Reminiscing on Washington’s past

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2021

While working at Advance Auto, I sometimes glance out the windows and think what the surroundings use to be like.

Advance Auto is located on U.S. Highway 17 directly across from McDonald’s and the shopping center that houses Burkes and other stores.  Advance Auto is close to Washington Square Mall, which is home to Belk and so many other stores.

Thinking about how I use to go visit the Bennett family, where my Aunt Bernice was raised and the many nights camping in the woods in front of her home, brought many fond memories. Walmart now replaces her home off of U.S. Highway 17, so we would drive a dirt road to get to the house.  That whole area is commercialized now to Highway 264, but is still called 15th Street.

Next to Advance Auto use to be the old fairgrounds and the American Legion Hut were we all learned how to dance.  The building at the entrance to the fairgrounds has seen many an excited kid come through its entrance.  It was a building that housed all the farmers’ wives homemade jellies and pies and to win a red ribbon was a treat to these ladies.  They were the best cooks in the county for at least a year!

My mom took Rose Ann and me from school to the fair so that we could taste the only candy apple and cotton candy we had for the year. If we were lucky we might get to visit again before the fair left town and get a hamburger and French fries from the church’s booth because Mom and Dad were working there.

Does anyone remember the motorcycles that ran around a cylinder shaped like a cone? That always sort of scared me because it was only done at night and I wondered where the men were during the day and later found out they were working the rides.

The American Legion Hut held dance classes taught by Marie Wallace, who could make the hardest step seem to be easy.  She taught us ballroom dancing and at the same time held classes where we learned proper etiquette for dances held at Christmas and in the spring — how to invite a date, carrying a corsage, opening the door and meeting her parents at our date’s home. All of this was in the fifth and sixth grades, but some of us took it more than two years.  I met the late Dr. Jim Taylor from Bethel, who always tapped and did a dance with his friend Frances Rowlett also from Bethel.  They always attended our recitals and were two of the best dancers Marie taught in Greenville.

Closer to town across from the Washington Motel was our first Hardees, and later it turned into McDonald’s.  Eating a hamburger that only cost 15 cents is how Lee Drake got his nickname, Burger. On away athletic trips Burger would eat hamburgers on the bus from Hardees, wherever coach would let us stop.  We got $1 from coach, and that got five hamburgers and French fries.

Lee ate them all, so we just called him Burger — and we still do to this day.

At the corner near 15th Street where Burger King is now located, use to be a big broom straw field where men held field trials in order to train their bird dogs in preparation for bird season.  Dad would always enter Sarah and Spec, our two bird dogs that he had bought without mom’s permission. He allowed Coach Wagner and Ox Langley to hunt them so that they were some of the best in town.  These two dogs would place but never really won.  Rose Ann and I raised many sets of quail in our house and fed them in their pens until we had to release them to the wild.

Across the “CC Road” — that is how my Dad referred to 15th Street — which was dirt at that time, lived my classmates Jack Scott and Bill Gravely.  Across from them is where Olivia Grimes (Roberson) lived with her brothers.  I am sure they all remember when the CC Road was dirt and riding a bike was more than difficult after a hard rain.  It got its name from when President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the Civilian Conservation Corps for unemployed men in the mid-1930s after The Great Depression.

They built the road through the forest and it connected Market Street to U.S. 17, and it is now called 15th Street.

There are so many great memories and I was fortunate to have friends that shared them with me and now to write about them.  What a lucky guy I am!