Wednesday, September 13, 2017


 As stated in my previous story, the Singles from First Baptist went on a mission trip to Philadelphia in the summer of 1980 for a week.  We left on a Friday afternoon.  The weather report said there was a 20% chance of rain.  Just as we were getting ready to go, the skies opened and poured the 20% chance of rain.  Thankfully, we got most of the stuff loaded up before the storm.
 We drove all night and got to Washington DC the next morning.  We didn't have much time to sightsee, but we did see the Lincoln Memorial.  We headed onto Philadelphia and got there late Saturday afternoon.
 We stayed in an old church that was our home base.  Their electrical system was a little old.  If a girl wanted to dry her hair, she had to announce it, because two hair dryers could blow the circuit.  The guys slept in one classroom, and the girls in another.  One night, I woke up from sleep to go to the bathroom.  I walked into a fly strip hanging from the ceiling.  I got a face full of dead flies.  I waited until morning to go to the bathroom after that.
 One afternoon, two friends and I wanted to walk around the neighborhood.  We were near where they filmed "Rocky".  All of a sudden, we started hearing popping noises coming from behind us.  A guy in a car was shooting a gun toward pedestrians.  We ran to a bank.  I told the security guard that he needed to call the police.  His response to me was that sort of thing happens all the time.  Drive by shootings were common place?  We had dropped into another world.
 Of course, every tourist has to run up the steps at the art museum, just like Rocky did.  I had actually done the same thing years before, when I was in Philly in 1972, but this was different.  We were all Rocky.  The event really isn't all that hard.  It is a lot of steps, but they aren't steep.  Sorry if I burst anyone's bubble as to the accomplishment or lack thereof.
 Another free afternoon, I went into the downtown to go see a movie.  That night, we were going to a Phillies baseball game, and I had to be back at the church by 5:30.  The movie was over around 4, so I headed to the train station to get the train back to the church.  I noticed on the map that there was a red line and a blue line for trains.  I couldn't figure out which line I needed, so I asked a man on the platform which train I needed.  He told me the blue line.  I stood there on the platform waiting for the train, and wondering if he told me the truth, or was he just blowing me off.  I decided that it was really the red line I needed, so I got on that one.  As it took me out to North Philadelphia, my stop was approaching.  The train didn't stop and kept going.  I realized that the man was telling the truth, that I really did need the blue line.  I got off at the next stop and had to run back over a mile to the church, getting there just as they were leaving to go to the game.  I have a problem with trusting people.  We got to the game.  The Phillies were playing the Reds.  The Reds won 14-1.  It was one of the worst losses in Phillies's history.  That year they went on to win the World Series.
 On another free afternoon and evening, we went to Amish country.  They really know how to cook.  The food was great, but the people didn't want their picture taken by us.  One man got very mad and threatened us.  One of the cooks told us that carrot cake was an aphrodisiac.  I don't know if that is true or was she just trying to sell her cakes.
 Our last night there, we decided to do a talent show to amuse ourselves.  There was a record at the church of the greatest Motown hits.  A girl, a guy, and I got together to mime two Supremes songs--"Stop in the Name of Love" and "Love Child".  The girl played Diana Ross, and the guy and I were her backup "singers".  I worked out the choreography.  We won the show.
 As we left the next day, the kids found out when we were leaving.  They didn't want us to go.  We had made a lot of strong bonds with those children.  Some tried to get on our van to get us to take them to SC.  As we drove down the street, the kids ran after our van until they couldn't catch up with us.  I have often wondered what happened to those kids.  I hope they did okay.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


 Our church in Columbia was invited to do a Vacation Bible School in Philadelphia, PA in July, 1980.  A group of Singles would go.  They wanted me to put together a group of 4 puppeteers to present puppet shows to the kids.  I had never worked with puppets before, so I took on the challenge.
 I had to write five puppet scripts to be performed one each day.  Each script was 3 pages long and involved 4 separate characters.  Each character had a different personality.  2 guys and 2 girls.  Before writing, I researched other scripts to get a feel for how puppets would sound.  I then got to work on my scripts.  Each one had conflict between the puppets.  Each one had to have some humor in them.  And, each one had to have a moral lesson.  The kids attending would be from pre-school to 6th grade, so the hardest part of writing the scripts was that I had to write them so the youngest ones could understand them, and the older ones wouldn't be bored by them.  I also wrote the scripts so that the first day would connect with the second day and build to the third day and so on.  So by the fifth day, we concluded with what we had learned the previous days.  The stories included topics like stealing, bullying, lying, and more.
 I cast 3 other people to perform with me.  We each had to practice with our puppets, so that the words out of mouths conformed with the movement of our hands.  That was kind of hard at first, but we worked out like rhythms in music.  We also found an old refrigerator box that we used to stand behind and put the puppets above the edge of the box.  I tried to write the scripts so that each puppeteer didn't have to hold up his or her puppet all during each show.  One's arm could get tired.
 When we got to Philadelphia, we found that we had two different locations to do the puppet shows, as our group of Singles had two different VBS's.  Each location was outside in a schoolyard.  We had a van to transport us from one school to the other.  When we got to the first school, we had to sweep off broken glass from the area were the kids were going to sit.  Apparently, there was some gang activity in the area where we were, and they would party at night.  Once we finished at the first school, we would pack up and drive over to the other school to do a show there.  Before we started, we once again had to sweep off all of the broken glass.  Welcome to inner-city Philadelphia.
 All of the kids loved the puppets, although most called them "muppets", because they were used to "Sesame Street".  That was okay.  Whatever worked for them.  The shows were well-received, and my goal to appeal to all of the kids there was a success.
 The next few stories will also be on our week-long trip to Philadelphia.  Enjoy.

Monday, August 28, 2017


 One job I applied for was at WIS TV.  They were looking for a host for a news segment called "The Palmetto Traveler".  The concept was that the person would travel around South Carolina and tell about historical sites that viewers may not know about or interesting out of the way places of interest.  I was not well-versed in television work at that time.  I did take a course in seminary on TV production, but that was all.  I had already turned down a production job for Pat Robertson, but I thought I would give this a shot.
 My father was a huge South Carolina history buff, and he had instilled (or rather hammered) it into me.  The news director at WIS was very impressed with my knowledge of SC, but I had to do a final screen test.  They wanted to see how I would look on camera, as well as interviewing a subject.  I didn't do too good, so I didn't get the job.  The person who got it was a Drama teacher at USC.  He didn't last too long with it.  They should have gotten me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Census 1980

 In 1980, I was out of work and needed a job.  One that wouldn't be a problem for my back.  I heard about the Federal government hiring to take the 1980 Census, so I applied.  I was initially hired as an enumerator, who was one that went out into the field, but things quickly changed.  The man in charge was a friend of my brother's, so I got a job as the assistant in the Special Places Department.  Our offices were on the 7th floor of the Strom Thurmond Federal Building.  I say "offices", but it was really one giant room with a bunch of files and a lot of desks. 
 On my first day, I had to take an oath to protect the country from people without and within.  I asked who those people were, and they told me bad people.  I think the oath now replaces without and within with enemies foreign and domestic.  That makes more sense.  Without and within what?  That bothered me.
 Special Places were those places were people lived that wasn't permanent.  Schools, Hospitals, Homeless, Lodging, and other places.  The goal was to count everyone, wherever they were, on one date.  I was in charge of supervising enumerators who went to the colleges.  We had a five-county area that we were in charge of.  There were a lot of students to count.  The enumerators were paid on the number of forms they gave out.  I had one guy who went into a dorm and just dropped the forms on the floor.  He came back and said he had delivered them to the students.  A dorm counselor called me to complain that the census forms were all over the floor in the lobby.  We fired that guy.
 Another one of my jobs was to call every motel and hotel in the five-county area to ask what they charged for a night.  The amount was important, because it depended on how the place was classified.  I called one motel in Columbia, and they asked me if I wanted the hourly rate or the nightly rate.  I told her nightly, and she said to take the hourly rate and multiply it by 8.  Classy place.  I also had the ability to send out US Marshals to a place that didn't comply with my questions.  I called one motel, and the woman on the other end refused to give me the information.  I told her that I would send the Marshals to her motel, and she said that I should go ahead an send them.  So, I did.  About an hour later, she called me back and told me that she thought I was kidding, and she gladly gave me the information I needed.  Force works.
 I also had the job of finding out why people had not paid their taxes in 7 years or more.  Most of these people lived in rural areas.  I learned how to find people.  This was before the internet, so I had to get good at finding people.  In the smaller towns, one could find names of people close to the name that I was looking for.  Most of them were related to one another, or they knew them.  I called one number and got hold of a woman.  I asked her if her husband was home, and she told me that he had gone.  I asked her when he would be back, and then she started crying.  She yelled out that he was dead and hung up the phone.  I didn't know that "gone" meant "dead".  I do now. 
 Federal government work was fun but also hard.  We only got thirty minutes for lunch, which was almost impossible to handle.  Restaurants were few and far between.  One of our workers was named Margaret.  She had a convertible.  She and I went to a restaurant across town and were back within 30 minutes.  She ran all of the lights.  Another guy I worked with was named Billy.  He made things light with his jokes.  Our job was high-pressure, so the lighter you made it the better.
 Toward the end of the counting, we had cities and towns in the area go over our numbers.  There was a formula that each person counted would go toward how much federal dollars they would get.  It was something like $1500/person.  Most areas agreed with our counting, but the city of Columbia didn't.  They went over our figures and found discrepancies, so I had to go back over the numbers and our maps to determine what was correct.  One place that the city claimed was a house was actually a dugout at a softball field.  It got rather contentious.  Going back and forth with them.  We finally settled on a figure that was about 2000 more people than originally. 
 My responsibilities involved dealing with some very sensitive information.  It was high-security.  After working there 8 months, my boss called me into his office and asked me if I had filled out a security checklist.  I had not, so they ran a security check on me.  Fingerprints.  The works.  About a week later, he called me back into his office and told me that I was being let go.  I failed the security check.  Why?  Because of my FBI file in Washington about my anti-war activities some 9 years earlier.  So, for 8 months, I had been around very sensitive material.  Now, I couldn't.  I was told to shred all of my documents before leaving, but then Columbia tried to sue for more people.  All of my notes were gone.  Sorry, Columbia. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ronald Reagan

