Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Bull

 The next several stories will be about things we did while working at White Oak Baptist Conference Center.  The staff did some creative things to pass the time, when we had free time.
 As I wrote in the last story, we had a guy named John who worked on the staff with us.  He was a senior in high school and an Eagle Scout.  John was younger than the rest of us, but he also had some great ideas for things to do.  He, Jeff and Mike got an idea to throw cafeteria trays in the air and take pictures of them.  We were going to send them into the National Enquirer and say they were UFO's.  Somebody suggested that we wrap the trays in tin foil to make them more shiny.  I also chimed in and said we should do this at night, since most UFO sightings had been at night.  John said that we needed to propel the trays into the air, so he suggested building a cannon.  So, we did.  The planning and execution took a couple of hours.  In hindsight, we should have planned it out a little more.
 It was around 10pm, and we set out to find a place that had no street lights.  We wanted to find a place where the only light was the flash of the camera.  John had the "cannon".  It was a tube filled with gunpowder.  I don't know where the gunpowder came from, and I don't want to know.  We brought a couple of trays wrapped in tin foil.  We set one of the trays on top of the cannon, and lit the fuse.  The tray went up about six feet and fell quickly.  It really wasn't enough time to snap the picture.  So, John "modified" the cannon to get a bigger explosion.  This time, the tray flew farther up, and I took the picture.  We wanted to get several good pictures, so we did this procedure over and over again.
 To do this event, we had chosen a large cow pasture that was far enough away from the farm house that we didn't think anyone would mind.  Unbeknownst to us, it wasn't far enough away from the cows.  A bull heard the explosions and decided to investigate.  He was not pleased that we had woken him up from his dreams of cows.  When the bull came over toward us, he was pretty mad and charged us.  We ran with the trays, but we left the cannon out there.  We barely outran the bull.  The next day, the farmer contacted the director of the conference center.  We had apparently woke him up too, and he found the cannon in the pasture, and put two and two together.  After all, the White Oak staff was known in the community for being pranksters.  We got into trouble and had to apologize to the farmer.  We didn't send the pictures into the National Enquirer.  They just weren't good enough.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

White Oak

 For my next series of stories, I will be discussing my work (and play) at White Oak Baptist Conference Center, where I worked from 1981 to 1983.  It was owned and operated by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.  It was about 8 miles north of Winnsboro off of I-77 and Hwy 321 in the town of White Oak, SC.  They had a post office, a couple of churches, and a bunch of farm houses.
 The conference center was built on a large tract of land.  It had an administration building with a book store and canteen.  Adjacent to the administration building, there was a dining hall with 4 conference rooms separated by folding partitions.
 A short walk down a paved path, there was a motel-style living area.  Another short walk down an unpaved road was another living area that was made up of multiple bunk beds.  Beyond that building, there was a small lake.  Three houses were also on the property for the center's director, maintenance man, and administrative assistant.
 I was hired to do a variety of jobs.  My main responsibility was setting up for conferences.  Some were small with just a few people, while others were big.  We could do ones for up to 250 people.  Those were usually youth camps.  During the summer, I had others on staff to help me.  The rest of the year, I may only have one other person to help me.  His name was John, and he was a high school student in Winnsboro.  Another helper year-round was Amelia.  She did the food line and was our main lifeguard.  She was an EMT and lived in White Oak.
 My other jobs included: washing dishes; running the canteen; replacing sheets and towels; maintaining the drink machines; building bonfires; running the reservation desk at night; security; and whatever else came along.
 Other summer staffers included:  Jeff, Mark, Angela, Suzanne, Rod, Fran, and a couple of others during my tenure.  They were mostly college students.
 My day usually consisted of getting up around 6am and working breakfast.  I was on call all day with various chores to do.  I would have to stay up until the last conferee left their meeting area, which could be late into the night.  We had a TV in the dining hall, and some would watch late night football.  I tried desperately to get them to leave, so I could go to bed.  I had to lock up all of the buildings.  I would use the method of flipping the lights on and off or make a bunch of noise to let them know I was still there.  One thing I couldn't do was to ask them to leave.  The director never wanted me to make anyone mad, so I had to be subtle.  Some nights, I might get a couple hours of sleep before having to start all over again.  My body clock was very messed up.  When I left the job in 1983, I had to take a couple of months off and get back to normal.
 I had a room in the motel on the property, where I would stay as long as a conference was going on.  The motel room had two beds and a bathroom.  There were no TV's or radios in the rooms.  I brought my portables from home, but the guests staying there did not have that luxury unless they went up to the conference area.
 So, that's a brief overview of what was there.  More later.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Charleston Tea Party

