Friday, December 18, 2015


 Our full day in Lucerne, Switzerland could be told in three parts.  Each part was different than the others.  Three different moods.  Three different situations.
 The first part was the trip to Mount Pilatus.  We took a railcar up the mountain to the top.  There were ravens flying around, and it was cold.  I had a jacket.  We had come from 130 degrees in Israel to around 50 degrees in the Alps.  Our main group of the four girls wanted me to take a picture of them sitting on a wall with the mountains in the background.  As I was about to take the picture, Mr. Vivian wanted two other girls, who we didn't associate with, to get in the picture.  It was a bit uncomfortable.  The picture illustrates that some were smiling, while others were not.  We left the mountain on a ski lift. 
 After lunch, the second part of the day occurred.  I got to watch swans eat whole apples and see them slide down their necks.  They seemed to like it.  The girls and I went shopping.  The stores were very modern.  Crystal, watches, and giftware.  In each shop we entered, they had long stemmed roses to give to the customers.  I kept mine all the way back to the States, but the customs folks took the flower off of the stem and kept it in case I was trying to smuggle in any weird bugs.  I still have the stem.
 The third part of the day started around 5pm.  Sandra and I were tired of having to hang around the others all the time.  It was getting kind of old.  There was a movie theatre next door to the hotel, and they were playing a French film.  As I knew French pretty well, I asked Sandra if she wanted to go to the movies that night.  She said yes.  There was just a little too much drama between her and another girl on the trip.  The other three girls were going to spend that night writing postcards, so it was a perfect time for the two of us to get away from the others.  At dinner, one of the girls said she wanted to go to a toy shop across the street from the hotel.  Sandra looked at me, and I said we were going to do something else, but Mr. Vivian reminded me that I had to go where the majority wanted to go, because I had to be their protector.  So, no movies.
 After we left the toy store, we started to walk toward the old bridge and shops that we had seen that afternoon.  What was Lucerne like at night?  After our rough time in Jerusalem at night, you would think we had learned our lesson about strange cities at night, but no.  Three of the girls were walking ahead of me, and Sandra was slightly behind me.  All of a sudden, I heard her scream.  I looked behind, and there were five drunk Swiss soldiers in a circle, and Sandra was in the middle of the circle.  She was being passed around from soldier to soldier.  They were laughing.  She wasn't.  As I knew some elements of karate, I put my hand on the shoulder of one of the soldiers and pulled back hard, putting him to the ground.  I said "Cool it!".  I grabbed Sandra, and we ran toward the other girls and away from the soldiers.  Thankfully, they didn't chase us.  I could hear one of them say to me, "Oh, big man".  The one problem from that was than Sandra's hair was on the shoulder of the soldier, so when I pulled him down, I pulled Sandra's hair, too.  She said it hurt, but she was glad we got out of there.  We ran several blocks, so that the soldiers wouldn't know what hotel we were staying in.  When we got back to the hotel, we were all out of breath.  Once again, we had to lie to Mr. Vivian about where we had been. 
 I really liked Lucerne, but we should have gone to the movies.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Rhine

 We left Berlin and flew back to Frankfurt, so that we could board a bus to take us on a tour of the German countryside.  The plan was to gather our bags and put them on the bus.  Easy huh?  Well, as I was waiting on my bag on the carousel, I started to see clothes come out first, and I realized that they were mine.  The locks on my bag had broken, and everyone was seeing my underwear, socks, shirts, and pants come down the conveyor belt.  I was mortified.  I gathered up my clothes to the cheers of the other passengers and then got a belt to secure my bag.  I used that story to sell luggage successfully years later in several retail stores.  It always worked, because the customers were afraid it could happen to them too.
 We boarded the bus and headed out on our tour of Germany.  The bus had a radio tuned to the Armed Forces Network, and we finally heard some western music, after so long without it.  Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Get Down" put a smile on our faces.  Dawn's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" was great, too.  We changed the lyrics to "It's been three long weeks"  from "three long years".  It seemed fitting, and that became our theme song for the rest of the trip. 
 Our bus got to Koblenz, which was special to Sandra, because her father had been there during World War II.  After visiting a few other towns, it was time for lunch.  We stopped at a quaint German restaurant in a quaint German town.  The food was good.  I ordered bottled water with my meal, and the label had the word "Durst" on it.  I kept the bottle and still have it as a souvenir.  I went to a rest room, which was in a building in the center of a road.  One had to walk down some steps to get to the rest room, and there were windows at the top that one could easily look in from the road.  It was also pretty smelly. 
 We got back on the bus and headed to a pickup point for a tour boat to take us on a two-hour tour on the Rhine.  The boat went past castles and farmland on mountainsides.  We saw cows grazing on the steep sides, and Talula wondered why the cows weren't tumbling down the hills.  I told her that maybe two legs were longer than the others.  I thought it was funny.  She didn't.  Don't joke about cows to Talula.  Two hours passed, and we were still on the boat.  Three...Four...and more.  We thought it was a two-hour tour, but it ended up being closer to six.  Six Hours on a boat.  Some folks got naps.  Some ate.  A few of the girls chatted up the crew.  It turned out that the boat was sailing upstream, which caused it to move slower, so we got more for our money than we should have had.  Night was falling, and we moved on to our next hotel stop in Weisbaden.  It was kind of misty raining there.  The hotel was downtown near a big park.  I dropped off my bags and went to the park to sit on a bench.  I watched the people go by, not knowing that there was a casino across the park from where I was.  I found out about it the next day.  The girls went to a club near the hotel.  I didn't go with them, even though I was supposed to.  I got back to the hotel before they did.  Mr. Vivian got mad again, and that was the last time we were ever apart during the trip. 
 The next day, we boarded the bus to tour the Black Forest region of Germany.  A lot of quaint homes.  Everything in this part of the tour was quaint.  The highlight of the day was Reinfall.  It was where the Rhine River went over some rocks to form a wide waterfall.  I have to say that it is the prettiest place I have ever seen in all of the world.  It is on the border between Germany and Switzerland.  We took in the natural beauty and then boarded the bus again.
 We arrived in Lucerne, Switzerland for the night.  The hotel was swanky.  The restaurant was on the top floor.  It was right in the middle of town.  This was going to be a great stop for us, or so we thought.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


 Our next stop on our Europe trip was Germany, after leaving Israel and all that intrigue.  Germany was a very welcome change.  We landed in Frankfurt and saw a large cow sculpture in the airport terminal.  Talula felt right at home, as she came from a dairy region of South Carolina.  We changed planes and flew to Berlin. 
 When we got to the airport, I felt an overwhelming feeling that I was back home, even though I had never been there before.  My ancestors were German, and we came from the southern part of the country near the Rhine.  We had to get into an elevator to get to our bus.  I was singing the German national anthem in the elevator, and a lot of Germans looked at me funny.  I didn't care. 
 West Berlin was very clean.  Our hotel was near the city center.  Talula wanted to get a German hymnal for her pastor back home, so she, Sandra and I set out that afternoon to find a church.  We found one not far from our hotel.  It was really big.  The outside of the church featured ruins from the war, and the inside was very modern.  Our first stop was the gift shop in the church, but they didn't have any hymnals.  We then found a priest and asked him if we could buy a hymnal.  He got very upset and told us that this was a church, not a store.  So, the three of us sat in a pew and just took in the church aura.  When we left and were outside, Sandra pulled a hymnal from her purse, and gave it to Talula.  We thought we were all going to Hell for stealing a hymnal from that church.  I hope the statute of limitations has run out, since the theft was over 40 years ago.  If not, don't tell them.  We also went to a department store to buy a washcloth for one of the girls.  I didn't know much German, but we got by in asking the clerk for help.  I was also appointed to figure out what the exchange rates were between American and German money.  Our hotel had taken our passports and kept them at the front desk.  No one had done that so far on our trip, and we didn't know why, but you deal with it.
 The next day, we toured East Berlin.  Our bus went through Checkpoint Charlie, and they ran mirrors under our bus looking for people, I guess.  Men with machine guns boarded our bus.  We were told not to take pictures of the Berlin Wall from the East.  Of course, you tell me not to do something, and I will do it anyway, so I got some nice shots of the wall.  I was also told in Israel not to take pictures of Army installations around the country.  I got some nice shots of those, too.  We were also told by our tour guide not to talk to any East Germans.  Mr. Vivian wanted some authentic German cheesecake, so we found a small restaurant.  The girl behind the counter came over to our table to ask us about blue jeans and American life.  Out of nowhere, a man in a trench coat showed up and said something to the girl.  She quickly went back to work.  Our tour guide told us he was the police.  It just so happened that the restaurant was right across the street from the Soviet embassy, so he could have been Stasi or KGB.  As our bus rolled around East Berlin, there were two very obvious sites.  One was that many of the buildings had not been rebuilt since World War II, and they were just bombed out shells.  The second was that Lenin's picture was everywhere.  There were paintings, statues, frescos, and much more.  The hammer and sickle were prominent.  We got to the Soviet War Memorial, where many of the dead were buried.  Everything was massive.  They did point out where some of the Nazi buildings had been.  Since I am a student of World War II, that interested me.
 As we were leaving East Berlin, the soldiers with machine guns and big mirrors did their thing once again.  On the West side of the wall, there was an observation deck, where we could look across to the East.  There was also a billboard next to the wall.  It read:  "Durst macht Spass mit Fanta".  I didn't know that my last name was German for thirst.  I had to take a picture of that. 
 Our afternoon was free.  The girls wanted to sleep, so I had the opportunity to go out on my own.  The Berlin Zoo was close to our hotel, so I went there.  The animals were interesting, but the best thing (and the spookiest) was a group of teenaged boys walking through the zoo.  They were all over six feet with blonde hair.  I immediately knew who their parents were.  A year later, I described that sight to my Sociology professor in college.  He didn't believe me, but it was true.
 I really liked Berlin.  Our next couple of days would be filled with touring the German countryside around the Rhine.  The trip would take another turn.  More later.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Strangers In The Night