 In 1980, Ronald Reagan was running for President.  He was scheduled to make a campaign speech at the State House in Columbia, and I wanted to see him.  As I have said before, one of my obsessions is to see every President or potential President in my lifetime, and I have except for JFK.  And, I am a political junkie, so I had to be there. 
 One way to see someone famous is to figure out how he is going to get to the site of his speech.  Which route is he going to take?  I knew that Reagan would have to come in the south side of the State House, because it was easier and more private from a security standpoint.  I stood next to the south side entrance to the grounds.  It was just me and an elderly woman.  Just the two of us.  Shortly, we heard the sirens of police cars, and a nondescript car approached.  It wasn't a limousine.  Just a plain four-door sedan.  The car had to slow down to take a speed bump just before the entrance to the grounds.  I was about three feet from the car.  I looked inside the back seat, and there was Ronald Reagan along with his wife Nancy.  The woman and I waved at them, and they waved back.  I then gave a thumbs up to Reagan, and he did the same back to me. 
 After that brief encounter, I noticed that Reagan gave the thumbs up sign a lot after that.  I don't know if I gave him the idea, but it is nice to think so.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Christmas Work

 I had to make some money, after getting back home from Texas, and not being able to find a teaching job.  I answered an ad in the paper for a writer.  It was a man, who lived in a public housing high rise, who wanted me to write his life story.  I interviewed him for hours.  He said he worked at the old Jefferson Hotel in Columbia, which was at the corner of Laurel and Main.  It was during the prohibition era, and he used to work at a speakeasy.  He would see politicians stop by for a drink and hook up with a prostitute.  He told me all about the Roaring 20's.  The problem with his story was that it was a one-person's account, which couldn't be verified.  I did some research on my own, and his name never came up in any of my research, despite how powerful he said he was.  In fact, he said he was a local gangster and hitman.  It was obvious to me that he was suffering from dementia.  I never wrote his story.  I don't even remember his name.  He didn't want to pay me, until the book was complete.  So, that's why I didn't write it, even though it was questionable to begin with.  He died a year later.
 I did get a job at J. B. White's at Richland Mall for Christmas.  It was part-time, and my job was to restock bags at registers and do some stock work.  I was not the only one doing this job, which was good, because it was pretty hard.  In those days, department stores were very busy with Christmas shoppers.  So, I spent the majority of my time bringing bags out to the departments that needed them.  At first, it was a not so bad, but as Christmas got closer, it got more demanding.  I brought the bags out, and stooped down to put them underneath the registers.  On one occasion, I brought out a pack of really big bags.  The load shifted on me, and I hurt my back.  So much so that I couldn't stand up.  The pain was awful.  I had to quit that job, because my back was more important to me than the money.  Ever since then, I have had lower back problems.  No workman's comp for me.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Willie Nelson

 When I sold records in Ft. Worth, Willie Nelson was the second most popular artist.  The most popular was Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.  So, when Willie announced he was coming to Columbia for a concert in 1979, I just had to go.
 Delbert McClinton opened for him.  He was great.  Then, Willie came on stage.  He did a killer show.  The one thing that I was amused at, and I know he was too, was that a bunch of guys in the audience showed up wearing cowboy hats.  The hats were nice and clean.  They looked like they had never been worn before.  What was funny about that was what I had seen in Texas.  Any self-respecting Texan would buy a cowboy hat and then run over it with their car or truck before wearing it.  That fashion statement was important, because it had to look used.  It had to be dirty.  And, it had to look beat-up.  None of these guys in Columbia had hats that looked like that.  They weren't real cowboys.  They were showy, fake cowboys.
 So, if you go to a country music concert, be sure to roll your hat over with your car or truck, preferably in the mud.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

FBC Singles

 Just like 1970, when I met some people at Kilbourne Park and changed my life, I did so again at First Baptist Columbia, when I became a part of the Singles Ministry.  The Singles were a group of mostly young professionals who were unmarried.  We began a Sunday School class that grew large over time, and we hung out a lot together.
 One of the first places we went was Ridgecrest, NC over the Labor Day weekend.  It rained most of the weekend, but we stayed in a cabin owned by the church, and we went to an organized Baptist conference on Singles.  I met a girl there named Wanda.  She was not a member of our church and had come there as a guest of another guy in our group.  Wanda was very cool.  She was a writer and very creative.  I gravitated immediately to her.  We had long talks with long walks around the area.  She asked me what I liked to do for fun, and I told her I liked to gamble and play poker.  She told me she didn't like gambling, and that was when I gave that up.  I wanted her to like me, and if that was going to be a stumbling block, then I was willing to remove it.
 Another place we went was to Charleston for the day.  We went downtown and just walked around.  I discovered a store called Prism Records run by an albino guy named Fred (aka Billy).  He was very strange, but he had a lot of cool Beatles things.  He and I became friends over the years, and I will write more about him later.
 Another place we went during this first year in Singles was to White Oak Baptist Conference Center near Winnsboro, SC for the weekend.  One of our group brought his girlfriend for the weekend.  Her name was Donna Rice.  Years later, she got mixed up with Senator Gary Hart and caused a scandal that would cause him to have to resign from running for President of the US.  You never know who you might meet.  One side note was that little did I know that I would be working at White Oak a year or so later, but that story will be left for another time. 
 Also coming up will be the Singles' mission trips.  And the Singles' choir.  Oh, and Wanda joined our church.  I was glad.

Friday, June 9, 2017


 While I was at seminary, I wrote a Biblical monologue on the personification of the Cross.  I did the monologue for a class.  It started with me as a seed and growing up to be a tree.  As time goes by, the tree gets chopped down and fashioned into a cross.  The cross does not understand why he is being used for the purpose of killing someone.  The monologue was physically demanding, because I had to hold my arms out straight for several minutes.
 When I got back home from Ft. Worth, I rejoined First Baptist Church.  They knew of my success in drama and asked me to do several things including stewardship promotions and puppet shows.  One day during Sunday School, my teacher asked me to prepare a monologue on Hosea.  Her name was Nezza Howard.  I didn't know much about Hosea, so I went home that afternoon and read the book of the Bible.  I got an idea about his life and what he preached about which was sin.  I read commentaries on Hosea and history about the time he lived.  He was especially upset about the prostitutes in his community.  God tells Hosea that he is to marry, and He wants Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer.  At one point, Gomer leaves Hosea and goes back to her wicked ways.  Hosea is distraught, and God tells him to take her back.  There is a some apprehension about doing this, but he eventually comes around to what God wants him to do. 
 One of the things I wanted to do with the monologue was to get the audience involved in it.  I didn't want them to just see what I was doing, but to also experience it.  I also wanted to put it in a more modern flair, because I have always hated the way some actors portray Biblical characters by wearing bathrobes.  So, I created this modern approach to the story.  I also wrote some humor into the piece, because it also allows for the audience to hear and respond.  And, I made it to be about 5-7 minutes to allow the audience not to get bored.  I also wanted to use the monologues to imagine what might have been going on in these characters' lives which are not spelled out in the Bible.
 So, the next Sunday I presented Hosea.  It was very well received.  As a part of the monologue, I did Hosea as an old man reflecting on his life, and also as a young man living his life.  I did it several others times for groups including White Oak Conference Center, the Spartanburg Arts Center, several churches, and even Dock Street Theatre in Charleston. 
 I also wrote other Bible-character monologues.  One was called Saul/Paul on Paul's conversion.  Another was called Peter on his denial of Christ.  Another was called Moses on him killing an Egyptian.  Another was called Peter vs. Paul on who was more important in the early church.  And, my personal favorite was called The Fishing Disciple, which was the story of a fisherman who is mad that Jesus was taking all of his fishing buddies away from him.  That one was the most fun to do.  It also provided me to do some improvisation in the piece.
 But, back to Hosea for a minute.  I would change the monologue a little to the times I would do it.  For example, when God tells Hosea that he must marry a prostitute, Hosea ponders who it should be.  Originally, I used the names Farrah, Cheryl and Suzanne, which were three pretty actresses of the day--Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd and Suzanne Somers.  These were three names easily recognizable by an audience.  As time went on, the names changed.  The last time I did Hosea, the names had become Paris, Britney and Miley.  The other thing I did in the monologue was to look out into the audience and find a girl or woman that didn't seem to be paying attention.  I would then go out into the audience, point at her, and yell "Harlot".  After all, Hosea was preaching against harlots.  It would also wake up the audience.  I had done it numerous times with no response, other than a little laughter.  So, I did it for a youth camp.  I looked over, and there was a teenaged girl looking off into space.  I went over to her; pointed my finger at her; and yelled "Harlot"!  Her face turned deep red, and she looked like she wanted to crawl under her seat.  Some of the boys snickered.  I knew I had gotten into something pretty bad with her, but I couldn't stop my monologue.  Afterwards, I went up to her and apologized.  She said it was okay, but I knew I had struck a nerve with her.  After that experience, I changed the word "Harlot" to the word "Sinner".  It didn't have quite the same effect, but it saved a lot of embarrassment. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blue Mountain

