER I LIVE AND THE MORE I SEE AND LEARN ABOUT OUR
ECONOMY THE MORE PROUD I BECOME OF MY FATHER AND HIS ABILITY
TO RAISE THREE CHILDREN AND KEEP A HOUSEHOLD TOGETHER . IT WAS
ACCOMPLISHED IN THE THIRTIES (COMING OUT OF A DEPRESSION) AND
IN THE FORTIES (DURING WORLD WAR II) AND IN THE FIFTIES, WHEN WE
AS TEENAGERS REQUIRED MORE AND MORE.
IN ADDITION TO RAISING THE THREE OF US, HE HAD A NEW HOUSE BUILT
IN 1940 AND ALL ON THE SALARY OF A STATE EMPLOYEE. DAD’S JOB AS
SUPERINTENDENT OF THE PRISON PAID HIM MORE THAN THE AVERAGE
MAN ON THE STREET BUT IT WAS STILL A PITIFUL AMOUNT.
I’LL NEVER FORGET THE LOOK ON DAD’S FACE WHEN I SHOWED HIM MY
FIRST CHECK, WORKING FOR THE AIR NATIONAL GUARD, IT WAS MORE
THAN HIS AND HE HAD BEEN ON THE JOB ALL HIS LIFE.
I MENTION ALL OF THE ABOVE BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED
YESTERDAY, TUESDAY THE 7TH OF MARCH 2006.
I HAD TAKEN THE DAY OFF BECAUSE OF SEVERAL THINGS PLANNED AND
FINISHED UP ABOUT FOUR O’CLOCK IN DALLAS. FOR WEEKS I KEPT
TELLING MY SELF TO GO SEE HAROLD WHITE AND HIS WIFE IRIS.
HAROLD IS A LONG TIME FRIEND AND HUNTING BUDDY. HAROLD IS 82
YEARS AND IRIS IS 80 YEARS OLD. HAROLD AND IRIS RAISED THREE BOYS
AND A GIRL, AND LIKE NANCY AND I, STRUGGLED THROUGH THE YEARS
TO PAY FOR THEM. WE LAUGHED AND TALKED ABOUT OLD TIMES, KIDS,
OUR SURGERIES AND MANY OTHER SUBJECTS. IN THE CONVERSATION
HAROLD REMINDED ME ABOUT THE SPORT COAT THAT I HAD GIVEN TO
HIS OLDEST, HAROLD JR. (HAL). YES, I DID REMEMBER, HAL HAD GROWN
LIKE A WEED, TALL AND SKINNY JUNIOR OR SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL AND
I HAD A SPORT COAT THAT HAD BECOME TOO TIGHT. WHEN I BOUGHT
THE COAT I WAS TALL AND SKINNY.
REFLECTING ON THE COAT I HAD GIVEN TO HAL, REMINDED ME OF A TIME
WHEN I NEEDED A SPORT COAT.
WHEN I WAS A JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL I NEEDED A SPORT COAT, I HAD
BECOME A TEENAGER WEARING SHIRTS WITH A SWEATER AND IF NEEDED
A LARGE WINTER DENIM JACKET. NO SPORT JACKET WITH SHIRT AND TIE.
BUT NOW TIMES WERE CHANGING AND I WAS GETTING OLDER.
TIME FOR A WARDROBE CHANGE. AFTER SOME PROMPTING AND
CONJOLING TO DAD, HE AGREES TO GET ME A SPORT COAT.
I’M SURE THERE WERE CHEAPER PLACES IN TOWN (BELK’S, RAYLASS, OR
MAYBE THE SALVATION ARMY STORE) BUT DAD TOOK ME TO “WARREN
GARDNER’S YOUNG MEN’S STORE ON MAIN STREET GASTONIA.
OF COURSE WARREN GARDNER’S NO LONGER EXIST AND I BELIEVE THE
BUILDING IS NOW OWNED BY ANN SCHENK, DR. GARY SCHENK’S WIFE.
MY DAUGHTER KIM, THROUGH KNOWING THE SCHENK’S HAS OBTAINED
A SHIRT DISPLAY CASE FROM THE ORIGINAL STORE, AND DISPLAY’S HER
CHILDREN’S SPORTS TROPHIES AND PLAQUES. NO ONE WOULD KNOW,
50 – 60 YEARS AGO THAT DISPLAY CASE WAS DISPLAYING WHITE SHIRTS.
ANYWAY, WE GO TO THE STORE, “WARREN GARDNER’S YOUNG MEN’S
STORE.” DAD AND I LOOK AT SPORT COATS, THE TEN DOLLAR RACK,
NOW I’M TALL AND SKINNY, AT LEAST SIX-FOUR, AND NOT MANY COATS
THAT SIZE ARE AVAILABLE. BUT, AFTER SEARCHING WE FIND ONE WE
BOTH LIKE AND IT FITS. WE DECIDE THAT THIS IS THE ONE FOR ME, AND
WE MOVE TO THE CASHIER TO PAY. NOW SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE
TEN DOLLAR RACK AND THE CASHIER WE MISTAKENLY GET A COAT
OFF THE THIRTY-NINE DOLLAR RACK. NEITHER DAD NOR I REALIZED
THIS UNTIL THE CASHIER SAID, FORTY DOLLARS AND SEVENTEEN CENTS.
MR. GARDNER HIMSELF IS ACTING CASHIER AT THIS TIME, AND DAD’S
NOT ABOUT TO BACK-UP. I CAN SEE IT IN HIS FACE. IT HURTS. HE HAD
NO INTENTION OF PAYING THIS KIND OF MONEY FOR A COAT.
BUT DAD DIGS OUT THE MONEY AND PAYS MR. GARDNER AS IF ALL IS
WELL. THEY PUT MY COAT IN ONE OF THOSE ZIPPER BAGS AND WE
LEAVE THE STORE AND NOT ONE WORD IS EVER MENTIONED ABOUT
WHAT JUST HAPPENED. NOTHING WAS SAID BUT I’LL ALWAYS
REMEMBER THE LOOK ON DAD’S FACE. TOO PROUD TO BACK-UP.
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A Medical Problem
WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, DOCTORS MADE HOUSE CALLS. I CAN SEE
OLD DR. W. M. JONES COMING TO OUR HOUSE TO SEE ABOUT MY MOTHER,
AND THAT’S BEEN 50 YEARS AGO. MOTHER WAS DIAGNOSED WITH
INFLAMMATORY ARTHRITIS THAT KEPT HER IN BED FOR WEEKS AT A TIME.
BUT MY MOTHERS ILLNESS IS NOT WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT. I MUST
HAVE BEEN 12-13 YEARS OLD AN ONE MORNING I WOKE UP WITH A
PIMPLE ABOUT MIDDLE WAYS OF MY LITTLE PENIS AND A LITTLE TO THE
RIGHT SIDE. IN LESS THAN TWO DAYS IT DEVELOPED INTO A FULL
BLOWN BOIL, SO SORE THAT TEARS CAME TO MY EYES WHEN MY SHORTS
SO, I TOLD DAD ABOUT MY MEDICAL PROBLEM, AND HE TOLD ME TO
STAY AT HOME FROM SCHOOL THAT DAY, THAT DR. JONES WOULD
PROBABLY BE BY TO CHECK ON A SICK PRISONER.
I TOLD MY BEST FRIEND ABOUT MY PROBLEM AND HE DECIDED TO
STAY HOME FROM SCHOOL THAT DAY AND KEEP ME COMPANY.
MY BEST FRIEND WAS NONE OTHER THAN GENE RATCHFORD, WHO
LATER BECAME MY BROTHER-IN-LAW.
WELL, I WASN’T REALLY SICK, SO GENE AND I GO ACROSS THE ROAD
TO THE PRISON CAMP AND HANGOUT WHILE WAITING ON THE DOCTOR.
MAYBE I SHOULD EXPLAIN WHY WE WOULD GO TO THE PRISON CAMP TO
MY DAD, FRED FRIDAY WAS THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE DALLAS
PRISON CAMP, SOMETIMES CALLED THE “CHAIN-GANG.” DAD TOOK OVER
THIS JOB IN 1940 AND WE MOVED TO A NEW HOUSE ON THE
DALLASCHERRYVILLE HIGHWAY ACROSS FROM THE PRISON IN 1941.
MY BROTHER AND I SPENT MANY HOURS ON THE PRISON FARM AND IN
SIDE THE COMPOUND WHILE GROWING UP.
I REMEMBER THE SEASON AS BEING LATE MAY AND THE WEATHER
HAD TURNED REALLY HOT FOR MAY. I APPROACHED DAD SEVERAL
TIMES ABOUT WHEN WOULD THE DOCTOR GET THERE AND HE WOULD
SAY TO ME, “DON’T WORRY, HE’LL BE HERE.”
FOR THE MOST PART, A WORK DAY AT THE PRISON CAMP WAS VERY
QUIET, YOU MIGHT HEAR THE RATTLE OF POTS AND PANS FROM THE
KITCHEN, WHERE THE PREPARATION OF A MEAL WAS ALWAYS IN
PROGRESS. OR MAYBE THE HOWLING OF THE BLOOD HOUNDS IF THEY
BECAME EXCITED ABOUT SOMETHING. THE PRISON IS LOCATED ABOUT
A MILE OUT OF DALLAS AND IN THE 40’S AND 50’S THIS WAS CONSIDERED
COUNTRY. JUST BEFORE LUNCH THE NOISE FROM ONE OF THE STATE TRUCKS
CAUGHT EVERYONE’S ATTENTION AS IT CAME RUSHING DOWN AND AROUND
THE PRISON CAMP ROAD. IT WAS NOT SUPPOSE TO BE COMING IN AT THIS
TIME OF DAY. ALL WHO WERE PRESENT KNEW THERE WAS A PROBLEM WHEN
THE TRUCK CAME TO A HALT AT THE STEPS TO THE OFFICE. THERE WERE
THREE MEN IN THE TRUCK, A DRIVER UNDER THE WHEEL, A GUARD SEATED
ON THE RIGHT AND A PRISONER SITTING BETWEEN THEM. AT FIRST GLANCE,
NOTHING UNUSUAL. BUT, LOOKING CLOSER THE PRISONER LOOKED A
LITTLE PALE. THE GUARD STARTED TO EXPLAIN, THEY BELIEVED THE MAN
HAD HAD A HEART ATTACK, WHILE WORKING IN A ROAD CREW ABOUT SIX
MILES NORTH NEAR HIGH SHOALS. THEY GOT HIM UP IN THE TRUCK AN HEADED
BACK TO CAMP WITH HIM. SEVERAL BY STANDERS PULLED HIM FROM THE CAB OF
THE TRUCK AND LAID HIM OUT ON THE GRASS IN THE SHADE.
ONE MUST UNDERSTAND THE TIME AND PLACE, LATE FORTIES, DOCTORS ARE
MILES AWAY AND HOSPITALS EVEN FARTHER. NO OXYGEN BOTTLES, NO EMT
PERSONNEL AND NO ONE HAD TRAINING IN RESUSCITATION.
I DON’T REMEMBER WHO, BUT SOMEONE TRIED FOR A HEART BEAT OR PULSE
TO NO AVAIL. SOMEONE PRONOUNCED HIM DEAD AND THEY MOVED HIM INTO
THE COMPOUND. A SINGLE COT WAS FOUND SOMEWHERE AND PLACED UNDER
ONE OF THE LARGE OAK TREES IN FRONT OF THE MAIN CELL BLOCK.
THE BODY WAS PUT ON THE COT AND A SHEET FROM THE LAUNDRY WAS PLACED
DAD WENT INTO HIS OFFICE AND CALLED DR. JONES, I SUPPOSE TO COME AND
VERIFY THAT THE MAN WAS DEAD.
IT’S NOW PASSED LUNCH TIME, BUT THE MEAL HAS BEEN DELAYED
TILL NOW AND WE ALL GO IN AND GO THRU THE MOTIONS OF EATING.
FINALLY THE DOCTORS ON HIS WAY TO SEE ABOUT MY MEDICAL
PROBLEM. THERE WAS SOME WAITING INVOLVED TILL THE DOCTOR ARRIVES BUT
THERE WAS A LOT GOING ON. ANOTHER STATE TRUCK ARRIVES WITH THREE MEN
IN THE CAB AS BEFORE. ONLY THIS TIME IT’S THE DRIVER AND TWO TRUSTEES.
THE PRISONER IN THE MIDDLE HAS BEEN BADLY CUT ON THE WRIST. WHILE CUTTING
BUSHES ALONG THE RIGHT-A-WAY ANOTHER PRISONERS BUSH AX ACCIDENTALLY
PUT A CUT ON THE WRIST DEEP ENOUGH TO EXPOSE THE LEADERS WHICH WERE CUT
AND CURLED. THE BLEEDING HAD BEEN PRETTY WELL CONTROLLED, YET BLOOD
SEEMED TO BE ON EVERYTHING.
JUST ABOUT NOW “MY” DOCTOR ARRIVES AND SENDS THEM ON TO THE HOSPITAL.
TO THIS DAY I DON’T REMEMBER ANYTHING ABOUT THIS MAN’S CONDITION.
DOCTOR JONES AND MY DAD VISITED IN DAD’S OFFICE FOR A SHORT TIME AND
WHEN THEY EMERGED DR. JONES CAME STRAIGHT TO ME AND SAID,
“CAPTAIN FRIDAY SAYS YOU GOT A PROBLEM." I ANSWERED, “YES SIR.”
HE TOOK ME TO THE BACK OF THE MAIN CELL BLOCK TO A LARGE CELL REFERRED
TO AS THE “SICK ROOM.” HERE IN THIS ROOM IS WHERE SICK PRISONERS WERE
ISOLATED FROM THE MAIN POPULATION.
I HAD BEEN HERE MANY TIMES AND WAS NOT THE LEAST BIT INTIMIDATED, I WALKED
WITH THE DOCTOR RIGHT UP TO THE LARGE WALL MOUNTED MEDICINE CABINET.
HE UNLOCKED IT. RETRIEVED A PIECE OF COTTON SOAKED WITH RUBBING ALCOHOL
AND SAID, “LET’S SEE YOUR PROBLEM,” I UN-BUTTONED GOT THAT THING OUT VERY
CAREFULLY AND LAID IT RIGHT IN HIS HAND.
IN ONE SWIFT FLUID MOVEMENT HE WIPED IT CLEAN WITH THE COTTON, REACHED
BACK INTO THE MEDICINE CABINET AND CAME OUT WITH A SMALL SCALPEL AND LANCED
MY BOIL BEFORE I COULD EVEN THINK ABOUT WHAT WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.
THE PRESSURE WAS RELEASED AND MY LITTLE BOIL EXPLODED LIKE A BOMB.
AND THAT’S ALL I REMEMBER UNTIL I AWOKE LAYING ON THE GROUND UNDER THE
BIG SHADE TREE BESIDE THE DEAD MAN. I BELIEVE GROWING UP AROUND THE PRISON
CAMP WAS A PLUS IN MY LIFE. EARLY ON, I BECAME AWARE OF ADULT THINGS. SAW
AND HEARD THINGS BEFORE THE OTHER KIDS. LEARNED MANY LESSONS FIRST HAND.
I LOOK BACK WITH FOND MEMORIES.
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This week (June 30, 2002), we are studying the necessity of passing on God’s Word, God’s teachings to the next generation. The lesson brings to mind a story about my Dad that’s worth passing on.
The time would be about 1930. Horses and buggies were still the primary mode of travel. Dad lived at home with his family in the Hardin Community of Gaston County, N. C. He was not married yet. Dad had a pretty nice trotter that he kept at home for his transportation and dating. A few miles away in the Community of High Shoals (a much larger community) there was a livery stable owned and run by a Mr. David Abernathy. Dad had spotted a horse there that he particularly liked and had been watching for sometime. On Saturday morning he stopped to look (as we might today stop and look in at an auto dealership). As he gazed around, again looking at this horse, but not allowing to Mr. Abernathy what horse he might be interested in, Mr. Abernathy approached. “What you got on you mind Fred?” Without elaborating, Dad told Mr. Abernathy he might be interested in trading. Mr. Abernathy made his living buying, selling and trading horses. Dad’s black long legged trotter had a reputation of being very fast pulling a buggy. The horse was well known in Northern Gaston County. As the story goes, the trade was made. No details were revealed, but I’m led to believe that both men thought they got the best of the deal.
Several weeks passed in which Dad shod and worked his new horse to perfection, up and down the dirt roads around Hardin.
Sunday morning came and Dad was up and out early because he had a date with a Miss Lena Huggins, who lived in Dallas. Now Dallas was five miles away (South of Hardin) which meant he had five miles to go, in a buggy, before his “date” started. (Sometime after becoming a teenager but before marriage, my sister and I were in church at the Dallas Baptist Church when Mrs. Lena Huggins Smith came in with her husband. My sister said to me “just think she could have been our mother”.) Dad picked tip Miss Lena and they left Dallas on the Philadelphia Church Road headed North. This was to be a day spent at the Balls Creek Camp grounds in Catawba County. Balls Creek Camp was one of the weeklong revival meetings that took place back then. In addition to preaching these meetings became a social gathering and place to go.
(Mrs. Lena Huggins Smith was a sister to the long time preacher and respected citizen, Rev. Hubert Hussing and minister at the Dallas Baptist Church for many years and baptized me in 1948.)
Well, on with the story. Philadelphia Church Road runs North out of Dallas and across the South Fork of the Catawba River before intersecting with Salem Church Road.... 11 miles in distance. As you approach these connecting roads, to the North you can see Salem Baptist Church. But looking to your left, back towards High Shoals, you can see almost a mile down the road. Today, Dad could see another buggy approaching going in the same direction as he- and Miss Lena; leaving a trail of dust like a cavalry troop. As they got closer, he recognized his black long legged trotter. It was Mr. Abernathy and his wife. Dad put his new horse in over-drive, for the one reaching the intersection first would have "clean..air” all the way to Catawba county. He made the Salem Church Road only a step or two before Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy. Mr. Abernathy’s buggy was so close; the horse’s head was over the tailgate of Dad’s buggy. Now the story goes it stayed this way all the way to Balls Creek, a distance of another seventeen miles.
In 1933, Dad married Mom, Virginia Quinn and raised three children. He went to work for the N. C. Highway Department transferring to the N. C. Prison department in 1940. The transfer was a result of his appointment to Superintendent of the Dallas Prison Unit, where he worked until retiring in 1959.His love for horses remained all his life. Dad owned horses to within a few years of his death in 1986.
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The Liquor Store
NANCY AND I MOVED TO THE DENVER AREA IN 1991. I WAS WORKING AT TAR HEEL FORD, IN
CHARLOTTE. WE BOTH WERE DRIVING USED VEHICLES THAT REQUIRED MAINTENANCE ON A
REGULAR BASIS. FOR SOME YEARS THE SHELL STATION IN STANLEY HAD DONE THE WORK ON
OUR CARS AND I WANTED TO CONTINUE WITH THEM. SOMETIMES NANCY WOULD KEEP THE
CAR THAT WAS TO BE WORKED ON AND SHE WOULD TAKE IT DOWN TO STANLEY AND HAVE
THE WORK COMPLETED. BUT THIS MEANT THAT SHE HAD TO WAIT AROUND FOR SHE HAD NO
WAY BACK HOME.
IN A CONVERSATION AT LUNCH ONE DAY I WAS COMPLAINING ABOUT THE SITUATION AND
AN ANSWER TO MY PROBLEM APPEARED. THERE WAS A LADY WORKING AT TAR HEEL,
MRS. CHARLOTTE MESSER, LIVING IN STANLEY, DRIVING TO TAR HEEL TO WORK EVERYDAY,
SUGGESTED TO ME THAT IF I WANTED I COULD TAKE MY CAR TO THE SHELL STATION AND
RIDE INTO WORK WITH HER, IF I SO DESIRED. IT DIDN’T TAKE ME LONG TO ACCEPT THIS NEW
ARRANGEMENT. CHARLOTTE WAS VERY GENEROUS IN HER OFFER, AND IT WOULD ONLY BE
FOR MAYBE EIGHT TO TEN TIMES A YEAR. NOW A WORD OR TWO ABOUT CHARLOTTE. WHEN
I CALLED HER A ‘LADY’ THE TERM WAS NOT USED LIGHTLY. CHARLOTTE IS “STRAIGHT-LACE.”
PROBABLY NEVER BEEN IN A LIQUOR STORE IN HER LIFE AND NO PLAN TO GO TO ONE UNTIL I
CHARLOTTE AND I HAD MADE SEVERAL TRIPS BACK AND FORTH, STANLEY TO CHARLOTTE
AND BACK TO STANLEY WHEN ONE AFTERNOON ON THE WAY TO STANLEY I ASK CHARLOTTE
TO STOP AT THE ABC STORE ON BROOKSHIRE BOULEVARD. I HAD MADE THIS STOP ON MORE
THAN ONE OCCASION, AND WAS MORE THAN FAMILIAR WITH THE ‘ENTER’ AND ‘EXIT’ AND
THE PARKING SPACES. IT WOULD BE CORRECT TO SAY THAT I GAVE CHARLOTTE INSTRUC-
TIONS ON WHERE TO TURN IN AND WHERE TO PARK. CHARLOTTE FOLLOWED MY GUIDANCE
AND IN NO TIME I WAS GETTING OUT OF HER CAR. AS I STEPPED OUT INTO THE PARKING LOT
FROM ACROSS THE YARD ON THE SIDEWALK CAME “CAT-CALLS” AND SEVERAL QUESTIONS.
THERE WERE TWO GROUPS OF BLACK PEOPLE GATHERED ON THE SIDEWALK AND MOST OF
THEM KNEW ME BY NAME BECAUSE OF WHERE I WORKED. BROOKSHIRE BOULEVARD GOES
RIGHT THROUGH THE BLACK COMMUNITY AT THIS POINT AND THERE ARE TWO DUMP TRUCK
COMPANIES LOCATED NEAR BY. (F. T. WILLIAMS TRUCKING AND HAZEL HOLMES TRUCKING)
AT SOME POINT IN TIME MOST OF THESE PEOPLE HAD BEEN AT TAR HEEL FORD TO HAVE
THEIR TRUCK WORKED ON, SO OF COURSE THEY NEW WHO I WAS, AND OUT COMES THE
QUESTIONS. “MR. FRIDAY, BUY ME A PINT?” “MR. FRIDAY, WE DON’T DRINK THAT BROWN
STUFF.” “MR. FRIDAY, WHO’S THAT YOU RIDING WITH?” ETC, ETC.
I CONTINUE ON INTO THE STORE AND MAKE MY PURCHASE OF TURKEY 101 AND WHEN I GET
OUTSIDE IT STARTS ALL OVER AGAIN. I WAVE AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I HEAR THEM AND
AWAY WE GO.
TO THE BEST OF MY RECOLLECTION NOT A WORD WAS SAID ABOUT WHAT CHARLOTTE JUST
WITNESSED. WE MADE OUR WAY ON TO STANLEY AND SHE DROPPED ME OFF AT THE SHELL
STATION AS WE HAD DONE BEFORE.
MY SCHEDULE KEPT ME OUT OF THE OFFICE AND OUT OF TOWN FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS. BUT, THREE DAYS LATER I DID RETURN AND SOMETIME NEAR LUNCH THE OWNER OF
TAR HEEL FORD, MR. GERALD (JERRY) CLAPP WALKED UP TO MY DESK AND AFTER A FEW
PLEASANTRIES SAID TO ME, ‘I HEAR YOU BEEN TO THE LIQUOR STORE.’ NOW JERRY WAS
NOT QUESTIONING MY PURCHASE OR WHAT I HAD DONE, HE WAS JUST MAKING ME AWARE
THAT HE NEW WE HAD STOPPED AT THE ABC STORE.
BLESS CHARLOTTE’S HEART. HER STOP AT THE ABC STORE HAD BEEN A FIRST AND HERE’S
WHAT SHE SAW, FROM COMMENTS BY JERRY CLAPP: ‘YOU HAVE YOUR OWN PARKING SPACE’
‘YOU KNOW EVERYBODY THERE AND THEY KNOW YOU.’
WELL, YOU KNOW FROM HER OBSERVATION POINT, SHE’S RIGHT. THAT’S WHAT SHE SAW.
CHARLOTTE HAS BEEN AND REMAINS MY DEAR FRIEND FOR MANY YEARS. I’VE WATCHED HER
CHILDREN GO THROUGH LOCAL SCHOOLS AND COLLEGE AND BEGIN THEIR CAREERS. SHE’S
DONE A GREAT JOB BOTH AT HOME AND AT WORK.
MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS SUCH A FINE LADY.
Back to the Top
MEALTIME AT THE DALLAS PRISON CAMP STARTED WITH THE CLANGING
OF WHAT SOUNDED LIKE A BELL. THE COOK OR HIS HELPER WOULD
TAKE A LARGE SLEDGE HAMMER AND STRIKE IT AGAINST A SUSPENDED
TRUCK WHEEL. THIS MADE A SOUND THAT COULD BE HEARD FOR MILES.
A SMALL WOODEN FRAME WAS BUILT, LIKE YOU WOULD BUILD
ONE FOR A SWING, AND A LARGE CHAIN WAS ATTACHED AND THEN A
TRUCK WHEEL WAS BOLTED TO THE CHAIN. THIS RINGING OF THE
DINNER BELL TOOK PLACE EVERYDAY AT 5:00 AM, 12:00 PM AND
6:00 PM FROM 1940 THUR. 1959 THAT I’M AWARE OF. THOSE WERE
THE YEARS MY DAD WAS THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE PRISON AT
DALLAS. NEIGHBORS SET THERE CLOCK BY THIS SOUND, SOME OF
THE PEOPLE WHO COULD HEAR THE RINGING THOUGHT IT WAS AN
ALARM SET OFF BECAUSE THERE WAS TROUBLE AT THE CAMP. THEY
LATER LEARNED IT’S MEANING. AS A YOUNGSTER I WAS ALLOWED TO
‘RING’ THE BELL WHEN I BECAME ABLE TO HANDLE THE HAMMER.
THERE WAS ANOTHER SOUND THAT STARTED AS SOON AS THE HAMMER
STRUCK THE FIRST BLOW. ABOUT A HUNDRED YARDS FROM THE BELL
WAS THE DOG LOT FOR THE CAMP BLOODHOUNDS. THESE 75 - 100 LB
DOGS WOULD BEGIN A CHORUS OF MOURNFUL HOWLS THAT COULD BE
HEARD ABOUT AS FAR A WAY AS THE BELL. THE SOUND OF THE HOWL-
ING DOGS WOULD LAST AS LONG AS SOMEONE STRUCK THE WHEEL, IT
WAS AS REGULAR AS THE MEAL ITSELF. THIS NOISE BECAME AS REG-
ULAR TO THE COMMUNITY AS IF IT WERE THE TRAIN WHISTLE OR A
I SAY ALL THIS, TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY DAD’S BLOODHOUNDS.
WHEN YOU HAVE MEN LOCKED UP, ONE OR TWO OF THEM ARE ALWAYS
THINKING OF A WAY TO ESCAPE, AND SOME OF THEM DO. WHEN HE
DOES GET A WAY YOU HAVE TO FIND HIM. WHEN A PRISONER ESCAPES
HE HAS BROKEN THE LAW AND MUST BE CAUGHT AND TRIED FOR ESCA-
PING. MOST OF THE TIME HE IS CONVICTED AND GIVEN ADDITIONAL
TIME IN PRISON.
