Thursday, November 16, 2017

2 Projects

 I was hired for two writing projects during 1980.  The first was from Epworth Children's Home.  They wanted me to write their annual report.  The second was from the Columbia Metro Baptist Association.  They wanted me to write a play that would be presented in their annual meeting about the work they do.
 I met with the director of Epworth to get all of the material about their work during that year.  The director seemed nice.  I took all of the material home and got to work to compile it into one concise format.  I took the history of the institution and brought it forward to the current year.  I used charts and words to describe what it looked like.  When I finished, I brought it to Epworth's director, and he didn't like it.  He wanted a "pie chart".  He liked "pie charts", and he wanted a "pie chart".  I felt the report stood on its own without a "pie chart".  He insisted on having a "pie chart" or else I wouldn't be paid for my work.  So, I gave him a "pie chart", which did not fit in with the overall report.  He was happy and paid me.  I was not happy.  After all, I am an artist and a writer.  Not one to do "pie charts".
 The other project was for the Columbia Metro Baptist Association.  The idea was to have the workers at their office to play parts in the short play.  It needed to run between 15-20 minutes.  I got an idea to develop it around a game show format, because the play was to inform others about what the association does.  It was called "The Columbia Metro Show".  I had the association's director be the emcee, and the secretaries be the contestants.  I had to give each secretary a character, and I decided that the oldest of the three women would be the one who got everything wrong.  She was not pleased with her character, but she was a trooper and did it anyway.  The show was well received, and was actually done twice--in 1980 and then in 1981.  I was in the 1981 show, because the older lady said she would not repeat her character.  Some actors can be so temperamental.  That play opened me up to write and act in Stewardship Dramas for my church to promote giving.  One thing leads to another, except for "pie charts".

Friday, November 10, 2017

White Elephant Party

 I went to a White Elephant Party at my church around Christmas time in the early 80's.  If you don't know what that is, you bring unwanted stuff to the party and exchange them to others to try and get better stuff.  It can get interesting, because the other person can exchange their gift for something they like, and so on.
 One person brought an oil painting of Richard Nixon.  It was exchanged around until someone got it that actually wanted it.  I guess they were a fan of the former President.  I wanted it for a dart board, but that person found out and wanted it to keep me from using it in that way.  I don't remember what I ended up getting that night.
 When I got back home, I wrote a letter to Richard Nixon.  I lied and told him that I had gotten this painting of him, but it got stolen out of my car.  He sent me an autographed picture of him and Pat standing on the beach.  I thought that was nice that I had conned him out of an autograph.  I sold it years later.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Elton #2

 The second time I saw Elton John in concert was in Columbia in 1980.  I went with some friends I knew from my federal job.  We sat on the side facing Elton's piano.  I brought binoculars and had fun watching Elton's expressions as he interacted with his drummer, Nigel Olsson.  Somebody else brought some grass, and we listened to the music while getting stoned.  The show was great.  So was the pot.
 After the show, we went out to a bar in the St. Andrews area of Columbia.  We smoked more dope out in the parking lot.  I was a little scared, because we were outside and could be seen by police folks.  That was the last time I ever smoked the weed that was called "marijuana".  That was also the last time I saw most of those folks from my federal job.
 As an aside, the opening act for Elton was Judie Tzuke (spelling?).  She only did a few numbers, because people were shouting they wanted Elton.  I felt sorry for her.  She didn't have a good night.