 I was sending letters of interest to all the colleges and universities I knew in the United States trying to find a teaching job.  I got back letters from most of the schools saying no.  But, in late July of 1979, I got an offer from a college for me to come see them.
 It was Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.  They wanted me to come see them, and they would pay for my airfare to fly out there.  I had to fly into Memphis, and the academic dean would meet me and drive me to the school.  Blue Mountain was an all-girl college and affiliated with the Baptists.  They had heard about me and wanted my expertise there.  It was a win-win for both of us.  I would have a job, and they would have me.
 After I got picked up at the airport by the dean, he drove about two hours to get to the school.  It was beautiful.  There were mountains around (hence the name), and the air was cool in mid-summer.  The dean put me up in his house, which was not far from the school.  In fact, everything was not far from the school, as it was a little town.  The college was the town.  I was first amazed at the fact that the dean didn't lock the door to his house, when we left.  I made a comment about that, and he told me that there was no crime in the community, and everyone left their doors unlocked.  He said the only situation they had ever had was a guy passing through town years before and was hungry, so he went into a house looking for food.  He only took some food and left.  It was like being in Mayberry.
 He took me over to the college and showed me around.  Even though it was summertime, there were some students on campus.  They seemed friendly.  I also met some of the faculty.  They seemed nice.  This was going to be the perfect fit for me.  The dean took me over to see the theatre.  It was in an old building, but I could work with it.  He also showed me where my office would be, and the textbooks I would be using.  He even showed me where I would be living.  He really did a good job selling the college to me.  My last visit there was a meeting with the president of the college.  He had to sign off on me, before I was to be hired.  We had a nice chat, although he told me one thing he expected of me that I had a hard time with doing.  He wanted me to direct a musical once a year.  I had done a musical in college, and knew how hard it was to coordinate the drama department with the music department.  A lot of egos.  The president told me that the community expected a musical, so I told him that I would work with him on it.  I thought that once I got established that I could do the productions I wanted to do. 
 So, after a weekend with those folks, the dean took me back to Memphis to get on a plane and fly back to South Carolina.  He told me that it would be soon before he would call me and let me know when to move out there. I thanked him, and got on the plane.  When I got back, I was confident that I had the job.  Two weeks went by, and I had not heard from them  I knew it was getting close to school starting, so I called them.  I didn't want to sound anxious, but I just needed to know.  The dean told me they had decided to go with someone else.  Okay, I was a big boy.  I knew I was not the only fish in the sea.  But, I was perplexed.  Why did they say I was the one, and then I wasn't?  So, I did some checking.  It turned out that they wanted to check with the seminary to see if there was anything that would prevent them from hiring me.  A man in the administration told them that I was a troublemaker, and related to them about the witch hunt that occurred during my last semester. 
 When I was going to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I was told that I could go anywhere in the world with a degree from there.  That is true, although one cannot get hired anywhere in the world with a degree from there.  I discovered that I could not get a favorable recommendation from the seminary, where I had gotten my Master's degree.  The seminary where I had created the Communications major.  The seminary where I had spent two years of my life there.  It was all for naught, or so I believed at the time. Blue Mountain didn't want to reimburse me for the plane trip out there, and I had to beg them to do so.  The president reluctantly agreed to pay me back. I knew I had to go a different direction in my life, and teaching in a college was not on my radar anymore. 
 I did entertain an option to teach drama in a high school, instead of college, but I found that my courses in seminary would only translate to states where there were other Baptist seminaries--Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, or California.  Otherwise, I would have to start all over again and take Education courses at a school in South Carolina.  I was unwilling to do that.  So, I did get certified to teach in public schools in Charlotte, but I never followed up on that.  I also took the teacher's exam in South Carolina and was given a provisional certificate, but it expired two weeks later, so I didn't pursue that.  I have taught a little since to high schoolers, which will be covered later in my stories, but for now the teaching job door had closed for me.  Another was soon to open.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


 There is a scene in the movie "The Blues Brothers".  They had been evading the police on a long chase to Chicago.  The car had been through a lot, but they were on "a mission from God".  At the end of the chase, they stop in front of a building, and the car falls apart.  That pretty much happened to my Ford Maverick.
 It had survived a wreck; a beer run; 2 1/2 round trips from Columbia to Ft. Worth; and numerous other ailments, but it had gotten me home.  Then, it fell apart.  My father and I got it to the Dick Smith dealership, and the first words out of the salesman's mouth were:  "How did you get back home?"  It was on a wing and a prayer.
 It was time to trade it in for another car.  They were willing to take back the Maverick for parts.  I looked at cars and found a Datsun 210.  It was sort of an orange/brown color.  It was smaller and lighter than the Ford, but it was perfect for me.  My father had to cosign the loan for the car, and I had to make monthly payments of $167/mo. to start, but it was so worth it.  It had 4 doors, which was 2 more than the Maverick, and an AM/FM radio.  The Maverick only had AM.  The only downside was that the air conditioning dripped water into the passenger seat.  The carpeting squished a lot, but that only happened on trips.  In town, it was fine.  Also, I was used to a six-cylinder car with a lot of pep.  This was four-cylinders, and I had to learn to get a running start in going up steep hills.  I also had to get used to the automatic transmission selector on the floor between the seats.  The Maverick had it on the steering column.  Once all that was ironed out, it was great. 
 When I got home from Ft. Worth, I found my parents needed help with the house and their lives, so I agreed to stay at the old homeplace and become something of their caregiver, while they gave me a free place to stay.  It was a little confining, as I couldn't drink there, nor do other things, but I made do, and I was their caregiver for the next 15 years.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Au Revoir FW

 It was 1979, and I was trying to find a job in my field of teaching Theatre in a college.  I had sent out a lot of letters.  I had gotten some positive responses, but nowhere that I would feel comfortable.  Then, Lander College in Greenwood, SC said for me to come see them.  Greenwood was the town where my father was from, and where my Grandmother still lived.  I even have a street named allegedly after me (W Durst Street) that runs next to Lander. 
 I had to think about leaving Ft. Worth.  I had a good job that I enjoyed at Sanger Harris.  I had a girl who I loved named Kare.  I had a great apartment across from TCU.  All of those things made it harder to leave.  I made the decision that I had to go.  I quit my job.  They understood.  I terminated my lease from my apartment.  They understood.  I had to tell Kare.  That was more difficult.  We talked about her moving with me to South Carolina.  She was in college at UTA and liked the courses there.  She said she had an uncle in Atlanta, and we could meet up there, when she visited him.  Our last time together was when she picked up my Stearns & Foster mattress from my apartment.  I asked her to sell it for me, as I couldn't take it with me.  It was incredibly sad.
 I also needed to do something about all of my records and books, as I had accumulated a lot, and they wouldn't fit in my car.  A friend told me about shipping them on the train back to Columbia, and it wouldn't cost much.  I got everything boxed up and took it to the train station.  When the boxes arrived in Columbia, my father picked them up.  Somewhere along the way, a handler had stuck a metal rod into the side of each of the boxes, which put a dent into the cover of most of my records.  I was not pleased.
 I left Ft. Worth with my car and clothes.  I drove to Vicksburg, MS which was my standard stop on the way back.  I couldn't sleep that night, as I was missing Kare and the other people I had left behind.  I got up at 3am, and left Vicksburg at 4am.  I got to Atlanta around 5pm and called home.  I told my parents that I was going to try and get to Columbia.  By the time I started on that last stretch of highway on I-20, I was very sleepy and very wired.  I didn't know anything about anything.  My mind had cut-off, but I was still driving to Columbia.  I had on the radio full-blast to try and stay awake.  I had the window down to get fresh air.  About halfway there, I realized I was running out of gas.  Anyone who has driven on I-20 between Atlanta and Augusta knows that there aren't many gas stations on that stretch.  I passed an exit where one was, and stopped.  In my stupor, I backed up on the interstate to get back to that exit.  I know it was stupid to do so, especially at night, but thankfully there were no cars coming.  I got the gas and moved on.
 I got to Columbia around 9pm and went to my parents' house.  No talking.  Some hugging.  A lot of sleeping.  After a few days, I contacted Lander about coming there for an interview, and I was told that they had changed their minds about me coming to teach there.  I was back home.  If I had known about Lander's decision, I could have had more time with Kare.  God had other plans for me.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bible Scholar