IN THE FORTIES AND FIFTIES PRISONERS WORKED ON THE STATE
ROADS IN SQUADS. EIGHT TO TEN MEN IN A SQUAD, GUARDED BY A
MAN CARRYING A RIFLE OR SHOTGUN AND A PISTOL. SOMETIMES A
PRISONER HAD ALL HE COULD TAKE, SO HE LOOKED FOR A CHANCE TO
GET AWAY, RUNOFF. SOMETIMES HE MADE IT AND SOMETIMES HE GOT
SHOT. WORKING ON THE ROADS CREATED MANY GOOD CHANCES, ONE OF
THE JOBS WAS TO CUT HIGHWAY RIGHT AWAY. THIS PUT THE PRISONER
RIGHT AGAINST THE WOODS AND ONE STEP AND HE WAS OUT OF
SIGHT. IT WAS THE CHANCE HE HAD TO TAKE. HE MIGHT BE FACING
25 TO 30 YEARS AT THIS JOB, HERE IS HIS CHANCE. GO.
WHEN THIS ESCAPE DID HAPPEN, AND IT DID ON A REGULAR BASIS,
THERE HAD TO BE AN ORGANIZED MAN HUNT PUT INTO MOTION.
BLOODHOUNDS WERE PART OF THAT ORGANIZATION, A MAIN PART.
IF IT WERE NOT FOR THE DOG NO ONE WOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT DIRE-
CTION THE ESCAPEE TOOK AFTER THE FIRST FEW STEPS.
DAD BRED, TRAINED AND USED BLOODHOUNDS AS PART OF HIS JOB.
AT ALL TIMES HE HAD TWO OR THREE ‘FINISHED’ DOGS READY TO
GO ON A HUNT. THERE WERE OTHER DOGS IN TRAINING, AND MOST OF
THE TIME THERE WAS A GROUP OF PUPPIES BEING RAISED.
BLOODHOUNDS (ST HUBERT HOUND) (CHIEN DE SAINT HUBERT) GO
BACK OVER 1000 YEARS. THE BREED WAS PERFECTED, NOT CREATED,
BY MONKS OF ST. HUBERT IN BELGIUM.
THE ANIMAL HAS AN INCREDIBLE LEVEL OF STAMINA AND A NOSE TO
INVESTIGATE ANY INTERESTING SCENT. IT IS NOT EASY TO OBED-
IENCE TRAIN. IT IS BOTH A TRACKER AND COMPANION.
THE NAME ‘BLOODHOUND’ COMES FROM CAREFUL BREEDING IN THE
MIDDLE AGES, RESULTING IN IT BEING KNOWN BY THE 14TH CENTURY
AS THE ‘BLOODED-HOUND,’ A HOUND OF NOBLE ANCESTRY.
MY DAD DIDN’T KNOW ALL THAT ABOUT HIS DOGS. HE DID KNOW
THAT HE HAD A GOOD BLOOD LINE AND HE WORKED THE DOGS UNTIL
HE COULD DEPEND ON KNOWING WHAT THEY WERE DOING WAS RIGHT.
AT LEAST TWICE A WEEK A TRUSTEE WOULD BE TAKEN TO A POINT
AND PUT OUT WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO RETURN TO CAMP. LEAVING A
TRAIL, A SCENT, FOR THE DOG THAT WAS TO BE PUT ON THE TRAIL
IN ABOUT AN HOUR, FOR TRAINING.
BOTH MALE AND FEMALE BLOODHOUNDS MAKE GOOD TRACKERS, BUT
MANY TIMES THE FEMALE COULD NOT BE DEPENDED ON BECAUSE SHE
MIGHT BE IN SEASON OR IF SHE WERE A GOOD DOG THEN YOU MIGHT
WANT TO USE HER FOR BREEDING.
DAD SEEMED TO LEAN TOWARD USING A MALE DOG AS HIS FRONTLINE
DEPENDABLE READY TO GO DOG. AND OVER THE YEARS HE HAD
SEVERAL GREAT ONES. NAMES LIKE OLD JOE I AND LATER OLD JOE
II, MOSES, ONE OF HIS FIRST REAL GOOD DOGS. JACK WAS ANOTHER
ONE OF HIS EARLY REAL GOOD DOGS. JACK WAS AN EXCELLENT STUD
DOG. SIRING SOME PUPPIES THAT WERE SENT TO PRISON CAMPS ALL
OVER PIEDMONT NORTH CAROLINA. QUEEN WAS A GOOD BREEDING
BITCH AND OLD JOE IT'S MOTHER.
AN ACCIDENT HAPPENED TO OLD JOE II IN THE WINTER OF 1954.
BLOODHOUNDS ARE PUT ON A TRAIL WHERE SOMEONE KNOWS FOR SURE
THAT THAT IS THE PLACE WHERE THE PRISONER WAS LAST SEEN AND
THE CHASE BEGINS. THE OFFICERS ON THE SCENE DRIVE AROUND
AND AROUND THAT AREA WHERE THE PRISONER WAS LAST SEEN. THEY
DO THIS UNTIL HE IS FLUSHED OUT TO BE CAUGHT OR HE IS ABLE
TO CROSS THE ROAD INTO ANOTHER AREA. IF HE DOES CROSS IT IS
INDICATED BY THE DOG HANDLER PLACING A PINE TOP IN THE ROAD
POINTING IN THE DIRECTION THE PRISONER IS TRAVELING.
SOMETIMES ANOTHER DOG IS PUT ON THE TRACK AHEAD OF THE WORK-
ING DOG. THIS HAPPENED TO DAD’S DOG OLD JOE II.
OLD JOE II HAD BEEN RUNNING A TRACK FOR SEVERAL HOURS, PUSH-
ING THE PRISONER PRETTY GOOD. OLD JOE II WAS GETTING CLOSE
ENOUGH THAT THE PRISONER TOOK A CHANCE AND CROSSED THE ROAD
AT AN UN-COVERED PLACE AND WAS SPOTTED. THIS PROMPTED THE
CAPTAIN IN CHARGE TO PUT A NEW DOG ON THIS FRESH TRACK.
WHEN OLD JOE II AND THE DOG HANDLER ARRIVED AT THE ROAD
WHERE THE NEW DOG HAD TAKEN OVER THE DOG HANDLER AND OLD JOE
WERE PICKED-UP. THEY WERE GIVEN A RIDE IN A STATE HIGHWAY
DEPARTMENT SINGLE AXLE DUMP TRUCK. THIS WAS NOT NORMAL AND
IF THE HANDLER HAD NOT BEEN NEW THE RIDE WOULD HAVE BEEN
REFUSED. NEVER-THE-LESS THE HANDLER AND OLD JOE WERE PLACED UP
IN THE BACK OF THIS OPEN DUMP TRUCK. THE RIDE WAS ROUGH AND
NOISY. THE DOG BECAME AGITATED AND JUMPED OVER THE SIDE.
THE HANDLER HAD A GRIP ON THE LEASH AND CONTINUED TO HOLD
ON, SWINGING THE DOG UNDER THE REAR WHEELS OF THE DUMP
TRUCK. OLD JOE II WAS NOT KILLED INSTANTLY BUT WAS MASHED
UP SO BAD THAT HE DIED A WHILE LATER AT THE VET.
IN ALL PROBABILITY, HAD HE TURNED THE DOG LOOSE, HE WOULD
HAVE LANDED ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, MAYBE UN-HURT.
NEEDLESS FOR ME TO SAY, THERE WERE SOME SAD TIMES AROUND
HOME AND THE PRISON CAMP FOR A LONG TIME TO COME.
DURING THIS PERIOD DAD HAD SOME MIGHTY GOOD DOGS AND HE
ALSO HAD SOME MIGHTY GOOD DOG HANDLERS. BACK THEN THEY
WERE CALLED DOG BOYS.
ONE OF THE BEST EVER WAS A YOUNG MAN FROM EAST GASTONIA,
JACK WALLS, I DON’T REMEMBER WHY HE WAS SERVING TIME.
OTHER NAMES LIKE JOE TSCHEILER FROM GASTONIA, HENRY CARIBOU
FORM NORTH DAKOTA, AND A MAN CALLED ‘NUB,’ HIS LEFT ARM HAD
BEEN CUT OFF ABOUT 3 INCHES BELOW THE ELBOW BUT HE WAS GOOD.
AT TIMES A GUARD WOULD RUN WITH THE DOG BOY BECAUSE OF THE
DANGER THAT MIGHT BE INVOLVED. IN SOME INSTANCES A GUARD
WORKED AS THE DOG BOY. ONE OF THOSE GUARDS IN THE LATE
FIFTIES WAS AL BRADSHAW, WHO LIVES IN GASTONIA. AL IS NOW
76 YEARS OLD. AL WAS THE BACKUP GUARD ON A CHASE HERE IN
LINCOLN COUNTY ONE TIME WHEN THE PRISONER WAS ARMED AND
AS THE DOG PUSHED THE HUNT, THE PRISONER STOPED AND HID
HIMSELF BEHIND SOME BUSHES, AS AL AND THE DOG HANDLER
APPROACHED HE STEPPED OUT AND FIRED, HITTING JOE GODLEY,
THE DOG BOY FROM THE PRISON CAMP IN CLEVELAND COUNTY. HIS
NAME WAS JOE GODLEY, A GUARD WORKING THE DOG. JOE WAS HIT
IN THE SIDE, NOT LIFE THREATENING. AL HAD BORROWED A SHOT-
GUN FROM A NORTH CAROLINA HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICER WHEN THE
CHASE BEGAN. AS THE PRISONER FIRED ON JOE GODLEY AL STEPPED
TO THE SIDE AND UNLOADED HIS WEAPON, A FIVE SHOT 12 GAUGE
PUMP INTO THE PRISONER. KILLING HIM INSTANTLY.
THIS VIOLENCE WAS UNUSUAL, PRISONERS ESCAPED AND WERE CAP-
TURED ALMOST DAILY WITHOUT ANYONE GETTING HURT. BUT THIS
TIME WAS DIFFERENT. IT TOOK A WHILE FOR JOE GODLEY, HIS
BOSS, MR. CLYDE POSTON, ALBERT BRADSHAW AND MY DAD TO GET
OVER THIS LOSS OF LIFE. I SPOKE WITH AL BRADSHAW SEVERAL
WEEKS AGO, HE REMEMBERS THE EVENTS OF THAT DAY TO THE DE-
BLOODHOUNDS ARE STILL USED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES THROUGHOUT
THE COUNTRY. I’LL BET THAT SOME OF THEM, EVEN FIFTY
YEARS LATER CAN BE TRACED BACK TO DOGS LIKE JACK OR OLD JOE
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One Saturday Night
One Saturday Night Eugene Patterson got hold of some shaving lotion, rubbing alcohol
or whisky, drank it and went crazy.
Eugene Patterson was a prisoner at the Dallas Prison Camp where my father,
(J. Fred Friday Sr.) was superintendent, Patterson was serving time for armed robbery,
having been sentenced from Cleveland County North Carolina, he was about half-
way through a seven to ten year hitch when he almost dug a hole he couldn’t
get out of.
Weekends at the camp were manned by a skeleton crew of guards and either Dad or
Mr. Crocker had to be there at all times. Mr. Crocker was the Assistant Superintendent,
and not being married made his home at the camp. Mr. A. B. (Bub) Crocker had a
sister in the area and visited with she and her husband when he rarely left his duties.
Mr. Crocker and Dad shared a room in the guard’s quarters, which also served as
the office for the camp. Dad spent some nights at the camp, especially when he might
be up late for some camp problem. (The building is still is use today, 2005)
A skeleton crew would consist of two night guards, Mr. Crocker or Dad and generally
there were one or two other guards who might be hanging around. Tonight that was
the case. Mr. Crocker, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Collins, night guards and Mr. Griffin,
a regular guard who had no other place to be on this night.
Four guards to look after 120 prisoners. But this is not unusual, the inmates are locked
up and under control. This was also a medium security prison, meaning there were
not a lot of hard-cases to be concerned with. Except for one or two trustees and the
cook all the inmates are under lock-down.
The only responsibility a guard had was to keep watch, make his rounds and watch TV.
The prisoners were housed in two large dormitory like cell blocks with two rows of
double deck bunk beds on each side. The cell area was really open, to the point that a
guard from his vantage point could see everything that happened. There was no privacy
even in the latrine. A guard could see you complete your business when you shit, shaved
or bathed. There were about a dozen showers and about a dozen commodes.
Each one of these two large cells was heated with a large pot-bellied stove
placed in the middle, trying to evenly divide the heat. On a cold February night, 30 feet
away from that stove and it would be freezing. Fuel for these stoves was coal, black
dusty, dirty coal. Each day a large coal box placed near the stove had to be refilled from
a large coal pile out on the back compound, by the trustee in charge of keeping the cell
block cleaned. Everyone was assigned something to do.
Light fixtures were hooded light bulbs, dropped from a high ceiling to a reasonable
distance above the floor. There was no protective screen over the lights.
Placed on a high stand in the far end of each cell was a television. A twenty-five inch
black and white, placed high so inmates could sit on their bunks and see.
If entering the front door the West cell (right) housed trustees and other prisoners
classified as ‘B’ grade. The East cell (left) housed prisoners ‘B’ and ‘C’ grade.
The East cell was watched closer and this is where Mr. Patterson was housed. The East
Cell was also referred to as the gun side and the door was never opened without a second
I believe that this was in the winter of 1953; I would have turned seventeen this past
October. I was still in High School, drove a school bus, played varsity basketball and
dated on a regular basis. I spent many nights at the camp, sleeping in Dad’s bed. This
was one of those nights. I returned from a date about ten thirty and knew that something
was wrong when I got out of my car. There were two sounds that usually came from the
cellblock area. A low hum or silence. Tonight there could be heard only one voice and
breaking glass. Mr. Patterson was walking around in the East cell hollering and cussing
in a loud voice, stopping ever so often to throw a piece of coal at anything. He had been
doing a good job so far. He had managed to break out most of the lights, the glass in
several of the outside windows and bits and pieces of coal was strewn everywhere. It
has always been a question for me that 49 other prisoners stood by and watched as
He destroyed their living quarters and no one made a move to stop him.
I quickly made my way to the cellblock arriving just in time to see Patterson put a piece
of coal thru the television screen. In the cell block lobby was Mr.’s. Crocker, Jenkins,
Collins and Griffin taking in the nasty scene.
I don’t think there was any discussion about whether or not to go in and stop this mess,
just some concern about what the other prisoners might do when someone entered. The
other inmates, at least some of them seemed to be enjoying this show. Mr. Crocker had
put in place the back-up guards at the door as was called for and was preparing to open
the cell door when I ask, “Whose going with You?” He looked around expecting to hear
from one of his other guards. When no one volunteered, I said, “I’ll go with you.”
Mr. Crocker probably stood five feet eight and never weighted more than 145 pounds
in his life. But he was a gutsy man and new he had a job to do and he was the leader.
There is no hesitation; there was no time for it. The cell block door is opened and we
enter. The place got so quite I could hear myself breathing. There’s over a hundred
men in this building and in his life. But he was a gutsy man and new he had a job to do
and he was the leader.
There was no hesitation; there was no time for it. The cellblock door is opened and we
enter. The place got so quite I could hear myself breathing. There’s over a hundred men
in this building and it is quiet as a funeral home. When the door closed behind us,
Patterson realized someone was in and coming to stop his foolishness. There was some
indecision on his part; you could see it in his eyes. He thought about giving up; just say
it’s over. But that lasted only for a second; he looked around for some defensive weapon
and not finding one moved toward the far end. Just as he past another inmate’s bunk he
spotted a Pepsi bottle, grabbed it and struck it across the foot of a steel bunk. Now he had
a weapon. Had Patterson stopped his destruction when we entered the cell, he probably would
have been punished with a week or ten days in the hole, but by trying to assault Mr. Crocker,
a prison official, he was tried in court and given additional time for his crime.
With the bottom of the Pepsi bottle broken off and a good grip around the neck he came from
behind the coal box in a rush toward Mr. Crocker. No one knows what he was thinking but
apparently he put me out of his mind as being insignificant, for he was not paying any attention
to me. With all of his attention directed toward Mr. Crocker it left an opening for me. With all
the speed I could muster I stepped to my left in between the two of them, planted my left foot
and brought up my long right leg striking Patterson in the face with my foot. He went down and
all the fight went out of him. Almost like it had been rehearsed, Mr. Crocker and I grabbed
Patterson by the shirt and began dragging him to the cell door which was quickly opened and
in no time we had drug him out to the back yard were Mr. Griffin and Mr. Collins took over.
In January 2001, when I started putting on paper some of the things I remember about the things
that happened in my youth, this story was one of the first to come to mind. For over five years
now, I’ve kept from writing this one because it sounds almost like I’m bragging about my part
in the story.
Last summer (2005), I shared my story about the ‘PRISON FARM’ with Mr. Crocker’s niece,
Ms. Margaret Neil Ratchford. She told me how much she enjoyed that story and ask when I was
going to write the story about the time I saved Bub’s life.Margaret was most complimentary and encouraging about the Prison Farm story. Her comments
led me to believe that I should go ahead and write the story. I have now put it on paper and am
dedicating it to the memory of one fine old gentleman. Mr. A. B. (Bub) Crocker, a man who quietly
did his job and seldom got credit for the work he did.
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PLACES I'VE BEEN AND SIGHTS I'VE SEEN
STANDING ON THE SIDE OF HIGHWAY 12 SOUTH OF SALVO, WATCHING
THE NIGHT CREEP IN FROM THE EAST AND A BEAUTIFUL SUN SEU1NG
IN THE WEST OVER PAMLICO SOUND. FROM SEA TO SOUND ONLY A
FEW HUNDERED YARDS WIDE AT THIS POINT. FALL 1987
REACHING THE TOP OF SALUDA MOUNTAIN, ON INTERSTATE 26, TO FIND
SNOW AND ICE AND BEAUTY LIKE I’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. BREATH
TAKING. WINTER 1976
THE GEORGIA COAST, FROM THE BACK SEAT OF A T-33 AT 20,000 FEET.
AND OFF TO THE RIGHT FOUR F-86 SABER JETS, PERCHED AS IF ON A
ROOST. READY TO MAKE A RUN AND FIRE AT THE TOW TARGET WE ARE
PULLING. SUMMER 1958
HAROLD COLE SR., OWNER AND CEO OF TRUXMORE INDUSTRIES, MY
EMPLOYER, ASK NANCY AND I TO COME AND STAY WITH HE AND MRS.
COLE AT THEIR HOME ON NEW SMYRNA BEACH DURING RACE WEEK.
MR. COLE WANTED OUR HELP, LOOKING AFTER AND TAKING CARE OF
FRIENDS AND CUSTOMERS OF TRUXMORE.
IT WAS A GREAT WEEK, ENTERTAINMENT, FOOD, AND FRIENDS.
THIS WAS THE RACE THAT DONNIE ALLISON AND CALE YARBOROUGH
WRECKED ON THE LAST LAP WHILE LEADIN THE RACE. THEN PROCEEDED
TO GET OUT OF THEIR CARS AND FIGHT. ALL OF THE NORTHEAST WAS
SOCKED IN BY A BLIZZARD, EVERYONE WAS AT HOME WATCHING ON
TV. THIS WAS THE FIRST RACE TV COVERED LIVE, START TO FINISH.
ON FRIDAY NIGHT, THERE WAS A BIG DINER, MR. AND MRS. COLE,
JUNIE AND MRS. DUNLEVY, (OWNER, CAR 90), JAMES A. MICHENER
AND HIS DATE. (JAMES MICHERNER WROTE HAWAII, THE COVENANT,
CENTIENNIAL, CHESAPEAKE AND 23 OTHER BOOKS.)
THE AMBASSODOR FROM EGYPT WAS THERE WITH HIS WIFE. (THE
ONLY ENGLISH HE KNEW WAS "CBS NEWS") MR. AND MRS. BILL FRANCE
SR.,, SEVERAL MEMBER OF THE RACE TEAM, AND NANCY AND I.
TRUXMORE INDUSTRIES HAD SOLD ONE HUNDRED GARBAGE PACKERS
TO EGYPT THE YEAR BEFORE AND MR. COLE HAD INVITED THE
AMBASSODOR TO BE HIS GUEST AT THE RACE.
ON SUNDAY (RACE DAY) WE HAD ALL THE GUESTS iN PLACE BY TEN
O’CLOCK AND NANCY AND I FOUND US A PLACE TO WATCH THE RACE
ON THE BACK ROW IN MR. FRANCES’S VIP SUITE. AT SOME POINT AFTER
THE RACE STARTED I GOT UP TO GET ME ANOTHER DRINK AND WHEN I
RETURNED GEORGE BUSH WAS IN MY SEAT TALKING TO NANCY.
NEEDLESS TO SAY I STOOD UP AND WATCHED THE RACE.
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A Collection of Thoughts and Memories about People, Life, and Growing Up in Dallas, NC.
Joe D. Friday, Sr.
It would be impossible to begin any acknowledgments without thanking Nancy, my wife of over fifty two years. I acknowledge that she had absolutely nothing to do with the writing of these stories. I love you, Nancy!
Of course, no book would be complete without thanking the kiddies: Kim, Major, Beau, Wendy, Tripp, Addision, Abbey, Ashley, Jody, Shelby, Sandy, Vince, Ryan, Jared, Lou, John, Tyler and lastly Justin….and to whom I as a grandpa offer all the love possible to any one individual.
To Sandy, my editor, she is quite simply the best editor in the business, and this book needed her patient guidance. Sandy, I couldn’t have completed this undertaking without you, and it’s my honor to work with someone as wise and kind as you are.
To Sarah, our housekeeper, for running the vacuum cleaner in the off hours, Thanks.
To Robert Nordstrom, for his encouraging words, and for his website where I gained national attention, I am deeply indebted.
And finally to Jody, my producer, for his technical help and advice, thanks.
This book is dedicated to my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren in the hope that what they read here will give them a view of the times when I was growing up.
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1. Dad’s Horse
2. My First Car
3. A Medical Problem
4. The Prison Farm
5. Our House
6. My Sister
7. Dad’s Dogs
8. Give Up
9. A Sunday Afternoon Drive
10. The New Coat
11. Sandy, Ryan, Jared, Justin, and Paw-Paw
12. One Saturday Night
13. The Barber Shop
14. All Day and Into The Night
15. Vonnie’s Nigger
16. Mountain Capture
17. Runaway: 1966
18. Gold Medals
19. Ronald Gene Ratchford: 1934 – 1998
20. My Ithaca Shotgun
21. My Dad
22. Dallas Funeral Home
23. New York City: 1964
24. The Air National Guard
27. High School
This week (June 30, 2002), we are studying the necessity of passing on God’s Word and God’s teachings to the next generation. This lesson from the Bible brings to mind a story about my Dad that’s worth passing on. The time would have been about 1930. Dad was not yet married and he lived at home with his parents in the Hardin Community of Gaston County, North Carolina. Dad was born on December 15th, 1901 and he died May 26, 1986.
In the days of his youth, a horse and buggy was still the primary mode of travel around the county. My Dad owned a very nice black trotting horse that he used for transportation.
A few miles up the South Fork River from the community of Hardin, was another small town, High Shoals. High Shoals was a textile village located on the river near the Gaston and Lincoln County line. High Shoals was large enough to support a general store, a hardware store, a home furnishings store, and several churches. High Shoals also had a livery stable, which was owned and operated by a man named Mr. David Abernathy.
Dad had spotted a horse at Mr. Abernathy’s livery stable that he particularly liked and he had been keeping his eye on that horse for some time. On one Saturday morning Dad stopped to look again, just as we might stop and look at cars in an auto dealership today.
As Dad gazed around, again looking at this horse but not allowing Mr. Abernathy to see what horse he was interested in, Mr. Abernathy approached him and asked, “What you got on your mind, Fred?” Without elaborating, Dad told Mr. Abernathy that he might be interested in trading his black trotter.
Mr. Abernathy made his living buying, selling, and trading horses. Dad’s black trotter was a tall, long-legged horse and had a reputation in the area of being very sound and very fast at pulling a buggy. The horse was well known in the northern part of Gaston County.
As the story goes, a trade was finally made between Dad and Mr. Abernathy. While no details about the trade ever came to light, I’m led to believe that both men felt they got the best of the deal.
Several weeks passed by and during this time Dad re-shod his new horse and worked him on the buggy, up and down the dirt roads around the Hardin Community.
Then one Sunday morning came. Dad was up and out of the family house early, for he had a date with Miss Lena Huggins, who lived in Dallas, five miles south of Hardin. This meant that Dad had to travel five miles by horse and buggy before his date with Miss Huggins even got started. Dad and Miss Lena were going to go up to Ball’s Creek Campground, in Catawba County. Miss Lena was the sister to Hubert Huggins. Hubert later became the Pastor at Dallas Baptist Church and he baptized me there in 1948. Sometime after becoming a teenager, my sister Faye and I were in the Dallas Baptist Church for a Sunday service, when Mrs. Lena Huggins-Smith came in with her husband. My sister whispered to me, “Just think she could have been our mother!”
To get back to my story about Dad’s horse: The Philadelphia Church Road is one of the primary roads between Dallas and Lincolnton. It winds its way north out of Dallas and crosses the South Fork River about five miles out before it intersects with the Salem Church Road, which is about another six miles, and then goes to Lincolnton and on to Catawba County and beyond. This is the route Dad and Miss Lena took as they began their Sunday drive.
As you approach this intersection, to the north you can see the Salem Church and looking back to your left across the open countryside, you have an open view for almost a mile. On this Sunday, Dad could see another buggy approaching the same intersection, going north also, and leaving a trail of dust like a cavalry troop. As the two buggy rigs got closer, Dad recognized his black trotter. It was Mr. David Abernathy and his wife riding from High Shoals. Mr. Abernathy had the black trotter going at a fast clip, approaching the intersection of Salem Church Road with Philadelphia Church Road.
Dad put his new horse in overdrive, because the buggy that reached the intersection first would have clean air all the way to Catawba County. The horse and buggy behind would be running in the dust kicked up by the buggy in front. Dad’s new horse was stepping out to a fast pace and Dad reached the intersection just a step or two ahead of Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy and the black trotter. In fact, Mr. Abernathy was so close behind Dad, the story goes, that the black trotter’s head was over the tailgate to Dad’s buggy. The two buggy rigs stayed that way all the way north to Ball’s Creek Campground, a distance of another seventeen miles.
In 1933 Dad married our Mom, Virginia Quinn. Together they raised three children. Dad went to work for the N.C. Highway Department and transferred in 1940 to the N.C. Prison Department, where he was appointed as Superintendent of the Dallas Prison Unit. He worked there until he retired in 1959.
Dad’s love for horses stayed with him his whole life. He owned and worked with horses up to within a few years of his death in 1986. He passed this love and knowledge of horses to me and my children, and he shared it with many other people who knew him.