 In the early 1980's, the South Carolina Educational Television folks put together a group of actors for a series of programs for their instructional network.  The programs would be sent out to students in the schools around the state.  I was chosen to participate in a program called The Palmetto Special, which was designed for 8th grade history classes.  The first one I did was called "The Charleston Tea Party", and it was filmed in 1981.  As far as I know, it was shown in classes into the 1990's and maybe beyond.
 The program was about a little known event in South Carolina history that occurred in 1774.  Everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, but the one in Charleston was more about taxes and contraband.  I played the evil Mr. Lindsay, who was one of three Charlestonians who brought in tea to the colony over the objections of the residents.
 We filmed the majority of the program in and around Charleston.  Most of those in the cast had Theatre experience, and the crew had a lot of TV experience, so it made for a professional look.  We were dressed in wigs and period costumes.  They put us up in a motel off Meeting Street in downtown Charleston.  Our first location was at a bank about two blocks away.  I walked in costume over to the bank.  Some tourists thought I was a tour guide and was asking me about where one thing or another was located.  I sent several tourists in the wrong direction.  Sorry guys.
 The scenes at the bank had an outdoor courtyard scene in the back of the bank, and the other scene was upstairs in a meeting room.  The outdoor scene required dialogue between the three evil tea merchants.  Because there were cars and planes around town, we had gone out about a week before and recorded our dialogue in the depths of Sesqui Park outside Columbia in the dead of night, so that there would not be any noise.  There is also an earlier scene of a bonfire, which was also done in the park.  So, when we got to the bank in Charleston, the crew put up giant speakers behind the bank, and we mouthed our lines to the audio.  We had to do several takes.  I also had to work without glasses, and I was pretty blind.  There was a narrow brick walkway that we had to proceed down toward some steps.  There was a brick spot that jutted out, and I kept tripping at that spot.  If you ever see the finished product, you will see me glancing down as we walked.  I was looking for that spot.
 As we walked up the steps, I had a line about "bowing to Mr. Gadsden".  I thought of doing a bow with my hat.  The director liked that idea and kept it in the film.  We got up to the meeting room for the next scene.  I had my glasses tucked into the cuff of my coat.  There was an actor (one of the evil three) that had to make a short speech.  He was flanked by me and another actor.  He had a tough time keeping a straight face while making his speech, and he would laugh.  The director would have to stop the film, and he would do it again.  We did several takes.  The actor on the other side of him and me began pinching the actor to try and get him to stop laughing.  If you see the program, he looks like he is in pain while delivering his speech.  He was.  One regret about that scene for me was I was not consistent in tilting my head.  One shot it was one way, and then another shot was another way.
 Our other big scene was the dumping of the tea into Charleston Harbor.  We shot that scene at Charles Towne Landing on a very cold day.  The wind was blowing off of the water.  The crew had made boxes out of Balsa Wood, so they were very light to pick up.  Nothing was in the boxes, and we had to look like we were dumping the tea into the harbor without actually doing it.  The boxes were down in the hold of this period ship that was moored to a pier.  One actor got at the bottom of the steps in the boat and picked up a box, supposedly full of tea, and gave it to me.  I was at the middle of the steps, and I had to carry it up the steps to another actor at the top of the steps.  He then proceeding to carry it over to the side of the ship for dumping later.  First of all, it was hard for me as I couldn't see to carry the box up the steps without falling.  But, the first actor in the hold made it look like it was a heavy box.  He gave it to me, and I just carried it up the steps like it was nothing.  The third actor took the box, and he made it look like he was getting a hernia.  I looked like I was the strongest man around.
 We then had to look like we were dumping the tea.  The two actors did a box together.  They then gave me a box to "dump".  The thing is that the boxes were sealed, so it had to look like we were dumping the tea, when nothing would be coming out.  After we had done this, the director decided that he wanted a shot of someone breaking open the box with a wooden club and to do it in slow motion.  One of the crew members did that.  They then wanted me to use another box to dump more tea flanked by the other two actors.  It was one of those already sealed boxes.  I was to then take the box and bring it back down to the deck of the ship.  I asked the director about that, and he said that I would be out of focus and no one would see that the box was sealed.  It was while the narrator was finishing up the story on camera.  I was right behind him.  When I brought the box back down, I was in focus, and everyone could see the box was sealed.  I wish I could have used the box they broke open, but that one had been destroyed by the crew member.  I just hope 8th graders didn't catch those errors.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Philly #2