 After graduation from seminary, I spent an extra year in Ft. Worth.  Mainly to be with Kare, but also to spend the time looking for a job in my field.  I had gotten my Master's degree to teach Theatre in a Christian college.  My ultimate goal was to do it at Anderson College in SC, my alma mater.  I had been guaranteed a job by the Academic Dean there, but he left before I graduated, and that job offer was off of the table.  I went looking elsewhere.
 I should say here that I was one of the few Christian Baptist dramatists in the country.  You could count on one hand who they were, and I was one of them.  I had an ego as big as all outdoors.  I was good.  Everyone told me I was good.  That is why I wanted to share my goodness with students to make them good, too.  Not as good as me, but good.  That is the perfectionist in me.
 So, I checked around.  Colleges were looking for me too.  I had built up some kind of reputation.  Pat Robertson from the Christian Broadcast Network contacted me.  He wanted me to come to Virginia and run his TV network.  I didn't know that much about the TV business, so I declined.  Then came the colleges and universities.  The three major ones were Hannibal-LaGrange in Missouri, Hardin-Simmons in Texas, and Liberty in Virginia.  All three had heard of me and wanted me to come teach there.  All three were very complimentary of me.  All three sent the same questionnaire.
 As I have written earlier about honesty, I have always felt that one should be honest when filling out questionnaires.  I did on the MMPI in seminary and almost got kicked out.  I have on my resume, too.  I never went to Harvard or Yale.  I never worked for IBM or on Wall Street.  My  resume is truthful, and I never thought I could live with myself if I lied about my credentials.
 So, the questionnaire they sent me had ten questions.  I could truthfully answer yes to 9 of them.  Most were questions of character and beliefs in Biblical principles.  But there was one that I had trouble with, and that was asking about the inerrancy of the Bible.  When I was a kid, I learned that there were two chapters of the Bible that were identical:  II Kings 19 and Isaiah 37.  Look it up.  They are almost word for word the same.  These two chapters were probably written 200 years apart.  Not the same person wrote them.  How could this be?  I believe that it was a mistake by the scribes who copied the original manuscripts.  Perhaps one got up to go to the bathroom; a gust of wind came along and blew the copied manuscript; and when he got back, he had lost his place.  So, I could not say honesty that the Bible was totally inerrant.  I sent each questionnaire back, and each school thanked me for being honest.  Jerry Falwell even wrote me to say he could never figure out about those two passages either.  I have often wondered what if I had just sucked it up and answered yes to everything.  My life would have been quite different.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Joe T's

 One of my absolute favorite places in Ft. Worth to eat was Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant.  Located in North Ft. Worth, it was the place to go to see and be seen.  Many celebrities would eat there.  It served authentic Mexican food.  And, it wasn't too expensive. 
 I went there a few times, mostly with friends.  The best food and the best beer you could find.  The last time I went was by myself.  The tables were kind of close together.  That night, my table was next to two guys, who were very well dressed.  One was Cullen Davis, and the other was Racehorse Haynes.  If the names don't ring a bell with you, I will explain.
 Cullen Davis was probably the richest man in Ft. Worth.  He was an oilman.  There was a rumor that the character of J.R. Ewing in the TV show "Dallas" was modeled from the life of Cullen Davis.  He lived in a huge house in Ft. Worth.  The house could be seen from my apartment near TCU, and it looked really close, until you started driving toward it.  You just kept driving, until you were upon it.  There was nothing nearby.  One night, at that house, some people were killed and wounded.  It was well known that his wife was having an affair.  Her lover was killed, and she was wounded.  The main suspect was Cullen Davis.  Eyewitnesses saw him there and saw him pull the trigger.  He was arrested and put on trial.  The trial had to be held in another city, because of all of the publicity.
 Racehorse Haynes was Cullen's lawyer.  He was well-known for his track record in winning cases.  It cost someone a whole lot of money to hire Racehorse.  He was from Houston, and he was only one of two attorneys in the country who had the best defense record of getting his clients off.
 So, here they were.  Both of them sitting at the table next to me.  It was the night after the verdict that afternoon.  Cullen Davis had been found not guilty.  Despite all of the forensic evidence.  Despite all of the eyewitness testimony.  Despite all of the motives.  The jury found him not guilty.  Racehorse had earned his fee.  Cullen had hired the best attorney.  And, I heard them joke about the verdict.  Cullen was so appreciative that he had gotten away with murder.  Racehorse was a little more careful in his remarks, because he knew others were listening.  Cullen didn't care.  He knew he couldn't be tried again for the murder.  The law wouldn't allow it.  Now was a time for celebrating.  I got sick to my stomach. 

Friday, April 21, 2017


 There were a few families in Ft. Worth that allowed me to come into their homes, while I was out there.  One of them was Arch Miller and his wife.  Arch was a retired Colonel in the Air Force.  Mrs. Miller worked with me at Sanger Harris.  They were a nice older couple.
 They organized picnics for those of us who worked with her.  We went out to a park next to Carswell AFB and to a swimming hole outside of town.  We would go over to their house and just sit.  Arch loved to play poker, so he taught some of us how to play.  Growing up, my father never allowed us to play cards, unless it was Old Maid or Uno.  My brother and I would play cards under the sheets at night using a flashlight.  So, the idea of playing real card games was very appealing to me.  Arch taught us many games, but the one I liked the best was something called Cutthroat, which was like 7-card stud.  It was like sweating bullets.  We never played for big money, but the pot could get up to around $50. 
 After getting the lessons, some of us guys from work would get together on Thursday night to play poker.  It was more of an excuse to drink beer than play cards, but it was fun anyway.  One night, Kare through a surprise party for me.  Everyone had chipped in to give me a money tree.  There was $150 on it.  There was a poker game going in the back of the house.  Kare told me that if I took the money tree to the poker game, she would never speak to me again.  I did it anyway, and I lost it all.  Kare made up with me a few days later. 
 We also would drink beer at the Miller's house.  One Sunday, it was my turn to buy the beer and bring it to their house.  I went to a nearby 7-11 to get the beer.  While I was inside, a group of Hispanic guys pulled into the store, and their car blocked mine from getting out.  I was mad, because I had to get to the party.  I had the beer.  Everyone was waiting for me, so I got into my car with the beer and tried to get out of the parking space.  No luck.  So, I rammed their back bumper with my car.  Several times.  Until their car moved enough for me to get out.  As I was pulling away, I saw them running out of the store.  Their back bumper was hanging from their car.  They were yelling things at me, but I figured that if they didn't know how to park, that was not my problem.  I had a big dent in the back right side of my car from pounding theirs, but I had to get to the party.  I had the beer. 
 Drinking began to be a problem.  As I have written before, there was a club in the mall where my store was.  Kare and I would go there after work and get drunk.  Sometimes, I would go there on my meal break and get a sandwich.  One day, I was working late in the Luggage Dept.  I took my supper break and went to the club.  Rather than eat anything, I had a couple of Vodka Collins and went back to work.  A woman asked me to show her a bag on the shelf.  I reached out to grab the handle, but I couldn't find it.  I was grasping at the air.  I finally got hold of the bag and made some comment about the handle being too close to the bag to grab.  She laughed.  I couldn't see.  That was when I decided that I had to cut back on the booze.  It scared me.  I had a beer once in a while after that, but no more hard liquor.  It was affecting my functioning.  That is what scared me.  I told Kare about that experience, and she agreed that she would quit too.  We are both alive today, because that woman wanted to see a piece of Luggage.  I don't remember if she bought it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