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My First Car
On October 11, 1951, I turned 16 years old. On that day my Dad took me to the Gastonia City Hall so I could take the test to get my driver’s license. I passed the exam very easily, since I had been driving farm trucks and tractors for well over two years by then and I often drove Dad’s pickup truck on the highway. I used my Dad’s state-issued pickup truck to drive for my road test. Taking such a liberty today would not be acceptable, but I don’t remember it being any problem in those days.
There was no family car in our house; we had been without a car ever since Dad became Superintendent of the Dallas Prison in 1940. With Dad’s new job came a vehicle that he used for personal use as well as for business. Today this would raise eyebrows.
We weren’t rich. We weren’t the poorest family in town, but Dad did not have money to buy me a car. The thought of having a car of my own didn’t occur to me until the summer of 1952. By that time I had been working, it seems, as long as I could remember at some job or another.
When I was 11 and 12 years old I had summer jobs working for my Uncle Craig Friday at his service station. In modern times we would call his station a quick-stop today. My job back then was to pump gas, check the engine oil, and clean the windshield for customers. Gasoline was about 21 cents per gallon in those days. Uncle Craig’s station was located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 321 and West Trade Street, which was walking distance from our house.
When I was 13 I worked that summer for my Grandfather Emrid Quinn. He managed the food and drink stand at the Morwebb textile mill in Dallas. I pushed a drink and sandwich wagon all over that mill selling refreshments. Grandfather Quinn picked me up in the mornings on his way into town and dropped me off at home every evening.
About the time that school started in 1951, I went to work every Saturday morning at Wilson Dunn’s Esso Service Station in Gastonia, at the corner of Second Street and South Marietta Avenue. I worked there for two years, every Saturday and on holidays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., or until we finished for the day. I earned 5 dollars a day. Getting to work in Gastonia was not a problem. Many Saturday mornings I walked out to the highway in front of our house and within minutes I had hitched a ride to my job. Getting home at night was by bus. The Gastonia-Lincolnton Bus Company ran a daily route and it costs 15 cents one-way from Gastonia to Dallas. From there I walked home the last half mile.
During my last 2 years of high school I drove a school bus and worked at the Dallas Funeral Home, in addition to playing varsity basketball.
Early into the school year of 1952, I fell in love with a car that my friend Joe Clemmer drove. It was a 1940 Ford, 2-door sedan. Joe drove this car back and forth to basketball practice and would often give me a ride to and from the gym. Think about it! This car, all of a sudden the love of my life, was already 12 years old, and was built before World War II. But it was a beautiful car. It was green, Arcadia Green, I later learned, with 2 doors and a big back seat, with a 188 inch wheelbase. It was a great ride.
Joe Clemmer had seen a 1940 black Ford Coupe for sale and thought he would like the coupe better. This made his sedan available. Joe and I came to an agreement on the purchase price, which I didn’t have at the time of course.
I hadn’t made a lot of money the last couple of years, but had managed to save some, and borrowing some from my Aunt Mildred, I managed to scrape together the amount of money Joe and I had agreed on to buy his sedan.
So, in the fall of 1952 I became the proud owner of my first car. Let me tell you a bit more about it: In 1940, Ford made a ’40 Convertible, a ‘40 Ford Pickup, a ‘40 Ford Delivery Vehicle, and two models of the 1940 Ford Sedan; a 1940 Ford Deluxe Tudor Sedan, and a 1940 Ford Standard Tudor Sedan. The deluxe model sedan had a few more frills than the standard model, but the big difference was horsepower. The deluxe model offered an 85 horsepower, flat-head V-8 engine. The standard model sedan only offered a 60 horsepower engine, although it too was a V-8. My 1940 Ford was the Standard Tudor Sedan.
In 1932 Ford developed this flat-head V-8 engine that became the power plant for all Ford cars through 1953. This was a very simple gasoline engine with a carburetor, unlike our fuel injected engines of today. With a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, one could disassemble the carburetor, adjust the float and wipe out the dirt, put it back together and be rolling again in thirty minutes.
In developing this 1940 model, Ford eliminated the roll-out windshield, going instead for vent windows for increased ventilation. There was no air conditioning in cars back then. The car also had a 30-hour wind up clock.
Probably, in Ford’s view, the biggest change was the gear shift lever. For the first time the gear shift lever was now mounted on the steering column. “Finger-tip gear changing” was Ford’s new slogan. But Ford was several years behind the other car manufacturers with this move.
The 1940 Ford might seem to be short on horsepower, but the engine had, or developed a lot of torque. The 60 horsepower engine developed enough torque and was geared so perfectly that it would burn rubber in every gear. The speedometer displayed 100 mph, and the car would go that fast. On more than one occasion I crossed the Long Creek Bridge on the Bessemer City Highway with the speedometer bumping 100 mph. At our 52nd high school reunion, my friend Don Atkins reminded me of the times we used to do just that. I remember that Don was riding shotgun, with Bob Rutledge in the back seat leaning forward counting off the miles per hour; no seat belts back then.
This car served me well. I drove it to all our basketball games, home and away, usually carrying several of the players with me. In the summer of 1953, Nancy, Margaret, Gwen, and I took the car to Myrtle Beach for a week in the sun. In addition to our clothing, I packed a few quarts of oil. The car had begun to use some oil by that time, maybe a quart every 100 miles.
Let me explain why my car was consuming oil: Around the week of Christmas in 1952 a leak showed up in the radiator and I did not have the money available to fix it. So at night, when it might freeze, I drained the radiator of all the water. Some days I didn’t add water back until later in the day because Dallas High School was so close to our house, the car’s engine didn’t even warm up before I got to school. Most days Nancy would drive it to school anyway, since I was driving the school bus. On one particular day Nancy and some of her friends decided to skip class and go into Gastonia to R.O.’s Barbecue for a sandwich and drinks.
On their return trip to school the car overheated. Nancy returned to class crying her eyes out. Through her sobs I understood her to say my car had exploded. Instead, the overheating was creating a lot of steam. That was when the car began consuming oil.
In addition to the basketball trips and the Myrtle Beach trip, our high school choral group was invited to participate in a singing competition at Mars Hill College, near Asheville. Since I didn’t sing very well, I’ll always believe I was invited to go because I had a car.
The trip to Mars Hill College was very different from driving around Dallas or making a trip to the beach. The curves and hills of the mountains presented a challenge for the car. Remember also there were no interstate highways then, just two-lane black top roads. The others riding in my car were Wayne Ann Clemmer (now married to Bud Penley) and Bud Penley and I think Peggy Hoffman (Cearly). We left Dallas and drove west on Highway 74 all the way to Asheville.
There were no bypasses around the towns and cities back then. This meant we drove right through the downtown areas of Kings Mountain, Shelby, Spindale, Forest City, and up the mountain roads of Hickory Nut Gorge, to Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Bat Cave, and on through the winding roads into Asheville. We made our way through the mountain tunnel and then up Highway 19 North to Mars Hill. It was only 118 miles but it seemed a lot further.
We had a couple of great days in Mars Hill and then started our return trip home on Saturday morning. Someone suggested we go back home by a different route, and could we maybe go see Mount Mitchell. I don’t recall how it came about, but we broke away from the rest of the group and got on The Blue Ridge Parkway and made our way over to Mount Mitchell.
We were not a bunch of teenagers who had lived a sheltered life, but none of us had traveled much, so this was the first time any of us had been at the top of Mount Mitchell, and because it was in the winter time, it was quite an experience.
We returned from the top of the mountain back down to The Parkway, and then came down the mountain using Highway 80, another winding twisting two-lane mountain road. Our route led us to the intersection of US Highway 70 in Marion, where we stopped and had lunch.
There was a nice restaurant at this intersection and the building still stands more than fifty years later although the restaurant has closed. I specifically remember this because of what happened later. We had lunch seated in a horseshoe-shaped booth and looked like a group of world travelers. After eating our lunch, we continued our return trip using Highway 70 East through Nebo, Glen Alpine, Morganton, Valdese, Hickory, and then to Highway 321 South through Newton, Maiden, Lincolnton, and then home to Dallas.
Our first stop was at the Clemmer’s, who lived at the Dallas crossroads, the intersection of Highway 321 and the Dallas-Cherryville Highway. Here’s where our world kind of fell apart. We had all had a great time, but as Wayne Ann gathered all her things, she couldn’t find her coat. We all begin to think back; she had worn it into the restaurant at lunch and that must be where it is.
Her Dad, Mr. Happy Clemmer, cranked up his car, and with Wayne Ann, he returned to Marion and retrieved her coat. Mr. Clemmer’s decision to do this was a sign of the times; gas was cheaper than a coat.
As this is written in June, 2006, Nancy and I will have been married for 50 years. The first time I ever dated Nancy, on Valentine’s Day in 1953, was in my 1940 Ford. We went to the Tower Drive-In for a movie and then to R.O.’s for a barbecue sandwich and a Coca-cola.
The 1940 Ford models were introduced to the public at the 1939 World’s Fair in California. It was a successful beginning. Ford received more than 200,000 firm orders that year, more than they could produce, which cost Ford some credibility, but the public was willing to wait because it was an exciting, desirable automobile. That interest has held even today. The 1940 Sedan and the 1940 Coupe are the most collectable of all Ford models. The deluxe Tudor Sedan sold new for about $879. Today these models sell for $29,000, and up to about $34,000.
ABOVE: My 1940 Ford at the Dallas Prison Camp
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A Medical Problem
When I was growing up, doctors made house calls. I can still see old Doctor W.M. Jones coming to our house to see about my mother once when she was very sick, and that was more than 60 years ago. Momma had been diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis that kept her in bed for weeks at a time. But my mother’s illness is not what this story is about.
I must have been 12 or 13 years old at the time, when I woke up one morning with a pimple that was about midway down and a little to the right on my little penis. In less than two days it developed into a full blown boil, which was so sore that tears came to my eyes when my shorts rubbed it. I told my Dad about my medical problem and he told me to stay home from school, and that Doctor Jones would probably be by the prison camp to check on a sick prisoner.
I told my best friend about my problem and he decided to stay home too and keep me company. My best friend was none other than Gene Ratchford, who later became my brother-in-law. Well, of course I wasn’t really sick, so Gene and I went across the road from our house over to the prison camp to hang out while we waited on the doctor. My Dad, Fred Friday Sr., was the Superintendent of the Dallas Prison Camp, sometimes called the chain-gang. The prison camp is located about a mile west of Dallas and in the 1940’s and 50’s this was considered as country. My brother, Johnny, our friends, and I spent many hours on the prison farm and inside the compound while growing up.
It was late May and the weather had turned really hot for spring time. I went to Dad several times that morning asking him when the doctor would be coming and he would say, “Don’t worry, he’ll be here.”
For the most part, a work day at the prison camp was very quiet. You might hear the rattle of pots and pans from the kitchen as the preparation of a meal was always in progress, or maybe the howling of the bloodhounds if they got excited about something or another.
Just before lunch, the noise from one of the state trucks caught everyone’s attention as it came rushing down and around the prison camp entrance road. It was not supposed to be coming in at this time of day and all who were present knew there was a problem when the truck came to a halt at the steps to the office. The truck contained three men; a driver behind the steering wheel, a prison guard seated on the right, and a prisoner sitting between them. At first glance, nothing seemed unusual, but looking closer I could see the prisoner looked very pale.
The driver and several bystanders rushed to unload the prisoner from the truck cab and laid him out on the grass in the shade of one of the huge oak trees in the prison front yard. The prison guard began to explain to my Dad and the others who were gathering around. They believed the prisoner had had a heart attack as their squad was cutting the right-of-way along the highway north, about 6 miles near High Shoals. They had put the prisoner into the work truck and headed back to the prison camp.
During those days there was no doctor’s office close by and a hospital was even farther away. There were no modern EMS units, no oxygen bottles, no helicopters, no paramedics, and nobody knew what CPR was back then. I don’t remember who, but somebody felt the prisoner’s chest for a heartbeat, but it was to no avail.
Someone pronounced the prisoner dead, and somebody else brought out a cot and a sheet. The dead man was placed on the cot and he was covered with the sheet. Dad went into the office and put in another call to Doctor Jones, I suppose to let him know about the dead man.
By this time it was past lunch, but the noon meal had been delayed by all the commotion. The business of the prison camp had to continue and so we all went inside and went through the motions of eating. This sort of thing didn’t happen every day, and I seem to remember things as a blur. Finally, the doctor is on his way to the prison camp and now I can get something done about my medical problem.
There was still some waiting involved until the doctor arrived, and there was a lot going on by this time, given the events of the morning. Another work truck arrived with three men in the cab. This time it’s a driver and two trustee prisoners. The prisoner in the middle had been seriously cut with a bush axe across the wrist. While cutting bushes along the highway, another prisoner’s axe glanced off a limb and hit this man. The cut was deep enough to reveal the ligaments in the man’s wrist. The bleeding had been controlled, but it seemed to me that blood was everywhere.
Doctor Jones finally arrived at the prison camp. He examined the man with the cut wrist and sent him on to the hospital in Gastonia, probably driven in the work truck by a driver and prison guard, but I don’t remember exactly. To this day I don’t remember the outcome of this prisoner’s accident. The dead man was not going anywhere, so he could wait while Doctor Jones then looked at me.
Doctor Jones and Dad spoke for a few minutes in Dad’s office and when they came out Doctor Jones came straight to me and said, “ Your Dad says you got a problem.” I answered, “Yes, Sir.” He took me to the back of the main cell block to a large room, which was sort of an infirmary and which we called the ‘sick room.’
This is where sick prisoners were isolated from the main population. I had been in here many times and was not the least bit intimidated as I walked right up to the large wall-mounted medicine cabinet. Doctor Jones unlocked the cabinet, located a piece of cotton, soaked it with rubbing alcohol, and said, “Let’s see your problem.” I unbuttoned my pants, got my sore penis out and laid it right in Doctor Jones’ hand.
In one swift, fluid, movement he wiped it clean with the cotton, reached back into the medicine cabinet and produced a small surgical knife, and lanced my boil before I could even think about what was going to happen. The pressure was released and my boil exploded like a bomb.
That’s the last thing I remembered until I woke up again, lying on the ground under the big shady oak tree, next to the dead prisoner.
I believe that growing up around the prison camp was a great advantage for me in my early life. My experiences around grown men caused me to be aware of many adult things. I saw and heard adult things long before other kids my age ever did. I learned many lessons firsthand and I look back at those experiences and those times with fond memories.
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The Prison Farm
I grew up on a prison farm. My Dad was Superintendent of the Dallas Prison Camp from 1940 to 1959, my growing up years. I learned to drive a farm truck, a small farm tractor, and later a large farm tractor. I learned to drive one mule and then two mules to a plow, all this before I was sixteen years old.
A superintendent’s responsibility included keeping a budget. A prison had to run and stay within a prescribed budget. A measuring tool for staying in your budget was the daily cost per prisoner. If a prisoner could be kept for sixty-five or seventy cents per day it was considered that you were running a good ship. Let it get to eighty-five cents and State Office in Raleigh started asking questions. Raleigh was headquarters for the state prison system. So, the question became how to keep the cost at a level that made everyone happy?
The most expensive thing of keeping a prisoner is food. A practical way to offset some of that cost was to raise food on the farm and preserve and use as much as possible. The Dallas Prison had a good working farm that produced beef, vegetables, pork, milk and fruits were used in season and canned for later use.
The farm consisted of a pair of mules, milk cows, beef cows, tractors, and various wagons and other farm implements. The most important area of the farm was the hog pens. The hog production drew the most attention because it produced enough pork to supply the Dallas camp and several others in that division. When pork was shipped to other camps the Dallas camp received credit that also helped in keeping the cost per prisoner down. Had it been left up to us there would have been enough pork to feed the entire state prison population. As far as I know, my Dad never knew about the things we did. “We” were a group of boys, all about the same age, from the neighborhood. We all lived and played near the prison. We were great friends, who got into trouble together and looked out for each other. We were Larry and Joe Rankin, brothers, Larry lost a couple of fingers when he held a firecracker a bit too long, their first cousin Billy Best, Joe Dan Gardner, whose brother Bill later married my sister, my younger brother Johnny, and I completed this group of boys.
What we did for entertainment was to slip down to the hog pens and turn a boar hog into the pen with a sow hog so they could breed. The pens were constructed with gates and runs to do just what we were doing, making it easy for us. At 12 or 13 years old, we thought this was really exciting.
A small herd of milk cows provided fresh milk for evening meals, several times a week it was cornbread and milk. The Dallas Prison Camp was built to house one hundred prisoners, but most of the time the head count would be 110 to 120. Every prisoner was counted at breakfast, at the evening meal, and again at bedtime. Each prisoner was accounted for on his return from work that day.
When school let out for the summer I spent every day with Captain Hiarm Engram and the prisoners assigned to work on the farm. Captain Engram’s responsibility was supervision over the farm. He quartered at the camp during the week, going to his home on the Lower Dallas Road only on the weekend.
One might think that there would be plenty of ‘free’ labor to do the farm chores. I refer back to keeping the cost down while trying to run a prison. A certain amount of credit was issued for every prisoner who went out to work on the state highways each day. No credit was received for a cook, a dog-boy, farm worker, etc. Because of this, the number of prisoners assigned to do service work was kept to a minimum. Rows and rows of tomatoes were grown each year. They were eaten fresh in season and canned for use in the winter months. Under the supervision of Captain Bub Crocker, who was the assistant superintendent, enough vegetables and fruits were prepared and canned for use by the prison camp personnel during the winter. In addition to the tomatoes, green beans, potatoes and corn were raised and canned for later use.
Each year in the fall, Dad would send a driver and dump truck into the mountains of North Carolina near Hendersonville to get a load of apples. The apples were loaded loose in the dump truck and on his return the apples were dumped under one of the huge oak trees in the front yard of the prison camp. On Saturday when the prisoners remained in camp, they would gather around the pile of apples and peel apples until the pile disappeared. The fruit was properly prepared and then canned in gallon cans. This same kind of trip was made to Gaffney, South Carolina when peaches were available during early summer. By buying in bulk, without boxes, I’m sure good prices were obtained which was one more way to keep the cost down.
An early morning fire in 1954 destroyed the huge white barn that housed some livestock and several farm machines. The machines and animals were saved but tons and tons of fresh-cut hay went up in flames. It was believed that the hay had been stacked too close to a light bulb in the hay loft. A replacement barn was built, but was less efficient than the barn before. The old barn was one of those early twentieth century buildings that had beauty and character.
Like any farmer short of acreage, Dad farmed land owned by others. Payment was made by sharing the crop. I remember one particular land owner, Mr. Blair Falls Houser. He was the local undertaker, whose family owned a large tract of land at Long Creek on the Old Dallas-Gastonia Highway. A huge section of this property was bottom land. Bottom land is low lying property next to a creek or river and tends to flood when we have extended periods of rain. Usually the land is fertile and produces a good crop, but sometimes it is wet and doesn’t drain well. Dad made a deal with Mr. Houser to farm this bottom sometime about 1950.
This section of bottom land didn’t drain well , so before he could plant anything he had to get it dry. The land was drained by cutting a large ditch right through the middle. He did this with a large crawler tractor pulling a ditching machine. Dad allowed me to operate the tractor and he operated the grading machine. We spent two days building this drainage ditch. This was my first experience with a tractor this size, and I was only fifteen years old. By planting time the field had drained properly so it could be planted and cultivated. We planted corn in that bottom for years to come, with rows longer than you could see. Corn was used to feed the animals and the inmates; just another way to keep the cost down.
I finished high school in the spring of 1954 and worked at a paying job that summer getting ready for college. Since those days I’ve worked a variety of jobs, mostly in heavy truck sales, but 47 years later I still have fond memories of the prison farm.
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Living in the 1940s and 50s was a lot of fun for me. I was too young to be concerned about the war but old enough to enjoy ‘our house.’ We had moved to there from Cloninger Road which was out in the country. We had been living with my grandparents, Emrid and Bessie Quinn. We moved to a new house on the Dallas–Cherryville Highway, which my Dad had built for us. Dad had recently been promoted to a new job as Superintendent over the Dallas Prison Camp.
The new house had everything, including electric lights, and running water that was both hot and cold. There were lights in every room, two fire places for heat, and light switches on the wall at each door. To this day, I can still hear my Dad going through the house turning off lights saying, “You kids are going to wear out these light switches!” My Dad died in our house in 1986, and about a year later when we sold the house, I noticed the light switches were still working.
Our House was a three bedroom wooden structure common to the neighborhood at that time. We burned coal and sometimes wood in the fireplaces for heat. We didn’t have air conditioning, which no homes built during this time had air conditioning. The only air conditioning I remember was at the movie houses and large department stores. Thinking back, I didn’t really miss not having it.
We did have something I have never seen before and haven’t seen since. It was called a ‘water-jacket.’ We might have been living in a new house but we still cooked on a wood burning cook stove. Located inside the firebox of the stove was a container called a water-jacket. The water-jacket drew heat from the same fire Mother used to cook our meals and heated water for cooking or other uses. Cold water went in and hot water came out. There was so little capacity, that the few seconds of hot water was scalding and it quickly went downhill from there. But we told everybody we had hot water. I believe it was well after the end of World War II before we got a real water heater.
Dad bought pine slabs by the truckload that my brother and I would cut into stove wood lengths for Mother to burn in her kitchen stove. Of course we had a wood box we had to keep full. Even at our early age we were given the responsibility to keep the wood cut. Chopping wood was done by hand, with a double bladed ax.
My brother Johnny was fooling around in front of some of his friends one time and jumped up on the cutting block and challenged me to see how close I could come to his heel with the axe. I chopped down real close a time or two and then took about a half-inch off his heel. There was hell to pay for that stunt, and Johnny never asked me to do that again.
The wood box was located in the corner of the kitchen behind the stove and it made a good sitting place, especially in the winter. It was so warm and comfortable. I recall getting in place on the wood box everyday in the evening, just before five o’clock. At five o’clock, five-thirty and six o’clock three thirty minute radio programs came on that I didn’t want to miss: ‘The Lone Ranger,’ ‘The Green Hornet,’ and ‘The F. B. I. in Peace and War.’
We also kept a cow that provided plenty of milk for our family. It was my responsibility to milk, feed, and care for that old Jersey cow. At this time I’m 9, 10, 11 and 12 years old and I don’t remember it being such a tough job. I’ve tried to relate that responsibility to one or any of my grandsons today and I just can’t imagine it happening to one of them.
After milking a cow, no amount of washing can remove a certain odor or smell from your hands. It has to wear off. It’s not particularly bad, it’s just there and you think everybody else can smell it too. Especially if you just finished milking, bathed, and are ready to take off to school.
Our house had a full basement where Mom and Dad stored lots of things. It was a great place to play in the summer time, it was so cool. There were three houses on the Dallas–Cherryville Highway which were built from the same house plan. No one would probably have noticed this except for one feature. These three houses were built with a small round window, facing the street, right beside the front door: One was our house; another was the Odell Hovis house down the street. The third house was just inside the city limits of Cherryville. Only the third house still stands today. This round window looked like a porthole on a ship.
Sometime after moving into our new house, we had a wall-mounted telephone installed. We weren’t being treated as anybody special, it was just an extension of the phone installed at the prison camp, and just part of Dad’s job. We rarely used the phone because none of the people we knew had phones in their homes. Mom did order groceries on the phone about every two weeks. Let me explain that: In the early 1940s and on into the 1950s, you could call the grocery store and they would put together your order and deliver the groceries to your kitchen table. I don’t know how long it had been going on before that, but the grocery stores were still in this type of service about the time Nancy and I got married in 1956. Nancy’s Father, Brady Ratchford Sr. owned and operated a grocery store in Dallas, and a man by the name of Namin, stocked groceries, swept the floor, dusted, killed and dressed the chickens, assisted Mr. Ratchford in making sausage, and delivered groceries. Before the phone extension was installed in our house, I do remember taking a grocery list, written by my Mother, over to Dad’s office and phoning in the list of groceries to Shell’s Grocery Store in Dallas.
I was not tall enough to reach the telephone without standing on a chair. It was a wall-mounted phone in a large wooden box. The user had to pick up the receiver, put it to your left ear and with your right hand turn the crank at a fast pace, then wait for the operator to say, “…....Number please?”
Our very first telephone number was 2226J, and there was no area code back then.
Later, as other families got telephones, we became part of a party line. That is one telephone line shared by many households. Each household has a specific telephone ring pattern. Our ring was one long ring and two short rings. If a different ring pattern was heard, you’d better not pick up the telephone receiver or you might be fussed at for listening in or being nosey.
In 1987 our house was sold, jacked up, and moved away to make room for new commercial development. The Hovis Family house was sold and moved away in the 1990s for the same reason.
An interesting piece of memorabilia remains from the days the house was built; On two pages of ruled legal size paper, Mr. Stroupe, the builder, made out a ‘bill of lumber’ and extended the prices giving Dad a cost. The extended price, materials and labor, came to $2700. Dad’s payments were $20.00 a month for twenty years. One set of items on the list I remember well, was a set of French doors. The doors were installed between the dining room and the living room. They cost $12. I remember my Mother making curtains for the French doors out of white shear material and hanging them from top to bottom on each door. Our house was located about a quarter mile west of the Dallas crossroads on the Dallas–Cherryville Highway. The Dallas crossroads is where U. S Highway 321 and the Dallas–Cherryville Highway intersect.
About eleven miles west is the Town of Cherryville, home of one of the nation’s largest trucking companies. ‘Carolina Freight Carriers.’ Carolina’s trucks were up and down the Cherryville Highway day and night. Going or coming they had to stop at the crossroads. I have fond memories of lying in bed at night listening to the Carolina Trucks as they stop and then start again passing through the crossroads. Hearing those diesel engines wind up and the drivers shift gears, little did I know that I would spend the last twenty-five years of my productive life, selling the very same kind of trucks. I lived at home with my sister Faye, my brother Johnny, and Mom and Dad, until I got married in 1956.
Those were good years spent in ‘Our House.’
ABOVE: Our House on the Dallas-Cherryville Highway near Dallas, NC
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The church was full and quiet as the family entered. The casket had been put in place earlier and now the pastor and pallbearers, followed by the family, were seated in the cushioned pews at the front of the sanctuary. It seemed like forever but I’m sure it was only a few minutes till all were seated. We had been instructed to be seated as soon as we reached our seat and remain seated throughout the service.
The choir was also in place and soon began singing the first hymn, “There Shall Be Showers of Blessings.” My sister had picked out the hymns to be sung at her funeral service a long time ago. As a matter of fact she had made a lot of plans in the event of her death. She had been to the funeral home and made all of the arrangements for her funeral service. We tried to carry out her wishes as best we could, but considered what might be best for this time and place.
A eulogy was delivered by Mr. Barron W. Lee, a layman at the Dallas Baptist Church and a retired teacher from North Gaston High School. It was the most memorable eulogy I have ever heard. Mr. Lee talked about my sister as if she were right there in the congregation. He spoke of her as if the Christian she was, as the Sunday school and Bible school teacher she was and Sunday a week ago she was right there singing in the choir.
She was faithful to her church and had been a life-time member.
There was a scripture reading and then another hymn……“How Great Thou Art,” again my sister’s choice and a very good one. The congregation was invited to sing also and I think it was both beautiful and meaningful. The sound of all those voices, choir and congregation together, made a joyful noise that my sister would have been proud of.
The congregation sung one last hymn, “Amazing Grace,” and then the benediction was pronounced and the long procession to the cemetery was begun.