 Our Singles group at church did so well in 1980 going to Philadelphia to do Vacation Bible School for the kids, they invited us back for another week in the summer of 1981.  We took more people this time.  Some of those from the year before went, but most of them were newbies, so us veterans could tell them what to expect.
 We stayed at the same church as the year before.  However, they had us set up one VBS site at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.  I did the puppets.  I only had three people doing puppets rather than the four the year before, so I had to rewrite the scripts for just 3 puppets.  It wasn't too hard, although I only had one female, so her lines were a bit more than the two males.  We used another refrigerator box for our stage, and we did 3 shows per day.  The kids seemed to like it.
 One of the kids who came was named Zoom.  I don't know his real name, but he ran everywhere.  He had more energy than anyone.  If anybody knows Zoom now, tell him hello.
 One night, our group went downtown to look around and have a steak dinner at a restaurant.  I ordered the cheapest steak on the menu, and the waiter brought a steak that was much bigger than the picture.  I started in on it, and got about a quarter eaten, when the waiter came over and told me that he had mistakenly given me a steak ordered from another table.  He asked me to give him the steak back.  I asked him what was he going to do?  Serve an eaten steak to someone else?  The waiter then said I would have to pay the difference for his mistake.  That would have been close to $50.  So, I asked to speak to the manager.  He came to our table, and I told him what had happened.  He said it was the waiter's fault, and I could have the expensive steak at the price I should have paid for the cheaper one.  Good customer service kept me from having to wash dishes to pay for the bigger steak.  Good call, Mr. Manager.  I hope the waiter wasn't fired.
 Another trip we took while there was back to Amish country.  We ate at a restaurant there which was out of this world.  If you ever get to go to Amish country, bring an empty stomach.  One guy in our group ate an entire chicken, or maybe 3.  He couldn't eat anything for a couple of days.
 One afternoon, the kids in the neighborhood challenged us to a stickball game.  We had never played stickball, but we had played a lot of baseball, so we knew we would win.  After all, most of us were in our twenties, and these kids were in like 6th grade.  The stick was a broomstick, and the ball resembled a small tennis ball.  If it hit anything, it wouldn't break it.  We played the game in the street with cars on either side.  Everyone had a nickname, so the kids named me "Walt the Stalt" after the basketball player Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain.  We found early on that you couldn't just swing the stick as hard as you could to hit the ball.  Their pitching was relentless.  They knew that if they hit the ball under a car that it would be a homerun, because we couldn't get to it in time.  They beat our socks off.  It was rather humbling.  But, we had a good time interacting with the kids on their home turf.  We definitely didn't let them win.  They were just too good for us.
 I did have a scare while in Philly.  I had to eat a Hoagie.  It was a requirement.  I don't know what sauce they used, but it turned out I was allergic to it.  My tongue and lips got swollen.  Thankfully, it was our last night before leaving to go back home, so the puppet shows were done.  The swelling went down by the next morning, and I was okay, but I think I won't be getting a Hoagie again.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Butterflies