 As I have written before, our goal on our trip to Europe was to sample the local charm of the areas that we visited.  So often, the tour guides show you what they want you to see.  We wanted to see the things they might not want you to see.  I say all of this, because the story that I am going to tell you is true.  It may seem farfetched, or a plot from a movie, but it really happened.  I was sworn to secrecy, and didn't really tell anyone until about 20 years after it happened.  The person I told was in special forces in Vietnam, and he said the story didn't surprise him.  So, here goes.
 We got to Jerusalem and stayed in a hotel in the Arab Quarter near Herod's Gate.  It had a lot of character.  That first night, we asked the desk clerk where we could go to check out our surroundings, and they suggested we go down the street one block to a souvenir shop called the Jordan Bazaar.  Sandra, Talula, Judy, and I went to the shop.  There were three Arab guys who ran the shop.  Their names were Sam, Omar, and Sam.  Sam and Omar were brothers, and the other Sam was their cousin.  They were in their mid-20's.  We asked them if they could take us on a walking tour of Jerusalem by night, and they said they would, when they closed up the shop for the night.
 At around 10pm, we got together with the 3 guys and set out on our tour.  Each guy walked with each girl, and I walked behind them.  Sandra was directly in front of me.  At some point in our "tour", Sandra put her hand behind the guy and waved at me.  I thought it was a signal to "get lost", so I started to lag behind.  I continued to get further away from them, until I no longer saw them.  I was officially lost.  I walked through neighborhoods of squalor.  No street lights.  No signs.  I came upon a group of Orthodox Jewish men.  I asked for directions, but they wouldn't talk to me.  I finally found a taxi and asked him to take me to my hotel.  I gave him a dollar, and it turned out I was just around the corner from the hotel.  When I got back, it was nearly midnight.  Mr. Vivian was furious.  He said that the girls had gotten back earlier, and they didn't know where I was.  I apologized and went to bed.
 The next morning, Mr. Vivian had a meeting with me and the girls.  He had decided that we would stay together for the rest of the trip, and I would be their protector.  There was no debate in this decision.  I was to go everywhere the 4 girls went.  I didn't like the idea, and I don't think they did either, but it was a done deal.  So, if they wanted to go dress shopping, I went too.  It was also the majority ruled.  If three wanted to go somewhere, then everyone would go there.  We were all friends, but now we were all joined at the hip. 
 Our tour of Jerusalem was uneventful.  That night, we were having supper in the hotel, and an American man came to our table.  He introduced himself as an employee of the US consulate, and said he was a political attaché.  (For those of you not familiar with that term, that is code for CIA).  He said that he had become aware that we had made friends with the guys from the Jordan Bazaar.  We were surprised that he knew that piece of information.  He told us that we could no longer associate with them.  When we asked why, he said that Henry Kissinger was in town to try and broker a peace deal, and that these 3 boys were part of a group that wanted to see the deal fail.  He was afraid that Americans being friends with these "terrorists", as he called them, would be harmful to the process.  I told him that it might seem strange to them that we suddenly stopped seeing them, so the man said that we could find out all we could about them and their friends, and then the man would come back each night to our supper and find out what we knew.  That sounded dangerous, so I asked the man what if we refused.  He said that the US Government would revoke our passports and send us home.  They were serious.  We talked it over and decided to do it, since how would we explain to our parents why they lost all that money they paid for us to be in Europe, etc. 
 The next day, we continued on our tour of Jerusalem.  A little boy followed us around, trying to sell us rolls of mints.  He would say, "One for a quarter or two for 25 cents".  He was cute, but we kept brushing him off.  He stayed with us, and he started to become a nuisance.  We found out later that the 3 Arabs used the boy to keep tabs on us.  That afternoon, we hung out with the 3 boys, and found out what we could without sounding too curious.  When we got back to the hotel, we had a short time before supper.  I called Sandra's room and asked her what she knew, so that we could compare stories and make sure we had everything right before the American guy showed up.  While I was on the phone with her, we heard some background noise over the phone and a click.  We found out that the folks at the hotel's desk were listening into our conversation.  Our "cover" was blown.  The hotel called the Jordan Bazaar and told them what we were up to.  A message was sent back to us that we could continue our tour, but if they saw us away from our tour, they would do harm to us.  It became serious.  We didn't tell Mr. Vivian, because we were already in trouble with him.  That night, after dinner, there were hecklers outside our hotel windows, until some police showed up and moved them away. 
 The following morning was Saturday.  We had our regular tour of Jerusalem.  After lunch, the girls wanted to go to a hair salon, which was about a block behind our hotel.  So, we made an excuse that we were tired, so the rest of the tour group went onto other sites.  The girls and I went through a service entrance in the back of the hotel to get to the salon, because the front of the hotel was being watched.  We got to the salon, which was run by a very nice Arab woman.  Word got back to the boys where we were, and they showed up at the salon, pounding on the shop's glass.  Fearing that the glass would break, the woman called the police and got them to move the boys back.  We explained to the woman what was going on, and she said that she would protect us.  When the girls finished at the salon, I went out of the shop first; looked to see if it was clear; and then motioned them to run across the street back to the hotel.  This was very stressful for me, and I found that I needed something for my stomach.  There was a drug store across the street from the front of the hotel.  I ran across the street and into the store.  There was an elderly Arab man running the store.  I told him what I needed and why.  He told me to watch out for those 3 boys, because they were "crazy".  He also said he would protect us.
 On Sunday, the tour group went to the local Baptist church for the morning service.  It was a few blocks from our hotel, and we walked.  It was a little dicey, but we made it okay.  Sandra bought a solid wooden camel as a souvenir.  It was my duty to carry it, because it was heavy.  That afternoon was spent writing postcards and relaxing.  That evening, the American man came back to our supper, and we told him about the threats, and that was the first time that Mr. Vivian knew what we were going through.  Some words were exchanged between him and the government official, and it was decided that we would leave very early Monday morning to go to the airport in Tel Aviv.
 At around 2am, there was a knock on our doors.  The man said get packed.  We were leaving.  All 16 of us crammed into two cabs, and a trailer housed our luggage.  Soldiers with machine guns guarded us, as we loaded up our stuff and got us out of Jerusalem in the dark.  We got to Tel Aviv without incident.  We went through the toughest security checks we had ever seen.  They x-rayed the wooden camel, and sawed it in half.  Sandra was very mad.  She threw it away.  There was an Arab man in front of me in the security line who had an urn stuffed with socks.  He was on his way to France to sell tractors.  He was not allowed on his plane, much to his anger.  At 7am, wheels were up on our plane, and we flew to our next scheduled destination of Frankfurt, West Germany.  We were very relieved when we were out of Israeli airspace. 
 About six months later, I was at Presbyterian College and was listening to a BBC World Service radio program called "Victor Sylvester's Dance Party".  He took requests of songs for people all over the world.  I sent in a request of "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra as a dedication to the three Arabs in Jerusalem.  A month later, he played it, and said, "From Walter in the US to Sam, Omar and Sam in Jerusalem--'Strangers in the Night'".  It was my way of getting back at them one last time.
 Some three years later, Congress was having a hearing about the CIA using civilians for spying.  The CIA said they never had used civilians, and they never would.  I just had to laugh, because I knew differently.  For a few days in July, 1973 in Jerusalem, five American young people on a tour worked for the CIA.  And, just as a side note, Israel and Syria fought against each other in October, 1973 called the Yom Kippur War.  I don't know whatever happened to the 3 Arab guys, but I suspect they had a hand in the war.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tel Aviva

 We flew from Rome to Tel Aviv, or as Talula called it "Tel Aviva".  We stayed at a modern hotel on the Mediterranean Sea.  It was after dark when we got to the hotel.  I went down to the beach and put my toes in the water.  I went back inside and found a TV in the lobby.  It was showing live Watergate hearings from the States.  It was great to see a bit of home.  Someone had given Mr. Vivian a large basket of fruit, which was put in our room.  Grapefruit, Oranges, Bananas, Dates, and more.  It was more fruit than our group could eat. 
 The next morning, we left Tel Aviv to tour the northern part of Israel.  We went to Haifa, Joppa, Nazareth, and other places.  We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  They told us that we were going to have "St. Peter's Fish".  We found out what that was.  Some boys would catch the fish; throw it in a pot of boiling water; and then the restaurant would serve it.  No scaling.  No deboning.  No cutting off the head.  It was like being in dissecting class in school.  They gave you a knife and a fork and said "eat".  Imagine seeing the eyes staring at you, while you ate the fish.  It was gross.  And to top it off, you could see the boys catching the fish with a gasoline slick on the top of the water from their boat.  I was so turned off by this sight that I didn't eat fish for about 30 years after that experience.  Now, I eat fish a lot.  Go figure.
 After lunch, we got to Nazareth.  We saw the places we were supposed to see, and then got back on the bus.  We still had our large basket of fruit.  There were begging children at every turn, and we had been told not to give them any money, but the tour group decided that we would give the fruit to the kids.  We stopped the bus near a group of playing children, and asked them if they wanted the basket of fruit.  A riot started, and all we saw was a lot of chaos and dust.  When it was all over, most of the kids had gotten some fruit, although one boy just got the grapefruit's peel and was showing it proudly.  The grapefruit had exploded in the melee.  The incident touched my heart as some people have a lot, while others have very little.  But, those who have very little can get excited about something seemingly so small. 
 We toured some more and got to our place for the night, which was a kibbutz.  They sold Brandy Candy there, which was a hard candy with brandy in the center.  I bought a box, and went through the whole thing.  I got a buzz from it, and it seemed easier to get past Mr. Vivian than the wine in Rome.  The girls and I looked for Brandy Candy along our trip.  Sorry, Mr. Vivian.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


