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Tag Archives: South Carolina

The Poignant Sounds of Yesterday

In January, 2017, I posted about the Chick Springs Hotel in Taylors, SC. Today I found a poem written about this hotel that I thought you might enjoy. With old photos, a narrative spoken by the springs, and an easy melody, it walks us back to yesterday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYl4vO7r4NQ

As I continue to read and research the stories of our South Carolina history, I am seldom bored with the variety of the silent men and women who changed its trails for all of us.

As Warren Buffet said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

“The Class That Never Was”

My dad, Samuel Moore Collins, died seven years ago. This article was published in South Carolina’s magazine, “The Sandlapper,” before he died. What fun it was to interview him and his friends!

As we celebrate Veterans Day this week, I decided to share it again. It was an honor for these men in the Class of ’44 to fight for their nation.

Gentlemen, once again, I thank your for your service.

 

The 1940 plebes prematurely were carried off by a small diversion known as “World War II.” At mess one day in 1943, The Citadel Class of ’44 were ordered to stand up. They heard the words: “Gentlemen, you are shipping out.”

 

                                                                                The Class That Never Was

In 1940, World War II enveloped Europe. Belgium, Norway and France surrendered to the German Army. Italy, siding with Germany, declared war on Britain and France in June. Hitler’s parade into Paris was broadcast in American theaters on Fox Movie-tone News. Air battles and daylight raids between the Luftwafte and the Royal Air Force over Britain’s skies began in August. Men, women and children were dying.

That same year in America, Big Band sounds filled the air waves and dance floors. Crooner Bing Crosby and comedian Bob Hope made their first movie together. Everyone flocked to laugh at My Favorite Wife and The Philadelphia Story. (Our Office of War declared movies essential for morale and propaganda.) But in May, the country listened to President Franklin D. Roosevelt give a “Fireside Chat” on National Defense. He looked backward and forward at the situation in Europe and its future
effect on America.

World War II was winding closer to home shores.

On September 2, 1940, 565 high school graduates reported to The Citadel in Charleston for their freshmen year of college. They came from across the United States. Each entered the same wrought iron gate. Young men arrived from California, Indiana, Pennsylvania . . . but most were South Carolinians. Registration began at 9 a.m. in the armory with forms to fill out and fees to pay. Freshman expenses were $531.50 for first-year South Carolina cadets, $671.50 for out-of-state cadets. Gen. Charles Pelot Summerall, Citadel president, welcomed the class that night.

Among “the class that never was”—the anticipated Class of 1944—not one at the time could have imagined there would be no cadets in what would have been their graduating class.

That first week was packed with new experiences. Padgett-Thomas Barracks was their new home. Rooms were no larger than oversized closets of today. Each cadet had a spring cot. They kept their mattresses in a press and folded up the cots for daily inspection. The barracks were fully screened, but the screens didn’t keep out the mosquitoes and “no see-ums.” “Air-conditioning” was free. (No charges are listed for it among freshman expenses.) (There was a sink with cold and hot water in each room.)

Reveille, the bugle wake-up call, sounded at 6:45 a.m. the first week, at 6:15 the rest of the year. There would be no turning over for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. The training cadre was meticulous in introducing the new class to all facets of cadet life, and that included early rising.

Each cadet received a copy of the Guidon. This was the information guide to help a new cadet survive his rigorous first year. Cadets had to memorize the Guidon’s three most important questions and be ready, willing and able to recite them at any place, under any circumstance:

1) What is the definition of leather? “The fresh skin of an animal, cleaned and divested of all hair, fats and other extraneous matter; immersed in a dilute solution of tannic acid, a chemical combination ensues; the gelatinous tissue of the skin is converted into a nonputrescible substance, impervious to and insoluble in water; this, sir, is leather.”

2)What time is it? “Sir, I am deeply embarrassed and greatly humiliated that due to unforeseen circumstances over which I have no control, the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of my chronometer are in such in-accord with the great sidereal movement by which time is reckoned that I cannot with any degree of accuracy state the exact time, sir; but without fear of being very far off, I will state that it is [so many minutes, so many seconds and so many ticks after such an hour].”

3)What do freshmen rank? “The president’s cat, the commandant’s dog, the waiters in the mess hall, and all the colonels at Clemson.”

“Ten-hut!” (“Attention!”) was quickly understood. Cadets prayed to hear, “As you were, Mister,” while standing at “ten-hut.”

