They have stuck with me ever since

Published 6:03 pm Monday, October 22, 2018

We have been reading lately about the renovations and beauty of Bowers Hall. It is a stately mansion on the corner of Tenth and Market streets. It was soon to be Tomp and Bill’s home.

Tomp and Bill Litchfield originally lived in the two story white house that is on the corner of Bonner and Tenth, directly behind Bowers Hall. They had a lot that was surrounded by hedges and perfect protection from the traffic on Bonner Street and ideal for Saturday and Sunday afternoon football games. Tomp and Joe Stalls were the biggest to play, and we all were afraid to tackle them, except for Bobby Hardy and Bill. Tomp and Joe were the perfect size for a fullback, but that never scared Bobby or Bill! Once Tomp and Bill moved into the big home, our games continued, and we got to see the beauty and elegance of their home.

The big home was beautiful and seemed like a castle. It had three stories and a cellar. The cellar was a perfect spot for one of our forts. As you entered the cellar, on the left was a small room that protected us from bad weather and gave us a place to store our pecans that we would later sell to Raymond Jolley. Mr. Jolley was always in need of pecans, and we could keep him stocked up.

Big Tomp was larger than life (as were all dads of our generation), and Mrs. Betsy was a sweet, eloquent lady and the perfect Southern belle who was so gracious and opened her door to us all. When we would get cold or wet, she always opened the door and once even dried our clothes to keep us from getting sick.

There were times! We were not the perfect kids, and Tomp tells a story about a special kick-the-can game that we played. I remember this game because it involved this writer and a police car. Playing like all boys did then, the trash can lid hit a car, but it was a special car because it was a police car! We all ran to the cellar and hid in our fort ’til it was safe to come out and continue.

One night, I was invited to spend the night with Bill and would later witness what I have told the brothers has stuck with me ever since. In the morning, we were sitting at the breakfast table, and Big Tomp came and sat down with his newspaper and tomato juice. Being a young boy, I had never seen anyone drink tomato juice with pepper and Worcestershire sauce! Big Tomp drank it like it was so good. To this day when I am traveling, I get a large glass of cold tomato juice, coffee and a newspaper and add the same ingredients as Big Tomp!

Like all dads of that time, Big Tomp was special — decorated war hero, athlete and businessman who worked hard for a day’s pay, but still had time to help our community attain whatever was needed to help the youth. Maybe our generation needs to take a lesson from the previous generation and do more to help our community, and especially our youth. They are our greatest asset. Thanks for the many good and caring dads who are doing that, and I hope that it will only grow. We need more like Big Tomp, Big Harold, Big Walter and Big Dave, to mention only a few.

The best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places — Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.