At this point I want to mention the church pastor, Rev. Ray Strauss, a fine young man with a bright future. But he had the unenviable position of following Barron Lee, which was a tough place to be. Barron Lee’s words were chosen well and delivered so eloquently that the moment had passed when Pastor Strauss got up to speak. I’m thankful for him, and thankful that he was there for the family. May God bless him and bless his work.
Abbey Norwood, my granddaughter, had spoken earlier about my sister as a “True Southern Belle.” I thought of this remark as the funeral procession began to pull away from the church. We proceeded east on Trade Street, into the heart of Dallas, North Carolina, my sister’s hometown, and the only place she had ever lived. The procession moved slowly, as it is supposed to, but in my mind the whole world seemed to be in slow motion as well. The town came to a standstill. Nothing moved: Men on the sidewalks stopped, stood erect and removed their hats, showing respect. Only in the south.
A police car blocked the intersection ahead and the officer stood at attention with his hat over his heart. Here we made a right turn onto Gaston Avenue and continued our slow crawl forward. Near the Dallas town limits, a man mowing grass on a riding mower stopped and removed his cap. My sister would have loved this. Only in the south.
On towards Gastonia, down the Lower Dallas Road, on a highway she had traveled many times. Even out in the country, cars continued to stop. They knew it was a funeral. They didn’t know it was my sister. It was the southern people showing respect for the dead. Only in the south.
On we proceeded, into Gastonia, by the very places my sister was familiar with, Sims Ballpark, The County Government Buildings, and then through downtown and onto Garrison Blvd where we turned east. Garrison Blvd is a four-lane, cross-town freeway and is very heavily traveled, but the cars continued to stop as the procession moved along. Things went really well on this road, each intersection was blocked and we went right through.
We traveled in silent reflection, that is, until we were just about in front of Parkwood Baptist Church. At this point I realized we were being passed by a young man in his car with the boom-box going loud and his windows down, not paying any attention to the funeral procession.
At the same time I noticed him, the driver of the family car in front of me saw him, too, and moved his car over to block the young man’s route of travel, and it did slow him up. But as the family car moved back in line with the funeral procession, the young man started to go around them again. Then from almost out of nowhere comes a large man from across the street with his big arm extended and his hand up as if he were directing traffic at a school crossing. The young man’s car stopped but then turned to go around him and again the older man stepped in front of the car. Just as it seemed as if the careless young man would get around the older gentleman, from somewhere appears a pickup truck to really block his path.
The young man’s car was blocked by this time and was going nowhere when I last saw them in my rearview mirror. Again, only in the south.
The procession turned right onto South New Hope Road and a few minutes later the cemetery, Gaston Memorial Park, was in sight. There my sister was laid to rest beside her husband, and her life’s journey was ended.
It had been a beautiful celebration of my sister’s life and legacy, a woman appropriately described as a true Southern Belle. My sister would have been proud of her children and her extended family.
Only in the south.
Faye Hallene Friday
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Mealtime at the Dallas Prison Camp started with the clanging of what sounded like a bell. The cook or his helper would take a large sledge hammer and strike it against a suspended truck rim. This made a sound that could be heard for miles. A small wooden frame had been built, like you would build for a swing, then a large chain was attached with the chain bolted to the rim. The ringing of the dinner bell took place every day at 5:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m., from 1940 through 1959 that I’m aware of. Those were the years my Dad was the Superintendent of the prison at Dallas, N.C.
Neighbors set their clock by this sound, some of the people who could hear the ringing thought it was an alarm set off because there was trouble at the camp. They later learned its real meaning. As a youngster I was allowed to ring the bell when I became big enough to handle the hammer.
There was another sound that started as soon as the hammer struck the first blow. About a hundred yards from the bell was the dog lot that held the camp’s bloodhounds. These 75–100 pound dogs would begin a chorus of mournful howls that could be heard about as far away as the sound of the bell. The sound of the howling dogs would last as long as someone struck the wheel and it was as regular as the meal itself. This chorus became as regular to the community as if it were a train or a factory whistle. I say all this, to tell you about my Dad’s bloodhounds.
Wherever men are locked up, one or two of them are always thinking of a way to escape, and some of them do. When he does get away you have to catch him. An escaped prisoner has broken the law and must be captured and tried for escaping. Most of the time, he is caught, convicted, and given additional time in prison.
In the 1940s and 1950s prisoners worked on the state roads in squads. 8 to 10 men worked in a squad, and were guarded by a man carrying a rifle or shotgun and a pistol. Sometimes a prisoner had all he could take, so he looked for a chance to get away. Sometimes he made it and sometimes he was shot. Working on the road gangs created many good chances to escape.
One of the jobs that the prisoners did almost daily was to cut the bushes and growth along the highway right-of-way. This put the prisoner up against the woods and if he were inclined to escape, this was his best chance. With one step and he could be out of sight and on his way. It was the chance he had to take if he wanted to run. He might be facing 25 to 30 years at this job,…Go !
When this escape did happen, and it did on a regular basis, there had to be an organized man hunt put into motion. Bloodhounds were an important part of that manhunt. If it were not for the dog, no one would have any idea what direction the prisoner took after the first few steps. Dad bred, trained and used bloodhounds as part of his job. At all times Dad had two or three ‘finished’ dogs ready go on a hunt. There were other dogs in training, and most of the time there was a litter of puppies being raised.
Bloodhounds, also properly called the St Hubert Hound and Chien De Saint Hubert, go back over one thousand years. The breed was perfected, not created, by monks of St. Hubert in Belgium. The animal has an incredible level of stamina and a nose to investigate any interesting scent. However, it is not easy to obedience train. It is both a tracker and companion. The name ‘bloodhound’ comes from careful breeding in the Middle Ages, resulting in the breed being known by the 14th century as the ‘blooded-hound’, a hound of noble ancestry.
My Dad didn’t know all that about his dogs. He did know that he had a good bloodline and he worked the dogs until he could depend on knowing that what they were doing was right. At least twice a week a trustee would be taken to a point some four or five miles from camp with instructions to return on a prescribed route, thus, leaving a trail, a scent, for the dog that was to be put on the trail in about an hour, for training.
Both male and female bloodhounds make good trackers, but many times the female could not be depended on because she might be in season, or if she were a real good dog, then she might be used for breeding.
Dad seemed to lean toward using a male dog as his frontline, dependable ready to go dog. (A bitch bloodhound named Ruby, raised, trained and used out of the Cleveland County Prison under the direction of Mr. Clyde Poston, had a great reputation in Western North Carolina of being a dependable dog. The handler for Ruby for most of her good years was a guard named Joe Godley. Joe is mentioned later in this story).
Over the years Dad had several great male dogs. Names like Old Joe I and Later, Old Joe II, and Moses, one of his first really good dogs. Jack was another of his early good dogs. Jack was also an excellent stud dog, siring puppies that were sent to other prison camps in Piedmont of North Carolina. Queen was a good breeding bitch and Old Joe II’s mother.
An accident happened to Old Joe II in the winter of 1954. Bloodhounds are put on a trail where someone knows for sure that it is the place where the prisoner was last seen and the chase begins. The officers on the scene drive around and around that area where the prisoner is confined. They do this until he is flushed out to be caught or he is able to cross the road into another area. If he does cross the road, it is indicated by the dog handler placing a pine top in the road pointing in the direction the prisoner is traveling.
Sometimes when the pine top is spotted, another dog will be put on the track ahead of the working dog. This happened to Dad’s dog Old Joe II. Old Joe II had been running a track for several hours, pushing the prisoner pretty good. Old Joe II was getting close enough that the prisoner took a chance and crossed the road at an uncovered place and was spotted. This prompted the captain in charge to put a new dog on this fresh new track. When Old Joe II and the dog handler arrived at the road where the new dog had taken over the fresh track, the dog handler and Old Joe II were picked up. They were giver a ride in an open top state highway single axle dump truck. This was not normal and if the handler had not been new, the ride would have been refused.
Nevertheless the handler and Old Joe II were placed in the back of this truck. The ride was rough and noisy and the dog became agitated and jumped over the side. The handler had a grip on the leash and continued to hold on, swinging the dog under the rear wheels of the truck. Old Joe II was not killed instantly but was smashed up so badly that he died a short time later at the veterinarian’s office.
In all probability, had he turned the dog loose, he would have landed on the side of the road, maybe unhurt. Needless to say, there were some sad times around home and the prison camp for a long time to come.
During this period Dad had some mighty good dogs and also some great dog handlers. Back then and in that culture they were called ‘Dog Boys.’
One of the best ever was a young man from East Gastonia, Jack Walls. I don’t remember why he was serving time, and it doesn’t really matter. Another man serving time from Gastonia, was Joe Tscheiler. Joe served time at the Dallas Prison Camp on more than one occasion and was the dog boy on several hitches.
Henry Caribou, a native of South Dakota and another man called ‘Nub’ were also good handlers. I don’t recall Nub’s real name but he was a good dog boy. He had lost his left arm about six inches below the elbow. He handled himself and his duties so well you hardly noticed his handicap.
There were times when an armed guard was sent along with the dog boy, depending on the circumstances, who was being chased, and for what reason. In some instances, a guard might be working as a dog boy. One of those guards was Joe Godley. Joe was working as the dog boy and Al Bradshaw was working as the back up guard here in Lincoln County one time when the prisoner being chased was armed. The chase had continued for an hour or more and they were pushing the prisoner pretty hard when the prisoner decided to hide and wait.
The prisoner had hidden behind some heavy brush and as Joe and Al approached he stepped out and fired, hitting Joe Godley in the side. Al had borrowed a shotgun from a North Carolina State Highway Patrolman when the chase started. When the prisoner fired on the dog boy, Al stepped to the side and unloaded his weapon, a five shot 12 gauge pump shotgun, at the prisoner killing him instantly. Joe Godley was hit in the side, the wound was not life threatening. Several weeks later Joe was back running his dog again.
Al Bradshaw is retired, now 76 years old. He does some security work at the courthouse. I visited with Al last week. He remembers the above described chase to the last detail. This violence was unusual. Prisoners escaped and were captured almost daily without anyone getting hurt. But this time was different. It took a while for Joe Godley, his boss Mr. Clyde Poston, Al Bradshaw, and my Dad to get over the loss of a life. Bloodhounds are still used by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. I’ll bet that some of them, even fifty years later, can be traced back to Jack or Old Joe II.
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In the 1940’s and 50’s my father, J. Fred Friday Sr., (1901 – 1986) was the Superintendent of the Dallas prison unit in Dallas, N. C. He held this position from 1940 until 1959. He managed the prison with a firm hand, however, he had just enough discipline and fairness in him, and in how he ran things, that the prison population respected him and the job he had to do. Over the years I met many people who had served time at the prison. They always spoke about what a fine man my Dad was and about how fair he had treated them. Running a prison requires managing a lot of different areas. He managed the prison farm, the prison laundry, and the kitchen. In addition, he supervised the guards and other personnel.
My Dad also took care of his bloodhounds. He enjoyed this part of his job immensely. His dogs were the best in Western North Carolina, and they had the reputation to prove it. That’s what this story is about.
A call came into Dad’s office one hot summer day in 1951. He was being called to come and assist with the search for two prisoners who had escaped from a road gang working on Highway 90 up in Iredell County. This is about seven or eight miles north of Statesville, NC. Dad called for Jack, his dog handler to get the dog loaded, it was time to go. In a matter of minutes they were on their way.
Back in 1951 there were no interstate highways. There were only dirt roads and two-lane black top roads, winding roads, all the way to Statesville. After arriving in Statesville they threaded their way through downtown and took Highway 90 North toward their destination. It was past mid-day and getting very hot. Of course there was no air conditioning in the state-issued work truck that my Dad drove. About three miles out of town, Jack told Dad, “The dog’s sick.” The bloodhound had lost his last meal in the back of Dad’s prison department pickup. The heat and winding roads had caused the dog to throw up. Dad looked for a stopping place and found a wide spot near some shade trees and pulled over. Dad said to Jack, “Get the dog out and walk him around, get him some fresh air.”
They had been on the ground for maybe five minutes when Dad heard some yelling and name calling from within the nearby woods. Sixty yards to the left and down in the woods stood the two escapees with their hands raised. They were calling to my Dad by his name and title, “Captain Friday,” offering to give themselves up. They believed Dad had somehow located them and they were about to be caught, so the only thing left to do was “Give Up.” This was how things happened when your reputation precedes you. The back of the pickup was a mess, but the two men and the dog went for a ride back to their squad.
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A Sunday Afternoon Drive
June 8, 2003: Our Grandson, Justin Clark, left today to go to confirmation camp. He had spent a few days at his other grandparents’ home while his Mother was in Pocono with John at a NASCAR race. My duties on this day were to pick Justin up at his grandparents and take him to Sunday school and church with me. I left home about eight o’clock for my trip to Gastonia. His bags were stacked outside when I arrived, we loaded them in my pickup, he climbed in and off to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church we went.
Justin served as an acolyte that day. He did a great job, and he seemed to have his mind on what he was doing. The Youth group he was traveling with was scheduled to leave at about 1:30 p.m., following the worship service to go to Lutherock, a Lutheran church camp in the NC mountains. The Lutheran Church operates two camp facilities, Lutheridge and Lutherock in the western part of the state.
With the worship service completed we had about an hour to wait until the youth group left, so Justin and I went to the Pizza Hut in Lincolnton for lunch. Justin does not travel light. He had two large bags and a smaller back pack. I asked him about the back pack and he informed me that it contained his Bible and study material for the week at camp.
Confirmands and their parents had begun to gather and get loaded into the church van by the time we arrived back at the church. We put Justin’s luggage on board. I decided to wait around for a few minutes, wanting to see the van get underway. Justin had given me a hug and a kiss and an “I love you Paw Paw,” and then came back twice for another hug and kiss. Finally, I decided it was time for me to go, for I had another thirty minute drive to get home. Arriving home at about 2:30, and as I was retrieving my coat and Sunday school material from my truck, I saw Justin’s back pack, Oh my, I thought, this won’t do.
The whole reason for Justin’s camp is right here in this bag. I went into the house telling Nancy, “Get ready we have to go to Lutheridge and take Justin his Bible. He left it in the truck and he will need it all week.” Nancy got ready while I changed clothes, and a little after 3:00 p.m. we started for Lutheridge, which is about 15-20 miles east of Asheville, NC.
Now I knew the confirmation camp was at Lutherock, but I thought that Lutherock was located near Lutheridge: Big mistake. I did try calling several church members who would know exactly where Lutherock was located, but I was unable to reach anyone. So we headed off toward Lutheridge.
We arrived at the entrance to Lutheridge at about five o’clock and as we drove up the long drive into the complex, we were met by two ladies signing in the new arrivals and giving directions. We stopped, and I explained what we were there for. The ladies looked shocked and ask if I knew where Lutherock was located. I told them not really, but I understood it to be nearby. They informed us that it was about two hours away, over near Boone, NC. We drove up to the office, used the facilities, spoke with Pastor Tim for a few minutes, and after getting a map from him, we headed off toward Boone, and Lutherock.
Unbelievable. We were looking at another long drive delivering Justin’s Bible to him. A lot of quality time spent together on a Sunday Afternoon Drive. We left Lutheridge and headed West on Interstate 26 toward Interstate 40, then we turned east on interstate 40 and went to the Old Fort exit, then we drove northeast on Highway 70 to Marion. We then turned north on Highway 226, and began the climb up the mountains toward Linville and Crossnore. We passed through Linville following the Linville River around Grandfather Mountain, and then further north arrived at the Town of Newland, which is a large Christmas tree farming community. We found our way to Avery County High School. From there we found Brewer Road, which leads to the main lodge at Lutherock.
Brewer Road is paved for about a mile past the town limits of Newland, then it turns to a gravel and dirt mountain road, climbing at a fast rate. Somewhere, a mile or so farther up, we crossed a creek with no bridge, and the water must have been 8 – 10 inches deep. Our ride continued up the steep climb on this winding mountain road to the main lodge.
Once at the main lodge, from my truck we could see the kids just now sitting down for the evening meal, and there at the end of one of the tables was Justin, eating his dinner. Nancy took the back pack inside and walked over to him. His first response was, “How did you get here?” She explained we both had come to bring him his Bible, “Oh, thanks. I love you,” he said. Nancy reached down for a goodbye kiss, but Justin would have no part of that. Not right here in front of all his peers. Nancy came back outside, got into the truck, and we started again down the mountain and back toward home.
I just felt it was so important that he have his Bible and study material for his participation in the week’s study. I’m not too old to remember what it’s like to be the odd boy out. It was a Bible given to him by his mother, written for teenagers, with points of explanation in the passages.
I later told Nancy, “I feel like one of those men that takes Bibles and places them in motel rooms--a Gideon.” We headed back down the mountain, through Morganton, running into a heavy rain storm. The clouds were awesome. Two hundred and eighty-five miles and six hours later…we finally arrived home. It was just another Sunday afternoon drive. I hope Justin is learning a lot at camp this week and getting a lot of use from his Bible.
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The New Coat
The longer I live and the more I see and learn about our economy, the more proud I become of my father and his ability to raise three children and keep a household together. It was accomplished in the 1930s coming out of a depression and in the 1940s during World War II, and in the 50s, when we teenagers required more and more. In addition to raising the three of us, he had a new house built in 1940, and all on the salary of a state employee. Dad’s job as Superintendent of the Dallas Prison paid him more than the average man on the street, but it was still a pitiful amount. I’ll never forget the look on Dad’s face when I showed him my first paycheck, working for the Air National Guard, It was more than his and he had been on the same job all his life. I mention all of the above because of something that happened yesterday, Tuesday, March 7, 2006.
I had taken the day off from work because of several things planned, and I finished up my errands at about four o’clock in Dallas. For weeks I kept telling myself to go see Harold White and his wife Iris. Harold is a long time friend and hunting buddy. Harold has reached the age of 82 years and Iris is 80 years old. Harold and Iris raised three boys and a girl, and like Nancy and I, struggled through the years to pay for them.
During our visit together we laughed and talked about old times, kids, our surgeries and many other subjects. In the conversation Harold reminded me about the sport coat that I had given to his oldest son, Harold Jr., whom everyone in town called Hal. Yes I did remember. Hal had grown like a weed, tall and skinny, like me, and had been a junior or senior in high school. I had a sport coat that had become too tight, so I gave it to Hal. When I bought it I was skinny like Hal. Reflecting on the coat I had given to Hal, reminded me of a time when I needed a sport coat. It was back when I was a junior in high school. I had reached the eleventh grade wearing shirts with sweaters and, if needed, a large denim jacket, no sport jacket with shirt and tie. But in high school times were changing, I was getting older and it was time for a wardrobe change. After some prompting and cajoling to my Dad, he agreed to get me a sport coat.
I’m sure there were cheaper places in town like Belks, Rayless, or maybe even the Salvation Army store, but Dad took me to “Warren Gardner’s Young Men’s Store” on Main Street in downtown Gastonia, which was the premier men’s store in town. Of course Warren Gardner’s no longer exists and I believe the building is now owned by Ann Schenk, wife of Dr. Gary Schenk. My daughter Kim, who works for Dr. Schenk, has obtained a shirt display case from the old original store where she displays her children’s sports trophies and plaques in her home. No one would know to look at it, that 50–60 years ago, that display case was displaying men’s white dress shirts.
Anyway, Dad and I go to Warren Gardner’s Young Men’s Store and we began to look at sport coats on the ten dollar rack. Now, I was tall and skinny, 6’4” tall, and so not many coats that size are available. But after searching for a while, we found one that fit me and we both liked it. We decided that this is the one for me and we moved to the cashier to pay. But somewhere between the ten dollar rack and the cashier we mistakenly get a coat off the thirty-nine dollar rack. Neither Dad nor I realized this until the cashier said, “forty dollars and seventeen cents.”
The owner, Mr. Gardner himself, was acting cashier this day and Dad, being Dad, is not about to back up in front of Mr. Gardner. I can see it in his face. It hurts! He had had no intentions of paying this kind of money for a sport coat. But Dad dug the money out of his wallet and paid Mr. Gardner as if all was well. They put my coat in one of those zipper bags and we left the store, and not one word was ever mentioned about what just happened. Nothing was said, but I will always remember the look on my Dad’s face: Too proud to back-up.
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Sandy, Ryan, Jared, Justin, and PawPaw
Some activities are worth preserving, the following is one. I had heard from Jody what a beautiful site it is to see the Tundra Swan at Lake Mattamuskeet when they are wintering there.
Since I had recently been forced into retirement I now had time to do the things I wanted to do. I talked Sandy into going with me to see these beautiful birds. Justin and I join Sandy and her two sons, Ryan and Jared, and we begin our trip “down east.” The boys are out of school for Christmas Holidays and excited. Traveling with boys ages, 10, 10 and 12 requires a lot of down time for eating. We had made it as far as Durham when hunger overcame the boys and we stopped at the Cracker Barrel. Five of us at a table for six.
The meal really went well. We all had stuffed ourselves and was finishing up when the check came. Traditionally the check was given to me and without any hesitation Justin said to me very manly, I’ll take care of that.” And without a second thought I handed it across the table to him. He scanned the bill over very carefully and then said to me, “No I won’t, I’m short five dollars.” The lunch ticket was for $ 24.00.
I found out later his Mother had given him twenty dollars for the trip. I’m sure that amount of money and the thought of doing something impressive with it was on his mind. He just did not comprehend how much the amount would be. He was not about to commit his entire twenty dollars to lunch. Anyway, I couldn’t even get him to leave the tip.
I do not remember him ever breaking that twenty dollar bill on the trip. What a great moment! There were a lot of good times on this trip, this one just stood out.
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One Saturday Night
Eugene Patterson was a prisoner at the Dallas Prison Camp where my Father, (J. Fred Friday Sr.) was superintendent. Patterson was serving time for armed robbery, having been sentenced from Cleveland County North Carolina, he was about halfway through a seven to ten year hitch when he almost dug a hole he couldn’t get out of. One Saturday night Eugene Patterson got hold of some shaving lotion, rubbing alcohol or whisky, drank it, and went crazy.
Weekends at the camp were manned by a skeleton crew of guards and either Dad or Mr. Crocker. One of them had to be there at all times. Mr. A.B. “Bub” Crocker was the Assistant Superintendent of the prison. Mr. Crocker was not married, so he made his home at the camp. Mr. Crocker had a sister in the area and occasionally visited with her and her husband when he very rarely left his duties.
Mr. Crocker and Dad shared a room in the guard quarters. The same building also served as the prison camp office, and the building is still in use today, in 2005. Dad spent some nights at the camp, especially when he might be up late at the camp concerned with some problem. A skeleton crew would consist of two night guards, Mr. Crocker or Dad.
Generally, there were one or two other guards who might hang around. That was the case on this night. Mr. Crocker, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Collins who were night guards, and Mr. Griffin who was a regular guard that had no other place to be on this night, were at the prison. Four guards were looking after 120 prisoners. This was not unusual since the inmates were locked up and under control. This was also a medium security prison, meaning there were very few hard cases imprisoned here. Except for one or two trustees and the cook, all the inmates were under lock-down. The only responsibility a night guard had was to keep watch, make his rounds and watch TV.
The prisoners were housed in two large dormitory-like cell clocks, with two rows of double deck bunks on each side. The cell area was really open, to the point that a guard from his vantage point could see everything that happened. There was no privacy even in the latrine. A guard could see you complete your business whether you shit, shaved or bathed. There were a dozen showers and a dozen commodes on each side of the latrine. Each one of these two large cells was heated with a large pot-bellied stove placed in the middle, attempting to evenly divide the heat.
On a cold February night, 30 feet away from the stove it would be freezing. Fuel for these stoves was coal; black, dusty, dirty coal. A large coal box was placed near the stove and each day it had to be refilled from a large pile of coal out on the back compound, by the trustee in charge of keeping the cell block clean. Everyone was assigned to do some chore. Light fixtures were hooded light bulbs, dropped from a high ceiling to a reasonable distance above the floor. There was no protective screen over the light bulbs.
Placed on a high stand in the far end of each cell was a television set. A twenty-five inch black and white, placed high enough so inmates could sit on their bunks and see the screen.
If entering the front door, the west cell (on right) housed trustees and other prisoners classified as ‘B’ grade. The east cell (on left) housed prisoners ‘B’ and ‘C’ grade. The east cell was watched closer and this is where Mr. Patterson was housed. The east cell was also referred to as the gun side. The east cell was never to be opened without an extra guard and gun present.
I believe that this was the winter of 1953 and I would have turned 17 this past October. I was still in High School, drove a school bus, played varsity basketball and dated on a regular basis. I spent many nights at the camp, sleeping in Dad’s bed. This was one of those nights.
I returned from a date about ten thirty and knew that something was wrong when I got out of my car. There were two sounds that usually came from the cell-block area; a low hum or silence. Tonight there could be heard only one voice and breaking glass. Mr. Patterson was walking around in the East cell hollering and cussing in a loud voice, stopping ever so often to throw a piece of coal at anything. He had been doing a good job so far. He had managed to break out most of the lights, the glass in several of the outside windows and bits and pieces of coal was strewn everywhere. It has always been a mystery for me how 49 other prisoners stood by and watched as he destroyed their living quarters and no one made a move to stop him.
I quickly made my way to the cell block arriving just in time to see Mr. Patterson put a piece of coal through the television screen. In the cell block lobby were Mr. Crocker, prison guards Jenkins, Collins, and Griffin taking in the nasty scene.
I don’t think there was any discussion about whether to go in and stop this mess, just some concern about what the other prisoners might do when someone entered. The other inmates, at least some of them seemed to be enjoying this show.
Mr. Crocker had put in place the backup guards at the door as was called for and was preparing to open the cell door when I asked, “Who is going in with you?” He looked around expecting to hear from one of his other guards. When no one volunteered, I said, “I’ll go with you.”
Mr. Crocker probably stood five foot eight and never weighed more than 145 pounds in his life. But he was a gutsy man and knew he had a job to do. He was the leader. There was no hesitation. There was no time for it. The cell block door was opened and we entered.
The place got so quiet I could hear myself breathing. There were over a hundred men in the building and it was as quiet as a funeral home. When the door slammed shut behind us, Mr. Patterson realized someone was coming to stop his foolishness. There was some indecision on his part; we could see it in his eyes. He thought about giving up, just say it’s over. But that lasted only for a second. He looked around for some weapon and, not finding one, moved toward the far end of the cell block. Just as he passed another inmate’s bunk he spotted a Pepsi bottle, grabbed it, and struck it across the foot of a steel bunk. Now he had a weapon.
With the bottom of the Pepsi bottle broken off and a good grip around the neck, he came from behind the coal box in a rush toward Mr. Crocker. No one knew what he was thinking but apparently he put me out of his mind as being insignificant, for he was not paying any attention to me.
With all of his attention directed toward Mr. Crocker, it left an opening for me. With all the quickness I could muster I stepped to my left in between the two of them, planted my left foot, and brought up my long right leg striking Patterson in the face with my foot. He went down and all of the fight went out of him.
