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Mack Williams: Signatures

My mother, Lorraine Williams, passed away in 1998, and the last time I saw her signature was back in 2008 when I moved from Yanceyville to Danville. In moving, I safely put away some of the letters she had sent me. She would most always include clippings from the Salisbury Post to keep me up-to-date on home-town happenings.

I say “signature,” but it was something much less formal: “Mother,” and often: “Hammie” (her maiden surname being “Hamlet”).

The last time I saw my daughter Rachel and son Jeremy’s signatures was back in March on cards celebrating my 66th birthday. As with my mother’s letters, of course that “first name basis” applies also (the “Williams” part being a given in our case).

Similarly, I saw my brother Joe’s written first name just yesterday (as I write this). He creatively used a railroad “order” form as stationary, in which I, in the “Danville Division” was the recipient.

Joe sent me the latest Salisbury Magazine highlighting the 40th anniversary of the Transportation Museum, along with a copy of “Rowan Out and About” in which the dramatic production to be held at Saint John’s Lutheran in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is featured.( Like my mother, my brother keeps me up-to-date on things).

He also included a couple of really neat triple-color-ink pens of the “Broadway Insurance Agency, Inc.” (the late William L. Broadway was our insurance man when I was growing up).

The oldest signature, or group of signatures, personally seen by me goes back to what I like to refer to as “The Great East Rowan Band Trip of 1966.” I saw them during a “Capitol” experience adjacent the Potomac. Of that group of faded signatures, one especially stood out: “Hancock.”

During that trip’s Natural Bridge visit, I saw the initials of my second-cousin (8 times removed) which he chiseled into rock there at the time of his surveying of the property (later on, some people “chiseled” out a giant obelisk and dedicated it to him, where It overlooks a “mall”).

I saw those quill-written signatures on paper (parchment) and chiseled initials in rock 30 years later in 1996, when I chaperoned my son Jeremy’s sixth-grade class visit to Washington, D.C. Even decades later, they still made a great impression on me! In the terms of the old hand-game, that paper and that rock both symbolize a form of government which “beats anything else” as far as models of government are concerned!

Not very long ago, I saw some old signatures which have a very personal meaning for me. A Facebook friend had posted an old grade school class photograph, and as I was putting names to faces, my years-old familiarity with a cursive signature at the picture’s base made it jump out at me. Even though “that” face was not pictured, just the name itself brought back many “life pictures” made in my mind of our Granite Quarry School Principal, Mr. C.L. Barnhardt.

In those days, Mr. Barnhardt’s name seemed to me to be more than just a formality of “Principal’s signature” on my report card at “report card time.” To me, it was as if he were our “school father,” keeping track of, and nurturing us along in our learning.

It is an interesting chronological coincidence that after recalling Mr. Barnhardt’s signature on my report card, I mentally pictured another signature from back then, not seen by me for many years now, and always not far away (“card-wise”) from that of Mr. Barnhardt.

That signature signified an even more fatherly following of my progress: “Bernard R. Williams” ( prefaced with “Mrs.” those times my mother, Lorraine Williams signed it).

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