  Some stuff has happened to me that needs a mention without a whole blog for its own, so here are a few short items from Ft. Worth in no particular order.
  One warm summer day, Kare and I were invited to go to a wedding that was in a park in Arlington.  We got there and found that the bride and groom wanted to get married nude.  So, they went behind some bushes and got married.  The bride's father didn't like the idea of his daughter getting naked, so he stormed out.  He went to his car to leave, and his fan belt broke, which left him stranded. 
  I had to rent a car to go out of town.  I got a Mustang.  I was driving back home on the interstate at night. All the cars coming toward me flashed their lights at me.  I realized I had on my brights,  but I couldn't find the thing to push with your foot to dim the lights.  It wasn't until I got home that I found the dimmer on the steering column.  Boy, did I feel stupid.
 One of the nice places in Ft. Worth was the water park downtown.  Water cascading over rocks and concrete slabs.  I went there a lot as a means to relieve stress.  I wrote a lot of poems there.  About a year after I left, "Logan's Run" was filmed in the Ft. Worth area, and they used that water park as part of their movie. 
  One Saturday, I went to a mall near Carswell Air Force Base.  Next to the mall was a big hill which overlooked the base.  I got to watch F-15's take off and land.  The Secretary of Defense was there to watch the planes take their trial runs.  It was cool.
  One thing about Fort Worth is that it is not pronounced the way it looks.  It is pronounced "Foat Wuth".  We sold these t-shirts that said "Foat Wuth, Ah Luv Yew".  They were big sellers.  I still have mine.
  I worked with an older woman at Sanger Harris named Gert Weisberg.  Her son was a professional bowler.  Gert wanted to read some of my poetry, so I picked out a few for her.  She came back the next day and told me I was "deep".  I wonder what she thought of me before reading them.  Shallow?
  We sold these nut bars in our Candy Department.  A shipment came in with bugs inside the bars.  The bars were enclosed in clear plastic, so the bugs had to have gotten into the bars at the factory.  It was like looking at tiny ant farms.  We called the vendor, but they said it was impossible for the bugs to have gotten in the packages.  It was all very gross.  The vendor wouldn't take them back, so they were all destroyed.  Several cases of these bug farms.
  I was leaving work early one night, and it was raining very hard.  The roads started to flood.  My car started to float down the road.  I got the car off of that road and cut through some residential streets to get home.  Normally, it would take me 20 minutes to get home.  That night, it took 45 minutes.  I got home and called the store to tell my co-workers to be careful going home.  I asked them the next day about it, and they told me that the rain had stopped when they left work, and all they saw was some mud on the roads.  It just goes to show that if you don't like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.
  I got a couple of days off at Christmas in 1978 and flew home to Columbia.  The flight was uneventful until we got to Columbia.  The pilot overshot the runway and landed halfway down the runway.  He jammed on the brakes.  When we got to the gate, the passengers applauded.  We weren't applauding the pilot.  We were applauding that we were still alive. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017


 After enduring a month in that bug-infested duplex, I moved up the street to an apartment building across from TCU.  It mostly housed retirees and professors, so it was really quiet.  I got an efficiency that was $205/mo. and worth every penny.  The apartment was pretty big with a walk-in closet.  I loved it.  I was on the second floor, and my balcony overlooked the inside swimming pool across the street and the university.  Just down the street one way was the football stadium.  Just up the street was a grocery store and movie theatre.  Just down from there was a record store.  It could not have been in a better location.
 Being across from TCU had its perks.  I went to a few events there.  One was a lecture by James Dickey, who I had known previously.  Jim brought his wife and daughter.  I met up with them after his lecture, and we laughed about old times.  I think he was very glad to see someone from home.  Another was a lecture by William Colby, who used to be the director of the CIA.  I told him the story about my working for them in Israel for a week and the dangers encountered there.  He confirmed to me that the agency often used civilians in their work.  I knew they did.  Another was the Van Cliburn Piano Festival, and I got to see him play. 
 Another plus for being at this new place was that it was close to the Ft. Worth Zoo.  If the wind was right, I could hear the animals vocalizing.  I went down there a few times.  It was not the best zoo, but it was nice to go.  One of my friends and I went there to ride the train around the park.  There were a group of Japanese tourists in front of us on the open-air train.  They had friends taking pictures of them as they went around the track.  We decided to ruin their pictures, so we covered our faces with our hands as they took the pictures.  I know they wondered who these guys were, and why they were afraid to have their faces seen.  One of life's mysteries for them.
 Across the street from the zoo was a rose garden.  This was where my father proposed marriage to my mother.  It was nice to go there.  I kind of wished Kare and I could have repeated that event, but it was not meant to be.
 Just up the street from the garden was the Colonial Country Club.  I could watch the golf tournament from a hill above the course.  Very cool.
 Also near there was another movie theatre.  I went to see "National Lampoon's Animal House" there.  At that showing, a bunch of fraternity guys went from TCU.  We had the best time watching that movie.  It was a party (literally).
 One winter, it snowed five times over a period of six weeks.  One snow piled on another, as none would melt.  I had to get out to go to the grocery store to get some milk.  It was 30 degrees below zero with the wind.  I lived only two blocks from the grocery store, but it took me almost 20 minutes to walk there, because I had to stop every few feet to catch my breath.  I learned not to run out of something and plan ahead.  I was young and stupid back then.
 I bought a lot of records at the store nearby, especially Beatles import albums from the UK.  It was a goldmine. 
 To be able to live there and not have to worry about an attack dog or millions of bugs was a real blessing.  It was also easier to get home from work or clubbing or both.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


 This story has nothing to do with bugging any kind of electrical item like a phone or a microwave.  It is about my first apartment.
 After having been kicked out of the dorm at Southwestern, and then kicked out of the apartment that I was sharing for free with three friends, I had to find a place to live.  I drove around the neighborhoods near school, and I saw a rent sign on a duplex. 
 The duplex was just off West Berry and a block from Travis Avenue Baptist Church.  It was a one-bedroom with a living room, bath and kitchen.  The tenant on the other side of the duplex was a TCU student majoring in dance.  She had a big dog as her roomie.  I went to see the apartment during the day, and it looked okay.  It was $150/month.  I gave a check for the rent plus deposit to the landlord and moved in.
 It didn't have curtains, so I had to put up a couple of blankets in the living room over the windows for privacy.  The landlord told me that the other tenant put her dog out, when she had guests over to her place.  That was okay by me, as long as the dog was tame. 
 I went to work the first day in my apartment.  When I came home after dark, the dog was also outside.  It apparently thought of me as a threat, and it went into attack mode.  I screamed for the girl to come out and get her dog, so I could get inside, but she didn't hear me.  She was "entertaining" a male friend.  I had to wait in my car until he left, so she would bring the dog back into her place, and I could go into mine.  This happened frequently, as she "entertained" many men.  She seemed to be rather popular at night.
 When I finally go into my place, I found something that I didn't see upon first inspection.  BUGS!
EVERYWHERE!  Primarily roaches, water bugs, and moths.  There was a Mexican restaurant close by, which made the place smell good with fresh bread baking, but it also attracted pests.  Each night, I spent an hour killing bugs.  They were all over, but mainly in the bathroom's tub.  I couldn't take baths because of them.  The kitchen stove didn't work either.  The dials were melted to the frame.  So, I had to buy a toaster oven to cook.  I learned a valuable lesson with the bugs.  Always check out your apartment at night before signing rental papers. 
 I bought a fogger for my place to get rid of the bugs.  That didn't work.  Between the mean dog and the pests, I drank more.  I would put down a six-pack of beer every night just so I could pass out and sleep.  It was just too much to take.  I made a list of 21 things wrong with my apartment and asked the landlord to fix them.  He refused.  So, I told him after a month of living there that I was going to move out.  I asked for my deposit back.  He refused.  I learned another valuable lesson.  If you are going to rent an apartment, it is better to rent from a company instead of an individual, especially if you don't know this individual. 
 I kind of wished that the student would have invited me over to her place and "entertained" me, but I probably would have gotten some disease.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Three Amigos

 I wanted to take a moment and tell you about three friends that I had while at seminary.  I said a little bit about them during the last installment of my blog, but I wanted to write a bit more about them.  Doug, John and Darrell were there names.  Doug and I were from SC.  We would refer to ourselves as "arteests".  We played a lot of Monopoly games during our down time in school. 
 When I had to move out of the dorm after the "witch hunt", the three of them let me stay in their apartment off campus.  I had a bunch of record albums, which I put in the kitchen next to the dining table.  John had his nephew come over one Saturday, while I was at work.  His nephew spilled red Kool-Aid over my albums.  I was very mad, when I got back from work and saw what the boy had done.  Some of the album covers were ruined.  John suggested that I not have them in that area anymore, so I moved them into the bedroom, and I had to crawl over them to get out of bed. 
 For my birthday, they got hold of a 16mm print of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and borrowed a movie projector to show it in the apartment.  They really surprised me.  We had popcorn.  It was just like being in a theatre.
 The VCR was being introduced, and John and I bought a Beta VCR.  We enjoyed recording TV shows and movies.  When it came time for me to move out (after the landlord found I was staying there unauthorized), John took the VCR, and I got the tapes.  This was a monumental event in my life, because it introduced me to home recording.  At one time years later, I had over 2000 hours of tapes of movies and music.  I later had the second-largest Beatles video collection in the world.  I converted all of them to DVD.  It took me three years to do that transfer.  All because of John and I starting out with a few tapes and a VCR. 
 One fun thing we would do was to go out to D/FW Airport and ride the free trams in between the terminals.  It was like riding a slow roller coaster.  We would also go inside a terminal and find a coffee shop.  We would then look for a guy sitting by himself at a table and then sit at the table next to his.  We would then talk about our trip to Vegas and how we won so much money.  It was all made up, but we wanted to see the guy's reaction.  One time, my friends brought cameras and pads to the airport and one of us would pretend to be famous and being interviewed while walking through the terminal.  Just to see the reactions.  We learned that anybody can be famous, if others believe it.
 After being with my three friends, I do not like to listen to Roger Whittaker or Johnny Mathis anymore.  That was about all that we would listen to in the car.  I can live without Roger and Johnny and still have a fulfilling life. 
 I don't know what I would have done without Doug, John and Darrell letting me stay there during my trials at seminary.  Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Witch Hunt

