Salisbury man keeps his history in a box

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Durward “Woody” Campbell knew the bill from Rowan Memorial Hospital when he was born and his dad’s driver’s license were in that box in the attic.

But he hadn’t looked for anything in the attic for years, and when something triggered his curiosity and sent him to that “box of stuff,” he didn’t know what he’d find.

But oh! what fun he had!

He hadn’t remembered that his birth announcement in the Salisbury Post was in that box, too, but there it was.

“Son born to Mrs. Campbell,” it says and then moves on:

“Mr. and Mrs. Hardey E. Campbell of Salisbury, Rt. 2, are the parents of a baby boy, Durward Eugene, born at Rowan Memorial Hospital on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces. Their other child is a daughter, Judy Marie, who is two and a half years old.”

And his daddy’s driver’s license was there, too, with the hospital bill, like he knew they both would be, but he hadn’t seen them in years, and he was genuinely shocked when he saw them again. So shocked, in fact, that he brought them to The Post because he figured other people might like to see how much things have changed.

That Nov. 7 when he was born was in 1945, and his mother spent 11 days in the hospital.

“My mother, Tessie Leona Campbell, died in June of 1960 when I was 14,” he says. “That was the year when we had those three snows in March.”

“My daddy sold the house in Millbridge about 1963, and that’s when I gathered up a bunch of stuff and put it upstairs in the attic and just kept it.”

Then in 1964 his daddy got married again and his sister, Judy Marie, got married, “and I stayed with both of them — and I moved that box with me. I kept it with me wherever I went ….

“And about three weeks ago, I wanted to see what was in it again. I just thought it was neat that I had saved this stuff. And there was a big change between then and now.”

Like that hospital bill.

When he was born, his mother stayed in the hospital 11 days. Not because she had complications or was desperately ill. She stayed that long because that was how long new mothers stayed in hospitals in those days.

And the cost?

For the 11 days he and his mother were in the hospital, the bill was $64.

He can’t believe it.

The biggest part of that $64 was $44 for the room, which cost $4 a day.

The delivery room charge was the next highest at $10.

His dad’s driver’s license was something to look at, too.

It showed that his grandmother, Katie Campbell of China Grove, had to co-sign with Woody’s dad for him to get his driver’s license.

But his own birth certificate was confusing.

“It said my name was Durward, but everybody thought it was Durwood, so they nicknamed me Woody for Durwood,” he says, and that’s what everybody still calls him.

They could have changed the birth certificate but instead of going through the hospital doing that, they let it stay.

“I found out in the first grade that the name was wrong but instead of going back and having everything and my birthday certificate changed,” he says, “I just kept my name as it was and kept my nickname for the name I was supposed to have had.”

And he likes to keep the old family history things and looking at them now and then and thinking about how life doesn’t stand still.

He got out of school about 1963 and went to work for Cannon Mills that was Pillowtex by the time it closed.

“I was making $12 a day.

“I had got to the 10th grade but I can’t spell. They pushed me through. Lots of people can’t add and subtract. My daughter, Deborah, married Scott Hubbard, and he could do metrics, but he couldn’t do quarters and 16ths, and I had to teach her stuff like that.

“My dad died in 1994, and I was looking through the old stuff I could find, and then my step-mother got sick, and I wanted to see some of the old stuff that belonged to us. Our stuff.”

And that’s when he found that Rowan Memorial Hospital bill and his dad’s driving license, “and I saw that Daddy’s mother had to co-sign for him to get that license.”

But he went to work in Cannon Mills, Plant 4 in Kannapolis, when he was 17, and once he went to work at Cannon, he was considered a man.

“I fixed spinning frames for 32 years in spinning. I tried to get a transfer to sheets and towels, but they told me I didn’t have enough education to work up there. I went through the 10th grade, but I couldn’t spell and I couldn’t half read, but I could fix those spinning frames.

“If they’d let me go into the sewing room, I could have made $20 to $30 a day. But when they shut spinning down, they hired me at Plant 6 in Concord, and that was in sheeting, which they had told me I couldn’t do because I didn’t have enough education.

“But when they moved me to Plant 6, I learned to fix seven different types of sewing machines, and I learned how to work on three different cutting tables, and at that time, about 1980, they started giving us some raises. Until then, they’d gradually given little raises, probably 30 or 50 cents an hour, but I couldn’t make anything but $15.43.

“I was making that when Cannon Mills was sold to Murdock. Now there are no mills down there.”

But Woody knows he did the best he could.

“I taught them stuff,” he says.

“There’s a difference in someone who learns there are different ways to do stuff. The company says there’s only one way things could be done, but I showed them three ways to do things.

“I miss working. I’ve worked since I was old enough to push a lawnmower. I started out for a dollar a yard.

“I think they wouldn’t let me go to the sewing room because I was the best they had. I had a foreman that would come in and ask me to explain something to a supervisor.

“I finally got in the sewing room where I always wanted to be, and I proved them wrong. I could fix anything in the sewing room.”

Like so many others, he didn’t get a chance to go to school when he was working in the mill.

“But when Pillowtex closed I got a chance to go to school and learn to drive a truck. I’ve been from coast to coast and looked over the Pacific Ocean, and I wouldn’t ever have seen that if if I hadn’t learned to drive that truck …. ”

“So I feel blessed. I feel like they paid me to see the country because I never would have got to see it any other way …..

“My great-grandfather passed away about 40 and my mother at 38, and I always thought I wouldn’t live much longer than them, but I’m 61. I’ve lived about 30 years longer than I expected.

“I’ve hunted and fished. I was raised up in the woods and on the lake, and I fished for about everything there is, and I’ve hunted deer and rabbits and squirrels, just about anything that’s there to hunt around here.

“I’ve been as far as Florida fishing.

“I done lived 30 years over what I expected, so I done good.”

And his thoughts roll back to those things he’s saved like that Rowan Memorial Hospital bill when he was born and his daddy’s driver’s license.

“I’m probably going to laminate them,” he repeats. “Then I’ll just put them away for my daughter. They’ll just be something that she can keep that was her grandpaw’s and then her daddy’s.

“To me, it’s just neat that that stuff was kept this long.”

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