Plebes (first-year students) had daily opportunities to become more adept at push-ups and pull-ups. “The Citadel takes boys and makes them men,” observes Bob Adden, a Class of ’44 member from Orangeburg. Lee Chandler of Greenville, retired S.C. Supreme Court justice, says he rapidly came to see “the value of living a life of discipline and control.” The first six weeks were hard, but he decided “to not be a quitter, even though not of a military inclination.”

Freshmen quickly learned to stand at attention and parade rest, to answer all questions with the prefatory and ending address of “sir,” to clean and carry a rifle, to walk square corners and eat square meals, and to march double time everywhere. Answering immediately to names like “Mr. Dumbsquat” and “Mr. Doowilly” became second nature. They became skilled at not blinking at gnat and mosquito attacks on the parade field.

Study hall, 7-11 p.m., was enforced by upperclassmen. Days started at 6:15 a.m. and ended with taps, the bugle signal for lights out, at 11 p.m. A duty officer then checked the occupancy of each room. Some cadets called The Military College of South Carolina by another name: “The Sing Sing on the Ashley.”

The Citadel prided itself on its military training and environment. Self-discipline controlled every hour of the day. It “was very good for me,” says Edward Haynesworth of Sumter. His father and two older brothers were Citadel graduates before him. Sam Collins of Shelbyville, Kentucky, says his older brother Wallace, two years ahead of him at The Citadel, helped keep him from making too many mistakes. Arthur Cummings of Greenville chose The Citadel because he knew others who attended and admired their character.

All plebes cringed at the order, “Drive by my room.” This command was issued by an upperclassman to a fourth classman (freshman) for more obedience training. Constant inspections by upperclassmen on the plebes’ uniforms, actions and room status kept them vigilant.

“Walking a tour” was to be avoided at all costs. “Tours” were walked on a weekend when a cadet was supposed to be at liberty. The one-hour walk carrying a rifle at shoulder arms around the quadrangle was monitored, and this “opportunity for marching” was meted out regularly. “You finally get used
to the regulations,” Sam Piper of Greenville says.

Plebes learned to discipline their actions, thoughts and words. Their camaraderie grew daily. They respected one another for persevering. “The camaraderie fed on itself,” Chandler recalls.

The Citadel ring was the ultimate prize. Like all those before and since, the fourth classmen of 1940 craved their graduation rings. But The Citadel’s training was and is to prepare soldiers to serve their country.

“It is believed that considerably more than half our living graduates, and a like proportion of our ex-cadets, are now in the service of the United States, with more entering every day. Each of these men symbolizes The Citadel’s essential teaching — service and sacrifice.”
– Gen. Summerall

On September 16, 1940, President Roosevelt signed the Selective Service Act—the first peacetime conscription bill. All men 18 and older were eligible for the draft. Now, the Class of ’44 had greater concerns than walking a tour. Training intensified.

Some fourth classmen enlisted by the middle of their first year. Sherrill Poulnot of Charleston waited until 1942 to join the Navy. (“Three meals a day and a dry place to sleep was not so bad,” he reflects.) Only 428 of the entering 1940 class returned for their sophomore year. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, prompted still more war volunteers from the class.

The Army Specialized Training Program was launched in December 1942; only a few specialized students would be allowed to stay in school. Changes were made in The Citadel’s calendar, faculty were informed of their new military status, and training in the rules and practices of war for Uncle Sam accelerated by the day.

Daily, recent Citadel men were reported as dead, missing in action or prisoners of war. In his foreword to the December edition of the Alumni News, Gen. Summerall wrote, “It is believed that considerably more than half our living graduates, and a like proportion of our ex-cadets, are now in the service of the United States, with more entering every day. Each of these men symbolizes The Citadel’s essential teaching—service and sacrifice.”

“The Enlisted Reserve Corps [ERC] told us we would get to graduate, just not when,” says class member Bob Adden.

At the end of their junior year, the Class of ’43 recommended to Summerall that the Class of ’44 receive their class rings early. The general approved. What was so important about The Citadel ring? “Everything!” says Sam Collins, the Kentucky classmate. “I wear the ring.”

On May 2, 1943, the Class of ’44 marched to the Charleston station and boarded a train. They traveled to Ft. Jackson in Columbia to be inducted into the armed services. After processing, the train returned them to The Citadel. The United States had called the Class of ’44 to their duty—a duty for which The Citadel had trained them.

