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Mack Williams: Angel of memory

Mack Williams

In today’s column, I deal with just my own personal history with the statue called “Fame” on West Innes Street. I don’t take up any of the warring sides’ points in this, be they the warring factions in the antebellum, postbellum (or the actual war, itself).
Narrowly, somewhat like a horse wearing blinders, I concern myself only with my memories of that statue during my past 67 years (hopefully,”postMack” is a good ways off!).
Although he statue doesn’t represent one of the presiding “muses,” it has presided in the background during different times of my life.
One of my earliest instances of passing Fame on foot would have been those times I ran off from Sacred Heart School. Each time, I made it past the statue almost to the Capitol Theater (my parents then put me at Granite Quarry).
And going back to the “muses,”my father (Bernard Williams) and I passed the “Angel” in his car many times to and from Spence Hatley’s Music Mart out near Catawba on West Innes Street; the same goes for my haircuts from John at College Barber Shop.
One time, I especially remember exiting the Capitol Theater, and the golden light of sunset had both the Angel and the facade of Saint John’s Lutheran lit up in such a way as to rival a Michaelangelo fresco (the statue looks “golden” on a cloudy day now; but shouldn’t, because removing the green patina from a bronze statue is something which should never be done, but I won’t go into that now).
Late one night, the late Paul Ritchie (who deserves his own statue) took me and my mother (Lorraine Williams) to the emergency room when I dropped a fishbowl I was washing and a glass sliver almost “Samurai-ly” lobbed off the little finger of my left hand! I was in too much pain to pay any attention to statues or other people, just me, but we had to have passed it on the way out to Rowan Memorial and back.
My high school girlfriend and I would sometimes go to a movie at the 601 Drive-In, and of course, we passed the Angel (sometimes I didn’t see a lot of the movie, but I did see the statue on the way out and back).
And that time back at Appalachian, when my roommate and I had consumed some wine and I decided to show off my historic hometown. We came driving up West Innes about 3 a.m. (I think the Angel was sort of watching over us then).
My saddest memory of the statue, selfishly doesn’t concern other’s hardships, but a personal hardship afflicted on me by fate (or something) in the form of my father’s death when I was fifteen. As my father’s funeral procession came up Innes from Summersett’s on the way out to Saint Paul’s Lutheran’s cemetery, we passed Fame, to our left. Looking from the limousine’s passenger window, I had to crane my neck a little while looking upward to see the Angel (a couple of days before, to help myself through it all, I had looked out the hospital window and imagined my father’s soul ascending, “angel-like” up towards heaven).
I sang at my dear friend late Esther Rufty-Hodgin’s first wedding, held at Saint John’s Lutheran, and at her funeral, also held there, the Angel “assisting” (though outside) over both.
Of course, none of what I’ve written here is inscribed into Fame’s base; I just think about it when I see the “Angel.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words,so is a statue, and just imagine how big a granite base for the words of the “life-happenings” of those who have passed by that statue on their way to work, school, church (Saint John’s), nights out,etc. The statue would be miniature in comparison, and the old Balfour and Dunns Mountain Quarries would have to be reopened and pressed into service, going 24/7, 365 (but it would mess up that nice county park!).
A restating of purpose: We often hear the phrase:”Nothing personal,” but today’s column is “personal,” meaning: “It’s just me!”

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