 I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for three reasons.  First, I needed a Master's Degree in order to teach in a Christian college, and that was going to be at Anderson College.  Second, it was the school that both of my parents went to, and I knew many of the professors and staff.  Third, I was called by God to go there.  It seemed a perfect fit.
 One of the requirements for entry to the seminary was to take a personality test called the MMPI.  It was designed to weed out those people who were not mentally suitable for the ministry.  I answered each question honestly, as I thought that was what one was supposed to do.  Questions like:  "Have you ever smoked?"; "Have you ever drank?"; "Have you ever used drugs?"; "Have you felt like someone was following you?".  I answered "yes" to all of those.  I never heard any more about it.
 Also, one of my loves was James Bond movies.  I found a store in Dallas that sold old movie posters and bought all they had.  I put them up on my walls in my dorm room.  Each semester, they would have a contest as to which room was the coolest.  Mine always won.  The first Christmas I was there, I drove home for Christmas to pick up more stuff like records and posters.  As I was working the second Christmas, my boss didn't give me any time off, so my parents sent my Christmas presents to Ft. Worth.  I found a twig outside and decorated it.  I put on some Christmas music on my stereo.  I had one of the best Christmases for 15 minutes of it just being simple.  Things were good.  But then came January.
 I got the flu.  I was pretty sick and didn't feel like eating much, but I called down to the dorm office and asked someone to go get me some bland food.  This guy brought it up to me.  He had never been in my room before, and he saw my posters.  He immediately got offended by the movie poster for "The Spy Who Loved Me".  He told the Dean of Men, who had been in my room before, that I had pornographic posters on my wall.  I should note here that the seminary had changed from a moderate environment to a more conservative one, as it came to religion. 
 Things went from bad to worse.  Students, who had been in my room, were now putting messages under my door saying they were praying for me and praying that the demons would leave me.  The Dean of Men recommended that I be kicked out of school.  In fact, one morning I was asleep because I had an 11:00am class.  He walked in without knocking and woke me up.  His question to me was "Why did you come here?"  I told him that I was called by God to be there.  He walked out.  The Dean of Students was an old friend of my father's, and he was trying to keep me in, but there were several hoops I would have to jump through to stay.
 Meanwhile, the Dean of Men went to the girls' dorm and asked them one question:  "Have you ever been out on a date with Walter Durst?"  The questionnaires came back that no one had.  Many of the girls were in seminary to find a husband, so they could be a preacher's wife.  They didn't bother to ask me who I had dated, as I was very seriously dating Kare.  She was someone I worked with and not affiliated with the seminary.  In fact, Kare was an atheist, and she kept me grounded through all of this mess.  So, based on the question, I was branded "anti-social" and "gay".  I had had the "gay" label put on me before, even though it has never been true. 
 So, the hoops were established.  I would go to a psychologist for a month.  I would take down all of the posters off of my walls.  I would retake the MMPI.  And, I would have to meet with the seminary president for him to make a final decision to my fate. 
 The school had a psychologist on campus.  I went to see him.  In five minutes, he found there was nothing wrong with me, so we talked Dallas Cowboys football the rest of the time. 
 I did take down all of the posters on my walls.  It amused me that one of the posters was the Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster, which a lot of guys had on their walls, but mine was offensive.
 I retook the MMPI.  I answered no to every question, where I had answered yes before.  The test came back, and they determined that I must have misread the questions the first time.
 I then went to see the seminary president.  His name was Dr. Naylor, and I had known him since I was five.  He told me that everything would be all right, and I could graduate.  There was one more stipulation.  I had to move off campus.  So, I moved into an apartment with three seminary friends, who were supportive of this witch hunt.  I stayed there for most of the summer, until about a week before graduation.  The landlord found out that I was staying there without paying rent, so I had to leave and find an apartment on my own, which I will write about later. 
 When graduation came, my parents came to Ft. Worth.  I was in the hall of the administration building with my father.  He found the Dean of Students and the Dean of Men.  Both told my father that this was all a  "misunderstanding", and they apologized to me for any embarrassment to me.  They did that, because my father was big in Southern Baptist circles.  My father was pretty mad at them.  I got to graduate.  I have a Master's degree in Religious Education with a major in Communications.  I celebrated with Kare.

Monday, March 6, 2017


 My father was against dancing.  He was against other stuff like card playing and rock music.  So, when disco became popular, I was right there.  I loved disco music.  It made me very happy.  I sold disco music at the store.  I played disco music in the store, and we all danced to it.  It made time go by quicker.  We played disco music at parties.  It made drinking more fun.  In fact, when I got drunk, I did a mean impression of Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy".  Everything was disco.
 In Ft. Worth, all of the clubs played disco music.  There were two main clubs devoted to disco.  One was for the college crowd near TCU, and the other was for the upscale crowd closer to downtown.  I preferred the TCU club, but I took dance lessons at the upscale club.  When I would go to the TCU club, I usually went with someone else from seminary.  Because we went there to drink and watch the dancers "dance", we would bring pocket Bibles and Christian pamphlets with us just in case someone from the seminary saw us coming outside.  We could say we were witnessing to the clubgoers.  We weren't though, and thankfully a confrontation never happened.
 Another club that played disco a lot was the bar inside the mall where I worked.  Kare and I went to that club a lot, and they took requests.  My go-to request was "Macho Man" by the Village People.  For the first 50 times, the DJ played it, but then I started noticing that when we would come into the bar, I would see the DJ hide the record and then tell me he didn't have it that night.  I'd get drunk and yell out "Play Macho Man"!  I got a bit obnoxious. 
 It was a party  every night. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seminary Plays

 When I arrived at seminary in 1976, my goal was to teach Theatre in a Christian college.  The school didn't have a major for that, so we invented one.  I had a teacher who was also very interested in producing that program.  Her name was Paula Brooks.  She was great. 
 We did a few plays and other Drama pieces during my time there.  The first was in the Spring of 1977, and it was called "How in the World".  It was done for Mission Week.  The play centered around an amusement park and doing things that one would not normally do.  I was cast in a supporting role as the Little Strong Man.  I wanted the male lead, because he and the female lead got to go to Six Flags to shoot some film of them riding on the rides.  The footage was used in the play.  I got to use one of those contraptions where you use a hammer to ring the bell.  It had to be rigged so that I could do it.  I wore a flimsy tank top.  It turned out to be the pivotal role in the play, because I had to ring the bell, and I didn't look like I could.  But, a lot about the Theatre is illusion.  It worked.  I also designed the lighting for that play.  It was very well received.
 In April of 1977, I was taking a course in Youth Work, and the school was having a special day for the workers in the area, as well as some young people.  They wanted a theme presentation for the day.  Our class came up with a play called "Our Way".  I actually co-wrote it and was the assistant director, as well as an actor.  The original title was "Have It His Way", but we changed it to be clearer.  The scene was a fast food restaurant.  There were several people dressed in black and white and wearing "Our Way" t-shirts.  I had each actor mime eating a hamburger, selecting a French Fry and eating, and then drinking a Coke.  Because we had very little money, we mimed it rather than having real food.  Everything was done in unison.  I set it up like a clock.  The burger was at 6.  The fries were at 10.  The drink was at 2.  I had the actors count out 6-10-2 in their heads, so that all would be doing it at the same time.  They all watched me to stay in step.  One actor came into the scene dressed in colors.  He was his own person, and didn't conform to the crowd.  The point of the play was about conformity and individualism.  About six months later, Wendy's came out with a commercial using exactly what we had written.  It turned out that their advertising firm was in Dallas, and someone saw the play and thought it would make a good commercial.  I wish we had copyrighted it.
 I also started to do Bible monologues.  I wrote one on the personification of the cross.  It was physically demanding, and I don't think I could do it now.  It started out with a seed growing into a tree, and then the tree is chopped down and fashioned in a cross.  The tree doesn't know why this is happening or who the man is that is nailed to him.  It was good, but I got better later on.
 For Christmas of 1977, I was asked by my teacher to come up with a Reader's Theatre program for the season, and I put together something called "Advent/Coming".  I used scripture with dialogue for the program.  There were four of us in the presentation, and we did it for a woman's club in Euless and a church in Ft. Worth.  It involved using candles, and we had to watch that the hot wax didn't get on our hands. 
 Because I was majoring in Communications, and we kind of made of the major as we went along, it was determined that I had to do a thesis for my degree.  The seminary decided that instead of writing something that I would direct a play.  One of the professors, Dr. Bill Hendricks, had written a play called "The Harrowing of Hell", and he wanted to see it produced.  I was assigned to direct it.  Dr. Hendricks had to approve my direction in order to pass me, and he was a very hard teacher.  The play had to do with Jesus coming down to Hell after being crucified and taking on the 7 deadly sins. The cast was very big.  Because of the size of the cast, and that most of the participants had church jobs on weekends, we never had a full cast rehearsal until the dress rehearsal.  This drove me crazy.  I was eating Rolaids like candy.  I was having severe headaches.  My body was a mess.  Besides not being able to get the cast together, I also was using dry ice to create smoke on stage.  I couldn't rehearse with that, because we had a very small budget, and we could only afford enough for the dress rehearsal and the two shows we did.  The first show was for chapel one morning.  I had the 7 deadly sins sit in a semi-circle on stage.  I told the guy doing Gluttony just to eat all through the play.  I had not slept the night before and was a mess.  He brought a can of Pringles and stuffed in in one of his pockets.  During the course of the play, the can accidentally popped open, and the chips fell out one by one onto the floor.  The audience thought that was supposed to happen and roared with laughter.  It just goes to show that sometimes the accidents work better than what was planned.  Dr. Hendricks thought my direction was great.  I passed.  Rolaids spells Relief.
 Apparently, my work was well received, because the seminary started a Communications major and later hired a full-time Communications professor.  One side note on all of this is that I felt that none of these things were "productions".  They were "presentations".  And, I was uncomfortable in getting applause.  I did these things to present the Gospel message, not to show off my talents.  If I got applause, it was because the audience thought I did a good job.  Applause is a drug, and I crave it, but sometimes it takes away from the message.  That's the difference between a "production" and a "presentation".  Praise is good for the individual, but don't just praise without taking in what you have witnessed and receive a blessing from it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Julie Newmar