 In the spring of 1981, I was cast in the lead of a children's play called "The Butterfly That Blushed".  It was for the Gingerbread Theatre at Columbia College.  My role was called Worm, and I played a moth, while everyone else had turned into butterflies.  So, all of the butterflies made fun of Worm.  In the end of the play, Worm turned into the most beautiful butterfly around.  The moral of the story was that there is more beauty on the inside than the outside.  The play was for young children mostly.
 One of the things about the play was that I had to perform two songs.  I had never sung a solo before in a play.  I had done musicals before but only in groups.  It scared me to death this time.  The director told me that little kids didn't care how bad I was, but I wanted to do as good as I could.  The music was written by a local pianist, so I wanted to do good for him too, since he was also handling the music for the show.  The first song was pretty easy.  It was a depressing song about why didn't anyone like me.  The second song was harder, as it was a happy song about Worm turning into a butterfly.  I had problems with doing it.  It also required me to dance.  I just have a hard time singing and dancing at the same time.  Kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.  So, I worked with the director and figured out I could speak the song instead of singing it.  I think I became one of the first ones to do rap in public.
 Another problem I had involved one of the other actors.  There were two men in the play and seven women.  All of the women were students at the college.  When I had been in some plays before, there had been one dressing room for everyone.  You just changed and didn't look around at anyone else.  For this play, there was a dressing room for me and the other guy, and there was one dressing room for all of the women.  Before the dress rehearsal, the other guy was putting on his makeup, and I was changing into my leotard.  A knock came on the door, and I said come in.  The stage manager came in and screamed, as I was not dressed.  I apologized, and the other guy explained that this school wasn't like others.  So, I learned.
 We had two shows.  After each show, the actors stood outside of the theatre to sign autographs for the children.  I would sign my name and put "Worm" next to it.  About a year later, I was at work and two kids looked at me and got very excited.  They started screaming--"Worm".  It really surprised me that they remembered my role.  It  became a running joke for several years after that, when they would see me and still yell out "Worm!"
 I auditioned for "The Wizard of Oz" at Columbia College later that semester.  They wanted me to sing something, so I chose the song from "The Butterfly That Blushed".  I didn't get the role.  I guess singing for kids was different than singing for adults.
 I got the Best Actor Award for a Gingerbread Theatre production in 1981 at Columbia College.  They gave me a certificate, which I still have.  I have gotten several awards over the years for acting, but I think the award in 1981 meant the most to me.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

White's Part 2 & Lennon

 I was hired for Christmas help at J.B. White's Department Store at the end of 1980.  My job was primarily working in Stationery as a sales associate, but I also helped in Housewares, Luggage, and Lamps.  That experience helped me further in life, when I worked at Belk and Rich's/Macy's, but those stories will come later.
 Stationery was pretty easy.  I just rang up cards all day and into the night.  Most of my hours were during the latter portions of the workdays.  The security guard came by my register one day and looked at me.  He said that I looked familiar.  I told him that I lived nearby and shopped at White's all the time.  I recognized him too.  He was the same guard who caught me shoplifting from that store 12 years before.  He had a great memory, but I never let on that I was the same guy.  That was a long time ago.
 On the morning of December 9th at 6am, my Mother woke me up and told me to cut on the radio.  I didn't have to be at work until much later, but I did as she said.  My radio was tuned to a NYC station, as I was listening to it the night before.  When I turned on the radio, I heard the news that John Lennon had been killed.  I was stunned.  A Beatle was dead!  How could this be?  I was in a fog the rest of that day and several days afterwards.  I grieved along with everyone else.  He was my favorite Beatle.  His solo music shaped many of my social beliefs.  I went into work, but I was on autopilot.  I couldn't be cheerful to customers.  It was as if I had lost a family member.  In retrospect, it was worse than losing a family member.
 A few weeks later, I was working one night with a bad cold.  I took some medicine that made me very groggy.  While ringing up two women with cards, I felt faint.  I excused myself and took about 5 steps and collapsed in the aisle of the store.  I tried to get up to get to the lamp stockroom.  My legs felt very rubbery.  I crawled the rest of the way to the stockroom.  The customers that I had left were complaining that I had left them in the middle of their transaction.  They were more concerned about their .79 cards than me.  When I finally got to the stockroom, I sat on some steps to try and get myself together.  My supervisor, who was the father of one of my youth friends from Kilbourne Park, got to me in the stockroom.  He told me to go home.  After feeling better, I called the next day to see when I was working again.  They never gave me hours, but they never terminated me either.  J.B. White's closed later on.  I guess they had to close to end my relationship with them.
 Back to Lennon.  In early 1981, I was scheduled to perform at a actor's showcase for the SC Arts Commission.  I was supposed to do my monologue of Hosea, but I changed it at the last meeting and did dramatic readings of 3 Lennon works--Imagine, Across the Universe, and In My Life.  It was very tough getting through the readings, because my emotions were still raw.  By making that choice, it cost me getting some acting jobs that year.  The Arts Commission wanted to see my talents, not my reading skills.
 I also wrote a one-person play on the day John Lennon died in NYC.  I wanted to use his music, and I wrote to Yoko Ono to see if she would give her permission for me to use that music.  She said no.  I ended up performing the play without the music a couple of times.  Yoko was nice to me by sending a cost price list of Lennon eyeglass frames that Eagle Eyewear produced.  The wait time in stores was 7 months at a price of around $200/each.  I got my 2 pair of frames for $30/each, and they came in less than 2 weeks.  It pays to know people.  Yoko and I had a friendly relationship for several years thanks to a mutual friend who paved the way for me to contact her.  Our friendship became strained years later due to a money problem I had, and she cut me off from being friends.  A couple of years ago, I had to write to her about the death of our mutual friend.  It was the hardest letter I have ever had to write.  She responded.  I hope she doesn't hate me anymore.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2 Projects