The cadets finished their junior year and received a two-week furlough, then were ordered to 13 weeks of basic training. Officers Candidate Schools were the next stop. Then they were commissioned.

For many, active duty ended in January 1946. Thirty-four soldiers from the Class of ’44 gave their lives to protect their country. Six were prisoners of war; four were imprisoned at the same time at a camp in Schubin, Poland. Countless received Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and Bronze Stars. They joined other Citadel men as guardians of freedom.

Some continued active service after the war was over. Some finished their education at other colleges and universities. Others returned to The Citadel to complete their senior year for graduation as veteran students; 152 from the Class of ’44 received diplomas from The Citadel in 1946 and 1947.

On Page 9 of the 1940 Guidon are Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s words: “The destiny of any nation depends on what its young men under twenty-five are thinking.” The “Class of ’44” were men of character, dependability and self-reliance.

In 1954, the class gathered for their first reunion at The Citadel, and they have met every five years since then. In 1994, they finally received their 1944 yearbooks. Many class members wrote synopses of their memories of The Citadel and the war years. The annual includes pictures from earlier annuals and statistics about the class.

In May 2008, 17 members of the Class of ’44 attended the 2008 Citadel graduation exercises. The Class of ’44 was recognized with speeches and given a standing ovation. Lee Chandler spoke for the Class: “The ‘Class That Never Was’ has become the class that always will be.”

The class celebrated its 65th reunion at The Citadel’s homecoming November 7, 2009.

Author’s Note:

As the daughter of Sam Collins, I grew up attending many Citadel parades on homecoming reunion weekends. I watched the “Class of ’44” gather to stand in review. The corps marched past; cadets and graduates held their backs straight and tall. I remember the excitement of those alumni at seeing one another again, shaking hands and pounding backs. They huddled in tight groups, not wanting to miss one another’s words. Their grins of greeting were contagious.

After interviewing many of them for this article, I understand more about their closeness. They were all called to active duty at the same time and were trained by example. Retired Rev. Edward Haynesworth observed that Gen. Summerall “didn’t ask them to do anything that he didn’t do.”

All the cadets were required to attend chapel services on Sunday; the general attended, also. The general often wore a cape, and his exemplary military bearing made an impression. The corps would stand in front of his home to sing “Happy Birthday” to him before breakfast. Dressed in his uniform with all his medals, he greeted the cadets with, “Gentlemen, this is indeed a surprise!” Gen. Summerall’s example followed them overseas.

Many Citadel soldiers served in the same divisions during the war. Their training at The Citadel made them strong, and it didn’t break them.

I and my brothers, Critt Collins, Citadel Class of 1973, and Lee Collins, had the privilege of being reared by a Citadel Man, so we closely observed his character. He taught us the importance of always doing the right thing.

—Sheila Collins Ingle

 

Charleston Firsts

In 1952, the First Federal Savings and Loan Association in Charleston published a small booklet called Famous Charleston Firsts. I found a copy of it in my parents’ memorabilia and thought you might enjoy some of them, too.
1. First book jackets in America were made in Charleston by Issac Hammond in 1890. He opened a book store at 10 Broad Street and designed the jackets to protect rare editions. A salesman from Harper Brothers took the idea back to his New York City publishing house.
2. First woman artist in America was Henrietta Johnson, who worked in Charleston between 1707 and 1720. Her subjects were mainly women, but her best work is a portrait of Robert Johnson, Governor-general of His Majesty’s Province of Carolina.
3. First weather observations ever to be recorded were made in Charleston by Dr. John Lining in 1738. He took a daily reading from his home at Broad Street and King Street. As a physician, Dr. Lining studied the effect of weather on the human body, seeking to find out how a rising thermometer affected people.
4. First fire insurance company was organized in 1736. Known as “The Friendly Society for the Mutual Insurance of Houses Against Fire,” the company maintained its own fire fighters, who carried buckets and ladders. After 4 years, the huge Charleston fire of 1740 consumed half the city and ruined the insurance company.
5. First American cotton exported to England was shipped from Charleston in 1748. The shipment consisted of 7 bags and was valued at roughly $875.
6. First submarine to sink a man-of-war in actual warfare took place in Charleston harbor in 1864.The Confederate submarine Hunley sank the USS Housatonic by exploding a torpedo under her. The wave thrown up swamped the submarine.
7. First railroad in America was built in 1830 from Charleston to Hamburg, SC. The first passenger train, “The Best Friend,” made its initial trip in 1831. Newspaper report said, “The passengers flew on wings of the wind, annihilating space and leaving all the world behind at the fantastic speed of 15 mph.”
8. First building in America of fireproof construction was the “Fireproof Building” overlooking Charleston’s Washington Park. It was designed in 1826 by Robert Mills, designer of the US Treasury Building and the Washington Monument. (It is now the home of the SC Historical Society.)
9. First independent government in SC, and the second in America, was formed in Charleston in 1776 in what is now the Exchange Building on Broad Street. The assembly authorized the issue of $600,000 for start-up.

