I just turned 74, which is approximately 30 years longer than I ever expected to see when I was growing up. I was an only child for over 14 years, then the folks had a daughter they spent time raising and left me to pretty much shift for myself. I already knew a few things about shifting, and when they cut me loose, I just shifted into high gear and I’ve never looked back.
Before I was 14, I was a veteran pool player, motorcycle rider, and beer joint patron and I really never thought too much about it.
Years later, when a new Executive Editor showed up at the paper. He talked to all of the writers individually. My sports editor, Frank Vehorn, went in, and when he came out he looked over at me, grinned, and said, “He’s going to ask you what Country Club you belong to.”
It was like throwing in a soft pitch down the middle with the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth.
I parked it.
When he asked me, I said, “Sir, I belong to the Whitehall Country Club, in Anderson. I don’t get to go back and play these days, nothing like I would love to do, because sports writing and family just take up so much time.”
He congratulated me, told me only two people on the two newspaper staffs belonged to a Country Club. News Sports Editor Dan Foster and myself. He told me how impressed he was.
A few years later, when he was moving on to another newspaper, we had another talk. That’s when I confessed the Whitehall Country Club was a pool room about a half-mile from where I was raised, and my first job making money was sweeping the tables every morning.
He just smiled, and said something like, “You always have been quick, haven’t you?”
He was right.
And it’s always been that way. I had started working at the Anderson Independent way too early, by lying about my age on the application to work Saturday nights putting the comics in the Sunday papers.
But since I always managed to do what was asked of me, I got away with a lot. I ended up working in sports, mostly sitting around answering the phone, and taking prep football stats over the phones on game nights. Then we’d crank out a five or six graph story and on to the next one.
The sports editor could not drive. He would get to and from games by providing tickets in return for free rides. He loved basketball, and claimed to count dribbles, keeping a ‘dribble meter’ on the front sports page every day.
He once walked from the newspaper office in Anderson to the old Field House in Clemson, dribbling a basketball and counting dribbles. He said he double dribbled three times when trucks blew the ball away. Clemson was preparing for a home game, and the place was packed. He dribbled up the steps. They held the doors open for him. He dribbled the length of the court while the crowd was going wild and shot a layup.
And missed. But he always bragged he got the rebound.