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

White Elephant Party

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Elton #2

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

SCSCA

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

One Voice

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wanda's Party

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Church Sports

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hef

 I am taking time out of my life stories timeline to talk about someone and something that shaped my life for many years:  Hugh M. Hefner and Playboy Magazine.
 I was born just six months before Playboy was introduced with Marilyn Monroe on the first cover.  It was 13 years later, when I saw my first issue of Playboy.  I found a copy in the woods near Five Points and Maxcy Gregg Park at the railroad trestle.  One of my favorite actresses, Sherry Jackson, was featured inside.  It was an eye-opening moment in more ways than one.  Whoever had left that magazine, continued to do so at that spot for me to find.  Some of them had gotten wet with the rain, but they were still viewable, and no I was not reading the articles.  As a big movie fan, I really liked seeing these pictures of actresses.  It became something of an obsession for me.  As stated in a previous blog, I did some shoplifting between the ages of 14-16.  One of my favorite things to steal was Playboy.  I didn't have to wait for the guy in the woods anymore.  I could steal new copies.  After looking at them, I left them in the woods near my house for someone else to find.  They did.  A kid in high school told me his father had all of the issues of Playboy locked in a shed behind his house.  He and I tried to figure out how to break into the shed, but it was a combination lock, so we failed.
 When I was 15, some boys from my church went on an outing to Atlanta.  Our hotel was next door to the Playboy Club.  We got to see bunnies swimming in the nude in the rooftop pool.  Our hotel room was a few floors higher than the club.
 Moving on to college, it was easier to get Playboys, because I could buy them at a local newsstand in Anderson.  One of the actresses featured was Susan Clark.  Shortly after her appearance, I found myself working with her on "The Midnight Man".  While I was "dancing" with her, and she was cussing me out, I could only think about seeing her naked in Playboy.  I even told her that I liked her pictures.  She smiled, but still threatened to walk off of the picture if I had to dance with her.  At PC, I had a centerfold tacked up on my dorm room wall of Playmate Martha Smith.  She went on to play Babs in "Animal House".  The centerfold stayed up until my father came to my room unannounced.
 When I was working at Sanger Harris in Ft. Worth, Hope Olson came to the store for a personal appearance.  She was a Playboy Playmate of the Month.  She was nice and signed a picture for me and one for my friend.
 Another thing Playboy did was to expose (no pun intended) to Americans about James Bond.  I was already watching the movies, but Playboy would publish excerpts from the Ian Fleming books.  So, I started reading those books, and I had complete sets in both US and UK pressings.  They also had their own record company, and I bought all of the Barbi Benton releases.
 There were times when I abandoned Playboy, especially as I got older.  It wasn't so taboo anymore.  But, I did have a close encounter with Hugh Hefner.  About 20 years ago, I got my first computer.  I was on it one night, going through chat rooms, and I found a chat hosted by Hefner.  It was a legitimate chat.  A lot of people were asking him questions about the Playmates, especially the more current ones.  He was polite, but gave one or two word answers.  I finally was able to ask a question, and I asked him about Marilyn Monroe.  He was more than happy to answer my question with a complete sentence.  I then called him "Hef", which was the name his friends called him, and we began a 10-minute chat of just him and me talking about old movies.  He loved film noir, so we talked about that.  I also told him about working with Burt Lancaster.  He was interested in that story.  I messed up though, when I asked Hef if he was going to put Amy Fisher in Playboy.  He got mad and sat absolutely not.  He then went on a rant about her, and he cut me off.  For a while, I had made a connection with Hef.  He was really a nice guy.
 Some people call him a pariah.  Others call him one who changed society.  I prefer now to think of him more of a guy who was one of a kind.  He did things his way.  Although I don't condone a lot of what he did, Playboy and me are the same age.  We are both a bit worse for wear.  Rest in Peace, Hef.
 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