Our state has much to be proud of. Its history has spanned centuries, and South Carolinians still choose to remember its influence.

At a writing conference yesterday, I read part of this list to teachers and encouraged them to look for the stories in research. Dry facts do give us information, but it is the people who make those facts come alive.

“Charleston is an extraordinary place. There is a deep connection between the residents and nearly three hundred and fifty years of history, and those ties between daily life and the distant past are strengthened by the occasional glimpse beyond the veil.”
― James Caskey, Charleston’s Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City

Trail Signs

Have you ever wondered how people make their way to where they wanted to go during the colonial period?

A term, “By Guess and By Golly,” came to mean inspired guesswork, an early form of navigation that relied upon experience, intuition, and faith.

Brigadier General Francis Marion as a young man, went to sea. As a sailor, he learned to use a compass and a sextant and the stars to navigate. Those skills served him well when moving from one battle to the next during the Revolutionary War.  His men often remarked at how precise his movements were in the murky swamps of South Carolina. He did not guess his way through.

Many Indians, hunters, and travelers used axe blazes on tree trunks as trail signs. There is a major highway in South Carolina that has the name Two Notch Road, because it was an old buffalo trail that Indians used where they carved two notches in the trees. (And yes, there were buffalo in South Carolina. They migrated from the salt licks in Tennessee to the coast.) Those cuts into the trees cleared a path for others.

In Dr. Thomas Walker’s Journal of Exploration [of Kentucky], 1750, he says, “I Blazed a way from our House to the River.” & “I blazed several trees in the fork and marked T. W. on a Sycamore Tree.”

(Can you imagine having to blaze a trail from our house to a water source?)

John J. Henry’s An accurate account of the hardships of that band of heroes who traversed the wilderness in the campaign against Quebec in 1775 reports, “A path tolerably distinct, which we made more so by blazing the trees.”

Some travelers marked both sides of trees so that the trail could be run both ways. Trees marked on one side indicated a blind trail, used a lot by prospectors who didn’t want anyone following them. Indians usually nicked off small specks of bark with their knives while trappers and settlers may have used hatchets or broad axes. In the universal language of the woods, these marks meant “This is your trail.”

Another trail sign was to reach into an overhanging limb and bend a branch into an “L” shape meaning, “This is the trail.” The twig broken off clean and laid on the ground across the line of march means, “Break from your straight course and go in the line of the butt end.” When a special warning is meant, the butt is pointed toward the one following the trail and raised in a forked twig. If the butt of the twig were raised and pointing to the left, it would mean “Look out, camp, or ourselves, or the enemy, or the game we have killed is out that way.”

But what did one do when finding themselves in a treeless areas such as grasslands or expanses of spartina, desert areas, or rocky regions? They used rocks, pebbles, sticks, and patches (tussocks) of grass.

Thousands of years ago, American Indians along the east coast established a system of paths and trails for hunting, trading and making war on other tribes. Most followed the migration paths of animals and along routes and fords across streams and rivers.

The Great Trading Path, or the Occaneechi Path, was one of many Indian trails in use when the English first explored the Carolina backcountry during the late seventeenth century.

By the early to mid 1700s, the Trading Path provided European-American explorers and colonists a well-traveled route for settlement and trade. They traveled by foot, horseback, and wagon from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia and from South Carolina and Georgia. The Trading Path became known as the Great Wagon Road because of this increased traffic. Following portions of the original path, the Great Wagon Road crossed Virginia into North Carolina. The route was not just one path, but many. One branch of the path led to Charlotte and another through the Waxhaws and on through Charleston, SC, and eventually to Augusta, Ga.

Blazing a trail has taken on a new meaning to me as I have looked at these early days, and I really am glad we have those GPS systems.

Robert Frost examines this in his poem, The Road Less Traveled.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”