Monday, October 30, 2017


 The South Carolina Speech Communication Association (SCSCA) met once a year at Columbia College, where high schools from all of the state would bring students to be judged by adults in various forms of Speech and Drama.  I was asked by my friend Catherine Eaker to judge these students.  She was in the Drama Department at the college.  Some of her students were also judges, as well as others from the community, including teachers and other professionals.  My favorite classes judging were Impromptu Speaking and Solo Acting.  I also enjoyed the Group Acting and Extemp Speaking.
 I did this job for 15 years.  One day each year.  I guess they kept inviting me back, because I had a unique way of judging those students.  I tried to find the positive in their performances.  For example, if I saw a student with unique skills toward their craft, I would recommend that they would pursue it by going to college.  If the student was a girl, I would recommend her going to Columbia College.  If the student was a boy, I would usually recommend USC or Benedict.  Of course, there were some students who came to the tournament just to get out of their classes back home.  They would fail the tournament, but I still would try and help them by suggesting they pursue some other talent that they might have.
 I remember one boy from Clinton High School.  I happened to know his father, who was a preacher.  The boy did very well as a public speaker.  I suggested that he go into Law.  I think he became a preacher like his dad.  I also remember a girl, who was doing a monologue.  She started her presentation and then just froze.  No words came out.  I wrote on her critique that she just needed to relax and breathe.  I also told her that we, as judges, did not have her script in front of us, so she could just carry on in character, and we would be none the wiser.  I told her about my experience with "Blithe Spirit" at Anderson, where we basically made up the Third Act one night, and the audience never knew.
 I saw some many very good students during my 15 years judging.  At the end of the day, they would announce the best students of the tournament and give them awards.  The students would stop me, as I walked from building to building on campus, to ask me how I thought they did.  I was flattered by their interest and concern.  I couldn't say anything before the awards ceremony, but I did tell some of them to follow their dreams.  I would like to think I made a difference in some lives.
 My last time judging was at a Middle School in Mayesville, SC in 1995.  It was a very cold and rainy day.  I was fighting the flu, but I couldn't say no, because others had dropped out, and they needed me to judge.  I took a bunch of cold medicine and headed to the event.  The first class I had was some students doing Speech.  I was feeling woozy, so I turned to the other judge and told her I needed to get to the bathroom.  I took two steps and fainted in the aisle of the classroom.  I hit my head on the floor as I fell backwards.  I don't know how long I was unconscious, but when I came to, there were a lot of people standing over me.  They got me up and took me to the teacher's lounge.  I sat there the remainder of the time with a cold compress on the back of my head.  Somebody gave me some orange juice and a banana.  As I sat in the lounge, I could hear the kids outside talking about the teacher that fainted in class.  They were laughing and thought it was cool.  I thought it was kind of cool too.  When it was time to leave, the woman that took me over there drove me back to Columbia.  She was afraid I had a concussion and wanted to get me home.  She drove like a maniac, driving through fields to cut through intersections.  By the grace of God, I got home in one piece.  I found out later that was how she drove normally.  Normal for her.
 I didn't judge any more after that day in 1995.  The SCSCA stopped meeting at Columbia College.  They went elsewhere.  So did I.

Monday, October 23, 2017

One Voice

 Another way for Singles at First Baptist to become involved was Choir.  Not just any choir.  But, a Singles Choir.  A group of us got together to start a choir at First Baptist.  We brainstormed names for the choir and settled on "One Voice".  Someone liked Barry Manilow, and that was the title of one of his songs.  The name stuck.  We then thought it would be good to have our own uniforms, so we settled on green polo shirts with blue pants for the guys and blue skirts for the girls.  Our leader was the Minister of Music Jon Blouin.
 We became the concert choir for the church, and we traveled places to do concerts.  One was in Thomson, GA.  We were singing at a church there and spent the night.  Church members put us up in their homes.  I stayed with a family and slept in a child's room.  The bed was too short for me, so I didn't get much sleep that night.  We sang a variety of religious and secular songs.  Two were "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "The Rose".
 Another thing we had to have was a weekly newsletter for One Voice.  I wrote it.  It was one page and had news for the choir, as well as stories and funny things.  "The One Voice" was the name of the newsletter, which sort of had a double meaning.  One girl in the choir objected me using her in one of my funny stories.  I had to apologize to her.  I guess some people don't get the joke.  Anyway, the newsletter was typed by me, and I would take the original to the music office for them to copy off and give out in our rehearsals.
 One concert we gave was at Fort Jackson in one of their chapels.  During the service, they offered communion.  I had seen the priest put Mogen David Wine in the pitcher, so I was a little wary of drinking the wine before the concert.  So where most of the others in the choir.  One girl said she would drink ours, so we all knelt at the front with our backs to the congregation.  We all passed our cups down to her on the end, and she drank them all.  When it got time to sing, she could barely stand up.  We all got a chuckle over that.
 One Voice lasted about 4 years.  We had a good time.  I will write more later about some other things we did and places we went.  Needless to say, we were good.  And, we knew it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wanda's Party