 In 1978, the first "Superman" movie with Christopher Reeve was released.  I went to the first showing one night at a large theatre in Ft. Worth.  I was with three friends from seminary, and we got there just before the movie started, so we had to sit down front and look up at the screen.  The theatre was packed.  The movie was great. 
 At the end of the film, everybody filed out, but I wanted to watch the credits.  It was a habit of mine to wait for the credits, because I wanted to see if there was anyone I knew who worked on the picture, since I had done some film work.  I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was a woman standing just across the aisle from me also watching the credits.  I recognized her immediately.  It was Julie Newmar.  At that time, she was living in Ft. Worth with her husband who worked there.  I tried not to stare, but she was wearing a very short, crocheted mini-dress.  For those of you who don't know, she played Catwoman in the TV "Batman" show with Adam West.  She had other TV and movie roles including the laundry girl on "The Monkees".  I figured that I had better leave before her from the theatre, since she was a celebrity, and I wasn't.
 I left just as the credits were ending and went outside to find my friends.  They were out there running around.  They had their arms stretched out like Superman and humming the theme song.  I decided to join in, and ran around the corner of the theatre.  I ran smack dab into Julie Newmar's chest.  My fist bounced off.  I was embarrassed and apologized.  She thought it was funny and told me it was okay.  She then asked me if I was the one who had stayed to watch the credits.  I told her I was.  I explained that I always looked for people I might know, and she said she did too.  She asked if I was in the business, which was a euphemism for working in film, and I told her yes.  All the while, I was staring at her dress.  It left very little to the imagination.  Our conversation ended, and I returned to my friends.
 A VERY close encounter with Julie Newmar.  It was good for me.  It seemed it was good for her, too.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


 I worked with a girl named Karen, although she let some close friends call her "Kare".  She was a 19 year old art student.  She also was a gourmet cook and sewed a lot of her own clothes.  She was a pretty girl, and I fell in love with her.
 At the time I met her, she was in another relationship with a guy who abused her.  I wanted to take her away from all of that, but for a time he was a hard habit to break for her.  I have seen that with others along the way in my life with girls who are in love with abusers.  Kare was better than that.  So, we started hanging around together. 
 She looked a bit like Farrah Fawcett, who was big on "Charlie's Angels" at this time.  Since Farrah was from Texas, some people thought that Kare was Farrah.  We would be walking through a mall, and people would stop her wanting her autograph.  Sometimes, Kare would blow them off.  Other times, she would sign Farrah's name to a paper as a laugh.  There are a lot of fake Farrah autographs in Ft. Worth.  Other folks wanted to take her picture, and she got very paranoid about that.  So much so, that she refused to have anyone take any photographs of her.  She said that it would freeze a moment in time, and time was meant to be more fluid.  I do have a picture of her from a candid shot someone took of her that is in her college yearbook.
 When Kare was 16, she was in a bad car crash that put her in the hospital.  She had to have surgery, and she died on the operating table.  The doctors brought her back to life, but she lost some oxygen to the brain.  Consequently, she didn't understand words over two syllables.  It made it a little hard to talk with her, but we made the best of it.  She was also a feminist, and she got me involved in NOW.  It was strange for me, because I was a bit of a chauvinist, but she changed that in me. 
 One thing that Kare and I enjoyed doing was going to clubs and being the last ones there as they closed.  Last call for alcohol.  There were times when we would literally be crawling out of the door of the clubs very drunk.  It scares me now to think of us getting into a car and driving home, but we did.  We were invincible. 
 When I told her in 1979 that I was moving back to SC, I had a hard time with it, and she did too.  She told me that she had an uncle in Atlanta and would come for a visit.  She never did.  I miss her a lot, and I know she is married and happy now.  I'll write more later about how she helped me in 1978 with a crisis in my life.  She was a very special person.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Charlton Heston

 I have already written about the upscale nature of the mall that I worked in.  Hulen Mall.  One night, it was announced that Charlton Heston would be doing a book-signing at Walden's in our mall.  He was a big star, and I thought I would go meet him.  You had to buy his book to get him to sign it, which I did.  I also brought one of my acting textbooks for him to sign.  Surprisingly, I was the first person to see him in the store (and the only person).  It was just me, him, his agent, and the book store manager.  So, I bought the book and then headed toward him to sign it.  He signed his book, but when I pulled out my acting book to sign it, his agent stepped in and said he was only signing his book, and not any other.  Heston asked me if I was an actor, and I said yes, so he asked me my name and inscribed my acting book to me from him.  I thought that was nice.
 Since there was no one else waiting to get a book signed, we started talking.  He asked me what I had done, and I told him a lot of plays and a couple of movies.  We had a great laugh about Burt Lancaster teaching me to dance.  I told him about how nice Burt was in sticking up for me and that Burt allowed me to use his name as a reference for other work.  Heston told me to call him "Chuck" and said I could use him as a reference, too.  I told him about my Mother's love for "The Ten Commandments" that he was in, and about the letter that Cecil B. DeMille wrote to her after she wrote to him about the movie.  Chuck and I had a connection.  The crowd started to gather, so I said goodbye.
 Several years later, I was back in South Carolina.  Chuck was producing a TV mini-series called "Chiefs". It was being filmed in Chester, SC.  I got an audition to play the deputy to Brad Davis.  I used Chuck's name to get the audition.  The casting director decided to use a tall, fat actor from New York instead of me.  My Mother thought that Chuck could do more for me, so she wrote him a letter asking him if I could get cast in another part.  Chuck took offense at her letter, and wrote a very scathing letter to her saying how unprofessional it was for me to get her to write the letter to him.  I hadn't.  It was something my Mother did, because of our relationship with him.  At any rate, I didn't get a part in "Chiefs".  Chuck told the casting director not to hire me for anything.  My use of Chuck as a reference ended.  Maybe, the letter caught him on a bad day.  Who knows?  I kept Burt as a reference.  He was nicer.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Wedding Invitations

 One of the problems that I have had over the years is being too successful in something, because a supervisor will ask me to do something else, because they think I can do good at anything.  Case in point was when Sanger Harris got the bright idea to do custom wedding invitations in their Stationery Department.  The machine used individual type characters that I had to place in the machine, which was hot and used color inks and heavy stock paper. 
 We had forms, which the bride would fill out with what she wanted on the invitations, and then I would print them by hand.  It usually took a couple of days to do each order of not more than 100 cards for each wedding.  Sounds simple, huh?
 No!  It wasn't the machine.  It wasn't the ink.  It wasn't the bride.  It was the bride's mother.  When the order was ready, I would call the bride to come to the store to pick them up, and she would bring her mother.  That woman would tell me the invitations were all wrong.  The time was wrong.  The name of the church was wrong.  EVERYTHING was wrong!  I would pull out the form that her daughter filled out, and she would tell me that the form was wrong.  Her daughter would not have written that down.  I must have forged her daughter's wishes.  So, I would have to do the order again.  Another two days.  I would call, and something else was wrong with the order, so I would have to do it again.  The stress was so awful that I asked to be relieved of this job.  The store realized that they were losing money on ink and paper, so the wedding invitation service was halted. 
 Sometimes the good ideas don't take into account that the mother of the bride is the one with the credit card that she will threaten to cut up if it is not done HER way. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


 As stated earlier, I worked in the Record Dept. at Sanger Harris.  Our department sold a lot of records and tapes.  So much so that we were one of the top record stores in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. 
 One afternoon, I was on my way to the store, and I heard on the radio that Elvis Presley had just died.  I was on the freeway, and I just floored it.  When I got to the store, there were hundreds of crying women trying to buy Elvis records.  I should note that when Elvis was alive, we couldn't give his records away.  No one wanted to buy them.  Even when he came out with his last album (Moody Blue), we were stuck with the copies.  In all, we had 60 Elvis albums that no one wanted.  Now, he had died, and everybody wanted Elvis.  We quickly sold out of all that we had and began taking special orders for his music.  It was quite a scene to see some many distraught women that we had to call security to help disperse them.
 Of course, it was not just our store that experienced this onslaught of Elvis fans.  Every store in the country had the same kind of riot.  In one afternoon, just about every record store in the US had sold out of Elvis.  I called my record distributor with our special orders, and he said he thought he knew where some records were in a warehouse in Oklahoma.  Since we made a lot of money for our distributor, he offered to take his truck up there and get what they had in the warehouse.  So, that night he drove up to Oklahoma and picked up what they had to bring them to us.  By the time we opened the next day, we had 200 Elvis records.  We were able to fill most of our special orders, and then we sold out again.
 RCA took three months to replenish the nation's stores with more records.  They had to reprint everything.  They put out special commemorative records to try and ease the demand.  They sold out quickly, too.  Then the Elvis frenzy was over.  All of the records that they printed up sat on our shelves, when they came in three months later.  I had never seen anything like it.  Other artists died later like John Lennon, Whitney Houston, Prince, David Bowie, and others.  And yes, there was a certain amount of frenzy for them, but I never saw anything like Elvis.  I hope I never do again.