Almost like it had been rehearsed, Mr. Crocker and I grabbed Patterson by the shirt and began dragging him to the cell door which was quickly opened and in no time we had drug him out to the back yard where Mr. Griffin and Mr. Collins took over. Had Patterson stopped his destruction when we entered the cell, he probably would have been punished with a week or ten days in the hole, but by trying to assault Mr. Crocker, a prison official, he was tried in court and given additional time.
In January 2001, when I began putting on paper some of the things I remember about what happened in my youth, this story was one of the first to come to mind. For over five years now, I’ve kept from writing this one because it sounds almost like I’m bragging about my part in the story. Then last summer, (2005) I shared my story about the ‘Prison Farm’ with Mr. Crocker’s niece, Ms. Margaret Neil Ratchford. She told me how much she enjoyed that story and asked when I was going to write the story about the time I saved Bub’s life. Margaret was most complimentary and encouraging about the Prison Farm story. Her comments led me to believe that I should go ahead and write the story. I have now put it on paper and am dedicating it to the memory of one fine old gentleman: Mr. A. B. “Bub” Crocker, a man who quietly did his job and seldom got credit for the work he did.
The Barber Shop
I was waiting my turn at the local ‘Great Clips’ barbershop this week when I was reminded of a Saturday trip to the barber shop that Jody and I took, way back in 1968. Jody and I usually got our hair cut at Marvin Sisk’s Barber Shop on West Franklin Avenue in Gastonia. This day was no different as I recall it, although we usually didn’t get hair cuts on Saturday because of the traffic, but there must have been a pressing need. So over to Marvin’s Barbershop we went and yes, there were many people waiting ahead of us.
We had no more than got seated in the waiting area when I realized that a local Gastonia gadfly and loudmouth was laid back in Marvin’s chair to get a shave, something you rarely see being done in today’s barber shops. From his laid back position in the chair this man had no idea who else was in the shop, but it didn’t seem to matter to him at the time. His name was Howard Spargo.
Howard owned and operated the Dixie-Vim filling station at the corner of North York Street and West Franklin Avenue in Gastonia, NC. Dixie-Vim was a cut rate gas station that usually sold gas several cents cheaper than other stations. Its location, a block from the Gaston County Courthouse and City Hall, had customers from both places, and it put Mr. Spargo in a position to hear all the gossip and innuendo concerning local politics. Let me be clear about this; around courthouses, city halls and sheriffs offices there was always a stream of political talk. When one party is in power, the other finds fault, and then the next election it goes the other way. This story goes back forty years and nothing has changed since then.
My father, John Fred Friday Sr. (1901–1986) had a political job, as Superintendent of the Dallas Prison Camp. Even though the job was considered politics at the state level, you will remember that all politics is local. Just about everything Dad did on his job was scrutinized by the other side, or by another faction of the Democratic Party. Alongside my Dad, was the supervisor over the maintenance department for the state roads, Mr. Fred Biggerstaff. Both men served at the pleasure of their different directors, who served at the pleasure of the Governor.
Now back to Mr. Spargo: Laying back in the barber chair all comfortable and knowing he had an audience, he was letting it fly. He was giving my Dad and Mr. Biggerstaff all kinds of hell for the way they ran their respective jobs and for being the ‘crooked’ politicians they were.
I don’t remember Mr. Spargo using any curse words, but his talk of putting my Dad and Mr. Biggerstaff down went on for a few minutes. At least long enough for me to gather enough courage to do something about it.
Marvin had Mr. Spargo’s face all lathered up with shaving cream and was just about to begin shaving. He finished strapping the razor to get it sharp, when I stepped up and took Marvin by the arm, lightly pushing him away. He looked a bit surprised but said nothing. Quietly and without saying a word I took the razor from Marvin’s hand and moved to the barber chair. Enjoying his comfortable position, with the warm lather on his face, and a gallery of men listening to his running mouth, Mr. Spargo didn’t realize I was there until I laid that straight razor against his throat. I leaned in real close saying to him, “I’m going to use this razor to cut your throat if you don’t shut up. Captain Friday’s grandson is sitting over there hearing all the trash running out of your mouth. I won’t listen to any more of your dirty talk about my Dad. Do you understand?”
I handed the razor back to Marvin and returned to my seat. I don’t think more than one or two people knew anything at all had taken place. To this day I doubt that Jody even knows that this little episode took place.
Marvin finished shaving Mr. Spargo and he got up paid his bill and left without saying a word. I continued to use Marvin’s Barber Shop for many years, and occasionally Marvin would mention the incident.
Speaking of politics, Judge Olive ran for Governor in 1948 against Senator Kerr Scott. Senator Scott won. My Dad had backed Judge Olive. After Gov. Scott took office there was a movement by local politicians who had supported Gov. Scott to get Dad replaced by someone locally, who had supported Gov. Scott. I remember hearing Dad on the phone at home talking to people who might be able to help him keep his job. He was calling in his markers. It worked, since he stayed on the job for another 11 years. I don’t remember him ever again openly supporting another politician.
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All Day and Into The Night
The only job my Dad ever had was working for the government. First, he worked for the County of Gaston, Dallas, N. C. and a man named C. W. Costner. Mr. Costner was responsible for maintaining the roads in Gaston County. Most roads back then were dirt, and they required dragging or scraping with tractors and graders in an attempt to keep them smooth and passable to some degree.
In 1935, to the best of my memory, the State of North Carolina took over the maintenance of all county roads. Dad then went to work for the State of North Carolina, basically doing the same work of maintaining the roads in Gaston County. Prison labor was also used to maintain the roads by both the County and State. Under the state supervision, prisoners were worked in squads of eight to ten men. In 1937 Dad became a foreman, supervising one of these squads.
Then in 1940 Dad was asked to become superintendent of the Dallas Prison Camp No. 905. The next year Dad bought a lot across the road from the entrance to the prison camp. He had a house built there, so he could be close to his work, and he worked many hours a day. He was good at his job and he loved it. Where there are prisoners, there will always be one trying to escape, and of course that was the case at the Dallas Prison.
Sometimes they are successful and they do get away. This leads to the question of what method do you use to catch a runaway prisoner? Dad bred and raised some of the finest bloodhounds ever seen in North Carolina. He always had two or three dogs that were well trained and could be used on a manhunt at anytime. The reputation of Dad’s bloodhounds was well known all over the state.
About the middle of the morning on a summer day in 1952, Dad started listening to some radio traffic on the statewide prison radio frequency originating over in Montgomery County, North Carolina. A prisoner had escaped from a road gang near the Town of Mount Gilead. There was nothing unusual about this, it seemed that there was one or two prisoners escaped somewhere in Western North Carolina every week.
Only in this case it seemed they couldn’t catch this escapee. The hunt continued all day, and then about five o’clock Dad received a phone call from The Assistant Director of Prisons, who had driven down from Raleigh and joined the hunt just after mid-day. The hunt for the escapee was intense but they couldn’t catch the escapee and the community was upset. This prisoner was considered to be very dangerous because he had been convicted of rape and was serving a 25 to 30 year prison sentence.
The Assistant Director was calling for Dad’s help. He told Dad to bring his dog and come give them his expertise. The distance from Dallas to Mount Gilead is probably no more than 75–80 miles but one must travel through Charlotte to get there. It was approaching seven o’clock when Dad arrived at the command post for the search with Jack, the dog handler, and his bloodhound.
The Assistant Director of Prisons met Dad when he arrived, thanked him for coming down, and briefed him on the search to that point. Dad asked for an update on the search and when they last had a scent trail. He was told that the prisoner had been trailed from down near Mount Gilead along the railroad northeast toward the town of Troy until they lost the scent trail. With this bit of information Dad told the Assistant Director that he wanted to look the area over and would return shortly. Dad left and drove down to the area where they last had a trail. After surveying the place Dad asked Jack, “Why do you think they lost the trail?” Jack replied, “I think he hopped a train and rode it towards Troy, not leaving a scent for the dog.” With this in mind, Dad and Jack rode down the highway in the direction of Troy.
The highway and the railroad run parallel for a number of miles along here between Mount Gilead and Troy, and at times they are very close to each other. Dad and Jack decided between them that the escapee would not have ridden the train all the way into town for fear of being seen. And if the escapee did catch a ride, then he would probably drop off outside of town and wait till night to move in under the cover of darkness. It was already dusky dark as they go to the town limits of Troy. Dad told Jack to take the dog over to the railroad bed and start working his way back toward Mount Gilead. By that time darkness had begun to settle in, and Jack moved along the railroad slowly and very quietly, allowing the dog to work on getting a scent.
True to their way of thinking, the escapee walked right up to Jack in the darkness before he sees him and the dog. Dad was moving along the highway close by and in only a matter of minutes they had the escapee secured and safely in the truck. The State of North Carolina furnished Dad with a pickup truck and a custom made cage that fit over the back. This is where he hauled his dogs and where the prisoners were placed when being transported. In this case, it held both dog and prisoner.
It was a short trip back to the staging area where there was a large group of prison personnel, local deputies, state highway patrol and others milling around. Dad pulled up to the command post in his brown prison pickup and was immediately met by the Assistant Director. “Well Captain Friday, what do you think? Have you got any idea where he might be?” All Dad said to him was, “I got him.” The Assistant Director was rather sharp with Dad and said, “Look Captain Friday, this is serious, now is not the time for kidding around.”
Everyone soon knew that the capture had been made and was relieved that it was over: A chase that lasted all day and into the night.
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This week, the first week of April 2007, I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio and it brought back many memories. Diane was interviewing Jabari Asim, Deputy Editor, The Washington Post. He had written a book entitled, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why. The book really didn’t not interest me, but bringing up the ‘N’ word was about as funny as it gets. None of my family or friends who have used the ‘N’ word over the years, ever did so in a way that was contrived to be disrespectful to the Negro race. As a young person in Dallas in the 40’s and 50’s the ‘N’ word was used to describe a person, it was not criticism. Growing up in this era, we were separated, but after school I played with black boys just as I would have any other kid. Things were different; the blacks didn’t go to school with us, or to our church, but at that age we didn’t question why.
The first time I ever stayed overnight in the same place with a black person was when the Air National Guard shipped me off for training to Francis E Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming. I can’t remember this man’s name but he had a bunk right beside mine and we stayed that way for three months. After a day or two it became ordinary…..no big deal. He was a good student. But, that’s not the direction I want to go with this story.
During the winter of 1968 and 1969 we were living on North Highland Street in Gastonia, just across from the old Gaston Memorial Hospital. During that time a young black woman, who I’ve mentioned in another story, worked for us. She did the housekeeping, and she was there when the children got home from school, and she prepared an evening meal. Nancy looked after her like one of our own children. She had left home at an early age, and had gone north and learned the housekeeping trade. She almost reached the ‘family member’ stage with Nancy and me. At some point during the time she spent with us, she became pregnant. Nancy saw to it that she took care of herself and was there when she delivered the baby, a fine little boy.
One Saturday night during that winter, our phone rang close to midnight. Vonnie was calling. It had been snowing for several hours and Vonnie and her date had gone to visit friends who lived on the Dixon School Road south of Kings Mountain on the other side of Gaston County.
They stayed too long and when they finally decided to leave, their car lost traction and it slide into the ditch. Vonnie called me, just as one of my own children would. Now what she said is what I’m writing about. In her attempt to get across to me the situation she felt she was in, she frantically said, “I ain’t staying up here all night with this nigger!” Believe me, she got her message across. In a matter of minutes, I was on Interstate 85 South driving our right new ’69 Dodge station wagon. The snow is already pushing up on the front bumper, and it was still coming down.
In 1969 I was 34 years old. I either had no fear or felt I had to do this for Vonnie. I would not attempt this feat thirty-seven years later. Through the snow and 23 miles later I found Vonnie and her “Nigger.” Now, we had to get home. Home for Vonnie was in Dallas, on Robinson Street, and it was still snowing. I began the trip back North on I-85. Upon reaching Gastonia we made the change over to Old Highway 321, which was the best route into Dallas and the community where she lives. This old highway is crooked but less traveled. We did very well, going very slow now because the snow was getting deeper.
As we neared the bridge over Little Long Creek I saw someone a short distance ahead, walking in the falling snow. This person, a young man, was covered with snow and was not wearing a coat or hat. I stopped and offered him a ride. He climbed into the back seat with Vonnie’s ‘Nigger’ and we moved on toward Dallas. Where are you going? What are you doing out walking at this time of night?, I wanted to know. He was shaking from the cold. We were now into Sunday morning.
Here’s his story; he worked the second shift at Firestone, which was a large cotton mill in Gastonia. His wife picked him up when he got off work at 10:00 pm. They were going to Dallas where they lived. He was driving and he let the car slip off the road back just before the bridge. He told me he spun and spun the tires but it didn’t have enough traction to get back up on the pavement. He got out to push the car, and he put his wife to driving. He told me he pushed and pushed, and every time the car got to the top of the pavement she let off on the gas pedal and it would slide back. He told her that when the car reached the top the next time to keep going, and she kept going.
We eventually got to Dallas. My new passenger, in the back seat with Vonnie’s ‘Nigger,’ directed me to an apartment off the Philadelphia Church Road, where we found his car parked and his wife apparently warm inside. I watched the paper for a few days and didn’t see anything in it about a domestic fight in Dallas.
I took Vonnie and her boyfriend home and finally headed back to our house on Highland Street. Vonnie remained with us until we moved to Dallas, Texas in the spring of 1970.
The phone rang just before noon on a cold, cloudy day in February 1950. My Dad answered on the second ring. Rules in his office were to not let the phone ring over three times. The long distance call was from Mr. Don Phillips, Superintendent of the Alexander County Prison Camp in Taylorsville, North Carolina, with a message that five long-term prisoners had escaped from a road gang just over an hour ago. Mr. Phillips was asking for Dad’s help in their recapture.
Just a call of notification would have been sufficient because Dad was expected to go. The courtesy of helping your friend at a time like this was common throughout the Ninth Prison Division in Western North Carolina. And besides, Captain Friday had the best bloodhounds in the state.
Anytime catching someone on foot was necessary, Captain Friday’s dogs were called for. I was fifteen years old and lived to go with my Dad. I begged to go along. Dad told me to go by the house and get me a big coat and meet him and the dog-boy out at the road. Dog-boy is a dog handler, usually a prisoner, a trustee and one with a lot of time to build.
I met Dad and the dog-boy at the road as they came out of the prison camp driveway and piled into the prison truck, a 1950 Ford pickup. I had no idea when we would eat next as Dad didn’t stop for soda pop. We traveled at break neck speed for 80 miles. There was no interstate highway back then, just two-lane blacktop roads for the next hour and a half: From Dallas to Lincolnton, to Maiden to Newton, and then to Conover and on to Taylorsville, and then out into the mountains of Alexander County we rode.
Dad’s truck was equipped with a two way radio on the highway patrol frequency. Today, his radio would be described as ancient. And, it was, but it worked.
Others in the hunt knew when we arrived at the scene and we were taken immediately to a point where there was known to be a hot track. True to form, Dad’s dog was on the ground running within minutes of our arrival.
Standard procedure for those involved in the chase was to ride around the territory where the escapees were last seen. Vehicles were spaced out, sometimes within sight of each other. There were prison trucks, local Sheriff’s cars, highway patrol cars, and as many police officers as could be spared to help. If the bloodhounds crossed the road, the dog-boy or his helper would put a pine-top in the road with the sharp end pointed in the direction of travel. Dad and I were now part of a rather large manhunt, circling the territory where the five escaped convicts were last seen.
It was cold and a light snow had started to fall and the Ford truck Dad was driving did not win any awards for its heater. I was slouched against the door trying to stay warm when Dad hit the brakes real hard and slid to a stop on this narrow mountain road. I sat up quickly and ask, “What’s wrong?” Dad said, “Didn’t you see that rabbit run across the road?” Well, no, I didn’t see it, but Dad did and he knew that rabbits don’t run in the daylight hours, unless they were jumped or scared out of their nest.
To my surprise, Dad reached in the glove box and brought out the biggest gun I had ever seen. It was a .38 caliber revolver, six shot with a six-inch barrel; a standard police issue. “Here,” he said, “Take this and get over there behind that large tree, face away from the road, sit down, be quiet and listen. I’m going back up the road about a hundred yards and do the same.” In a moment he was gone and I did as I was told. I sat there less than five minutes when above the wind rattling the leaves, I heard them coming.
The rest of the story is a bit sketchy, but as Dad told it later, I brought them all out onto the gravel road, hands up, in single file and very much under control. I was not cold and didn’t shake. I don’t remember being scared, but I do remember being very proud. My Dad let me fire the three shots into the air to signal capture to the dog-boy and the guard.
It was a good trip back home and it never became a big deal to me, just another part of the job.
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Our family had grown to six when Jody decided to run away from home. It was the winter of 1966. Jody had an older sister, Kim, born in 1957. Four years later, in 1961, it was Jody; then two years after that Sandy Ann came along. Two more years passed and, after a trip to Europe, Nancy gave birth to our baby girl, Lou Ellen. That’s what our family looked like on a February night in 1966, as Nancy and I put the children to bed.
We had a rule in our house, nine o’clock is bedtime. Sometimes there was a little discussion about “staying up a little later,” and tonight was no different. Jody didn’t want to go to bed. He was still upset about having to come home from his grandparents. He had to return to classes at Holy Communion Lutheran Kindergarten, of which he was not particular fond.
Jody had spent the last four nights with his paternal grandparents, the Fridays. Paw-Paw Friday had retired from the North Carolina Prison System and then hired on as a Gaston County Deputy, working as a court bailiff, and he was assigned to the Gaston County Courthouse Security. Superior Court was in session this week and in those days before computers they needed a minor to draw the names for the jury pool. Paw-Paw had asked us if he could keep Jody for a couple of days and let him draw the names. We had given our okay, allowing Jody to spend four nights at Maw-Maw’s and Paw-Paw’s and spending the day with Paw-Paw at the Gaston County courthouse, where he was getting spoiled with all kinds of attention from the women who worked there.
At this time we lived in a neat three bedroom house on the Ratchford Road, about 4 miles north of Dallas. The three girls shared a bedroom, but Jody had a room to himself. We put Jody to bed wearing a pair of winter pajamas and closed the door. We didn’t hear another word. Jody’s mind was still focused on the past week, and tomorrow he would miss all that attention, the candy, and the cokes.
Shortly after we closed the door, Jody got up, slipped on a pair of white socks and a light jacket, raised the window, pushed out the screen, and dropped eight feet to the ground. Sometime the next week he told me the minute his feet touched the ground he wished he were back inside, but he continued on his journey. Jody’ four-day adventure with his Grandpa was bigger than we thought. He was going back to his Grandpa’s!
Jody made his way across the yard and out to the road. The Ratchford Road was a typical two-lane paved country road, which lead to U. S. Highway 321, about half a mile away. Highway 321 was at that time a major north–south highway, connecting Gastonia with Lincolnton, NC. When he got to highway 321, Jody headed south toward Dallas and Gastonia, keeping to the left side of the road, facing the oncoming traffic. He later told me that he had laid down in the side-ditch whenever a car approached to avoid being seen.
About a mile farther down the road was ‘Bill’s Supermarket,’ the local grocery store. Jody slowed long enough in his journey to take a good look inside the store windows. He informed me later on that there was a pair of cowboy gloves in the store window at ‘Bill’s,’ which he certainly would like to have. He described them to a tee. They had fringe hanging off the gauntlets he said. I stopped at ‘Bill’s,’ the next week to verify the glove sighting and they were there, just as Jody had described them.
I can only guess at the lapse of time about now. It seems it would have been close to 9:45 p.m. The distance from our house to Bill’s Supermarket was about two miles. Jody continued his journey. Another mile and a quarter farther South on Hwy 321, the runaway came to the bridge that spanned Little Long Creek. So far he hadn’t been detected, but there was no ditch to hide in at that point. When he thought it was the right time he made a dash to cross the bridge, but he was spotted.
An older couple was returning to Lincolnton from a trip to Gastonia to visit their daughter. As the runaway boy dashed across the bridge over Little Long Creek he was spotted by the wife, “Did you see that?” she said! “That was a little boy running across the bridge as we passed.” Shortly, they turned around and started watching for the little boy. He was spotted in no time and they stopped and picked him up. What are you doing out here at this time of night, they asked? Jody began to spin a yarn that would make the devil blush. “My Mother dropped me off at a friend’s house this morning and has not come back to get me, so I’m going to my Grandpa’s house.” “Where does your Grandpa live?’ They asked.
With Jody’s directions, they proceeded to take him to his Grandpa Friday’s house which was only about another mile and a half away. This strange couple from Lincolnton delivered the runaway to his Grandparents, who were surprised and bewildered about what has just transpired. They were so caught off guard by what was happening that the only identity they got from the older couple was a last name Robinson, and that he was in the insurance business. Dad and Mom got dressed and cranked up their old Buick sedan and took the runaway back home.
Nancy and I were relaxed and watching a Duke–Carolina basketball game when there was a knock at our front door. I went to the door and flipped on an outside porch light and could see who was standing there before I opened up. I did not believe what I was seeing and rushed to the bedroom to retrieve my son, who was not there. On the front porch with my Dad stood Jody, dirty and muddy and tired, from crawling into those side ditches and from his long nighttime hike.
There was some holding and hugging going on, no tears yet, for we had not begun to comprehend what had taken place. The whole episode unfolded for days.
There was no punishment. Just, don’t ever do that again! Later there were some tears of, “What could have happened!” and plenty of, “What ifs!” We were just so glad that he was safe and sound. In a day or two, and after talking with Dad again, I decided that I had to go to Lincolnton and find Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. I could not let them continue to think that the “story” told to them by Jody was true. Trying as hard as I could, I cannot remember who I called, but I called a friend in Lincolnton and gave him the two leads I had, the last name of Robinson and the fact that he was in the insurance business. In a matter of minutes I was told who he suspected it was. He was right and I drove to their house in Lincolnton and explained who I was and why I was there. They had been very concerned and now appreciated my coming to them and bringing them the rest of the story.
I thought for a while this might be the beginning of a life lived on the edge for this adventurous boy. Since then, Jody became a deep sea diver, has parachuted out of an airplane, and is now a 15 year veteran of the police department, serving on the department’s SWAT team for many years. Not bad, for a little boy who was a runaway from home at age five.
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(Note: Originally penned in 2002, this essay was revised and edited in 2008 and 2009.)
During a few moments of reflection, during the week of the 2002 Winter Olympics, I began to think of my own Gold Medals. With the help of my wife Nancy, I received gold medals back in 1957, 1961, 1963 and 1965.
My Gold Medals are my children.
Kim, the oldest, now 52, is married to Major Norwood, a plumbing and heating contractor. There is no finer man than Major Norwood. They live today only a mile or two from my birthplace in Hardin, NC. A mother of three grown children, and a grandmother to two beautiful kids, Kim, as a medal, is rare because she’s one of a kind.
Kim grew up fast, being the oldest of four other kids, because Nancy and I had to work a lot of hours when our family was younger. Kim was responsible for keeping the house clean and the other kids out of trouble while Nancy and I were working. She prepared meals in the evenings, and did many other chores that kids today seem to be immune from. Her first car was a light blue Ford Mustang, a car she got at age 16 when we lived in Little Rock, Arkansas. She and Major were married in 1978, while both of them were still in College. They lived for many years on College Street in downtown Dallas before moving to Hardin.
As a doting mother and a worrisome wife, Kim has her hands on everyone’s problems. Kim knows her children better than they know themselves. She looks after Nancy and me, and worries about us, and in her job at North Gaston High School, she looks after about 900 other kids. A caring and generous person, Kim is inclined to be very passionate about a subject when she gets involved.
As an adult, Kim’s passion for service to her community is demonstrated in her work at her school and through her circle of friends in the Dallas community. She is a community fundraiser, an organizer, a manager, and advisor to many people and for many civic organizations in Dallas. Sometimes I’m not sure what North Gaston High School, or the Town of Dallas, would do without her.
Kim knows how to plant and harvest a garden. She can preserve vegetables, and she can drive a tractor. She and Major make their own home-made wine. I think Kim can do anything.
I believe Kim is nostalgic for stability and she craves good times with family above most everything else that I can think of. She loved her grandmother Friday and spent much time visiting with my dad, Fred, in his last few years. Kim seems to have found the things in life that elude most people; true happiness and peace in her place in the world. She is truly blessed.
And she loves her Daddy!
Our son, Jody, the 1961 medal, is not a chip off the old block. I’ve often said he is more like his Mom. He doesn’t have much to say most of the time, but when he does, you had better listen. Jody didn’t play many sports; a few years of baseball in Jr. High School and a year or two on the wrestling team was about it for him. He was a school bus driver in High School, and worked at odd jobs throughout that time. Jody seems to have always had his eyes on the horizon.
In 1983 Jody packed up his duffle bag and moved to Nags Head, NC. For several years, in between school, he lived and worked at the beach. That experience undoubtedly shaped his life and took him on a different path from most of us here in Dallas.
Married in 1989 and divorced in 2009, and now with an eleven year old daughter named Shelby, our youngest grandchild, Jody is beginning a new chapter in his life.
Joe Friday Jr. is a Sergeant on the police force in Greenville, NC. He has been a police officer for almost 20 years now and is widely respected at his agency and in his town, Greenville, NC. Professionally, he is known as Joe Friday Jr., but to us, his family, he is known simply as Jody. His mom and I worried about him having a career in law enforcement, especially in today’s world, but he has managed to be successful and has remained safe.
Jody loves to hunt and fish; a trait he must pick up from the Ratchford side of the family. He enjoys reading (a trait he gets from his father) and music, woodworking, hiking and camping in the mountains, and gardening.
Jody is a special medal because of his quiet determination.
In 1988 He made me mad as hell when he jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, from 3,000 feet in the air. He scared 10 years off my life when he was on the police SWAT team. He has been a SCUBA diver from more than 25 years and has dived with sharks and sea turtles, visited WWII Germen U-Boats along the coast of North Carolina, Spanish Galleons on the reefs of Bermuda, and British Revolutionary Warships in the York River in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay. Sometimes I think Adventure should be his middle name.
In 2005 he built a Cajun pirogue from plywood without using any plans. He often talks of building a cabin in the NC Mountains. He is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College and he has a Masters Degree from East Carolina University.
And he loves his Daddy!
Sandy Ann, our middle daughter, is a registered nurse at Forsyth Hospital in Winston-Salem. Now 46 years old, she is the mother of two Boy Scouts who are now in college themselves, and she is married to Vince Hunter, a Scout Leader and wonderfully fine man.
Unlike so many people, she didn’t wait until she was an older person to let God come into her life. She has been very active in the Lutheran Church, the church choir and Bible study ever since she graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College. She is also a nursing instructor at Lenoir-Rhyne, part-time. At Forsyth Hospital, she is a manager overseeing several hundred nurses.
Sandy is a hard worker, determined, stubborn at times, but very successful. She may be the strongest of our children in many ways. She always had excellent grades in school, and I believe that she pressured herself to perform well throughout school and through her college years at Lenoir-Rhyne. In Junior High School, she was the Editor of the yearbook. At Lenoir-Rhyne, she was a member of the Kappa Delta Sorority.
Sandy is an athlete. She has been a runner for many years and participated in dozens of road races. The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA comes to mind at this moment. In her junior year at North Gaston High School, she was named MVP to the girl’s track team.
She is also a hero. Once while on her way to church, Sandy came across a man collapsed in the parking lot. The man was having a massive heart attack. Sandy performed CPR on the man and saved his life. My Heroine Daughter!