 I was invited to go to Wanda's house for a party.  She lived in a neighborhood in Columbia called Whitehall.  She had a house and shared it with two other girls.  I had no trouble finding the house, and we had a great time.  Getting to the house, it was still daylight.  Upon leaving, it was dark.  Real dark.  No street lights.  No moon.  Just dark.
 I wrote in a story much earlier about the time I got lost in the maze at Biltmore in Asheville, NC as a child.  It was a very traumatic time.  This took a close second.  I had never been to Whitehall before and didn't know the streets.  It is kind of ironic that 10 years later I had two good friends who lived in Whitehall and found my way around rather easily.  But, this was different.  Every street I went on was a dead end.  I couldn't find my way out.  I saw myself staying in Whitehall forever, or at least until it got light the next day.
 I tried to use my skills I learned in Boy Scouts about navigation.  That didn't work too well, since it was cloudy and no moon.  So, I went up one street until it ended, and then tried another one.  I was about to give up, when I saw a car pass by, and I decided to follow it.  It took me out to the main road, and I was home free.
 It was a harrowing night.  I did not have anything to drink.  I was sober.  It was 1980.  I learned something that day...check out the area ahead of time, just in case the neighborhood is a maze.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Church Sports

 One way to get out and do things was to participate in church sponsored sports.  The girls in our Singles Sunday School wanted to organize a softball team.  I volunteered to help coach it.  After all, I am very competitive, and I also like to be around girls, so it was a good fit for me.  Our games were against other churches in the community, and we played at fields all over town.  My main job was to boost the morale of our girls, while tearing down their opponents.  I sat in the stands behind home plate, and I would yell out encouragements to our players.  When the opposing side got up to bat, I would berate them or the umpire.  My strategy was to get in their heads and make them second guess their reason for being there.  It really worked, because our team would win, and the other team would go home crying.  Things went well until one night in Olympia.  I was doing my thing in the stands, and the umpire came up to me and told me that if I didn't stop that I would be thrown out of the game.  I have never seen a spectator thrown out, but he did.  I had to watch what I said after that, because I was getting a reputation around the league.  I could support our girls, but not tear down the opposition.  It just wasn't the same.
 Another sport I participated in was Singles Volleyball.  Every Monday night, we would play in the church's gym which was located on the Fifth Floor of the Ellis Building.  That building was torn down in the early 90's to make way for the new sanctuary, although a portion of it kind of remained--the basement.  In the Ellis Building, the basement was used as the social hall, and it also was designed as a bomb shelter, should we have a nuclear attack.  I don't know whatever happened to the stored food and supplies in case we had to stay there for a year or more.  Anyway, the children's ministry now occupies a portion of the old basement.  But, back to volleyball.  Before each game, a captain was chosen and players were picked.  I was always picked last.  It seemed to be a trend with me since the early days of school.  I was picked last.  I really don't know why, because I was an ace server.  I could serve the ball better than almost anyone else.  I once served an entire game without the other team scoring a point.  I was also good at setting a spiker.  I would put it just at the top of the net for someone to spike the ball.  I also would encourage my fellow teammates if they did a good shot or console them if they missed one.  And for all of that, I was picked last.  I wasn't very good at spiking the ball, but I did it one time and caused the opponent to get a bloody nose.  We played to win.  On one occasion, the teams decided to pick the last player first.  That was the only time I was ever picked first for anything.  It felt good, but at the same time kind of condescending.  I am sure their hearts were in the right place.  Despite the cutthroat games, we would also have a Bible study after the games.  I sometimes led that.
 In the world of Sports, our church would honor the USC Gamecocks Football team before every school year.  I was an Associate Deacon and Usher during this time.  It was 1980.  George Rogers was a member of the team.  It was my job that Sunday to seat the team.  I was standing right behind George, and he turned around quickly and knocked me to the floor.  He was a mountain of a man and all muscle.  It was like being knocked down by a brick wall.  He saw me on the ground and apologized profusely.  I was okay, but I did have the distinction of being somebody knocked down by a future Heisman Trophy winner and not be in a game.
 On a side note, one of my duties as an Associate Deacon was to send out get well cards to our members in the hospital.  Every week, I would get a list of those in the hospital and their room numbers.  I sent a get well card to one woman.  It turned out that she was in the hospital to have a baby.  She did not appreciate the card and complained to the church.  She called for my dismissal as an Associate Deacon.  I told the church that they needed to put the reason why people were in the hospital to avoid confusion.  I don't know if they ever did.