 By the time we started our tour of Rome, the jet lag was virtually gone.  We could actually appreciate what we saw.  There was a sign in the Sistine Chapel not to take pictures, as the flash would damage the paintings.  Of course, someone did, and they almost arrested us.  Some words were exchanged, and they allowed us to stay.  We saw the Vatican, the Forum, Paul's jail cell, Peter's bones, and a lot of fountains.  For lunch, Sandra, Talula and I wanted to eat in an authentic Italian restaurant, so we went there, and the rest of our tour group ate somewhere else.  I had never had wine before that day, but we all drank some with our meal.  After lunch, we all ate a bunch of breath mints and stayed away from Mr. Vivian, as he would not have approved of us drinking alcohol.  Some of the older ladies on the tour could smell the wine, but they didn't tell on us.  We all appreciated that.
 The rest of our tour of Rome was uneventful, although Mr. Vivian wondered why we stayed away from him.  That night was another story.
 One thing that I had learned about Sandra was that she never talked about death.  If I would bring up that subject, she would always change the subject.  I was in bed asleep, when the phone rang in my room.  Mr. Vivian was also asleep.  I answered the phone, and it was Sandra.  She sounded very scared, and told me that she was afraid she was going to die, and I had to get to her room right then.  I knew there was a problem, so I lied to Mr. Vivian about why I had to leave for a while.  I put on some clothes and headed over to her room.  When I knocked on the door, there was a scared voice on the other side asking who it was.  When I identified myself, the door opened.  Sandra and Talula were shaking.
 Sandra explained why they were so afraid.  She had just taken a shower and found she needed more towels.  There was a few buttons in the room to call hotel staff.  One was for a maid; another for the front desk; and another for a bellboy.  They thought they pressed the button for the maid, but instead it was for the bellboy.  A knock came to the door, and they opened it.  Sandra was naked, and the bellboy's eyes just about popped out of his head.  Talula slammed the door.  They were afraid he was going to come back.  After I calmed them down, we decided to play a trick on the bellboy.  So, we put together a plan.  I was to hide in the bathroom and zip down my pants.  They were to call down to the front desk and apologize for their rude behavior to the bellboy, and then invite him back up to their room for some fun.  When he would knock on the door, they would open it.  When the door opened, I was to flush the toilet and come out while zipping up my fly.  We would then tell him that we were going to have a foursome.  He would get embarrassed and leave.  It seemed like a good plan.  It was implemented.  I was in the bathroom.  He knocked on the door.  They told him to come in, and I came out.  The bellboy's face turned red, and he ran away.  We had a good laugh.  I told them not to open the door for anyone until the next morning.  I went back to my room.  Mr. Vivian asked what the problem was, and I just told him there was no problem.  I went back to sleep.
 The next morning, we were to leave around 10am to go to the airport for a flight to Tel Aviv.  We were to gather in the lobby at 9:30 to start to load up.  We all at wake-up calls for 7:30.  Mr. Vivian and I got ready and packed and headed down to the lobby.  One by one, the other tour members were there too.  But no Sandra or Talula.  I called up to their room, and Sandra very sleepy answered the phone.  I asked her why they weren't downstairs.  She asked me what time it was, and I told her 9:45.  She said something, and then the phone went dead.  To get them back for how they treated the bellboy the night before, the front desk failed to give a wake up call to their room.  They threw on some clothes and got down by 10.  When they got downstairs, they looked over at the front desk, and the staff just smiled at them.  We were glad to get out of there.  We never told Mr. Vivian what had happened as to why they overslept.  It was just better that way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


We left London to fly to Rome on our next stop on our European tour in July, 1973.  So little time in London.  The flight was to leave just before noon from Heathrow, so I wasn't able to eat anything before we left.  The plane was from BEA, and it was like a train with wings.  Some of the seats faced one another.  I was unfortunately facing the back of the plane.  We took off, and the flight crew passed out ham sandwiches, which didn't look very appetizing. 
 Suddenly, the plane hit an air pocket and dropped something like 8,000 feet in two seconds.  I began to hyperventilate.  My heart was racing.  I couldn't breathe.  The others around me called a flight attendant.  They gave me a barf bag and told me to breathe into the bag.  That didn't help.  A steward brought a blood pressure device.  There were two doctors on board.  They gave me some pills.  I don't know what they were, but nothing was happening for the better.  They laid me down on a row of seats and continued working on me.  The decision was made for the plane to continue to Rome.  The diagnosis was that I was having a heart attack.  The doctors and attendants continued to work on me for what seemed like an hour.  I still had no color in my face, and I was feeling very faint.  The doctors wanted to keep me awake for fear I would go into shock.  I was also very cold.  They had blankets around me to try and keep me warm.  Nothing was working.  Then, out of the blue, a little English elderly lady about two rows back told the flight attendant to "give him hot tea".  The doctors didn't think that would help, but they had exhausted everything else.  The attendant brought the tea, and I began to sip it.  Slowly, my blood pressure came back.  My color came back.  I started to feel better.  Thank God for that little, old lady. 
 We landed in Rome.  I felt fine.  Everyone was asking how I was.  I felt fine.  Especially since all those pills they had thrown into me started to take effect.  I started floating down the sidewalk.  I felt more than fine. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015


 For the next several stories, I will relate some things that happened to us in Europe.  The trip lasted 3 weeks, and covered 9 countries more or less.  It was a life-changing experience in so many ways.  These stories do not mean to criticize any country or its people.  However, they are true, as I remember them.
 First a little background.  The trip was put together by Anderson College and was hosted by Mr. Vivian.  There were four college kids on the trip, and we all got History credit for the trip, provided we wrote a paper upon returning on what we had learned.  There was one high school student on the trip.  The rest were mostly current or retired school teachers.  Besides Mr. Vivian, I was the only male on the trip.  There were 16 of us all together. 
 We left Greenville on Thursday July 5th and landed in Charlotte.  Then, it was onto NYC.  We left New York and flew via PanAm to London.  The meal on the plane was duck.  The movie was "The Thief Who Came to Dinner".  I suppose it was a good movie, starring Ryan O'Neal, but it was around midnight, when it was shown, and I didn't get a lot out of it.  We landed in London around 7am their time.  I was exhausted from the flight and jet lag.  My stomach was acting up, so I looked for a sandwich shop in downtown London to get a grilled cheese sandwich to calm my stomach.  I found a restaurant and asked them for a grilled cheese.  They told me that they didn't know how to do that.  I explained how to make it, but they didn't understand.  They made me a quiche instead.  Not quite the same, but it was pretty good.  I left the restaurant and was roaming around the area.  An American came up to me and asked me where the US Embassy was.  Of course, I didn't know.  But, using my great British accent, I pointed him in a direction.  He asked me if I was an American, and I told him that I had been living over there, but I was from Kent in southern England.  He bought the story, and he went the way I had pointed.  I found out the next day that I had sent him in the opposite direction.  Oh well.  Sorry, buddy. 
 The next day, we toured London.  We saw Westminster Abbey, Parliament, the Tower of London, the Olde Curiosity Shoppe, and lots more.  I asked the tour guide if he could point out two special spots--Savile Row, where The Beatles had their offices, and the Ministry of Defence, where James Bond worked in the movies and books.  I got to see those two places.  We took a lot of pictures, which was good, since the jet lag was still on us.  Mrs. Sitton dropped her camera and broke it.  She had to buy slides and postcards after that.  During the trip, she had to buy another suitcase to hold all of the pictures.  After we got back from the tour, we had a little free time.  I walked over to Hyde Park and hung out with the locals.  I got back to the hotel, and Mrs. Sitton asked me if I wanted to go to the British Museum.  We took the tube to the museum and got there 30 minutes before closing time.  We didn't get to see much, but I did get to see the Rosetta Stone.  That night, we went to see the play "The Mousetrap".  It was good, but our bodies said sleep.  I found out later that one of the actors in the play later went on to play "M" in the James Bond movies. 
 One thing about the food.  Yuck.  I just assume never to eat bean soup with pepper again and not get water until after the meal.  My mouth was on fire.  One other thing about London.  The English were very nice, but our hotel was filled with Pakistani workers.  Not to put them down, but I don't understand their language.  But to be fair, they probably didn't understand us much either.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Belk Summer

 The summer of 1973 was going to be huge in my life.  I was going to Europe with my friends for three weeks in July.  I needed spending money, so I got a part-time job at Belk Department Store in Columbia as a porter.  My job description was to carry packages out to customers' cars.  Otherwise, I sat in a small office with my co-worker named Al.  He had been a porter for a long time.  Our focus was the third floor, which had mostly home items like rugs, toys, housewares, bedding, and TV's.  Al took a lot of smoke breaks.  I didn't smoke at that time, so I did most of the work.
 One day, a man bought an oriental rug.  Those things were pretty heavy, and usually Al and I would do it together.  But, he was on a smoke break, so I had to do it myself.  It is amazing what one can do if you put your mind to it.  We also sold these artificial trees.  There was a metal rod that went up through the trunk, and it came off in sections.  There was a small piece of metal exposed at each section.  A woman, with a small child, bought one of those trees.  I took it down in sections to her car.  As I was putting it in the car, one of the metal sections put a hole in the fabric of the inside roof.  I saw it happen, but I didn't say anything.  Her little boy also saw it and said, "Mommy, he put a hole in your car!"  He kept repeating this, as I was going back inside of the store.  Well, the store had to repair the woman's car.  I never heard the last of that.  Another time, a mother was taking her child to the restroom, and the child didn't make it.  He put a mess on the carpet outside the 2nd floor restroom.  They called Al and me to clean it up.  We had maids for that, but they weren't there.  We refused to clean it up, so a saleswoman did it. 
 Belk knew I was going to Europe for three weeks.  When I came back, I brought an ashtray from London for Al.  I wasn't able to get my porter job back though.  I guess they were still reeling about the damaged car, so I got a job in their warehouse, which was several blocks away from the store.  Mr. Richie was my supervisor.  He had been in the Army, and treated the workers as soldiers.  It was hard work.  I mostly put price tags on shoes and cosmetics.  When I got off, I smelled like perfume. 
 Despite the hard work, I developed a love for Belk and its people.  That would carry on through life.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