All these things make Sandy a Gold Medal with ribbons attached.
And she loves her Daddy!
Lou Ellen, my baby girl, graduated from North Gaston High School, married her sweetheart, Donnie Clark, and they had two boys. Lou and Donnie got divorced in the early 1990s and suddenly Lou found herself to be a single parent in need of an education and a career.
With lots of determination and a vision for her future, she worked full time as a waitress and later as a saleswoman and also attended college full time, earning her Bachelor’s Degree. At UNC-Charlotte she majored in accounting and she is now a very successful C.P.A. in Denver, NC. She participates in the business community of the area as a Rotarian and community event fundraiser.
Lou Ellen is another gold medal with ribbons. She is working hard and having a wonderful time with her second husband, John Cloninger, a jet pilot and Gaston County boy. John is a gold medal in his own right.
It is said that the first born in the family lives the hardest life, and then it gets better as we go along. By the time the fourth child arrives all the rules are thrown out and that child gets by with everything. That could be the case with Lou. I remember getting a phone call from the police only once about our children and it was about Lou. Lou and her boyfriend, along with Carla Boyd and her boyfriend Scott Fortenberry, were double dating one night and I suspect that they had been consuming some brew. As they came through Dallas on the way home one of the boys had to relieve himself and someone decided that behind the bank would be the place. Nancy and I knew nothing about this until we got a call from the Dallas Police the next morning before Sunday school; “Mr. Friday I just thought you should know about this and the company your little girl is keeping.” Scott and Carla got married a few years later and have children and are doing well.
I never had anything to do with the naming of our children, and I never thought about it too much until Lou came along, but then I thought I should have a role in naming rights. I tried very hard to have Lou named Virginia Lucille Friday and we could call her, ”Ginny Lou.” My Mother’s name was Virginia and Nancy’s Mother’s name was Lucille, and I thought ‘Ginny Lou’ sounded original. I have always looked with favor on carrying forward family names, but as you can read here, I got out-voted.
At W.C. Friday Jr. High School Lou Ellen was a cheerleader along with her sister Sandy and they made a good team better. I have said many times, “Some Dads raise football players, I raised cheerleaders.”
Lou also ran track with Sandy at North Gaston High School. At a track meet at South Point High School about 1981, Lou and Sandy were two parts of the four-man relay team and Lou was running the second leg. The team was doing well. Lou grabbed the baton and raced around the first turn, gaining on the other girl to her left. Just at that moment an airplane flying low and circling to make a landing at nearby Charlotte-Douglas International Airport distracted Lou enough to cause her to slow down and glance up to see what was making the noise. I don’t remember if they won or lost. Then again, maybe I just don’t want to say.
Lou Ellen is the kind of person who can see the humor or irony in almost every situation. She seems to have gone through so much in her life and survive, and even thrive, and she always seems to have a smile on her face.
She and John love to ride bicycles for organized long distance rides. Lou Ellen is also a runner and along with her sister, Sandy, has participated in several roadraces. She is a generous and a very caring woman. She loves animals.
And she loves her Daddy!
Nancy and I worked hard at raising our children the right way and were also very lucky. We were strict sometimes and lax at other times. In the end, our children all turned out good and they still say “yes sir” and “no sir”. We still hear compliments from people about our children from time to time.
They are my Olympic Medals and I’m proud of them for they are all Gold.
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Ronald Gene Ratchford: 1934-1999
I was in the third grade at Dallas Elementary School, in Miss Edna Lineberger’s class, in September, 1944. The school year had started only a few days’ before, when this new boy walks into the classroom. Late on the first day, at his new school, Gene Ratchford walked into my life and stayed. We went on to graduate high school together, we joined the service together and we became brothers-in-law. We had some great times along the way, along with some rough spots too. He was one of the best friends I ever had in my life. On the following pages I will attempt to remember Gene for you because, he’s gone now.
First impressions are lasting and I still remember that first time I saw Gene. Gene was on the heavy side of life but it never bothered him or anyone else. Miss Lineberger introduced him to the class and this in itself was unusual for us. Dallas was a small community in those days and in our school people didn’t move in and out. Having a new classmate was something very different for us.
Gene’s family had moved to Dallas from Gastonia where he had attended Central Elementary School. The Ratchford family was originally from the Dallas area, they were just moving back. Mr. Ratchford had bought a home in Dallas close to a grocery store he owned. In addition to Brady and Lucille, there was Brady Jr., whom everyone called Sonny, Robert, Gene, Nancy and Margaret.
My family lived a short way out of Dallas on the Cherryville highway and in 1948, Mr. Ratchford built a new home for his family just a mile west of where we lived. Things became even better between Gene and me now because we lived within walking distance of each other.
As a youngster in grade school, Gene’s sport was baseball. He seemed to always keep a bat and glove close by. We played baseball in the pasture at the Rankin family’s farm and we play in the front yards of our homes. They were pickup games, with whoever showed up to play. Nobody organized games for us nor did they buy us uniforms. Our first organized baseball team was in the eighth grade and was coached by our high school principal, Mr. Mitchell Carr. (Dallas Elementary was later renamed Carr Elementary in his honor) We were big time, traveling to other schools to play. My brother Johnny once remarked on how strong Gene’s arm was. In those days the Dallas High School baseball field adjoined the backyard of a residence with a shallow ditch in between. Johnny said Gene could stand flat-footed in that ditch and throw you out at home plate.
When we moved up to high school Gene and I went in a couple of different directions. Gene played football, and I played basketball and drove a school bus. But Gene and I remained close, going to Saturday movies together, dating, and just hanging out. Gene had the nickname, “Tonto.”
Gene had many other friends: Two other friends in Gene’s life were Mitchell McClure and Larry Addington. Larry also became a brother-in-law, marrying Gene’s sister Margaret. Between Gene and Me and our collective friends, we always seemed to find one way or another to have fun.
Mitchell and Gene were hunting frogs one night on Little Long Creek with .22 rifles and flashlights when they came up on a snake in the creek. Little Long Creek was a tributary to Long Creek, which runs into the South Fork River. Little Long Creek is not very wide and as the story goes, Mitchell had one foot on each side of the creek yelling at Gene to shoot the snake and Gene got so excited that He shot at the snake and hit Mitchell in the toe. Gene became so upset at what had just happened that he nearly fainted. Mitchell had to practically carry him back to the house.
Mr. Ratchford had a truck, which Gene and his brothers and sisters used for transportation from time to time, and whenever Gene borrowed the truck, he would ask someone else to drive it. Gene, for reasons known only to him, didn’t like to drive very much. This was somewhat ironic, because following high school Gene got a job as a delivery driver for Bigger Brothers Distributors, a large distributor of wholesale foods to grocery stores in the Southeast.
Gene had many passions, among them were The Washington Redskins, N.C. State Football, The Los Angeles Dodgers, fishing, all types of hunting, especially dove hunting, riding anywhere in the car, R.O.’s Barbecue and Juicy Fruit brand chewing gum.
Gene and I were still in high school when together we joined the NC Air National Guard, attending three summer camps together before his accident. Gene was assigned to the Military Police Unit and spent his days in the Guard as an MP.
We had just graduated from High School and Gene was at the top of his game, in the prime of life, and having a good time living when in just a few seconds his life, and everyone’s life around him, changed forever in a tragic car accident. Gene was double-dating, I can’t recall who was with him, and because Gene didn’t like to drive, he had asked the young man he was doubling with to drive his car. Gene and his girl friend were in the back seat. Gene’s car was a 1951 dark blue Chevrolet four door. There was no speed involved and Gene was the only one who received any serious injuries.
These four young people were traveling on the Long-Shoals Road, which runs between the Dallas-Cherryville Highway and Long Shoals. Gene said that the driver looked around to say something to him and when he turned back they were into a curve to the left and the car went off the highway to the right and rolled over, down the embankment. In rolling over, while upside down it landed on a large boulder right where Gene’s back was on the inside of the top.
Gene’s back was broken, and somewhere between there and the hospital his spinal cord was severed, and from that moment forward Gene had no feeling or control over his body from the upper chest down. And of course he couldn’t walk. He spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. This was depressing to Gene and to his family. Everyone asked the question “what if,” and there was for some time, hope that a way would be found to mend Gene’s broken spinal cord. That was over fifty years ago and the medical researchers are still looking for answers to these kinds of injuries. There was a time when Gene attempted using braces and walking, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Mr. Ratchford took Gene to Bellevue Hospital Center in New York for rehab. It was a tremendous benefit for Gene and later for all his caregivers, because Gene was taught how to care for himself and he in turn taught all of us.
A few years passed and then Sam Rhyne, who was the local Nationwide Insurance agent, asked Gene to come and work in his office, keeping the door open and answering the phone, this started a career in that insurance company’s office in Dallas for Gene which lasted for the rest of his life. Gene’s brother Brady Jr. acquired the agency from Sam, later brother Robert became the agent and still later brother-in-law Larry Addington became the agent, and Gene worked for all of them. Gene worked in the Dallas Office of Nationwide Insurance for so many years that many customers thought it belonged to him.
Gene’s passion for hunting required assistance from all of us who knew him, His brothers, Sonny, and Robert, along with their sons, Buddy, David, and Bob, Larry and his boys, Alan and Steve, and of course Jody and I; we all have stories to tell of hunting with Gene. I don’t remember deer hunting with Gene, but many others did and all of us are sorry that he never killed one. I’m told that he emptied his gun at one buck, one time, without even drawing blood. The story is better told by Gene’s nephew Alan Addington who was there.
Alan says Gene was sitting at the edge of the woods near a clearing for a power-line. It was a foggy morning and as the mist began to burn off, Gene saw that there were several deer in the clearing beneath the power-line. Gene saw one particular huge buck and took aim. Gene shot at the deer about ten times and Steve Lambert, a family friend who was hunting nearby, came over the hill and also saw the buck and got five shots at it before it finally ran away. It was a huge buck deer that lived to see another day. According to Alan, “Gene had live bullets and spent shells all over himself and his machine, an all-terrain vehicle he has obtained to help him get around. Gene would get so excited about shooting that He would shuck rounds out of the gun without firing.
Gene’s passion for sightseeing and riding in the car was most understandable, for there were so many days in his life when all he got to do was sit in the living room, watch TV, look out the window and watch the cars go up and down the highway. And later in his life there were his birdfeeders. Oh, yes, the birds. If birds talked it would sound like this…..” Gene’s put out a new brand of bird seed let’s go check it out….” He had several bird feeders that someone always had to keep full.
On any given Saturday, One of us would get Gene in the car and head out with no plans, no destination in mind, just drive. A typical ride might go like this; beginning in Dallas going to Wilkesboro, on to West Jefferson, Boone, Newland, or to Asheville and the farmer’s market. By the time he got home, Mama Ratchford had begun to worry, but supper was always ready.
One time when he and I made this round, Gene bought a concrete bird-bath and asked me to haul it home in the car: My new ’86 Ford Crown Victoria. The pedestal rode home across the back seat, and from that time forward there was a dent in the seat.
Late in the season in 1967 Gene got permission to hunt the field on or about where the new water tower stands on Highway 321 across from the Mitchell McClure home. Shooting didn’t start until 12 noon, but with Gene getting ready started early. This Saturday it was cold and a steady drizzle was falling. I loaded up the car with shotguns, shells, and water. Gene drank a large glass of water every hour on the hour wherever he might be. I got the wheel chair in the car and finally we were away.
This dovefield had been a corn field and the cornstalks had been cut and shocked, giving us cover over most of the field. Gene’s chair was a regular wheel chair that would be used indoors or on a hard surface. It was not equipped for soft wet soil, but across the field we went. By noon we were in place and we were not disappointed. Birds flew and the shots seemed to be one after the other all afternoon. We hardly noticed the rain. This was one of many days that Gene’s handicap did not interfere with him having a good time.
One year Gene got permission from Fred Payne, who lived on the Rhyne Road several miles out of Stanley, to hunt doves on his property. A large field along Rhyne Road, which joined Mr. Payne’s driveway was made available for us to hunt. Gene could sit on the gravel drive way and shoot into the field. It was a convenient site to hunt with Gene being in the wheelchair and we had a great time. Mr. Payne’s wife was a sister to Mervin Ratchford’s wife and maybe for that reason we went back there for many years. I don’t know if there is a connection between our dove hunting days there or not, but a street across from the field has been named “Dove Haven Lane.”
N. C. State Football, “The Wolfpack,” was another of Gene’s passions. Saturday afternoon football games are a happening; it’s like preparing for battle. Gene got absorbed into all the aspects of this, such as the trip to Raleigh, tailgating with his brother Robert and Gwen, and seeing friends from year to year. It was as much fun for Gene before the game as during the game. There was a special place in the South end zone of Carter-Finley Stadium for wheel chairs, and Gene got to know other Wolfpack fans from week-to-week. He always enjoyed the outing and camaraderie of being around people, as much if not more than the football game itself.
In the fall of 1986 it became my turn to take Gene to Raleigh to an N. C. State Football game. I remember this specific date because of the car I was driving. I had a new 1986 Ford that Gene had never ridden in before. When I picked him up that Saturday morning it was overcast and threatening rain. We were given the usual, “it’s going to rain and you should stay at home,” from Mama Ratchford but it never slowed us down. Approaching Asheboro, on the way to Raleigh, it did start to lightly rain and I reached down and turned my windshield wiper on to “intermittent.” The wiper made one swoosh across the windshield and stopped, just as it should. Gene saw this, and I saw him look but say nothing, and in a few seconds it swooshed again. Gene asked, ” what’s wrong with your wipers?” Well I knew right away that he had never seen this before and for miles I let him believe that there was something wrong. Later, we both laughed, and retold the story many times.
I’m not sure about the date, I think it was about 1987, when I got a call from Mama Ratchford, “Gene wants you to come, he is having trouble swallowing.” I got there as quickly as I could and saw that Gene had a lump in throat. His last bite of food just wouldn’t go any farther down. It’s not life threatening, yet, it’s just uncomfortable. So we loaded up in the car and headed to the emergency room at Gaston Memorial Hospital. I was concerned about Gene, not frightened, but at this point he was very nervous about himself. I drove the speed limit plus 12–15 miles per hour, through Dallas and down the lower Dallas road toward East Gastonia and the hospital. When we crossed the bridge over Little Long Creek the car ‘bottomed-out,’ and Gene then swallowed his last bite. We drove on up to Ozark Avenue in Gastonia, discussing whether to go on or not, decided finally to turn around and go home. All’s well that ends well.
The Washington Redskins were sacred in the Ratchford household, dating back to the days when TV was black and white and Eddie Labaron was their quarterback. I remember spending many Sunday afternoons watching the Redskins on TV with Gene and Mr. Ratchford. Then in the 1971 we moved to Dallas, Texas and became Cowboy fans. After moving back home there was a great rivalry on weekends between Gene and our family. Cheers and Shouts of “Hail to the Redskins” vs “How ‘bout them Cowboys!”
We all are creatures of habit, and Gene had several that will make you grin and maybe laugh. Every Saturday night Gene had a pan fried T-Bone steak, baked potato, and a salad with French dressing for dinner. He put grape juice in his tea instead of lemon. His bologna and liver-mush had to be a particular name brand, “Crown”, bought at the CDA Store in Gastonia. Grocery shopping was always done at two different stores, the Harris-Teeter at Gaston Mall and the Winn-Dixie, followed with a meal at the Acropolis restaurant in Gastonia. You always had to return home a different way than you came. At least one trip every three months was made to the Farmers Market near Asheville to buy Indian River Red Grapefruit by the case, followed with a stop at Bojangles in Hendersonville NC. He loved to eat at the Cracker-Barrel restaurant in Gastonia and the waitress’ there knew him well. A trip to R.O.’s Barbecue was expected anytime he got in the car. In autumn a trip was made to The Brushy Mountain Produce on Highway 16 for a box of apples, then on to Shatley Springs Restaurant for lunch, and then to The Ashe County Cheese Plant in West Jefferson, and be sure and go home a different way. In summer, there was always a trip or two to Filbert, S.C. to buy peaches, bought only at ‘The Peach Tree.’
Gene’s baby sister, Margaret recalled that Gene’s sense of humor was wonderful and child-like. He really didn’t care where he was going, just so long as he was riding somewhere. She said, “We once rode all the way to Jefferson NC, ate at McDonalds, and came home.”
For many years Gene’s dad, Brady Ratchford, owned and operated a grocery store just two blocks from our high school. During our high school years, hundreds of packs of Juicy Fruit Gum went out the back door of that store. In high school and for the rest of his life, Gene always had a pack or two of Juicy Fruit Gum in his pocket. I never knew a time when he didn’t have chewing gum. It became his trademark. His senior year high school yearbook has numerous mentions from friends of “thank you for the gum.”
For many years after his car accident, Gene did not attend Church. It was not until after Brady Ratchford was killed, in 1974 that Gene returned to church on a regular basis. From then on, Gene was a faithful member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Dallas. A special parking place at the front sidewalk at Our Savior Lutheran Church was always reserved for Gene and Mama Ratchford. Gene was more than a member; he was a fixture, in part because of his wheel chair. It sat at the same pew in the aisle almost every Sunday for years. Even after a Saturday dove hunt or a trip to Raleigh for a football game Gene got up and went to church.
Our Savior Lutheran Church, for many, many years had the same two ushers; Wilbur Witherspoon and Wilford Cloninger. As they marched up the aisle and then back again they remained in step. Gene noticed this, and on more than one occasion remarked about how Wilbur could skip a step (something he was taught in service) and get back in step with Wilford after passing his wheel chair.
I’m telling this story for all of us who knew and loved Gene….we all loved and helped Gene because he couldn’t do these things for himself, his brothers, his sisters, his in-laws, his nieces and nephews, and more than anyone else, his mother, Mama Ratchford. She more or less committed her life to Gene after his accident. She remained focused on Gene’s care and on his best interest throughout all his life and she somehow remained strong enough to carry out her assignment.
Gene became sick in the spring of 1999. By the first of August he had surgery for esophageal cancer that had spread to his liver. Gene stayed in the hospital about two weeks after surgery and the doctors told the family that there was nothing else that could be done. He was discharged from the hospital, got home and in his bed around 6:00 pm on August 18th, 1999. He died peacefully about four hours later.
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My Ithaca Shotgun
One of the oldest material possessions I own is an Ithaca Model 37 Featherweight shotgun. It was given to me by my wife, Nancy, shortly after we were married in 1956. In truth, I have now passed this shotgun on to my son, Jody and it is a part of his collection of guns that he has accumulated over the years. It is a 12-gauge, pump action shotgun with a red glass bead front sight and it is the first and only gun I really have owned in my life.
As a teenager who hunted birds and rabbits and other small game, I used any gun that was available to me at the time, and for which I could get sufficient ammunition. Today I speak of ‘sufficient ammunition’ very lightly, but in the 1940’s and 50’s we had to scrape together ammunition in order to go hunting. It was not as bad as six shells and six birds, but money was almost nonexistent. I have talked often about working here and there at odd jobs, and I did, for money to buy my clothes and gas for my car, for school expenses, shotgun shells, and of course, for dating.
There was a single barrel shotgun that belonged to the family, I don’t remember where it actually came from, and many times I hunted with a double-barrel 12 gauge chosen from the gun rack at the prison camp. I recall that these were less expensive weapons for they had plastic stocks in place of wood.
As I was growing up I hunted with a group of friends, Mr. ‘Happy’ Clemmer, two of his sons, Joe Bailey and Booney; Mr. Doc White, Bud Penley, Harold White and many others. After we graduated high school, my friend Joe Bailey Clemmer bought a new Ithaca shotgun that I admired very much and I spoke about it whenever the subject of guns came up; the Ithaca Model 37 pump. In addition to being light in weight, it handled and fired very easily. I loved the feel and the look of this shotgun. It had an action that was butter-slick and the walnut fore-end had a look about it which made it appear turned on a lathe. It was later to become a shotgun model famous for smooth action, light weight, reliability, bottom loading and ejection and, with the ‘ring-tail’ fore-end. It is also distinctive in that every Model 37 shotgun has two scenes engraved on the sides of the receiver: A bird dog with pheasants on one side, and flying ducks on the other side. The Ithaca Model 37 has now been in production longer than any other American made pump shotgun available, and it is one of the most collectable shotguns on the market. Nancy heard me speak about this special gun that Joe had, and in late summer of 1956 she ordered me one for my Christmas present.
Now, I knew the Ratchford men were hunters, but it was only after Nancy and I were married that I realized how serious they took their hunting.
As Thanksgiving approached that year, and the opening of deer season loomed, the conversations got stuck on hunting; where to hunt, what to hunt with and who was going hunting. I was invited to go along with the Ratchfords on an opening day deer hunt and was offered any one of several rifles that were available. I hesitated to accept the offer because I had never been deer hunting with a rifle before and I knew I would not be comfortable with an unknown weapon. Nancy was aware of how I felt, so just a day or two before Thanksgiving she decided to give me my Christmas present early.
My shotgun was not exactly like the one Joe Bailey Clemmer owned, which I had admired so much. My Ithaca shotgun had a redesigned fore-end, which gave it a more modern look than the traditional fore-end Ithaca had. But I remember Joe Bailey liked it very much, even more than his own.
On opening day of the deer season it took two cars to get all of us to the mountains of Wilkes County. Robert was along and had invited two of his college friends from NC State, Sonny and Betty were along, and I don’t recall who else, but there were at least two more. And of course there was me, with my new Ithaca shotgun. The previous night I had gone to Dad’s house and ‘borrowed’ five shells, of 12-gauge 00 buckshot for my ammunition
Following the long drive up from Gaston County, we arrived at the steel bridge in Wilkes County, which was our jumping off point, at least an hour before daylight. Sonny led the group of us up a mountain trail, dropping people off at suggested spots that he said would be a good place to ‘still hunt.’ I had no idea where I was in relationship to the car, and I had only a vague sense of the way out of the woods, hopefully returning the way I had come in. The weather was clear and very cold, and by the time the sun was fully up and shining on an outcrop of rock on the other side of this little ravine, I was shivering cold. I had to move, and try to warm up. Sure enough, those large flat rocks had some warmth in them and I leaned back on one and closed my eyes. The sun was on me, finally, and I started to get comfortable.
By 10:30 am I could have dozed off, and maybe I did, but a racket coming through the leaves and brush caught my attention. In a few seconds this good sized spike buck steps out from the undergrowth where I could see him and his horns.
I sighted down my new Ithaca pump, putting that red bead at the end of my barrel on the head of the deer. I touched the trigger and as I expected he hit the ground.
Well, I had come prepared, I had a hunting knife. I cut its throat and bled the animal, and looked around for a low limb, maybe to hang him up and gut him. Finding no limbs suitable for my purpose, I gutted him on the ground, cleaned the carcass up, and then I started my trek out. As I said before the only way I knew out was the way I had come in, so I start backtracking.
The deer was too large for me to carry, so I drug him on the leaves. It wasn’t too bad downhill, but uphill was something else. I felt sure all along that the sound of my gun would attract some help but no one showed up. I figured a time frame like this, maybe an hour to bleed and gut him, now its 11:30. It took me another two and a half hours to get within sight of the car, I thought, so by then it was maybe 2:00 p.m. I was exhausted. Betty had quit the hunt and was sitting in Sonny’s car, staying warm. She helped me strap the deer onto the hood of Sonny’s car, a yellow Studebaker. One of the students from State College walked up about that time and we told him to let the others know I had a kill and we were taking it back to Dallas. I brought the deer home dressed it and hung it in the freezer locker at Mr. Ratchford’s grocery store. We carved it up and passed venison steak around to everyone for several weeks.
I’ve killed three deer in my lifetime: The one described above and two others by vehicle. I never seriously went deer hunting again. I sat in the woods with Jody a time or two, but I never cared for deer hunting after that.
Other than deer hunting, many enjoyable times are remembered with that Ithaca shotgun; Quail and rabbit hunting with the Clemmer boys and with Bud Penley and Harold White, and dove hunting with Gene Ratchford, later.
We all had a Beagle or two in those days and we enjoyed running them together in a pack. Some of my friends had birddogs and we hunted quail behind them, too. One time I accidentally put some birdshot into the rear end of one of Happy Clemmer’s beagles as I was trying to shoot a rabbit in thick brush. Happy forgave me for it, but I never forgot it, it was a lesson to be remembered.
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Today is the Saturday before Mother’s Day, 2009. Nancy and I had made a quick purchase at the local Wal-Mart and were returning to her car. We were still fifty yards away from the car when, with her electronic door opener, she popped open the lid on the car trunk. My Daddy would have jumped out of his skin.
Dad was born at home, out in the country, in what was the then known as a Mill Village. Being born at home was not at all unusual; we, I, my sister and brother were all born at home thirty-three years after Dad’s birth. I have traveled that street in Hardin many times where the log cabin, known as the Andrew Friday place was located. Many of Dad’s relatives worked in the Hardin Cotton Mill. I have never heard that Dad worked in the mill at anytime. At the time of Dad’s birth, my grandfather, Grandpa Bob Friday was living at home with his parents, the Marion D. Friday family. Marion Friday was Dad’s grandfather. Listening to stories told by Dad, his brothers and by other people who lived in those times, and watching movies about that time in history do not bring out the real life those people must have lived.
I have often commented about the time in which Dad lived. There was no telephone, no electricity, no indoor plumbing. All the cooking was done either over an open fire or on a cook stove fueled by chopped wood. There was no automobile to ride in and if you wanted go somewhere, and then you had to get out the buggy and harness up a mule or horse. Somewhere in these pages there is an old black and white picture of Dad’s grandparents seated in a buggy with my Uncle Earnest standing in the floor board of the buggy.
I believe that it would have been a great time to have lived back in those days because of all the new inventions that were coming forth. But at the same time I realize that there were many hardships. I recall one of those times in a story Dad told about Uncle Earnest.
As a child, Uncle Earnest got sick. He had a very high fever and while still at home he was diagnosed as having appendicitis. Their home was across the South Fork River and about a half mile from the railroad station. There was no EMS Service in those days. Uncle Earnest was taken by horse and buggy to the railroad and placed in the caboose of the freight train. From there he was carried to Lincolnton, about ten miles away. There he was removed from the train and, by some mode of travel, probably a wagon or buggy, taken about eight blocks to the Lincoln County hospital, where his appendix was removed. Earnest survived, raised a family, and retired as a Baptist preacher, with a great preaching reputation. But certainly it must have taken at least half a day to transport him only 10 miles or so from Hardin to Lincolnton.
Today there is enough information on the internet for any lay person to easily be an amateur doctor at home and save someone’s life. During more than half of Dad’s life, medicine was guesswork, trial and error, and sulfur drug tablets. Look at the tombstones in old cemeteries, and you will see dozens of graves of infants and children. People were lucky to live past 40 years of age back then, and now we expect to live to be 80 years old.
1901–1986: Think of all the things Dad got to see invented or discovered. Take the automobile for instance. I was raised knowing my travel would be by car. I’ve written about my own first car; no big deal. To my knowledge, Dad didn’t have a car until shortly before he was married. Dad did not get married until he was thirty-three years old. There was a lot of living and doing in those first thirty-three years; mostly done without the benefit of the automobile.
