Monday, September 26, 2016

The Arrest

 I was working at Belk downtown one Saturday.  I had parked off of Assembly Street.  When I got out of work to head home, I went to my car and started driving on Washington Street heading toward Sumter.  When I got to the corner of Washington and Sumter, the light turned red.  On one side of the corner was the old Richland County courthouse.  On the opposite side was a parking lot.  As was my custom, when I stopped at a light, I would look in my rear view mirror to see if anyone was behind me.  I looked, and there was a two-door car, maybe a Firebird, behind me with two men in the car. 
 All of a sudden, several police officers rushed the car behind me.  Some had pistols and others had shotguns.  Some wore plain clothes and others had uniforms.  I watched in shock as these officers pointed their guns at the two men and ordered them not to move.  I was asking myself what I should do.  It was obvious that the police had used my car and me to block the men from escaping.  They had also controlled the traffic light, which was still red.  On the other hand, if there was going to be any shooting, I didn't want to get caught in the crossfire, so I had to make a decision.  If I got out of the way of the situation, I would be breaking the law by running the red light.  So, I waited until I felt that the situation was stable.  I then turned right from the left lane through the red light and went around the block.  I wanted to see this takedown, but not be in it.
 I rode around the block.  It took no more than three minutes to get around the block, even though I was still shaking from what I had seen.  When I got around the block, the car was gone.  The police had loaded the car into a trailer.  The two men were gone, along with all of the police.  Everything was back to normal.  There was an article in the paper the next day about a big-time drug arrest that had taken place the day before, and I guess that it what I witnessed.  The arrest was very well coordinated.  Some people may say that it could have been a movie being filmed.  There were no cameras.  This was real. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My First Car

 As I wrote earlier, I was working full-time at Belk, after getting out of college, so that I could get a car and afford my graduate school.  I know that some people get their first car while in high school, but my parents could not handle that financially.  I had to wait. 
 My Mother let me drive her car.  At first, it was a 1956 Dodge.  It was black and white with fins.  I learned to drive with that car.  It had push buttons on the dash, and the steering wheel was as big as a bus.  She then got a 1967 Plymouth Valiant, which would be her car for the rest of her driving life.  It was a good car.  Years later, she would get offers from mechanics to buy the car from her, as it had become an antique. 
 I worked hard to be able to afford my first real car.  My father and I went shopping for my car at Dick Smith Datsun, and I found the perfect car.  It was a 1973 Ford Maverick with low miles.  It was an olive green.  I remember my father asking the salesman if he would let his son or daughter drive this car to Texas and back.  He said yes, so I bought it.  It cost $2000 used.  It had bench seats, automatic transmission (a must), and a radio.  It was a two-door sedan.  I loved it.  I had a friend who had a Maverick, and she liked hers, so I knew this was the car for me.  I had that car for the time I was out in Texas.  I will talk about that more later.  Needless to say, I didn't have to borrow my Mother's car anymore, which was a good thing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


 I was walking downtown during my lunch hour in the Spring of 1976 and happened on a record store across from USC.  It was just a hole in the wall, and it was easy to miss.  I went inside and my life changed again.
 As I have written before, I love music.  Especially The Beatles.  I love going to concerts.  By this time, I had seen Elton John, The Carpenters, Canned Heat, Goose Creek Symphony, Climax, Lester Flatt, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Mountain, Gene Cotton, and more.  For me, live music was the best.  Most of the songs were longer than were on record.  So, when I walked into this record store called Tunes and Things.  I found a new avenue to enjoy live shows--bootlegs.
 I really didn't know what bootlegs were.  They were secret recordings of shows or unauthorized releases.  I bought two records that day.  One was a concert by Elton John, and the other was BBC radio songs of The Beatles.  The quality wasn't the best, but it was something not everyone had. 
 This discovery started me on a quest to find more of these rare albums.  I bought a bunch.  I had a huge selection of bootleg Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elton John, Bob Dylan, and many more.  I also found that there were collectors from around the world who had stuff too, so I began trading cassette and videotapes with them.  At one point, I had the second largest Beatle video collection in the world.  It was documented as such.  Years later, Desmond Morris found out that I had a TV show featuring him and John Lennon.  He wanted a copy.  I sent it to him in London, and he sent me several of his books, which he autographed for me. 
 Record Collecting became a serious hobby for me.  At one point, my records alone were valued over $100,000.  I have since sold a lot of them, but I still have a few things.  Check out eBay for "wdurst".  You may find something there.  I branched out to other collectibles including books, posters, autographs, and memorabilia.  I always have wanted to open a store in town, but have never been able to for financial reasons.  Maybe one day.  If Oprah would send me the $50,000 I asked for several years ago...  And just to be clear, I don't sell bootlegs.  That would be illegal.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Job Offer