Friday, January 27, 2017

2 Presidents

 One thing you should know about me is that I am a political junkie.  I love politics.  I love being around politicians.  It is just something I love.  I know there are those who do not share my love, and that's okay.  Another thing you might know about me is that I have seen every President of the United States that has served during my lifetime, except for Kennedy.  Everyone from Eisenhower through Trump.  So, this story is about close encounters with two of them.
 It was the 1976 campaign for President between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.  I was living in Ft. Worth.  Gerald Ford was visiting one Sunday morning at the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  W. A. Criswell was the pastor, and that church was one of the largest in the country at that time.  Ford wanted the endorsement of Dr. Criswell, so he came to that church for the worship service.  I drove over from Ft. Worth to try and get a seat in the church, but I wasn't able to do that, so I stood outside near the limo to get a glimpse of the President.  A few others did too, as well as some TV folks.  The road next to the church was narrow, so the limo could fit into it, but not much else.  Across the street from the church was the YMCA.  I looked up and saw a window open on the front across from where we were standing.  I called over a Secret Service agent and asked him if that window was supposed to be open.  His eyes got big and radioed someone.  A few minutes later, the window got closed.  He came over to me and thanked me, and then said:  "We don't want to lose another President in Dallas."  The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I got goosebumps.  After the service was over, the media went running out of the church to try and file their stories before the motorcade left.  Ann Compton and Ed Bradley asked me where the nearest phone was.  Even though I was not a member of that church, I knew where the church office was, so I steered them in that direction.  Ann was nice.  Ed--not so much.  Ford came out and waved at us all.  He seemed nice.
 The other close encounter was Jimmy Carter.  He visited the University Baptist Church in Ft. Worth on the Sunday before the election for President in November.  The church was the one I attended, during my time in Ft. Worth.  I was on the committee to welcome all of the visitors that would come for this event.  We were to say to everyone "Welcome to University Baptist Church".  The press bus pulled up, and the reporters started running toward the front door to get a picture of Carter and his wife arriving at the church.  As they were running across the lawn, we were welcoming them to our church.  They ran over the bushes in front of the church.  It became kind of funny and surreal, as we welcomed them, and they were destroying property just for that shot.  The Carters arrived, and we shouted our welcomes.  They didn't acknowledge us.  They just walked on into the church.  I wasn't able to get a seat in there either, but I did get to see them.  The next Tuesday, Carter was elected President.  Did my welcoming committee have anything to do with the outcome of the election?  I hope not.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Texas Snow

 One thing everybody knows is that Texas is hot in the summertime.  One summer, it was over 100 degrees for 21 days straight.  The tar on the roads melted.  I still have a pair of shoes with tar on them. 
 But, one thing they don't tell you is how cold the winters are, and that it snows a lot.  One winter, it snowed six times in five weeks.  It didn't melt.  It just piled on.  I lived 2 blocks from a grocery store and needed food.  The temperature had gone down to 30 below zero.  It took me twenty minutes to walk two blocks, because I couldn't breathe in the cold.  I did get pretty adept in driving in it later on.
 However, one snow was especially hard.  I lived about 5 miles from my work.  It snowed a lot, and I couldn't get my car out, so I called my work and asked them if they were open.  They said yes, and for me to come on into work.  I had to walk.  The snow drifts were up to my hips.  The cars weren't on the interstate that I would normally take, so I walked on that highway.  It took a couple of hours to get to the mall, and my store.  I finally got there around 2:30 and found that they had closed 20 minutes before I got there.  This was long before cellphones.  Maybe someone thought to invent them because of an event like this one.  I was pretty mad, so I went into a restaurant in the mall that was open, and ate something before trudging back home.  One of those life lessons--if the snow is too deep, don't go to work no matter how much you love your job.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Freeway Stop

 You know those new cars that can sense danger and will stop for you without you reacting?  Well, boys and girls, there was a time when cars didn't do that.  You had to react on your own to avoid hitting someone. 
 One Saturday in Ft. Worth, I was driving down the I-35W freeway toward downtown.  Along with me were a hundred of my closest friends in their cars.  3 lanes of traffic all speeding in one direction.  Two cars ahead of me, a situation developed.  I was in the far left lane.  A guy in the middle lane decided to move into my lane without looking.  He clipped the front bumper of the car in my lane.  They both jammed on their brakes.  Instead of a massive pile-up, everyone behind them jammed on their brakes in unison.  We all came to a screeching halt, and no one hit anyone else.  It was truly amazing.  I looked over at the guy in his car next to mine, and he had his mouth open and his eyes bulging out of his head.  My heart was pumping out of my chest.  We smiled at one another and breathed a sigh of relief.  The two cars in that were in the accident moved to the middle median and out of the way of the rest of us.  Gingerly, we all began to roll forward again toward our destinations.  I got off of the highway into downtown and thanked God that I was still alive.  I am sure many others did too. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


 One great thing about living in Ft. Worth was the concerts.  A lot of big names came there to play.  Paul McCartney came just before I moved there.  The Rolling Stones came, but I didn't get to go, because I had to work.  I had a connection who was going to get me backstage, but that didn't work out.  She told me afterwards about all the things she saw backstage.  I wished I had called in sick to work.  One of life's regrets.
 I did get to go see George Carlin.  He was very funny, but he cut his set short, because he got sick.  Some said it was heart related.  Others said it was drug related.  I don't know which, but I did get to see him twice years later.  Another concert I went to was a Beatles tribute band called Liverpool.  They were good.  I also went to see the musical play "Oh Calcutta".  (Yes, a seminary student went to see that play).  Don't chastise me.
 One band that came to Ft. Worth was Heart.  They were promoting their single "Barracuda".  I didn't get to go to their show, but I found out where they were spending the night after the show.  The hotel was near the convention center.  It was the same hotel that President Kennedy spent the night before being killed the next day in Dallas.  All of the acts spent the night there.  I saw Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes checking in before.  But, this was Heart.  I hung out in the lobby of the hotel until they came downstairs to leave.  I said hello and helped them load up their van.  They were heading to Houston for their next show.  I met Ann and Nancy Wilson.  They were both nice, but I liked Ann better.  I also liked their lead guitar player, but I especially liked their drummer.  I have found that drummers are funny people.  I guess because they are mostly in the background and don't get much press, so they don't take themselves too seriously.  I like drummers.  I tend to gravitate to them.  I think that's why I like Richie from another band that some of you know.  I guy who played in Wings was in that band. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lynda Carter

 Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman on TV.  Six Flags over Texas booked her to open a new ride of theirs called the Spinnaker.  She was to appear on a Saturday and sign autographs.  What could go wrong?
 First, it rained a lot.  Second, it was a cold rain, which made it a raw day.  Third, Six Flags had set her up to sign autographs under an open-air shelter.  And, Fourth--she was late getting there.
 I went to the event.  So did about 150 other people.  The shelter was about 10'x8', around the size of an average bedroom.  150 people crowded into that space.  As it was raining, no one wanted to stand outside the shelter, so space was at a bare minimum.  No one wanted to lose their place, so we all stood in our spots that we had carved out for ourselves.  It was so tight that one could not breathe.  Then, the trouble started.
 People started pushing others to get space to breathe.  No one would budge.  Small children began getting on the floor to be able to breathe.  Adults fainted standing up.  When that happened, they were hauled up in the air and passed overhead to get away from the crowd.  The fire department showed up and tried to get people to move.  No one did.  However, when someone fainted and were moved, everyone else got that much more room to breathe. 
 Lynda got there 30 minutes late.  Several people had passed out.  She was with some friends from Arizona, where she grew up, so she was more interested talking to them than interacting with the fans who were still standing.  She was much more beautiful in person than on TV.  When it came time for her to sign my autograph, she glanced up at me and then signed "Peace, Lynda" on her picture.  I got out of there and stood in the rain to breathe and cool off from the heat of all those people crammed into that small space.  I got sick from that experience, but it was worth it.