Dad loved and owned many hunting dogs. He fox hunted all night sometimes and well into the next day. He traveled with Pete Costner who had a T-Model pickup truck. There is a picture of Pete, Dad and Claude Carpenter sitting on the tailgate of such a truck. I have heard stories of Dad and Pete (and sometimes Pete’s Dad, Mr. C. W. Costner) taking that old pickup truck and visiting relatives in Hampstead, N.C., (a small town Northeast of Wilmington) to go deer or fox hunting. They would haul their dogs downeast and hunt for a week at a time. I have made that trip many times since 1980 and I always try to imagine making the trip back then in a T-Model pickup.
Most roads were dirt and gravel in those days, with deep ruts, and they were muddy when wet. There were very few fuel stations along the roads, and certainly no motels. The men must have carried a lunch for the first day, I can’t imagine how they ate the second or third day unless they stopped and cooked at a campfire. Knowing the distance, the road condition, and the vehicle they traveled in, there’s no way they could get from Hardin to Hampstead in less than two days.
Cell Phones: Can you imagine, as an adult, being introduced to the telephone? Today children have their own phone and run up large phone bills by texting. I would have enjoyed introducing Dad to the mobile, hands free phone that was installed in my car in August 1986. He would not have believed it.
Television: TV, now here’s something that was invented after I was born. Dad was never able to comprehend cable. He just couldn’t grasp the fact that a picture could be sent over a piece of wire and shown on a tube, although after retirement, TV became a big part of his life. Dad enjoyed going places, visiting friends and horse riding, but when it came time for “The Young and Restless” get out of the way for he was going home. He referred to it as “The Young and Reckless.”
I spent the first four years of my life without electricity. It was there long before that, but was not available to people who lived out in the rural areas.
Sometime around 1910 Dad’s parents moved into a big two-story house next door to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hardin. That house still stands, but it has been moved to a lot on the street behind Old Hardin School house. Within a couple of years Grandpa Bob moved again, this time just across the creek on what is now known as Springs Road. One of Grandpa Bob’s uncles, D.F. Friday, had built a beautiful house on the hill, on the east side of the road overlooking the creek. D.F. wanted to move into Dallas and Grandpa Bob’s family had out grown their home beside St. Paul’s Church, so a swap took place. Grandpa Bob moved the family into D.F.’s house, and D.F. moved his family into Grandpa Bob’s.
I have some knowledge of the old place, that it was two-stories, and had upper and lower porches, reaching almost all the way around the house. The trim was beyond what we do to homes today. There were wood spindles worked on a lathe on corners and beneath the overhanging eaves. But my memory and vision of the old house is limited, because it burned in 1940. Not a single piece was saved. I remember Dad getting the news about the fire, and my brother and I riding the three miles with him from Grandpa Quinn’s farm to Hardin, and seeing nothing but smoke.
There is a picture of Grandpa Bob seated on the rear bumper of Dad’s 1938 Green Pontiac and the three of us, my sister, brother and me, standing close to him. This picture was made in the front yard of that old home place.
Down the hill, away from the back of the old house, was a spring flowing out of the hillside. The ground had been dug out around the spring and a wooden box with a heavy lid was built and placed in the dug-out earth and spring. Shelves had been built into the frame of the box. Within inches of the top of the box, cool spring water ran into one end and out the other. Here Grandma Friday stored milk, freshly churned butter, and eggs. It was not a refrigerator, but it preserved these items for future use. A home grown watermelon or cantaloupe placed in the ‘spring box’ for a couple of days was delicious.
In his working lifetime, Dad had few employers. The County of Gaston and the State of North Carolina were two of them. Mr. C. W. Costner had a contract with the County of Gaston to maintain the roads in the county. That is to keep them as passable as possible for what traffic there was. Maintaining a road meant dragging it to make it smooth as possible and keeping the side ditches clear of debris so they would carry the runoff of water. Dad was one of Mr. Costner’s employees. He operated machinery that was used to do some of this work. Prisoners were also used to cut right away and to load wagons with creek sand, which was spread on roads to make them passable when it rained, and they did other manual labor.
This went on until 1935, when the State of North Carolina took over road maintenance throughout the state. This left Dad without a job. He had to make application for employment and was out of work for a short period of time while the application went through channels. I remember him telling of where he was when his job came through.
Across the street from the Hardin Mill was the ‘company store.’ In addition to selling merchandise it was a gathering place for news and a hangout of sorts. Dad told the story of being seated on the bench at the store when Mr. Lay drove up and said to him, “When can you go to work?”
(Note: I’m not sure which Mr. Lay this was; there was a Mr. Bob Lay who worked with Dad in the 1940’s, I doubt this was the one who hired him.)
In 1933 the Federal Government created the Public Works Administration, called the PWA for short, which was a federal program designed to put people back to work. The country was in the middle of the Great Depression. At some point Dad did some work under this government program. I heard him tell the story that the Hardin School was built under the PWA. Dad worked at the school under this program and was paid in script redeemable at the ‘Company Store’ in Hardin. The Hardin Mill building for the most part and the company store are still standing. The road through Hardin has been drastically changed since the building of the new bridge across the river.
Dad’s employment with the State of North Carolina in 1935 started a career that lasted 29 years. The first five years were with the Roads Maintenance Department and then in 1940 he was promoted to Superintendent of the Dallas Prison Camp. I have recorded several stories that tell of the years he was Captain Fred Friday.
After retirement from the prison department, he signed on with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office as a security officer at the court house, which lasted about ten years.
Dating back to the days before the automobile, Dad acquired a liking for horses that lasted his entire life. I know it was before I started to school, because of where we were still living at my Grandpa Quinn’s. Dad had a large pony delivered to the farm. He wanted us to learn to ride and care for horses as he did. Mr. Bud Puett, who was as a stock trader, unloaded that animal in the driveway one Sunday morning about 1939. I remember Dad grabbed me by the arm and the seat of my pants, and tossed me up on that horse. It was sink or swim, but I learned to ride. From that day on, we always had a horse in our barn, up to and including when I finished high school. Mr. Puett died this year, and he remained a friend of the family, he was 88 years old.
Dad continued to keep horses until a couple of years before his death. He taught many young people to ride, including my niece Karen Gardner and Nancy’s niece, Allison Addington.
I will always remember the final day of my dad’s life. I had the day off from work and I had made up my mind to do something about putting a shower in the tub in Dad’s bathroom. The house, built in 1940, was not equipped with a shower and Dad was having trouble getting up and down in the tub. It was one of those easy, slow, spring days.
I had Gene Ratchford along for the ride with me. I gathered up enough tools and some PVC pipe and set out to make a shower for Dad. All I needed was a curtain and curtain rod.
I spent the day laughing with Gene and Dad while trying my best to be a plumber. I doubt if Dad had ever seen PVC pipe before, but that didn’t keep him from giving advice. I finished up about mid-afternoon, saying to Dad, “I’ll be back about 8 o’clock and help you get a shower. You know you have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.” He gave me an OK, fine with him.
They say things happen for a reason. I don’t know why, but I got back to Dad’s house at 7 o’clock instead of 8.
It was apparent that Dad had gone to the toilet, for his belt was loose and his pants down a little. My guess is that he stood after using the toilet, had a heart attack, and turned and sit down on the tub’s edge, then slide backward into the dry bathtub. That’s where I found him. He was still conscious and very much alive.
I gathered him up and rested him on the edge of the tub for a moment, steadying him as we sat there. After a short time I picked him up in my arms and started out of the bathroom. That’s when he first spoke, saying to me as we went out the bathroom door, “Don’t you bump my head.” I carried him to his bedroom and placed him on his bed with his head on his pillow. He lay back and relaxed a bit and said to me, “God that feels good.” And then he died.
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Dallas Funeral Home
The reality of death comes to young people at different ages. I’m not sure when I first accepted the fact. I remember the first dead person I ever saw, I remember a couple of things about my Grandpa Friday’s funeral, and I served as a pallbearer before I was sixteen years old. When I was asked to come to work at the funeral home, being around dead people would not be a concern.
Mr. Blair Falls Houser bought the stately old home of Dr. W. A. Wilkins located on Trade Street in Dallas in 1952 and opened up The Dallas Funeral Home. Prior to this, the families of the deceased in the Dallas area were served by Ward, Carothers or McLean’s Funeral Homes out of Gastonia.
I was a sophomore at Dallas High School at this time, just three blocks away from the funeral home. Mr. Houser came out to the school and inquired from our assistant principal Mr. Marcus Pasour, about hiring someone to help around the funeral home. It’s been said that he asked for someone with a strong back and a weak mind. I got the job.
I was busy, I drove a school bus, played basketball and then I was employed at the Dallas Funeral Home with crazy hours. My responsibilities at the funeral home allowed plenty of time for studying. Mainly I just had to be there to answer the phone, because in those days funeral homes answered emergency calls, and responded to wrecks, heart attacks and other emergencies. This was in the days before the County took control of EMS. There were times when a call came in and I had to round-up someone to make the call with me or go by myself and hope there would be someone at the wreck I could call on to help. There were times when that very thing happened.
Opening the funeral home required a large capital investment. The item or property that was most representative of the business was the ambulance. Mr. Houser purchased a new Pontiac ambulance, fire truck red and loaded with chrome. It had blinking red lights and a big siren mounted on top. It was a thing of beauty, eye catching, head turning and the talk of the town. Of course, I drove it in the Christmas Parade.
The other car belonging to the home was the hearse or funeral car. This was a Packard, 1950 model. It was black and sleek, and riding in it was like riding on air. It had a big and heavy, twelve cylinder engine. There was enough room between the radiator and the front grill to store three fifty pound bags of anything. It was also outfitted to be used as an ambulance if necessary.
My first experience in the funeral car was over sixty years ago, and I still remember most of the details. I had been at work about a week, when on a Sunday morning about two o’clock a.m., Mr. Houser called our home and said to Mom, “tell Joe I’ll pick him up in a few minutes at the mailbox, we have to go pick up a body.” Sure enough, in a few minutes, Mr. Houser rolled up in this long black hearse, in the middle of the night and I crawled in. I’m informed that Mrs. Rudisill who lived out near the South Fork River has died. Without incident we made our way out to the home and loaded the body into the hearse and returned to Dallas. As we approached the funeral home Mr. Houser gave me additional duties, assist Mr. Wyont, (the embalmer) in the embalming room, he’ll need some help. By this time it’s getting close to four a.m., and my new assignment begins. I worked with Mr. Wyont, mostly cleaning up and getting instruments and fluid for him, finishing up at about one thirty in the afternoon. We had not stopped for breakfast and now it’s after lunch and I’m hungry. I got home and of course my family had finished their Sunday meal and Mom had pushed everything to the center of the table and covered it with a table cloth. That’s how they did things back then. Mom had made one of my favorite dishes for Sunday Lunch, Macaroni and Cheese. I served myself a good portion and got started, but unknowingly the last twelve hours were catching up with me. Nothing in the embalming room had bothered me, but now the more I chewed the Macaroni and Cheese the more it felt like I was chewing on a rubber band. I had to give it up.
Working at the funeral home required me to be able to do many jobs: Drive the ambulance, take it on emergency calls, drive the hearse, go pick up a deceased, work in the embalming room, move a body into the church for services, dress and place a body in the casket chosen by the family, put up the tent at the cemetery and place all the chairs in the right place, hold the door and greet mourners, help in the embalming room and, oh yes, get the grave dug.
Most of the time digging a grave was no problem. In the 1950’s graves were dug with a pick and shovel. We had a man in Dallas who did this on a regular basis and did it well. One time he had a problem and we had to work around it with speed. We were doing a funeral at Long Creek Memorial Baptist Church where the cemetery is in front of the church, between the church and highway. We could see the front door of the church from the grave site and we were keeping a close watch, for our grave was only about two foot deep and the funeral service was about over. Mr. Theodore Heilg, the grave digger, had struck rock. It was a two o’clock funeral and Mr. Heilg had been digging since early morning. The church door opened and the family began to file out, We, Mr. Heilg and I and another helper quickly covered the incomplete grave, spread the grass, set up the chairs, and then moved away. The graveside prayers were said and the family lingered for a while, then Mr. Houser took them away. The casket was put aside and the grave was finally completed way after dark, and then we buried the deceased.
These are the observations from the point of view of a 17–18 year old teenager, who had a lot of respect for Mr. Houser and the Staff at the Dallas Funeral Home and Mr. Houser’s family who lived upstairs at the funeral home. The Houser family made room for me at their kitchen table many times and treated me like family all the time. I say the above to set the stage for an observation about Mr. Houser, ’Blair Falls,’ as he was commonly known.
Blair Falls could not whisper. He had a raspy voice that easily carried across a crowded room. One day we were working a funeral at Webb’s Chapel Church, over near Cherryville, and the pastor just kept going and going, on and on. John Stepp and I were standing just inside the sanctuary when a very impatient Blair Falls pushed open the door and said in his loud and raspy voice, “Hell, is the preacher not done yet?” John and I just grinned at each other and waited.
Many years later, sometime around the late 70’s, I arrived home from several days on the road to find Blair Fall’s pickup in my driveway. Of course my heart skipped a beat, finding the pickup of the local funeral director in my drive. Inside I found Blair Falls, Nancy and my children all being entertained by Mr. Houser. After a few minutes the children excused themselves, and Mr. Houser got down to business. He came to ask me to be a pallbearer at his funeral. One of the things a funeral director teaches is to plan your own funeral ahead of time.
Without hesitation I agreed to his request, but only if he would live another fifty years. Well, that didn’t work out, and before the decade was over Mr. Houser died. At that time I discovered he had asked six of the “boys” who had worked for him over the years to serve as pallbearer’s. Blair Falls was a member at Holy Communion Lutheran Church in Dallas and Pastor John Merck preached his funeral. Pastor John referred to Mr. Houser’s colorful language during the service, bringing a chuckle from the congregation.
Today we take the ‘purple pill’ for reflux and indigestion. In the 1950’s and 60’s Blair Falls gulped down a dose of baking soda and a Coca Cola, and it worked. Baking soda could be found in all the vehicles that Blair Falls used. I can still see him going across the street to Bill Brewer’s Sinclair Service Station to get a Coca Cola that would help get him some relief.
I was dating Nancy at this time, and between school, basketball, bus driving, sleep, and working at the funeral home we didn’t have much time to spend together. To compensate for the lack of dating time, Mr. Houser allowed Nancy to visit me at the funeral home, as long as we remained on the front porch. The porch was a very nice veranda on the side and front of the home, with comfortable rocking chairs and a very large porch swing. The porch was a gathering place for many of the powerful men in Dallas at that time.
Mr. Robert Rhyne and Clyde Thornburg, partners in the local bus company, were weekly visitors on the ‘porch.’ There was also Mr. Landis Pasour, brother-in-law to Mr. Houser and sometimes an assistant at funerals. It seemed there were more stories told and more problems solved on that front porch than the state legislature does in a full session. From that place on the front porch we kept a hand on the pulse of Dallas. We knew most of what was going on in Dallas.
I mentioned that the structure had been a residence before being used as a funeral home. It was a beautiful place and adapted well to a new use. In every funeral home there is a room used as a viewing room or display room. It is a place where the family of the deceased goes to pick out a casket, maybe burial clothes and other items that maybe required, similar to a show room at a car dealership, with caskets on display and various catalogs. The funeral director handles this and he generally opens up the room and opens up the caskets, putting them on display. This is his responsibility. Here is where the cost of the funeral is determined, and here is where he makes his money.
One day I recall that Mr. Houser went through this procedure with a family. Afterwards he did not go back into the display room and close up all the caskets. Several days passed before he reentered the room, and when he did he discovered that a house cat had somehow gained entry to the room and ruined all the open caskets by clawing the silk upholstery on them. This was very costly to Mr. Houser, and we all suffered with him.
As the years have passed, the Dallas Funeral Home has buried my Mother, my Father, my Sister, Father-in-Law, Brother-in-Law, Mother-in-Law, other relatives, and many of my friends. I expect them to do the same for me when the time comes.
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New York City: 1964
I was employed by the North Carolina Air National Guard when Bud Penley, a friend of mine, asked me to come to work with him for the Life Insurance Company of Virginia. Bud was a manager for the company and we had graduated together from Dallas High School. I accepted the job and went to work for the company in February, 1963.
Working hard, and with Bud’s help, I performed well and qualified for the 1964 company convention in my first year selling insurance. That year the convention was in New York City, in May, and during the 1964 World’s Fair.
The company arranged to have all of us transported to New York by a special train. The train originated in Atlanta and headed north with stops in Greenville, Spartanburg, Grier, Gaffney, Kings Mountain, Gastonia and other points further north. The Life Insurance Company of Virginia was a strong company and had a huge presence in the Southeastern U.S. Many other agents qualified for the trip, and at each stop they boarded the train for the trip with their wives. A party was already in progress on the train when it stopped in Gastonia. We all celebrated together as we traveled toward the Big Apple.
The convention plans had been in place for over a year and I had learned several months prior that I would be going, too. So this gave Nancy and me plenty of time to make the necessary plans for the trip. We had three small children then and had to secure a babysitter for the whole week. We also had to get ourselves ready to be away from home for a week.
In 1964 there was a very popular television program on the air called “The Price Is Right.” The host of the show was a man named Bill Cullen. In those days, popular celebrities played games on behalf of people in the audience. There is a different version on television today, still running, hosted by the comedian, Drew Carey. Back then, The Price Is Right was filmed in New York. Nancy enjoyed watching the show, and knowing we would be in New York, she wrote the program and got tickets to go see the show. She received 6 admission tickets in the mail only a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave.
The train ride to New York was an overnight ride, and we arrived in the city about mid-morning. We spent that day getting settled into our hotel and meeting lots of other people from the insurance company who were also there for the convention. Nancy met several women and she soon had 5 other women who planned to go with her to see “The Price Is Right.”
At every business convention, there are business meetings and training sessions. Maybe this is a way to justify the money the companies spend to do a convention. Our business sessions took place while Nancy and the other ladies were at the television studio watching “The Price Is Right.” Little did I know while I was in our business meetings, what was really happening with Nancy and the other ladies attending “The Price Is Right.”
Late in the afternoon, with our business meeting complete, small groups of us sales agents were milling around in the hotel lobby, visiting and talking, when we began to hear squeals and laughter coming from the hotel’s front entrance. Nancy and the other ladies had returned from their adventure. There was laughter and excitement like I had never heard before. Everyone was excited, especially Nancy. It took some time for explanations and for me to comprehend what was happening, but I finally understood that Nancy had won a prize from the television show. She had won a 3-tier electronic organ, and as a bonus prize, she had won a 10-day, all expense paid trip for 2 to Rome, Italy.
Here is how it happened: With their tickets in hand, Nancy and the other ladies had gone to the ABC television studio to watch the show. As they entered the TV studio where The Price Is Right was going to be filmed, they each filled out an information and questionnaire card and submitted it for a drawing. At some point in the program, Nancy’s card was drawn from a large bowl, and a celebrity named Carmel Quinn played the game on Nancy’s behalf. Carmel Quinn was back then a popular singer, famous for appearances on the Arthur Godfrey television show. She played the round, I can’t recall exactly what was involved, and won a prize for Nancy, which was the organ. At that point, a bell sounded, which indicated that there was a bonus prize being awarded. The bonus was the trip to Rome.
Our company dinner banquet was held that night in the hotel. By the time of the banquet, the entire convention knew who Nancy was. She was famous among the attendees to the convention. As for me, I was known as, “The husband of Nancy Friday,” which was fine by me. The convention lasted another day and we then boarded our train and returned to Dallas.
In those days, the show was taped and then put on the air several days later. This would allow us to see the show on the television after we got back to North Carolina. I recall that after we returned to Dallas, the show was broadcast on the same day that Nancy went to a beauty shop appointment at Suzette’s Beauty Shop in Dallas. I joined her there at the beauty shop and we watched the show there, along with the other customers. It was all very exciting for a small town like Dallas.
Nancy made the trip to Rome during the following spring, in March, 1965, and that is another story all its own. By that time Nancy was pregnant with our daughter, Lou Ellen. Traveling in the 1960s was not like traveling today, and Nancy’s pregnancy made me fearful for her, especially on such a trip as this. With work commitments and 3 children, I had difficulty finding time to plan on going halfway around the world.
I finally told Nancy that I didn’t feel I could go, and I was worried about her going, too. I insisted that she could go only if she took her doctor with her, which is what she did. Nancy invited her obstetrician, Dr. Dorothy Glenn of Gastonia, to accompany her on the trip of a lifetime to Rome, Italy. Dr. Glenn accepted the invitation, and they had a great time. The local newspaper ran a front page story about pregnant Nancy and her doctor going on the trip to Rome, Italy.
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The Air National Guard
I was busy my junior year in high school, playing varsity basketball, driving a school bus, working at the funeral home, and dating. I must have decided that I needed something else to do, so I joined the North Carolina Air National Guard. Two of my best friends, Gene Ratchford, Donald Atkins and I signed up and were officially sworn in on May 17th, 1953.
We three ‘heroes’ soon became the talk of our high school: Three students have joined the military. The United States was fighting The Korean War against communism in Southeast Asia. Just the month prior, the United Nations Forces had lost two large battles, losing at Old Baldy and Eerie. In June the United States 7th Infantry would suffer heavy casualties at Pork Chop Hill and have to withdraw their forces. The war was not going well for The United States and everyone thought we would soon be called to active duty, but it was not so. The Group I was assigned to had just returned from a two year tour, and it would be the last to be called up again if necessary.
I was assigned to the 145th Mission Support Group, a support group to the 156th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. After basic training, I became an airman working in the supply room. We signed for and signed out everything required to do one’s duties.
The 156th Squadron was in those days flying the famous P-51 Fighter, which had been the best fighter plane during WW II. The active-duty Air Force was flying the new F-86 Saber Jet in Korea, which in just a few years would be the new plane for The N. C. Air Guard.
High School was out for the summer and I began preparing to go to summer camp. Up to that time I had never been away from home for two weeks in my life. I was seventeen years old. Planning for this was a big deal. Being gone from home that long was like, “….I don’t know when I’ll be back.” I can remember packing my duffle bag at least three times to be sure I had everything.
Summer camp the first two years was about doing ‘grunt work;’ mostly back and no brain. It involved handling supplies for food, bedding and just about anything, someone above me wanted. I paid attention and learned fast, and got the attention of my superiors.
I attended summer camp in 1953, went back to school for my senior year, then went again to summer camp in 1954. I started college at Belmont Abbey and then went to summer camp again in 1955. Shortly after camp in 1955 I was approached about being sent to supply school, which was training that would put me in line for a promotion. Rather than return to Belmont Abbey (and I wasn’t doing well anyway) I agreed to attend training school. One Saturday morning in early September 1955, Victor Brawley and I climbed on a train in Gastonia with tickets to Cheyenne, Wyoming and Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. We would spend the next three months there learning how to run an Air Force Supply Room. This involved bookkeeping, inventory control, warehousing, and personnel management.
My eyes were opened to a new world during that training. While there was no culture shock, for the first time in my life I shared facilities with a black person. The Airman in the bunk next to me was a black, tall and skinny kid, like me, and he had played high school basketball. I remember thinking about it for no more than a minute or two and then we went on about life.
I done well in the school and was offered a place in the regular Air Force, but I stayed with the original plan to return to Charlotte. Victor and I did return to Charlotte, the week before Christmas. The train ride from Cheyenne to Chicago was so memorable that even today I remember it well.
We boarded the train late in the afternoon headed East, with maybe an hour of daylight left. I soon found my way to a seat in the ‘dome car.’ Almost immediately heavy snow began to fall and the scene was unforgettable. This is December, there was a foot or two of snow on the ground already and now a beautiful snow is falling and I have the best seat on the train. This beautiful view lasted for several hours as we sped across the prairie toward Chicago. I was riding on a streamlined passenger train named ‘The City of Los Angeles.’
Christmas 1955 was over and January 1956 began. I got a call to go see Captain Charlie Haynes, one of the officers in the supply group. Captain Haynes offered me a full-time job with the North Carolina Air National Guard as a supply sergeant, and I accepted the offer.
On January 19th 1956, my employment with the guard began. Five years later I was promoted to the rank of Technical Sergeant. As supply sergeant I was responsible for every piece of material that came into our outfit and I maintained paperwork showing where it went. Assigned this kind of responsibility I got to know everyone in my squadron, about 450 officers and airmen. Everything from shoes to airplanes came through my supply room. My supply room issued flying gear to the pilots, including their helmets, gloves, oxygen masks, sun glasses, etc. Consequently I got to know the pilots by name and made friends with some of them. One of those pilots was Major Stephen Moore, a young redhead from Charlotte. I had told him on more than one occasion that I wanted a ride with him if and when the time might come. Summer camp 1958 was that time.
Major Moore came by my supply room early one weekday morning and informed me that He would be flying later and had an empty seat if I wanted to go along. He told me to get my equipment and be on the flight line at 10:00 am. I jumped at the chance.
I went to the chute shop and got fitted in a flying suit, a parachute (on my back), a helmet and I was ready to go. I was at the flight line on time, and after being strapped in the aircraft, I was instructed about all the emergency procedures. I received instructions on how to pop off the canopy, where the handle for the ejection seat was located, how to control the oxygen flow and how to operate the radio.
The aircraft was a T-33 Jet Trainer, a Lockheed ‘Shooting Star’ with a front and back seat and could be controlled from either. The flight did have a military training purpose; it was not just a joy ride. In addition to training it was used to pull a target out over the ocean where other planes would fire at the target for practice. That was our assignment for today.
We taxied out to the runway and paused long enough for a steel cable about one hundred yards long to be attached to the lower rear of the fuselage. Major Moore then eased the throttle forward and we began our run down the long runway at Travis Field, Savannah, Georgia. I did not feel the drag on the plane that the target was making until later.
The climb was a slow crawl up and out over the Atlantic Ocean, but my attention was on the radio chatter between Major Moore and several other planes. Finally Major Moore told me we had reached the designated altitude and that I should look over to my right. There perched like four birds on a roost, were four F-86 Saber Jets, ready to peel off and start their run firing at the target we were towing.
There was no noise other than the steady hum of the plane I was in and the ride was very smooth. The radio traffic sounded like this. “one in…..two in…..one out…..three in…..two out…..four in……three out…..and……four out. Then after a minute or so the cycle started over. This went on for maybe six cycles and then we began our return to Travis.
I have seen pictures, made from the cockpit of a plane, of planes or groups of planes that were beautiful. The picture I saw of these four F-86 Saber Jets has never left my mind. The planes were silver with red flame stripes painted from the nose back and the lettering of NC AIR GUARD was blue: Really beautiful.
I recall looking down at Savannah Beach as we crossed the shoreline of Georgia, and in just a few minutes we were lining up with an east west runway. I really didn’t comprehend how slow and comfortable the ride was until, over the end of the runway, Major Moore cut the cable and target loose. Without warning there was a sudden rush and I was slammed back in my seat and I swear we went straight up. We were pulling enough G’s that I couldn’t get my hands off the arm rest. Here’s where I got the ride I had been asking for. The Major didn’t do barrel rolls, flips or nose dives; we simply rode at more than five hundred miles and hour with some slow turns and banking. I did a lot of looking.
