Williams: Autographs from the past
I turned back the pages of time this morning and remembered a lot of faces that still were young and promising.
Too bad, but most of them are dead.
I had pulled this little (4 x 6 inches) book of autographs from stuff that I had moved and shoved and covered over for more than half a century.
The velvety front was worn and faded. Originally, it looked kind of putrid, and had gone downhill from there.
I had bought that little book at Woolworth’s with shoe-shine earnings. I was a freshman at Granite Quarry High School, near Salisbury, and I was doing what the other freshmen were doing — collecting signatures, along with whatever hopes and dreams the signees might have had in mind.
The year was 1938. The country was in the middle of bad times. Poverty had the country by the throat.
School buses ran, however, and Principal E.A. Staton was there to greet us each morning.
The first page in the book explained what was to come:
SCHOOL DAY MEMORIES OF (blank) CLASS OF (blank.) I must have quickly turned the page and got to work.
We hadn’t named CLASS OFFICERS yet, nor CLASS COLORS. That page also was empty.
The next page was full and running over with signatures of FOLKS I HAVE MET. There were a few I had to poke my brain to remember.
The next page (NICKNAMES AND NONSENSE) was easier. I remembered “Dot” and “Dale” and “Goofy.” Along with “Eppie” and “Dickie” and “Sis.”
“Hockeypoop” came floating in from left field, but he was from another class, and that didn’t count.
I was more interested in the NONSENSE, however. On the first page of that section was this:
“By hook or by crook, I was the first to write in this book.” It was signed by “Ruby Jones.” I knew Ruby. She was a junior and lived a quarter of a mile away. Her dad had a bunch of beagles in a pen behind their house. I used to stop by and pet them through the hog-wire. She had added another message: “Remember A; remember B; but don’t forget; to remember me.”
Gotcha, Ruby. You and I were in an elementary operetta. It was set in Baltimore and had to do with a crippled little boy (me) and his devoted, big sister (you). Big deal.
Turn a few pages and come to one written on Jan. 5, 1935. It says:
When this you see, remember me
And seal it in your heart.
Let not the words of another girl
Cause you and I to part.
When days are dark
And friends are few
As I do you.”
It was signed by:
A SENIOR: “DOROTHY HOLSHOUER, ‘DOT’”
Ah, yes, Dot, I remember you. You ended up a Class A American Girl and married Harry Drury, my relative but my better-good-friend. And what a great life that you and he have fashioned, still living there in that little town of Granite Quarry, a few miles from Salisbury.
Here’s one from Pauline Lyerly. She had folded the bottom right corner and had written on the little tab: “Here’ something that will make you cry!”
I unfold the tab and read: “ONIONS!”
And, above, her note:
“When you come in late at night, and stand by the garden gate,
Remember that love is blind, but that the neighbors AIN’T.”
Here is one from my good buddy, Aaron Frick, now departed. The page was folded in half, with this message: “For dirty boys only.” And, inside: “The old swimming hole. Heh. Heh. “
It was after that page that I found the clipping from The Salisbury Post. It showed a photo of the Granite Quarry High School boys basketball team under the heading of “COUNTY CAGE PLAYOFF WINNERS.”
Ah, yes, champs we were — especially two of us: Vernon Benson and J.C. Fesperman.
Vernon was an all-around athlete but later was a fixture with the St. Louis Cardinals for years, and J.C. became a doctor (Duke) and landed in the Gaston town of Stanley, where he and Kathleen raised a family. There was much grief in the town when the beloved doctor died some 15 or 20 years ago.
Well, this could get boring.
I’ll save the rest for another time, another occasion.
Have a nice day.
Darrell (Bill) Williams is the former editor of the Gastonia Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.