 I had graduated from Anderson College and was back home in Columbia.  One Sunday afternoon, I got a call from my friend Jimmy.  His speech was slurred.  He told me that he just wanted to say goodbye.  He had taken some pills and wanted to kill himself.  Why?  It was a bit unclear from his call, but it had something to do with the lack of friends.  He and I had gotten close during our time at school and the theatre.  He was planning to go with us to Europe in July.  But now, he was taking a rather drastic step.
 I knew about suicide attempts.  I had tried too, but this time was different.  Jimmy was ready to go, but I was not ready to have him go.  I tried to get him to stay on the line as long as I could.  He was drifting in and out.  There were a lot of tears on both ends of the phone.  After a while, he finally said that he was hanging up and going to sleep. 
 The line went dead.  I immediately called a psychology professor from Anderson named Dr. Mandrell.  This was before 911 was around.  I told him what Jimmy had done and asked for his help.  He called the ambulance, and it got to Jimmy's home in time.  The doctors said that there were two things that saved Jimmy's life that day.  The first was that he had eaten a big meal for lunch that Sunday, and the drugs took longer than usual to get into his bloodstream.  The second was that Jimmy had called me. 
 He was not able to go to Europe with us.  His mother took his place on the trip.  Jimmy and I are still friends to this day.  I am glad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


 As I have said earlier, I was "Joe College" during my Sophomore year at Anderson.  I did all kinds of things that caused people to take notice of me.  It felt good. 
 At the end of 1972, I was given the Best Actor award.  I prepared a speech, but they didn't let me give it.  I still have it if I win an Oscar.  Early in 1973, I was named to "Who's Who in American Junior Colleges".  Lenny and Sandra also were named.  I wrote a poem called "A Little Story", which was published in our school's literary book "Ivy Leaves".  It was also published in a national poetry book.  You can read it in my blog called "My Works".  I was named to the Delta Psi Omega Honor Dramatic Fraternity.  I had to prepare a dramatic work to recite at that induction, which was held at Mr. Vivian's house.  I did the soliloquy of King Arthur from "Camelot".  A couple of years later, I was inducted into the Alpha Psi Omega Honor Dramatic Fraternity at Presbyterian College.  Apparently, I was the only person in SC at that time to be in both.  At graduation from Anderson, I was named to the Denmark Society, which is the top award that one can get from Anderson.  Nobody knows until their name is called.  Lenny and Sandra also got that award.  There were about 15 of us that received that honor. 
 Pretty good for a person that my high school guidance counselor said that I wouldn't amount to anything.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Midnight Man

 It was announced in early 1973 that a major motion picture was going to be filmed in and around Anderson and Clemson.  It would be called "The Midnight Man" and would star Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark and Cameron Mitchell.  Lancaster would also co-direct the project.  Since I was on top of the theatre world at Anderson College, it made sense that I should be in the movie, so I went to an audition in downtown Anderson.  Burt's son Bill was there.  He was also going to be in the movie.  Bill Lancaster went on to write "The Bad News Bears".  Bill and I hit it off, and he recommended me to his dad for a part. 
 As they began filming, there was a need for a bar in Anderson, but the county was dry, so they had to get special permission to construct a bar downtown for the movie.  It was Catherine Bach's first film.  She was nervous, but still pretty.  I watched the filming of her scene with Burt and Bill. 
 I had not gotten a call to come until late one night to report early the next morning.  Also coming with me were my friend Jimmy and his friend Ed.  We were to wear nice clothes for a scene in a bar/dance club in Clemson.  I wore the same outfit that I had worn in "Blithe Spirit".  I loved the outfit.  It was a cardinal red jacket with red and black polyester pants with deep cuffs. 
 When we got to Lamar's in Clemson, it was raining and we didn't know where to go.  We walked into the front door of the club, and they were filming another scene.  They had to cut the shot.  I thought they were going to make us leave the set, but we were able to stick around.  We did get to see Cameron Mitchell, Susan Clark and Ed Lauter.  We waited for a few minutes until it was time to bring us into the club.  There were about 10 of us in our group.  They put Jimmy at the bar, where they were serving real beer at 8:30 in the morning.  Ed and I were picked to dance on the dance floor with girls.  While we were standing around, Burt came over to me and said he had a special job for me.  I was going to be cast as Susan Clark's teenaged love interest, and he wanted me to dance with her.  He asked me if I knew how to dance, and I said no, so he spent 15 minutes teaching me the moves.  Years later, I met Jack Palance and told him that Burt taught me how to dance.  He joked that he didn't know that Burt could dance.  Burt told me to do the best I could. 
 There was a jukebox in the club.  A tech guy looked at the records and only recognized one--"Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver.  Not the best song to dance to, but it was slow which would help me.  I met Susan Clark.  She had been in Playboy a few months earlier, and I couldn't get it out of my head that I had seen her naked.  I was 19.  That was a big deal.  Susan was all business.  I tried to break the ice with her, but she would have none of it.  Burt wanted to rehearse our scene of dancing together.  I did the dance moves that Burt had taught me, but Susan wanted to dance faster than me.  We kept stepping on each other's feet.  She got her foot caught in the cuff of my pants and almost fell.  She was tripping me with her feet.  It was not a match made in heaven.  She started to cuss me out for being clumsy.  Burt, who was directing the scene, told her that I was doing the best I could, and he stood up for me.  She threatened to walk off the picture if she had to dance with me.  So, to appease her, my role was reduced.  Instead of being her young love interest, I was moved to dancing with a 17-year old high school girl, who was much better looking than Susan.  In the film, Susan is dancing by herself.  It kinda looks strange. 
 Another problem we had was the dialogue.  Between the music and the dancers, they couldn't hear a bit of dialogue that had to be given between Bill Splawn, who played the club owner, and a waitress.  So, I learned something about illusion.  In fact, there was a phrase used a lot by the tech folks--"We deal in illusion".  Our shoes were making too much noise on the dance floor, so we took them off and danced in our sock and stocking feet.  It made for a little sliding around the floor.  In the film, you never see our feet.  Another bit of illusion was the false wall that they built in the club.  It made the club bigger depending on the camera angles.  They removed the wall and had the camera about two feet from me in one scene.  Burt said not to look at the camera.  It was pretty hard to do. 
 It took 4 hours to film a scene that took about a minute of film.  4 hours of dancing to a John Denver song.  Our legs were about to fall off.  Jimmy got drunk at the bar.  I got a check from Universal Pictures for $16, which was pretty good for 4 hours of work.  About a year later, the film was released.  Jimmy, Ed and I went to the premiere in Greenville.  We watched the film, and halfway through the two-hour movie was our big scene.  I was 16-feet high.  It was a shock to see it.  The movie itself was very good.  It was a murder mystery.  After the movie was over, Jimmy came up to me and asked for my autograph.  He was kidding around, and then strangers came up to me and Ed and asked for our autograph.  I guess the strangers thought we were somebody.  When the movie came out, I was a student at Presbyterian College.  A lot of folks recognized me.  I saw what fame was like, and I liked it.
 The movie was never released officially in the United States on video or later DVD.  It was on TV some, and on video overseas.  I don't know why it never has been.  I think it was also Ed Lauter's first film.  Morgan Woodward played a state senator.  Mills Watson was in it.  A week after my scene was filmed, Susan Clark was quoted in the newspaper about how nice the folks were that she worked with.  I guess she had blocked out our encounter.  It was just as well, but the interview came over as being kind of fake from her.  I liked Burt Lancaster, and he allowed me to use him as a reference for my future work.  I also learned from that experience that the bigger the star, the nicer they are.  Burt had won an Academy Award for "Elmer Gantry".  Susan had been in Playboy.  Burt was very nice to me.  Susan was not.  Nothing more needs to be said.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Blithe Spirit