The next day I was back at the supply room, I had hardly been missed. Captain Haynes, who had given me permission to go, asks about the ride and I shared my trip with him.
Three days later, the serious side of my flight was revealed when a T-33 towing a target with the same mission I had been on, could not get airborne and crashed on takeoff. Foolishly, the pilot did not release the tow target and the aircraft crashed in the swamp (wetland) at the end of the same east west runway. Both men were able to free themselves before the plane burned. Fire trucks were available but were unable to reach them because of the terrain. I was told that in extreme hot weather it is not unusual for airplanes to have trouble with ‘lift.’ The air is so hot the plane has no lifting capability. The T-33 would have been fine if the target had just been released, there was more drag on the plane than the Allison J-33 engine could overcome.
Six months later, Sgt. Jack Garrison, (from Lincoln County) brought to my attention a technical order that had just been issued about parachutes. Sgt. Garrison was the NCOIC of the parachute shop. The order read, ”…a pilot or passenger over six feet tall and occupying a seat in a T-33 Aircraft should (must) wear a seat style parachute. (Not a back style, as I had worn six months ago) Because a back-chute pushes the occupant to far forward placing his knees under the dash and incase of ejection from the aircraft his legs would be torn off….”
I continued with the guard as 145th supply sergeant, as a new supply building was completed and the fighter squadron moved from P-51’s to F-86’s and then F-86D’s. The D model was equipped with an afterburner, giving it quicker acceleration. Then in 1961 the mission of the 156th changed to medical evacuation. Our planes were changed out for the C-119, known as the “Flying Boxcar” or flying coffin. Eighteen months later we changed aircraft again, this time we received the C-121 Constellation, which was a beautiful airplane made by Lockheed Aircraft. In addition to being used by the Air Force, it was a frontline airplane for several commercial airlines. In 1965 when Nancy and Dr. Dorothy left Charlotte for Rome via New York they were flying on one of Eastern Airlines Constellations. Somewhere along the way the C-121 Constellation picked up the nick name, ‘Connie.’ The C-121 became such a popular aircraft that President Eisenhower used one as Air Force One during his presidency.
A National Guard member, sometimes called ‘weekend warrior’ works by federal guidelines, just like regular military service, but is paid by state funds and is actually controlled by the governor’s office through the adjutant general’s office. In other words I was a state employee going to work every day wearing the uniform of the United States Air Force but drawing pay from the State of North Carolina. It was quite a setup.
In February 1963, I decided to leave the guard. The opportunity came along to do something more lucrative. My family was growing and requiring more and more. I left some good people who remained my lifelong friends. Two years ago I attended a reunion at the N.C. Air Guard Club, located between runways at the Charlotte Airport, and I was received with welcome and friendship.
Joe D. Friday Sr.,
June 7, 2009
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It started off innocently enough, a nine year old girl with a pony and saddle. But before it was over we were in the horse business. We finished the horse business with a large three-gaited saddlebred horse, a champion pleasure pony, two Shetland ponies, a quarter horse, numerous saddles and bridles, riding habits, brushes and combs, ginger, shoe polish, a horse trailer and a lot of trophies.
Every little girl at some time asks for a pony. All her friends had one, and our oldest daughter Kim wanted one too. Kim was six months past nine years old when I agreed to ‘see about’ getting her a pony. Horses had been a big part of my growing up and I looked forward to seeing our children ride and enjoy the pleasure of horses. I never thought it would get to be such a big part of our family life.
Kim and I checked out the availability of a stall in the Summey Barn and went looking for a ride. We didn’t have to go far. Out in the country near High Shoals was The Gallagher Stables. Mr. George Parrish had come to town several years before and he and his family got in the horse business, buying and selling and showing horses. Kim and I went to his place on a Saturday morning in May 1967. We told Mr. Parrish that we were looking for a small horse and would like to walk thru his pasture looking over his stock. It was just fine with him and away we went. We spent the next two hours walking and looking at horses, but nothing catches out eye or stirs an interest. We had given up and started a long walk back to the barn when Kim sees a spotted horse that would soon become a family member. Recalling from memory of over forty years ago, Kim and I put a rope on the horse and walked her back to the barn where I began to bargain for this black and white spotted horse. Eventually I bought the horse for two hundred and fifty dollars. I convinced George to include a used English riding saddle.
(Three years later, a dentist from Shelby bought this same horse from me for five hundred dollars after she was examined by his veterinarian)
This beautiful black and white horse had to have some shoes, so Bob Melton, a farrier from Cleveland County was called to have the horse shod. Not just horseshoes, but leather pads are cut and custom fitted to fit between the shoe and hoof because this horse has tender ‘frogs’ within her hoof and the hoof has to be protected from rocks or she would become lame.
Kim named the horse, Lady. Kim rides and rides and she and Lady become accustomed to each other. The horse would later become known as a ’push button’ show horse, meaning that she is able to do all the various things a good show horse can do, by a simple gesture from the rider. But Kim also has ‘good hands’ as they say about good riders, and she and the horse were soon ready for show time.
Not far away a small amateur horse show has been arranged at the Houser Farm and we made plans to go. Talent-wise, Kim and Lady are ready but we still have some missing elements. We had a beautiful black and white horse with a new bridle, freshly shined English saddle. The horse has been bathed, dried and brushed, shoe polish has been applied to its hooves and we’re still not ready.
With all this going for you, you can’t ride and show in blue jeans and a sweat shirt. Kim needed a proper English Riding Habit. It was just a few extra bucks, and it was for a good cause. A trip to Lebo’s in Charlotte was made and Kim was fitted in a riding habit with derby and now she is all ready.
The judge had no choice, Kim showed well. She looked good in that black riding habit with her long blond hair strung out under a black derby. Lady made every move at the right time and they won the class. Kim and Lady won First Place the first time they showed together and everybody’s life changed as a result. Kim won a lot that summer including a surprise win at the ballpark in Albemarle for the category “Best in Show”.
Kim’s first cousin, Lisa Ratchford, talked her parents, Gwen and Robert, into a horse for her. Allison Addington, another first cousin, Margaret and Larry’s daughter, also got a horse and the girls became regular entries in horse shows all over Piedmont North Carolina. My dad owned a horse that another first cousin, Karen Gardner, my sister’s daughter, showed for Dad. For the most part the families traveled separately and I don’t recall anyone else realizing that there were four cousins participating in the same horseshow, sometimes competing against each other.
I must tell a story about Robert and me that happened at a horse show at the Clineland Show grounds, north of Cherryville. Generally horse shows begin shortly after noon on Saturday with a break around suppertime, and then resume for a night show. We arrived Saturday morning and unloaded the horses, then set out the chairs, took inventory of all the needs and discovered we had no beer. Now this was 1967, Gaston County was still a dry county with no beer or alcohol sales. Robert and I excused ourselves and drove about fifteen miles over the county line into Burke County. Sure enough right there just across the line is a grocery store where we could buy a case of beer and some ice. We iced that beer down and by the time we get back to the show grounds its getting cold. We were set for the day and night.
The girls were doing well with their horses. Nancy and Gwen were enjoying themselves and Robert and I were working on the beer. Around nine o’clock another exhibitor was having a hard time getting his truck and horse trailer out of the parking area and came and asked me if I would move to give him more room to turn. Of course I would and away I go. I actually drove my truck and trailer completely around the parking area and allowed him to leave before returning to my spot. While moving through the parking lot, in my rearview mirror, I saw one of the two redneck country boys seated on the back of a pickup truck flip a cigarette butt into my horse trailer.
The floor of the trailer was wooden and on top of that was a scattering of shavings and hay. I pulled up the hand brakes, jumped out to check on my trailer and a few words were exchanged. As they say, one word led to another and shortly I grabbed the redneck that had tossed the cigarette butt and popped him in the face, then I had both of them on top of me when my Dad and Robert showed up and saved me from a beating.
Kim was an excellent rider and she soon outgrew Lady. I was encouraged to get her a larger horse, preferably a three gaited American Saddlebred, one that she could handle but also one that has some spirit. Nancy and I consulted with several horse people, getting input from Joe Jacobs, a Gastonia businessman, a horseman and a friend. Joe steered us to a three-gaited American Saddlebred named “Bourbon Redstone.” We acquired ‘Redstone’ and our family life continued to be influenced by horses.
Bourbon Redstone ridden by Kim Friday
By this time we now have two horses that required room and board and daily care. Halfway between Costner School and Bessemer City, on Long Creek, we leased a farm with 99 acres, a barn and a three bedroom house. In order to pay for all this I rented out horse stalls and pasture space to other people who had horses. Within six months we had twenty six horses on the farm.
Kim and Redstone started getting to know each other just as she did with Lady. It was ride and ride, train, and ride some more, to get ready for show time. While all this was is going on we soon realized we had one horse standing in the stall. With the addition of the new horse, Lady was left without a rider. I don’t recall the time and circumstance that Sandy became the new rider, but I have a picture of her etched in my mind, riding and showing, dressed in derby, jacket, blouse, jodhpurs and English boots. Again, the blond hair blowing in the wind, not even school age, riding and showing with competitors much older, and winning. Sandy demonstrated savvy and riding skills just as her sister did and she enjoyed riding and showing the horses. And she was very successful.
Family circumstances began to change in the fall of 1969 when, periodically, I would wake up after a few hours of sleep with chest pains. This led to a series of tests; one taking place in December 1969 that caused a blood clot in an artery in my groin and I had to have emergency surgery to remove it. This caused a setback in work that I could do at the farm. Through all this the girls continued to ride and show their horses.
Chest pains continued and I continued to have tests. Dr. L. L. Anthony finally got me admitted to Duke Hospital for some more tests. I drove myself to Durham and signed myself in and was tested and observed for two weeks without a conclusion. At the end of two weeks I asked to be allowed to leave for the weekend and was granted permission.
This weekend, the second Saturday of June, was the ‘big’ horse show at Dallas. This was kind of like the world series of horse shows. It was show time on Saturday by the time I got to Dallas, and I was to discover when I arrived that the show could go on without me. Nancy and our children, Kim, Jody, Sandy and Lou had loaded and hauled the horses to the show grounds taking care of all the details, including applying ‘ginger’ to Redstone just minutes before entering the ring.
On my return trip to Durham on Sunday evening the young doctor who had been treating me asked me questions about my chest pains. Several days later my chest was opened up and it was discovered that my diaphragm had grown to and occluded the first two arteries below my heart. The diaphragm was cut away and they closed me up and I went home. The surgery was successful but it changed the way we looked at the horse business and soon plans were made for me to get a real job. In a short time, I obtained a sales job with a textile company. I was transferred to Dallas, Texas and that was the end of our family’s horse business.
Lady ridden by Sandy Ann Friday
These were good times. I know Kim and Sandy enjoyed the horses, the riding and the competition. It’s a little late, but I apologize for not asking what Jody and Lou thought. Back then, boys cleaned stalls and walked horses to cool them down and Jody did his part. Lou just didn’t seem to take to horses. She watched the boy’s walking horses.
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I had breakfast yesterday with Jody. He had prepared coffee, bacon, country fries and yellow grits. He apologized for the ‘yellow grits’ if I didn’t like them, but I did and he explained that he had added some cheese. This got me into a discussion with Jody about the things my Mother did for us, including cooking, when we were growing up.
The period I’m about to tell you about would be from 1941 to 1947. These were the years of World War II and shortly after, and there were not a lot of things for us to do for entertainment. The fun we had, we manufactured, because there was no TV, no electronic games, very few board games, but we did have the radio and mumble peg.
I’ve mentioned somewhere else about what money Dad made and how He and Mother raised three children on his income. The real burden fell on Mom, trying to feed and clothe three kids on the income of a State of North Carolina employee.
Jody’s grits reminded me of something Mother used to do with grits. Grits are thought to be a ‘southern food’ and they are, and we Southerner’s have found many creative ways to serve them to make them more appetizing. Mother would cook more grits than she and we three kids could eat with the intention of using the leftovers. The leftover grits from today’s breakfast would be stored on ice and later after we got one, in the refrigerator, to be served for dinner tonight or breakfast tomorrow. She would take the grits and add water until they could be poured into a shallow pan and then left to congeal. Then she would cut or slice the grits into smaller pieces, and with a spatula remove these pieces and fry them in a greased frying pan until they were browned on both sides, making a crisp but tasteless food. Fried grits, two eggs, a couple of pieces of fried fat back, fresh milk and a hot biscuit was our breakfast on many a morning in the 1940s. Mother rose every morning to make hot biscuits for us.
Back then a nickel would buy a large piece of fatback. Mom sliced and breaded the fatback in flour then fried it till it was crisp and tasty. The milk was ‘fresh’ because I milked a little Jersey cow named ‘Runt’ ever morning during the 1940s before going to school, and every evening before eating supper. There was always cool fresh milk to drink at our house.
Mother was thrifty. She had to be to survive in those days. She was a seamstress out of necessity, and she was a good one. She made most of the clothing worn by my sister throughout her elementary school years and she made shirts for my brother and me. Mother also took in sewing for other people, making dresses and doing alterations for the public. This was a ‘cash cow’ for our family and she used the money wisely. After all of us were gone from home, Mother did some work for the Dallas Dry Cleaners as a seamstress; she altered clothing and operated a dry cleaning pickup station at the Dallas crossroads.
Summertime when we were growing up brought fresh produce to the house and gave Mother additional work. She bought and accepted produce from gardens in the neighborhood and spent a lot of time canning vegetables. She especially liked to can green beans. I cannot give the details, but she snapped green beans and after precooking them placed then in quart jars. The complete cooking was done after the jars were sealed. Sometimes a jar failed to seal properly and that quart was lost or we had it for supper today and tomorrow.
Mother was born June 20th, 1914, thus she would have been 15 years old when the Great Depression began, making Mother a child of the Depression. Times were hard for her family as she was growing up. I have no doubt that the Depression taught Mom about saving money and making every penny count.
Mother and Dad were married September, 9, 1932 and set up housekeeping at Mother’s home place with Grandpa and Grandma Quinn. Their home was located on Cloninger Road, about five miles North of Dallas. The three of us were born there: My sister Faye, Johnny, my brother, and me. To this day, I believe that Old Dr. Weathers from Stanley got out birth certificates mixed up. I was the first born male child, but my brother’s name is John Fred, Jr. My sister’s middle name was totally different on the certificate from what we knew her as. It was, I am told, that sometimes a lot of time passed before the birth certificates were filed with the county registrar’s office. It was years later as an adult that this came to my attention. It really doesn’t matter, we all lived in peace.
I recall a special memory I have of my Mother: It is that she read to us. The desire and enjoyment I have for reading today, I attribute to Mom. Before I could read myself, I recall the many hours she would sit and read a story to us, to me. Although Mother’s education was limited she read well and enjoyed books herself.
Mother didn’t drive a car. In today’s world it wouldn’t be acceptable, but back then it was the norm. One might ask how you went places. Well, you didn’t really. There were weeks that went by when Mom didn’t leave home. Groceries were delivered to the house after you called them to the store on the phone. She didn’t go to the beauty shop, or get her nails done. There were rare occasions when she would take us to Gastonia to see a movie and then we traveled by bus. There was a bus company, the Gastonia-Lincolnton Bus Company, that was privately owned (not government subsidized) that operated between Gastonia and Lincolnton. We, Mom and the three kids would walk a half mile down to the Dallas crossroads and catch the bus to Gastonia. It probably didn’t cost more than 15 cents apiece to ride the bus in those days.
We could catch the bus just after lunch on Saturday, be in Gastonia in 30 minutes, see a movie at the Webb Theater or the Temple Theater, and catch the bus back to Dallas and be home by dark. This was big entertainment.
Dad was the disciplinarian, he would bust your butt in a minute and he did from time to time, but Mom kept us in line through love and kindness. You just didn’t want to go against her. She kept us in line with, “…….wait till your Father gets home…..”
Mother enjoyed cooking and she loved to eat well, as a lot of us do, and consequently it affected her health. She had high blood pressure, did not follow the doctors’ recommendations, and it caught up with her. Mom had a stroke and Dad, with some help, tried to care for her at home. But she was soon confined to a nursing home. She remained there for several years before her death in 1978.
Mother was born and raised a Lutheran and remained in the Lutheran Church all of her life. Her home church was St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hardin. When Our Savior Lutheran Church organized in Dallas, she became a charter member of that congregation since it was real close to home. She attended church regularly, was active, and had many friends there. Her funeral was conducted there and she is buried alongside Dad at the Old Friday Cemetery in Hardin.
Writers Note: The Gastonia-Lincolnton Bus Company was owned by Clyde Ratchford, son of Jasper Ratchford. Clyde’s wife was Margaret Neal Witherspoon Ratchford. Clyde and Margaret Neal were our next door neighbors at about this time.
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Last year about this time (July) I was at The LJVM Coliseum in Winston Salem for my grandson Ryan’s high school graduation and last week I was there again to see his brother Jared do the same thing. Both times my mind raced back to my own high school days and graduation, thinking back about how decisions made then, in and out of school, affected my life for all the years to come. Thoughts about my teachers and the impression they made on me, basketball, and driving a school bus. I’d like to share some of those memories with you.
I tested for and secured my North Carolina drivers license in October of my sophomore year in high school. I knew I wanted to drive a school bus so I made application to test for that position and passed and secured my bus driving license before school let out for Christmas, in 1951. I had now done everything necessary to get a bus assigned to me starting next year. I didn’t have to wait long. During the Christmas Holidays, our Principal, Mr. Mitchell Carr called me at home and gave me a bus to drive when school started back after the holidays. The driver of bus number ’35,’ Bobby Wilson, had been in an accident and his leg was broken, opening up a spot for me to drive. I was thrilled, I loved to drive and they were going to pay me twenty-two dollars a month to drive an old 1946 Chevrolet school bus.
I’d heard that girls go for men in uniform. They also go for bus drivers. There were girls on my routes whose parents had taken them to school in the family car before who now wanted to and did ride my school bus. Nancy Ratchford was one of them. She got on my bus one day and wouldn’t get off. She rode with me on every route eighty-percent of the time for two years. I picked up three bus loads of kids every morning and delivered three loads every afternoon for two and a half years. Of course you know what happened, Nancy got her bus drivers license and took over my bus when I graduated and drove it for two years until she graduated. Then two weeks later we got married. That was fifty-three years ago this week.
To prove a point about the girls, forty years later I went to a meeting on evangelism at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Gastonia and was greeted at the door by a very pretty lady. As I introduced myself she said to me, “I know who you are, I rode your school bus and I had a big crush on you.” Well, what else can I say?
I was aware of all the responsibility that was loaded onto my bus and I managed to get through this time without any major incident. There was one thing that happened that contributed to me getting a new bus in September 1952. One afternoon in the spring of ’52 while delivering my last load on the narrow dirt road called Stowe Road, off the Lower Dallas Road, the kids on the bus started screaming and calling for me to stop. I had no idea what was happening but I did stop and climbed out to inspect the bus. I found that the two right rear wheels had drifted out from under the bus. The axle had loosened itself from all connections and had slipped out about three feet. The bus was worn out. Later that year I got to join a group of drivers and go to Thomasville, N. C., and drive my new bus back to the school bus garage in Gastonia. Successfully driving a school bus with all that responsibility opened up other avenues for me in the years to come.
I had some great teachers in high school; Earl Price, Dennis Franklin, William Wheless, Mark Pasour, Sam Phillips and others. All of whom are now gone with the exception of Dennis, and He’s not well. These teachers stand out above the others.
Mr. Price taught agriculture. Having been raised on a farm, myself, I was interested and he made it more interesting. An agriculture class is more than plowing the ground and picking cotton. Our class knew what kind of cotton to plant, how to terrace a field and plow it so it won’t wash away when it rains and many other related things. What lespedeza was sown in the back forty, Korean, Summit or Marion? What breed of cow will produce the most milk on the same amount of food. What breed of beef cow adapts best to our climate? The agriculture classes consisted of judging animals for confirmation, color and breeding, and a variety of other subjects. We were members of the Future Farmers of America, the FFA. In addition to studying the best of farming, Mr. Price taught shop. Woodworking shop, making things from bird houses to furniture. I made a cedar blanket chest, which now sits in Jody’s house in Greenville. We had class for one hour every day for the entire year. No one skipped Mr. Price’s class, you wanted to be there and not miss a thing. Besides the agriculture and woodshop, one of my highlights every summer was FFA Camp.
I’m not sure I can explain FFA Camp at White Lake and do it right. It was a happening, an experience, a place that you enjoyed so much that you never thought of home. A place where, in four visits, I never saw trouble, never heard a curse word, and where people didn’t get angry. There were challenges, contests, winners and losers, but everyone went home happy because of the leadership we had.
Mr. Price, because of his relationship with other teachers, arranged for us to be at camp at the same time with several other schools. Swan Quarter High School and Scotland Neck High School were two of the schools that we challenged every year.
We went to camp to play softball, (which we never won) volleyball, (we won every year), water ball, and horse and rider, (we never got beat playing this game), Horse and Rider was played with one boy in the water and another boy on his shoulders, Everyone would try to unseat each other and knock them into the water. Tom (Buzz) Rhyne chose me to ride his shoulders my first camp and we won. Two years later Tom graduated and I chose Gaston Shell to ride my shoulders and we never lost. We also pitched horse shoes, but I don’t think we ever got past the first round.
These were all physical sports but on Thursday night every week we had a mental challenge. I only remember the one time that we won. (I use ‘we’ very loosely). Shortly after dinner on Thursday we gathered back in the dining room for a mental workout. My senior year we had in our camp a very brilliant classmate by the name of Clarence Thornburg Jr. He was a young man from the Costner Community who later went on to college at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., where he graduated with honors.
That Thursday night we chose Clarence Jr. to represent us in a question and answer period. Clarence’s first question was “can you explain the splitting of an atom?” Clarence Jr. took a deep breath and began answering in detail how to split an atom. After a few minutes the judges had no idea what he was talking about and he was awarded first place.
Thursday had been a free day for us and Mr. Price always chose to take his class to Carolina Beach. My best recollection is that for my four years we traveled in an old Studebaker bus that was the high school activity bus. It was silver and blue, but our high school colors were black and yellow. I don’t know where the bus came from but the school didn’t have the money to repaint it in school colors. I want to make a specific note about our 1951 trip to Carolina Beach because this was the first time I ever saw the ocean. I was fifteen years old. We came to the ‘T’ intersection at Carolina Beach, turned right to travel down the beach road, and had someone been watching me, I know they would have said ‘he was ‘gawking’ out the window, looking for the ocean.
During the last week of school in 1954, Mr. Price, knowing that I had signed up to go to FFA Camp that summer, asked me if I would follow the bus and drive his car to White Lake. Mrs. (Emily) Price and the children would be in the car, but he didn’t want her to drive that far with the kids in tow. Of course I would be glad to do this for Mr. Price and it was a sign of Mr. Price’s confidence in me, which I appreciated very much. Mr. Price had to drive the bus. I hope you have noticed that I have never referred to Mr. Price by his first name, Earl. All of the students had this respect for their teachers, it came on naturally. Mr. Price had been a World War II, Fighter Pilot. On more than one occasion we were allowed to watch 16mm film of actual combat that he had filmed during the war. This was a form of showing us what the world was really like, not something he wanted to ‘showoff.’
Three years ago our children had a reception for Nancy and me for our fiftieth wedding anniversary. It was held in the same building where Mr. Price taught classes of agriculture for Dallas High School and it brought back many wonderful memories.
William A. Wheless was a high school science teacher. He came to Dallas, married a Dallas girl, and stayed. I remember Mr. Wheless more for something he once said than anything else. In a class one time, trying to explain something and I quote, “you don’t have to know the answer, you just have to know where to find it.”
Sam Phillips was a great English teacher and he brought Shakespeare to life for us. He oversaw the teaching of journalism and put together the yearbooks for our school. For some reason I had the thought that he was never happy. There was always something lacking it seemed. Long after I graduated from Dallas High School, Mr. Phillips taught at Gaston College. In 1980 He taught Jody during Jody’s freshman year, there.
You had respect for Mark Pasour, he demanded it. He was an interesting teacher. On the first day of school, my senior year, Donald Atkins, Bob Rutledge and I parked our buses and walked down the street to Wilbur Witherspoon’s service station, smoked a cigarette, drank a coke and started back to school, two blocks away. Mr. Pasour was waiting for us, he had a few unkind words of encouragement for seniors like us and we didn’t do it again.
I played basketball for Dennis Franklin, not because I just had a desire to play, but because Dennis asked me. Dad wasn’t there to encourage me and Mom never saw me play a game. Neither of them ever discouraged me, but looking back on my playing days, they just weren’t there. I didn’t think about it at the time. The fact that they were not there didn’t bother me, I was too busy to notice and I suppose it just wasn’t their nature to attend high school sports. It was years later when I took my own grandchildren to play baseball and basketball that I realized the significance of an absent parent. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t hold anything against Mom and Dad, I believe it was just the times.
Dennis pushed me to be good and to be in shape to play. I regret that I didn’t respond as I should have and wasn’t a better player for him, for he had some good players and amassed a record of coaching that took him to the Gaston County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He was qualified and deserved the award. The Dallas Gym is named for him.
Unlike some of Dennis’s better players, I only had a few ‘good games.’ One game that I remember was at Tryon High School when everything I tossed at the basket went through. I was so hot in scoring that I couldn’t keep up because I wore myself out.
Our basketball team was pretty good and in my four years of playing we made the playoffs every year and won the conference twice. Dennis had a reputation for being in the top two every year and we didn’t let him down during our four years of playing.
I recall one regional playoff game that has an impact on my memory. We were pretty good and we had won the conference. (Our conference consisted of the following high schools, Dallas, Stanley, Mt. Holly, Cramerton, Bessemer City, Tryon, Rock Springs and Lowell). We were known as the Little Eight Conference. Having won the conference we were scheduled to play a regional playoff game
against St. Stephens High School out of Catawba County, near Hickory. The playoff game was to be at Belmont Abbey College Gym. Why? I don’t know, because it should have been at one of the high school gyms. When we walked on to the court at Belmont Abbey, it appeared to me that the goals were about two feet higher than the ones at our gym and the court a dozen feet longer than our gym. In reality it was the same, but it looked awesome.
We were on the court first, warming up, wearing our school shorts and t-shirt jerseys and warm up jackets. Our confidence was pretty good but not cocky. We had been on the floor for several minutes when St. Stephens came strolling out. They looked like the Harlem Globe Trotters, confident, sharp, wearing long colorful warm up pants, matching jackets, the whole works. Just from their image and the way they carried themselves, we were beat before the tip-off. We made a game out of it for the first half but couldn’t overcome being overmatched. That was the only game I ever hated.
Many years later while visiting Robert and Gwen Ratchford at their place on Emerald Isle, I had a chance to visit with old classmates, Tommy and Faye Cloninger. After a couple of beers the conversation found its way back to the old high school days. Tommy, who I played basketball with in high school, was most complimentary in his comments about playing basketball with me. It seemed that Tommy had thought of me as being tough against him in practice, when in retrospect I felt Tommy had beat the hell out of me because I was an underclassman. We both had a good laugh and another beer. Robert and Gwen were great hosts!
High Schools have changed a lot since the 1950s and kids today have many more pressures and influences on them than we did. I consider myself very lucky to have been mentored by some of the finest teachers I’ll ever know.
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