River Race

 A radio station in Columbia in 1980 on a Saturday sponsored a river race down the Congaree in Columbia.  The main rule was that the boat had to be homemade.  You could use wood and floats, but nothing professional.  Those of us at the Census thought it would be fun if we entered.
 We built our "boat" out of plywood and inner tubes.  We tested it out and found that it would float with four people on it, so we loaded it on a car and headed to the starting line which was upstream from the city.  We were on the West Columbia side and put it into the water.  It was also important that this craft held our cooler full of beer.
 As we were floating in the current, it was hot but the beer was cold.  We started drinking and really didn't care anymore about winning the race.  We got into the waters of the Congaree River and quickly ran into two problems.  First, the rocks in the river caused us to get hung up.  The Congaree is not very deep, so we had one of our crew responsible for jumping out and getting us off the rocks.  That was a full-time job.  The second problem was that the plywood was falling apart.  It became clear that we would not make it to the finish line.
 Another thing we learned was that the Congaree did not fall under any local police jurisdiction.  As long as we stayed in the river, we could drink and smoke dope as much as we liked.  The problem was that we had to get off of the river, especially with our "boat" falling apart.  We were coming under a railroad trestle and saw officers taking pictures and making notes of offenders.  We decided to make our landing in a part of the shore we knew the police would not be waiting for us, so we made land in some woods on the Cayce side.
 We gave up on hauling our "boat" up the hill from the water, so we just left it to sink.  We got up the hill from the river and found a guy with a van.  Three of us asked him to take us back to our cars, which were parked at Brookland Cayce High School.  He was nice to do so, especially because we were all stoned and drunk, and we were trying to evade the police.
 I got to the school and proceeded to break into the school looking for a bathroom.  I got in through an open window to take care of business.  When I finished and was walking around the building, my friends were waiting for me in the parking lot.  Just then, a Cayce police car pulled up.  The officer got out and approached us.  He asked one friend, "Son, have you been drinking?"  My friend replied, "No, sir".  He was immediately arrested.  He then asked my other friend the same thing.  My friend replied the same way, and he was arrested.  He then asked me the same thing.  I replied the same way, but he didn't arrest me.  To this day, I don't know why I was not arrested.  He let me get in my car and drive home.  I was scared straight.  I still did it a few times after that, but not binging.  I am just glad that the officer didn't ask about the open window at the school.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

NYC

 I guess it does seem that we did a lot on our afternoons off while in Philly, and I guess we did.  The highlight of our time off was to go to New York City.  We left Philadelphia early one afternoon and rode in the van to the city.
 We were on the New Jersey Turnpike, when our van driver decided he was getting tired.  He didn't want to pull over, because we were following another vehicle and didn't want to get lost.  So, as we were going 70mph, another guy in the front seat said he would switch with him.  The second guy got on the lap of the driver as the driver inched out from under him.  The switch was made while all of us passengers thought we were going to die.  We all had to promise never to tell anyone in the other car what we had done.  We were too speechless to say anything to anyone.  I do not recommend that procedure to anyone.
 We got to the city and began to look around.  One of the sites we went to was the World Trade Center.  This was 1980, and the WTC had not been up for very long.  We went up to the top of one of the towers to their restaurant.  We got to look out of the windows, where one could see several states and the harbor.  We stood on the railings to look straight down on the city below.  After 9/11, I have wondered if anyone working there was killed some 21 years later.  I hope not.
 We left there and went up towards Broadway.  We went to a Theatre shop, and I got an order form for Broadway t-shirts.  After I got home, I ordered 3 shirts.  I still have them today, although one doesn't fit anymore.  The shirts were:  NYC Shakespeare Festival, Beatlemania, and I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road.
 Then, we went to dinner at Mama Leone's in the Theatre District.  It was a beautiful Italian restaurant complete with violins.  We had a 22-course meal over a 3-hour period.  Granted, most of the courses came in small bowls surrounded by the entrĂ©e, but they just kept bringing the food.  After it was over, I could barely walk.  If someone had a hand truck, I would have gladly had them wheel me back to our van.  Just as we were leaving the restaurant, some boys tried to rob us, but we told them we didn't have any money, and they left.  Instead, they just ran away knocking over garbage cans.
 We got back late to Philly from our NYC adventure.  Sleep was easy.  Getting up the next day wasn't so easy.  I hope the kids didn't mind so much.  The puppets were very sleepy, too.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Philly

 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

Puppets

 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

WIS

 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

Hosea

 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

Datsun

 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

Poker

 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

Shorts

  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.