 Mr. Vivian was looking for a play for the Spring of 1973 at Anderson College and found "Blithe Spirit" by Noel Coward.  It required everyone to speak with a British accent.  He told me early on that I would be cast in the lead role of "Charles".  It was the first three-act play, where I had the lead, at least that I knew in advance.  I began to prepare.  I studied British accents for a couple of months.  I listened to recordings of accents and came up with one.  It was actually a cross of George Harrison and Margaret Rutherford.  Don't ask me why.  I found it quite natural.
 Sandra and Talula were cast as my wives.  We had very good chemistry going into the play, as we were the best of friends.  Mary, also my friend, was cast as the psychic.  Jimmy and Gila were cast in supporting roles.  Mr. Vivian rounded out the cast with two others, including his granddaughter.  We worked on the play for a couple of months.  There were some things we needed to work out that included special effects.
 One was the bookcase.  There needed to be books flying off the shelves to suggest the house being haunted.  That required a hole being drilled into a bookcase, large enough for a broom handle to push a book from behind.  There was a wire that stretched across the stage from the top, where a small sheet would be dragged across as if it was a ghost.  The hardest thing was the movement of a table during the séance scene.  We got a lightweight card table and put a tablecloth over it.  The cloth had to be long enough for the audience not to see that my knees were moving the table.  That was hard to work out, because I couldn't show my body moving.  Sandra, Talula, and the little girl had to be made up with white makeup.  It was a little hard on the skin.
 I tried to get into character during rehearsals.  There was one scene, where I got mad at Sandra, who was playing one of my wives, and I actually threw some water in her face.  She didn't like that, and I never did it again.  The play called for liquor to be served in some scenes.  Anderson College was a Baptist school, and references to liquor were out of the question, so we had to rewrite the liquor scenes with serving tea instead.  A couple of the lines had to be rewritten, because it didn't make sense that "Charles" got drunk with tea.  After all of these things, we were ready for opening night, or so we thought.
 There was one major problem with opening night.  We had not had time to rehearse the third act.  Mr. Vivian had to ask us to memorize the lines and go for it.  At the opening of the third act, the scene is of the psychic and me talking about what has happened with two wives dying.  She and I were sitting there in the center of the stage around a small table with tea.  Mary and I were both experienced in acting, but not so much in improvisation.  We learned something that night.  As we were talking, I said a line which wasn't in the script.  Mary's eyes got big, but she knew she had to carry on, so we made up ten minutes of the play.  Nothing that was in the script.  We drank a lot of tea, and we talked about a lot of stuff including the weather and the other characters.  There was no way we could get back on track.  It was terrifying.  Off stage, we could hear a lot of commotion.  Mr. Vivian was whispering "Where are they?".  After a while, Gila, playing the maid, was pushed out onto the stage to tell me I was wanted in the other room.  I went off stage, and Mr. Vivian showed me where I needed to be.  I went back out, and we got back to the real play.  The audience never knew the difference.  If anyone saw the second night of our performance, they would have seen a different third act.  I share this story to anyone who gets flustered when performing.  As long as you stay in character, you too can carry on.  After all, the audience doesn't have the script in front of them.  Good thing.
 We got a lot of positive reactions to the play.  I used my accent in stores in small towns.  I always got service in the stores, because they had never heard anyone use that accent before.  Sandra, Talula, and I even performed a scene from the play in the Frankfort, Germany airport three months later to the pleasure of the crowds.  I learned a lot about the Theatre from that play.  I do not recommend anyone making up lines, but you have to carry on no matter what happens.

Monday, September 7, 2015


 As mentioned earlier, I started out in debate in high school and failed.  I had to go to mock Congresses to get some success and win awards.  I eventually got into the National Forensic League.  When I went to college, I was not thinking very much about going back into debate.  I did take Speech courses, but they were mostly filled with preachers, who wanted to try out their latest sermons on the audience.  I attended a couple of debates as a freshman, but they were not all that interesting. 
 After I changed my major to Speech and Drama in my sophomore year, I found debate was more possible.  There were three of us on the debate team--Gila, Mike and me.  Gila was there mostly to observe and act as a timekeeper.  Mike and I were the team.  Mike was studying to be a preacher, and he had a good speaking voice.  I was the researcher.  The two of us made a good team.  We went to Clemson to observe how debates were done in college, and then we started participating.  We went to Georgia to do our first debate and won.  We then went back to Clemson and won.  What was our secret?  We approached it like a chess match.  Anticipate every possible move and be prepared to counter the argument.  We spent hours going back and forth on issues.  We didn't want any surprises.  We became so good that we weren't losing any debates.  All we had to do sometimes was to walk into a room and see other team grimace.  We went to Lenoir-Rhyne to do a debate, and they put us in a Sunday School room at a church.  It was a little strange debating in front of a picture of Jesus, because sometimes the debates would get a little heated.  Mike, especially, had trouble with debating in a church.  But, we went where we were invited.  Anderson College gave us a school car to go to these debates.  I liked to drive fast, and once I hit an off-ramp from the interstate going 90mph. We were going so fast that I couldn't stop at the top of the ramp, so we just blew through the stop sign and got on the ramp back on the interstate.  Mike would lean out of the car window and yell.  We had a good time.  Once, we were coming back from a debate and were pretty hungry.  Mike suggested we stop at a farm house to see if they had any food.  We stopped at this house and told the old couple that we were their long lost cousins from Baltimore.  They said they didn't know they had relatives in Baltimore, but they invited us in, and we had a great dinner.  We then thanked them and headed back to school.
 Every year, Anderson College would host a debate between Harvard and our debate team.  There was a lot of pressure on Mike and me to defeat the team from Harvard.  This was the big time.  I suppose that the Harvard team would say that they didn't get any sleep the night before.  I didn't either.  They would say that they had car problems getting down to Anderson.  One thing you learn in debate though is to leave your problems at the door and do what you have to do.  We did.  We won.  Hands down.  By our win over Harvard, Mike and I were ranked in the top ten debate teams in the country.  By some accounts, we were number one in the country.  Invitations started coming in for us to compete in tournaments all over America.  We had to turn them down, because I was involved in doing a play, and Mike had his church responsibilities, but it was flattering to be invited.
 After my play responsibilities were over, we got an invitation to come to UCLA.  Our expenses would be paid.  Mike was very excited to go to California.  We were set to go.  Then, a conflict arose.  Sandra was going to be in the Miss Anderson County beauty pageant.  I had helped her with getting her ready for that event.  We had rehearsed her song.  We had worked on her poise.  It was very important to me to be there for her.  She needed me to be there for her.  So, I had to tell Mike I couldn't go to UCLA.  He was crushed.  He was mad.  Most of all, he was hurt.  He didn't speak to me after that, and our debate team dissolved. 
 In my college yearbook, he wrote that he was disappointed that we didn't go to UCLA, but we still had Harvard.  I saw Mike a couple of times after that over the years.  He died at a young age of cancer.  Sandra came in 4th in the beauty pageant.  She and I are still good friends.  I often wonder what if we had gone to the debate tournament.  Where would I be today? 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


 Elton John recorded a song years ago called "Friends".  It was for the movie of the same name.  That song became the theme song for some friends of mine at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church, and it spilled over to friends at Anderson College.  It started with Sonny, Ellen, Karen and me.  It spread to my new friends of Sandra, Talula, Mary, Jimmy and me. 
 Mr. Vivian was in charge of the Chapel Committee for AC.  He needed student volunteers to work in the chapel office during the chapel time.  Attendance was mandatory for chapel, so the volunteers had to check the rolls taken in chapel.  Sandra, Talula and I were the volunteers.  It was really a way to get out of chapel, but we were also the ones most involved in the drama programs, and we were also very good friends.  Sandra was from a very small town in Anderson County called Sandy Springs.  Talula was from a very small town in Orangeburg County called Bowman.  We used to kid Talula about cows, as she was a farm girl.  As it turned out, Bowman's street signs had cows on them.  Sandy Springs had a mill nearby, but it was mostly just a crossroads.  Sandra and I were sophomores, while Talula was a freshman.  I became their brother, and they became my sisters.  It became a time, where we got very close. 
 As time went on that sophomore year of mine, Sandra and I became closer.  I helped her prepare for both the Miss Anderson College and Miss Anderson County beauty pageants.  She was first runner-up in the first one and fourth runner-up in the second.  I prepared her with stage presence and talent.  Talula would later compete in the Miss Orangeburg County pageant, and she got Miss Congeniality. 
 Mr. Vivian was taking a group of people to Europe and the Middle East the summer of 1973 and asked us if we wanted to go.  We said yes, because it would be one last hurrah of the three of us being together.  It was not hard to convince our parents to also say yes.  They also knew how close we were, and it would be safer if we went as a group.  More on that trip later.
 Mary was from Greenville and a sophomore.  She had a hippie spirit, and so did I.  We were buddies.  Her father was on the radio and TV in Greenville.  We hung out a lot. 
 Jimmy was from a small town in Pickens County called Easley.  He was also involved in the drama program.  He was a freshman, but he seemed older than he was.  He also signed up to go to Europe with us that summer. 
 I was no longer the loner who was hated by everyone.  I was no longer the one who would never amount to anything.  I had friends.  Real friends.  Good friends.  Loving friends.  Caring friends.  It felt good.  Real good.  Amazingly good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Breaking of Bread