 One day, as I was working at Belk, an old friend of mine from Bankers Trust came into the store.  He asked me to come to see him during my lunch hour.  His office was only three blocks up Main Street.  When I got to his office, he laid out a job proposal to me.  Their operations office was out on Rivermont Rd. near the zoo.  They wanted me to oversee the computer operations for the bank.  In 1975, computers were very big and took up an entire floor.  He told me that he knew I was very smart and could do the job easily.  I asked him what floor housed the computer, and he said it was in the basement.  Strange as it may seem, I wanted to have a job where there was a window, so that I could see outside.  The basement had no windows.  I turned down his offer.  In looking back on this decision, I would have been on the ground floor (no pun intended) of computers, and I would probably be a millionaire now had I taken the job.  One of those regrets in life that I really don't regret.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Belk FT

 When I graduated from college, I was going to go to graduate school to get my Master's so that I could teach Theatre in a Christian school.  I had been promised that I could come back to Anderson College to teach.  The Academic Dean had made that promise to me.  He said that all I needed to do was to get a graduate degree, so that was my goal.  I decided to go to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX to get that degree.  It was the same school where my father and mother had gone, which would make me a legacy, but I needed a car to get there, as well as money to live there, so I took a job at Belk.
 The Belk Department Store was in downtown Columbia on Main St.  It had been there since the 1930's.  Everyone knew Belk.  In the 1990's, it was torn down and the Columbia Art Museum and a bank sit there now.  When Belk was there, they had big display windows, and three floors of merchandise.  I got a full-time job there selling Books and Luggage.  I loved books, but I didn't know much about luggage, except for what I owned.  So, I began to learn about the subject.
 Selling the books was easy.  I learned that Romance Novels sold the best to women.  They just ate that stuff up.  I also learned that I had a knack for displaying books.  One of the books that we got was one by Billy Graham.  Our display person wanted us to show it as a mountain with a peak at the top.  I thought differently.  After having the mountain, and it wasn't selling, I changed the display by making the books to form a cross on the table.  It sold like hotcakes.  It was all about how to present it, and the display people let me do my thing after that.
 Luggage was a little different.  You had to display that by size (big to small).  So, I got the bright idea to put the most colorful luggage on the front to attract attention.  It worked. 
 There were a few perks to working in that area.  About every month, we had a recall of some books by the manufacturers.  Mostly paperbacks.  You didn't have to return the whole book, but rather tear off the covers and send them back for credit.  We were supposed to throw away the books, after we tore off the covers, but I kept a few for myself.  At one point, about a third of the books in my collection were missing covers.  Of course, some of my co-workers got what they wanted, mostly Romance Novels.  Another perk was that my supervisor gave me the opportunity to work with vendors about what to buy for my department, especially Luggage.
 We had two stockrooms that used to be window displays that had been sealed up.  They weren't very big.  I really didn't have much of a concept as to how big Luggage boxes would be.  American Tourister and Samsonite each had big sales twice a year.  I talked to the rep and ordered 200 assorted pieces of each.  When the boxes came, I had to put them into the stockrooms.  It was quite a challenge.  But, we sold all of the bags, and I found I had a knack for selling Luggage.  That came in handy later in life.  American Tourister had a color they called "Plum", but it was really purple.  It was hideous, but that color was our best seller.  Belk and an independent luggage store were the only two stores that really had any selection in Luggage.  We blew them out of the water. 
 I also learned a lot about customers.  One man came in the store one Saturday who looked like Jed Clampett.  He was dirty.  He told me that he wanted something nice for his wife.  I went to the cheap stuff, and he pulled out a wad of cash and bought the most expensive piece we had.  It turned out that he was a farmer and had been to the market and sold all of his produce.  I learned never to judge one by what they were wearing.  Another man came in one day and picked up an attache case and started walking toward the door without paying.  I stopped him in the Men's Department and asked him what he was doing.  He looked at me, and asked what I was talking about.  I pointed to the bag, and he gave it back to me.  It turned out he had dementia, and didn't know what he was doing.  I also had interesting customers.  One man came in and told me that he was Elvis Presley's sergeant in Germany, and he showed me pictures of the two of them. 
 I had two girls, who worked with me part-time.  Their names were Gail and BJ.  They were both high school students.  Gail was a very hard worker.  BJ wasn't as much, but I began a friendship with BJ that lasted 20 years.  I will write about her more later.
 I stayed with Belk for a year, until it was time to move to Ft. Worth.  They were sorry to see me go, because I had created a lot of sales for them, but it was time.