 When Mr. Vivian was planning the drama season for 1972-73, he originally wanted to do a play around the death of Jesus, but there were some limitations around our stage, and it would be too big to produce, so he settled on "Laura".  The spring play was to be a bedroom farce, but the female lead didn't want to kiss me, so that was scrapped.  In between the two plays, he planned to do a one-act play about the Civil War called "The Breaking of Bread".  It involved two soldiers, one Union and one Confederate, who meet on a battlefield.  There were about five other guys, who played dead soldiers.  I was cast as the Confederate.  Dennis, who had just played the lead in "Laura" was cast as the Yankee soldier.  His parents objected.  They didn't want Dennis to play a Union soldier, so the parts were switched, and I was the Union soldier, and Dennis was the Southerner. 
 We rehearsed for a few weeks.  We were to do the play in chapel for the students at Anderson College.  The play was set outdoors, so we tried to get a little realism in there by spreading leaves all over the stage, and get a tree stump to put near the middle of the stage.  We also put limbs around the back of the stage.  There were two fight scenes, and we choreographed them.  Since I couldn't wear my glasses in this play, I had to memorize where everything was on stage, so I wouldn't run into anything.  I also had to know when Dennis was going to throw a punch.  We scheduled the play to run just before Thanksgiving. 
 The first performance was for chapel.  During the first fight scene, Dennis threw a punch, and I wasn't ready.  He caught me on my nose, and it started bleeding.  I had to carry on.  Later, some folks in the audience asked me how I got ketchup up my nose to get it to look like it was bleeding.  I told them it was magic.  During the second fight scene, the object was to fight over a rifle and Dennis would come up with it.  Unfortunately, the rifle was brown and so were the leaves.  It got lost under the leaves, and we couldn't find it.  The play couldn't continue until we found the rifle, so I started by slinging him across the stage, and he felt under the leaves for it but it wasn't there.  He did the same thing to me.  No gun.  Panic set in.  The fight scene went on longer.  Dennis flipped me over him, and I landed on the gun, hurting my back.  I held it up to him, and he grabbed it.  We could then proceed with the play.  The audience never knew.  Toward the end of the play, there is a climatic duel.  I had rigged my gun with a cap, which would go off.  Unfortunately, when I pulled the trigger, nothing happened.  I tried again, and the cap didn't fire.  It had worked great in rehearsal.  So, I made up a line about Yankee guns not working right.  It got a little laugh from the audience.  Dennis's gun fired. 
 The reaction to the play was very positive, and there were three churches in the area that wanted us to come and do it there.  The fight scenes went okay, although my back had not healed, so I would reinjure it every time.  At our third church, we did the scene, and Dennis slammed into the stump.  After the play was over, we were in the restroom of the church changing our clothes, when Dennis asked me what a broken wrist looked like.  His hand was swollen.  Mr. Vivian had to take him to the hospital.
 The play had a powerful message, but it was jinxed.  About three years later, I had to direct a one-act for my Senior year at Presbyterian College.  I picked "The Breaking of Bread", but I rewrote it to be a story of World War III.  One character was from America, and the other was British.  I cast two actors from the Theatre program.  One of the two said something funny during rehearsal, and I laughed at him.  He thought I was laughing at his performance, and he got offended and walked off of the set.  I had to recast it with a week to go.  It went off okay, but it wasn't memorable.  After all, that play was jinxed.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


 Upon returning to Anderson College for my sophomore year, things had gotten much better for me.  I was the hero of the Theatre for pulling off "Up the Down Staircase".  I had a private room in the same suite, where Louie used to be.  People started liking me more.  Things were good.  I changed my major to Speech and Drama from English.  I was still in the Ivy Leaves literary group, but I dropped all of the religious organizations.  I also stopped going to church. 
 During the Fall of 1972, I took much more of an active role in both politics and the stage.  I was also in great physical shape.  On Saturdays, Phil and I would play tennis.  I also ran a lot and walked.  Mr. Vivian was looking to direct a play called "Laura".  It was a murder mystery.  I thought for sure that I would get the male lead, but that went to Dennis.  I was not pleased.  After all, people liked me.  Mr. Vivian felt I needed to get some technical work under my belt, so I was cast in a very minor role of a detective.  I only had 2 lines--"You mean it was him?  C'mon let's go".  Funny how you remember stuff.  I worked backstage on the set design, lighting and sound.  One of the props needed for the play was a stereo.  Mr. Vivian and I went to a local stereo store and asked them to loan us a stereo for the play.  They did, but they wanted free advertising in the program.  Done.  The stereo had a demo record attached to the back.  Mysteriously, the record went missing.  I had it for several years.  Confession is good for the soul.
 The play went well.  There were two actresses who played "Laura".  One was a little older than the other.  Linda was the younger one.  She died the next year in a car crash.  Jimmy played the villain.  He and I became very good friends.  Howard played a suspect.  He and I were at Flora together.  He went on to play golf and is now a motivational speaker. 
 The one thing I learned from "Laura" is not to get your ego in your way.  All jobs are important to the overall success of a piece.  It may hurt not getting the lead every time, but one can do things that will enhance one's part no matter how big the part is.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Explo '72

 One of the group that I got involved in during my freshman year at Anderson College was Campus Crusade for Christ.  My two suitemates, Steve and Lenny, were also involved in it.  We went to gatherings at Clemson.  One of the events we signed up for was Explo '72, which was going to be held in Dallas, TX in June.  Steve, Judy (Steve's girlfriend), me and a few others left Greenville on the bus to go to Dallas.
 The bus drove all night, and we got to Dallas the next day.  We stayed in a motel in Arlington.  The motel overbooked their rooms for the event, and the only room left for the 3 guys in our group was a suite which was built for 8 people.  We thought it was great, since each person could have their own room and bathroom.  Our meetings were at UTA.  We heard Andrae Crouch, Danny Lee, and others.  Our night meetings were at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.  We heard from Bill Bright, who headed Campus Crusade, as well as other religious leaders.  There were also musicians including Barry McGuire and Johnny Cash.  There were 100,000 college kids from all over the country to attend this week-long event.
 One of the goals of Explo was to send people out by twos and witness to 8 people, thus witnessing to every person in Dallas.  It was a monumental task.  Each pair was given 8 addresses in the Dallas area.  I went with a girl I didn't know.  One of the pair would present the gospel message, while the other one sat quietly and prayed.  She volunteered to speak.  I volunteered to pray.  We knocked on doors, but no one came.  It was the middle of the afternoon, and most people were at work.  There was one lady home.  She invited us in, and we presented the gospel to her.  She said she went to church, but she had not heard the message presented in such a way.  She gave us some water, and we went on our way.  Everyone else either didn't answer the door or weren't home.  I don't know how many people made a decision that day.
 When we returned back to the motel one night after a Cotton Bowl rally, Steve wanted to say good night to Judy.  The other guy wanted to get something to eat.  So, I went to the room.  When I opened the door, there were two kids in a rollaway bed in the front room of the suite.  I just figured that they had put them in our room, since we had so much space left over.  I went down the hall to my room; opened the door; and found a couple sleeping in my bed.  I left them, and went outside.  I found Steve and the other guy and told them that other people were in our room.  Steve thought I was lying, so he went into the room to find the same thing.  We went to the front desk, and they told us that a large family had come to the motel, while a double room had checked out.  The motel moved our stuff into the double room, and moved the family into ours.  They showed us our new room, and it was like entering the twilight zone.  All of our stuff was placed in the exact spots where we had left them in the other room.  The motel had taken polaroids of our stuff and used the pictures to place our stuff.  Even the toothpaste and mouthwash in the bathroom were exactly where they were in the other room.  One other strange part of this night--the family never woke up from their sleep, while we were walking around the old room.  Our initial thought was that they had stolen our stuff.  We could have killed them all that night as they slept, but that wouldn't be the Christian thing to do.
 On Saturday, which was also my birthday, Campus Crusade had the Jesus Music Festival in downtown Dallas.  100,000 people were there.  So were Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Billy Graham, and a lot more.  Judy, Steve and I were toward the back of the crowd.  I told Judy about my life story of bullying, suicide attempts, and other stuff.  She felt so sorry for me that she told me she was changing her major to psychology to help people like me.  I don't know if she did.
 After the festival, I got on a Greyhound bus to go home.  The bus went to Atlanta, where I was transferring to a bus to go to Columbia.  While I was sitting in the waiting room of the terminal, I saw the news that there had been a break-in at the Democratic Headquarters in Washington, and the perps had been arrested.  I remember thinking how stupid those guys were.  Little did I know that was the start of Watergate.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


 The political climate today is much different than the late 1960's to early 1970's.  Today, the issues include immigration, the economy, education, jobs, and global terrorism.  Back then, there were basically two important issues--civil rights and the Vietnam War.
 In 1969, I became aware of the Vietnam War and why we needed to get out of there.  Nixon was the president.  By 1972, I had become a part of the anti-war movement.  I formed an organization called The Walter Durst Society for Human Rights, which became The United Society.  I also joined two groups--The Individuals Against the Crime of Silence and The National Peace Action Coalition.  NPAC organized a lot of rallies and marches.  I got a lot of pinback buttons from them, as well as posters and pamphlets.  I became their representative on the Anderson College campus.  I didn't participate in any marches, but I did write articles for the newspaper, and display the posters around campus.  AC was a very conservative school, so I didn't have a lot of help in this cause.  I also became the head of the McGovern for President campaign at school.  I met Joe Biden years later, and he said that the McGovern campaign was his first job in politics.  I told him it was mine too, and he grinned and said that it was "a very lonely job".  We laughed over it, but the fact was, at the time, we were both dead serious.
 As soon as I would put an anti-war poster up, someone would rip it down or write rude messages on it.  There was no freedom of speech.  One guy in particular was a National Guardsman.  He actually threatened physical harm toward me.  A poll was taken of the students, and 98% went for Nixon.  I was definitely in the minority. 
 My anti-war activities also included some things related to slowing down the war effort.  I got about 200 cards from the Pentagon to get folks to express an interest in volunteering for work as nurses in the military.  I filled out those cards with phony names and addresses, so it would take people at the Pentagon to write these fake people and get the letters back undeliverable, thus slowing down their work. 
 During this time, I also was involved in ecology.  There was a stream that flowed through a park in downtown Anderson.  The stream was heavily polluted from a run-off that came from a nearby road and a tire store.  Dogs played in the stream along with children.  I wrote the mayor about cleaning up the stream, but he said no. 
 I wore an Army shirt that I got from the Army/Navy store.  The law said that you could wear a shirt like that, as long as it didn't have a name on the shirt other than yours.  Mine had "Jackson" on it, and I wore it proudly, until it fell apart.  I never washed it.
 One result of my activities was that I started to have an FBI agent follow me around.  They kept tabs on me.  As I said before, it was a different time.  Years later, I applied for and got a federal job.  It involved some very secure documents.  I had been there 9 months, when one day my supervisor asked if there had been a background check run on me.  I told him no, so they did one.  The next week, I was let go with no explanation.  I wrote to the FBI to request my file.  I got two pages from them with my name at the top, and the two pages were blackened out, with a notice at the bottom "by reason of national security".  I applied for another federal job and was denied.  I asked them if it was because of my anti-war activity, and they said yes.  I asked them what if I renounced everything I stood for during that time.  They said that it would be a good thing to do, but I could be blackmailed with my past.  They weren't kidding.
 In 1974, I took a Sociology class and wanted to do a slide presentation on the movement.  I took pictures of the posters and buttons, but I wanted more, so I went to Fort Jackson to take pictures of tanks and soldiers.  As I was doing so, two MP's drove up in a jeep to ask me what I was doing.  I told them, and they said I couldn't do it, and I had to leave.  I drove to another part of the base and started taking more pictures.  The same two MP's showed up again, this time with guns drawn.  They wanted the film in my camera, which I gave to them, although I had some already used in my car, which I didn't give them.  They escorted me off of the base.  I got an A for my project.
 There were two people I truly hated during that time.  One was the guy who stole my love away.  The other was Richard Nixon.
 Many years later, I was at a White Elephant Party at church.  One of the items brought was an oil painting of Nixon.  I got it, but someone traded for it, and I lost it.  I found Nixon's address and wrote to him, telling him the painting had been stolen from me.  He sent me an autographed picture.  I sold it for $100.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Parking Lot

 After doing an awful thing at my first job at S Mart, I was reluctant to do any work, but I got a summer job in 1972 at Bankers Trust on Main St. in Columbia.  My job was the Assistant Parking Lot Attendant.  The parking lot was outdoors, and the main attendant was much older and needed to take a lot of breaks.  Outside in the summertime was not real fun, but I had a chair under a shade tree.
 The parking lot had about 20 spaces and it was for the customers of the bank.  The main bank building had a back door that led to the lot.  There was also a building across the street for other bank offices.  They told me the first day that the parking lot, which was free to park, was just for bank customers.  It wasn't for anyone who wanted to park and then go shopping.  They knew how long a person should be in the bank, and if the car just sat, I was to get the license plate; call the DMV to find out who owned the car; and if the owner could not be accounted for, we had it towed by Happy Daddy Towing Service.  There were signs in the parking lot noting that fact.
 One day, I was watching the cars, and one had been there for quite some time.  I went through the procedures, and I called around to the offices, and no one recognized the name on the car.  So, I had it towed.  A little while later, a girl came out to leave, and she could not find her car.  I told her that it had been towed.  It turned out that she was in Personnel interviewing for a job, and the car was her mother's.  The bank had to pay Happy Daddy to get the car out, and I had to go out there to pick it up.  I don't think the girl took the job that was offered to her.
 I also learned that just because there are rules about only bank customers parking there, it doesn't mean they are strictly enforced.  The lot was one block from the State House, and I was told that folks with special state license plates could park there.  But, they took up the spaces for the customers.  There was always a grey area between right and wrong at the bank.
 One of my duties was to direct traffic in the lot.  Some of the spaces were hard to back out of, and I worked to get the cars in and out, especially during the noon rush.  One day, I was trying to get a woman in a Cadillac to back out, so that a VW Bug could move into the spot.  The woman was doing fine.  I was in between her car and the VW.  As she was pulling away, she forgot her car was still in reverse.  She put her foot to the gas, and her car lurched backwards, pinning me between her car and the VW.  Her heard something pop in my knees.  I had to climb out on the hood of the VW.  She leaned out her window and asked me if everything was okay.  I just said yes, as I was in great pain, and she sped off.  I went into my supervisor's office to tell him what happened, and he sent me to the hospital to be checked out.  They did some x-rays and determined that I had just bruised a bone.  My right thigh muscle hurt a lot, but they said it was just a trauma and to go home and rest.
 My parents were out of town.  I was back at work the next day after a hot bath.  Two years later, I started having pains in my knees.  I ran a lot and was in really good shape, but my parents felt I should go to an orthopedist just to see if there was a problem.  The doctor did x-rays and found that both knees were dislocated.  My right knee was worse than my left.  He said that he could fix them, but I would be in a cast for six months.  Or, the other alternative was not to fix them, and I would get arthritis when I was 40.  I was heavily into Theatre, so I couldn't see taking the cast option, and 40 seemed a long time away, so I opted for the arthritis.  Sure enough, when I turned 40, I got arthritis in my right knee.  My right foot is wider than my left, because my weight shifted.  My right calf turns out to the right instead of being straight from the knee to my ankle.  Years later, I was talking to a doctor about my injury.  He said to never go to an ER when you think you have broken a bone.  They don't know what to look for.  I learned that lesson the hard way.
 I did complete my summer job without further incidents.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Performing and Trouble

 In the 4th grade, we had a talent show.  Some kids danced; some sang; and some did recitations.  I tried to do something different, so I did some impressions.  I did animal noises and bird calls.  I concluded the act with a Tarzan yell.  I got a lot of laughs.  It may have been the first time I used humor in an act of mine.  I didn't win the show.  I may have come in last, because the teacher didn't care for it, but the kids liked it.
 In 8th grade, I was sitting in class one day listening to my teacher, whose name was Mr. Stock.  He had a crew cut and was pretty tall.  He was probably in his thirties, but he seemed old.  There was an empty desk in front of mine.  The desk had an opening in it that was for books and papers.  I had a rubber band and some paper, so I made some spitballs and was shooting them into the desk's opening in front of me.  Mr. Stock was writing on the board with his back turned away from us.  I shot one spitball which missed the opening; clipped the top of the desk; and hit Mr. Stock in the back of his neck.  He spun around and asked who did it.  Now, you would think that no one would say anything, but everybody pointed to me.  He made me stay after class and write on the blackboard numerous times that I would not shoot spitballs in class.  I was late getting home that day, and my Mother asked why.  When I told her, I was punished again. 
 So, the moral of this story is that it is better to do a Tarzan yell than to hit your teacher in the back of the head.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


 As I mentioned earlier, our family vacations were paired a lot with Daddy's work.  They were either at Ridgecrest, Glorieta, or at Southern Baptist Convention meetings.  I wanted to talk about three of them.
 One was in Houston, TX in 1968.  I remember it, because we heard about Bobby Kennedy getting shot in Los Angeles, while we were in Houston.  It was the headline on a newspaper we saw in a box on the street.  Daddy and Mother worked in Houston at a church long before I was born.  The pastor of that church was Dr. Westmoreland, and he had box seats for the Houston Astros baseball team.  We got to go to the Astrodome and watch a game.  That was pretty cool.  Daddy had a free day, and he asked me if I would rather go to San Antonio to see the Alamo, or to go to Astroworld and ride rides.  I opted for the park.  During that trip, we stopped in Selma, AL for dinner.  I heard there that Otis Redding had been killed in a plane crash.  Funny how you remember where you were.
 In 1969, the SBC was in New Orleans.  It was the first time (and the only time) I had been back to my hometown.  My Mother and I went to the Lowe's Theatre to see the movie "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium".  It was a funny movie, and kind of ironic, because 4 years later, I would experience that movie first-hand.  The Theatre was the swankiest I had ever seen.  I also experienced the seamy side of New Orleans with the strip bars of the French Quarter.  I couldn't go inside, but the doormen would open the doors to show me what was inside.  I also experienced men trying to pick me up.  I didn't know at the time what that was about.  I did fall in love with pecan pralines. 
 One other trip we made to a convention was Philadelphia.  We saw all of the historical stuff there, and I ran from downtown to the art museum and climbed the steps to stop at the top.  I did this before Rocky did it, so maybe he got the idea from me.  I was in really good shape. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


As I mentioned in my previous post, Lenny was involved with the music dept. at Anderson.  He would later be president of the choir.  One afternoon after class, I wasn't doing anything.  He asked me if I would help him move a piano onstage of the auditorium, after the play rehearsal was over.  They needed the piano for chapel the next day.  Even though I had the experience with the Theatre, I was majoring in English to become a writer, and I was not real interested in doing plays.  It took up too much time.  Time I wanted for fun. 
 Lenny and I sat in the back of the auditorium, waiting to do our thing with the piano.  A guy named Reed came up to us and asked us if we wanted to be in the play.  He said there were two minor roles that had not been cast.  The play was "Up the Down Staircase", and it had a pretty big cast.  Lenny said no, but I asked what one of the part were.  Reed said they had a part called Mr. Bester, who was an English teacher, and he had very few lines.  I thought why not, so I agreed to do it, as it wouldn't be much of a stretch for me, and it wouldn't cut into my fun time.
 The director of the play was a professor at the school.  His name was Mr. Vivian, and he taught Speech and Drama.  He knew my father, as they were in seminary together years before.  Not to sound egotistical or anything, but there were very few people in Baptist circles that my father didn't know.  Anyway, I volunteered for the part.  They asked me what experience I had in Theatre, and I cited Columbia College.  That was good enough for them. 
 I went to all of the rehearsals, even if I wasn't going to be called.  I just enjoyed the experience of the rehearsal.  I got to where I knew everyone's lines besides just mine.  The night of the dress rehearsal was when chaos set in.  The lead male role was a guy named Joe Ferrone.  He was a difficult student that the teacher tried to help.  The actor playing the role was a guy named Chris, who really looked the part.  He was very good in the role.  At the time for the dress rehearsal, Chris was nowhere to be found.  The word came down to us that he had quit school.  Mr. Vivian came to me and asked me if I would play Joe.  I knew the lines.  I knew the blocking.  But, what about Mr. Bester?  Mr. Vivian said that they would change some stuff around, and I would play both parts, with Mr. Bester not being seen.
 For two days, I cut all of my classes and began to cram for the role.  I spent a lot of time of the stage going over lines and blocking.  Chris had longer hair that me, so Mr. Vivian took me to a wig store, and we got something called the Joe Namath wig to make my hair a little longer.  I also did some stuff to get a costume together.  I had to pull this off for the sake of the show.
 On opening night, Chris showed up and wanting to play his part.  He apologized for skipping school, and he said the pressure had gotten too great.  I was very willing to have Chris take the part back, but Mr. Vivian made the decision.  I was to do it.  The meeting backstage was very tense, but most of the cast agreed with Mr. Vivian.  Since the play took place in a classroom, I was able to use a notebook as a cheat sheet for my lines.  The audience never knew that.  After the play was over that first night, Chris came up to me and said I did good.  A reporter from the local newspaper said in the review that I did the best I could considering I got the role two days before opening night.  I really didn't know how to take the review, but it did encourage me to do better, if there was a next time. 
 If the drama bug had bit me at Columbia College, it bit me harder now.  There were people in the cast like Debbie, Ann and Nancy who recognized my talent and encouraged me to do more.  I decided to change my major from English to Speech and Drama.  It was a life-changing decision.  I got applause for my work.  Once again, people told me I had talent.  I was the talk of the school.  I was not used to that, but it felt good.  I don't recommend anyone taking a role that soon before a show, but I pulled it off.
 I live in a world of what ifs.  What if Lenny had not asked me to help him with the piano?  What if Reed had not asked me to do a small role?  What if Chris had not left school two days before opening night?  What if Mr. Vivian had not had faith in me?  I guess I would never had done a lot of plays.  I guess I wouldn't have been in movies or TV.  But, all the stars aligned for me that time, and my life changed forever.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Suitemates

 As mentioned earlier, I had some problems with my roommate's friends as a freshman at Anderson College.  Thankfully, I had some great suitemates.  Our suite consisted of 4 bedrooms and a bathroom.  Three of the bedrooms had two beds, and one room was a private room.  Lenny, Louie, Steve and Mike were my friends.  Louie walked around nude a lot, as he was a hippie.  Lenny was into music.  Steve was studying religion.  Mike was going to be a doctor.  Steve and Mike took me fishing once near the school.  We didn't catch much, but I did see a snake.  One Sunday afternoon, we were bored, so we decided to form a band.  Steve played the recorder; Lenny played the kazoo; and Mike played two garbage cans like drums.  We called ourselves The Walter Durst Orchestra, and I sang two songs that I had written--"Hey Mr. Sun" and "Albert Frankenstein".  The first was just me and Steve.  The second had everybody.  We had a short rehearsal, and then we did it, and I recorded it on cassette.  The tape exists somewhere.  During the second song, it got so loud in Steve's room where we were taping that I had to literally put the microphone down my throat in order to be heard.  We had fun.
 Louie had a friend named Jeff who was a basketball player.  Jeff had a fast car, and he would take us going out into the country to drive fast.  It was like "The French Connection".  I was in the back seat and scared for my life, but having fun too.  A year later, another guy took the same road with two girls.  He wrecked.  He survived, but the two girls were killed.  I'm glad Jeff didn't wreck.
 There was a concert at Clemson that Louie, Jeff and I wanted to attend.  It was Goose Creek Symphony, Canned Heat and Mountain.  I adored Woodstock, and they bestowed upon me the hippie name of "The Woodstock Kid".  Canned Heat and Mountain played at Woodstock.  When Canned Heat came out to play, they told the audience that half of the band got lost in the mountains coming here.  They were good anyway.  Mountain was loud.  Goose Creek played, and there was a lot of dancing and Boone's Farm Wine was passed around, along with some other stuff.  I didn't partake, but I really like the music.  It was my first real concert to attend.  Afterwards, I was supposed to meet up with Louie and Jeff to go back to school.  They had met a couple of girls, and we all went back to the girls' apartment.  I stayed in the living room, while they hooked up in the bedrooms.  I finally left and tried to find a place to stay for the night.  There was a hotel on campus called The Clemson House.  I only had $3 on me, which would not cover a room, but the desk clerk let me sleep on a sofa in the lobby for $3.  That was fine until the next morning, when the janitor came in to clean.  When he cut on the TV in the lobby to watch a gospel show, I woke up and made some noise.  I frightened the janitor.  I am sorry whoever you were.
 I had missed my ride back to school, so I began to hitchhike.  It was 20 miles back to Anderson, and it was Sunday morning.  I had walked a couple of miles, when a car came along, and picked me up.  It was 3 high school kids in a Cadillac.  I talked with them for a while and found out that they had stolen the car from one of the kids' grandmother.  At that point, I didn't want to be in the car with them, if they got stopped by the police, so I asked them to let me out.  They did, and I walked the rest of the way back to school.  Fun times.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Radio Hour

 My best friend, as I left for college, was Sonny.  He was in the KPBC's youth group.  He and I had a lot in common with music and girls.  When I went off to college, I wanted to write to him, as he was back home and two years younger than me, but I decided to do something different.  So, The Walter Durst Radio Hour was born.  It consisted of a cassette tape.  He and I sent tapes back and forth to each other.  The tapes had music and other things on them, and we shared a lot of our feelings on them, because we knew that no one else would listen to them. 
 My "radio station" was WOW, which stood for Walter Oh Walter.  His was SOS, which stood for Sonny Oh Sonny.  I did intros and it was just like a radio program.  At times, the tapes would be 90 minutes, and sometimes 30 minutes (for financial reasons).  There would be commercials that I would write, and a lot of music.  When my grades weren't doing too good, my parents would take my stereo away, so the shows would have a lot of stuff taped off of the radio.  I have one tape today that I kept from Sonny, because it had a lot of Bread music on it.  Years later, Sonny gave me some tapes that he had kept of me.  Most of the time though, we would tape over the tape that we sent to each other.  There are probably a lot of gems that were lost.
 After about a year, I expanded the shows to go to other people.  They were produced exclusively for them.  Such as Ellen and Karen, BJ, James, Jimmy, and a few others, but the bulk of them were between Sonny and me.  Even when I went to seminary in 1976, they continued.  Here is one intro from then, as I remember it:
 And now, from studio room 235 of Ft. Worth Hall at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth Texas, it's the Walter Durst Radio Hour.  Idea by Walter Durst; Written by Walter Durst; Directed by Walter Durst; Produced by Walter Durst; and Jived by Walter Durst.  The Walter Durst Radio Hour is broadcast on WOW, which stands for Walter Oh Walter and sent to station SOS, which stands for Sonny Oh Sonny.  The Walter Durst Radio Hour is brought to you by the wonderful folks at Irby's Pies with one flavor--Peach, and by the Postal Service.  The Walter Durst Radio Hour is also heard in Poland, Zambia, Albania, Lesotho, Tibet, Madagascar, and it is the official radio station of Outer Mongolia.  And now, here's Walter Durst.
 It went something like that with some variations, depending on the location.  I would do scripts at first, but then I just winged it.  It was creativity run amok.   I miss those days.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mrs. Pryor

 In my first semester, I had to take Botany.  It was a required course.  I was never good in Science or Math.  Thankfully, Math was not a required course.  But, Botany was.  My teacher was Mrs. Pryor.  She was a bit on the heavy set side, and wore glasses.  She also had a very thick Southern accent.  I was not used to that kind of accent.  I came from a more urban setting, where most of the people talked normal.  Mrs. Pryor didn't talk that way.  In Botany, you study about cells.  Mrs. Pryor pronounced that word as "sails".  She confused me.  Why were we learning about sails?  What did that have to do with Botany?  I almost failed her class, because I didn't understand what she meant.  If you teach, please have good diction. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

S Mart

 There was a store in Anderson called S Mart.  It was located near a shopping center on the outskirts of town.  The store sold mainly women's clothes which were made at the Stone Manufacturing plant in Greenville.  Some of the clothes were factory seconds. 
 I needed a part-time job after school, so the Dean of Students got the job for me.  He was an older man named Dr. Lawton.  He was also very kind.  My job there was the Director of Maintenance.  I was the only employee doing that job, which is why I was the Director.  The store had several employees, mostly all women.  The manager of the store was a man, who must have been ex-military, because he was very strict.  My duties consisted of mowing the grass outside of the store; sweeping the inside of the store; and whatever else. 
 I also found that his business practices weren't quite kosher.  There was a woman in the stockroom whose job was to sew designer labels into the clothes.  She had labels from Belk, Neiman Marcus, JC Penney's, and other stores. 
 I had been working there for about 10 days, when my manager told me that I needed to wax the floors after closing.  He showed me the large vat of wax in the stockroom.  I had never waxed a floor before, and he didn't give me any direction.  So after the store closed, I went to work.  I have never been very good at reading directions, and apparently the directions on the vat said to mix the wax with water.  I didn't see that, and I pumped the wax from the vat into a container and poured it onto the floor.  Yes, it smelled, but I thought it was supposed to smell like that.  I took the mop and spread it out over the floor.  I completed the task and went home.  The next afternoon, I reported for work and expecting a pat on the back for a job well done.  That didn't happen.  The manager was livid.  He fired me on the spot.  It seemed that they couldn't open the door to the store that morning, because I had put so much wax on the floor that the door was sealed shut.  So, they went to the loading door at the back of the store.  The smell was so bad that it made some employees sick.  The manager said that the floor was so sticky that it was hard to walk, and he asked me if I had cut the wax with water.  Of course I hadn't.  They had to take all of the clothes out of the store and clean them, and then strip the wax off of the floor.  They were closed for several days.
 I went back to the store to get the money for the last few days, and the manager refused to pay me.  I reported that to Dr. Lawton, and he took me out to the store.  I was due money for 10 days of work.  After some discussion between him and the manager, I was paid a portion of what I was owed.  For a few months after that, I would see the manager around town.  He would never speak to me, but his face would get real red, as if his blood pressure was going up.  He scared me.
 S Mart closed up a few years later.  They were investigated for the sewing of the labels.  I wonder how the investigators found out.