Butch Says Many Memories are Here at the Library

Several people visit our library museum each month. Many of the visitors grew up in this community and attended school here, but now live elsewhere. The museum is a collection of memorabilia that I have collected or purchased during the past 33 years, along with items that have been donated. Many of the items are from Darlington school, such as school desks, clothing, photos, yearbooks, etc., but there are also many items representing the town’s history, such as the first telephone, the old Sunshine Theater movie projector, items from the drug store, the old barber chair, and hundreds of other things!

Sometimes it’s just one thing that stirs a person’s memory and reminds them of their youth. One of the pieces of memorabilia that fits in that category is the Weber-Costello “Little Giant” electric eraser cleaner that came from the school. Now why on earth this item…you might ask? Well, one of the favorite things for students to do back in those days was to be selected to wash the blackboard and then take the chalk erasers down to the furnace room to be cleaned. With a flip of the switch, the silver colored machine started whirring, as students ran the erasers across the top, with dust flying outside via an attached pipe. Because the furnace room was so nice and warm in the winter, many of us made sure the erasers were cleaned “extra good” by perhaps staying just a wee bit too long. And of course, our favorite school custodian was there to tell us stories and, if we were lucky, buy us a bottle of Coke from the 5-cent Coca-Cola machine next to his desk. I can tell you that every former student who sees that old eraser cleaning machine instantly has a smile on their face.

When you see things that remind you of your childhood, your mind becomes flooded with memories. We “baby-boomers” of Montgomery County are quite fortunate to have grown up in the 1950s and early 1960s, and we have lots of good memories. The small towns had thriving businesses which were family owned. There were activities going on, sponsored by these businesses or social groups and churches, during each season of the year. The school was the center of activity, and with the small classes that existed in those days, all of the students were able to participate in sports, clubs, and various school activities. Very few kids got into trouble, and although there were certainly a few instances of underage drinking, there were certainly no drugs around. Kids got high on life! The majority of children attended church or Sunday school, and also showed up for Vacation Bible school in the summer. Both farm kids and town kids had chores to do, and many took extra jobs helping neighbors or business owners to earn spending money. Children respected their parents and their elders.

In each community, sure, there were one or two old “soreheads” around, but everyone got along, were friendly, and helped each other. People actually communicated face-to-face…not by E-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. Stories, jokes, and the latest happenings were told at gathering places, and although politics were discussed, it never got out of hand like it does today. Families visited with relatives and neighbors. There were cookouts, church gatherings, and school events for everyone…young and old. Farmers and townspeople joined in to help out anyone who needed it because of health problems, injuries, or tough times. Yes, people CARED about each other.

When you see those things that remind you of your childhood days, it’s also a little sad, too, because as a poet once said, “Down the lanes of boyhood let me go once more, Let me tread the paths of youth that I have trod before…And yet we never can return when once we’ve journeyed on…Old age is ever wishing for the joys forever gone.” But don’t fret, those memories are still floating around in your mind…like the clouds on a sunny day. No, you can’t live in the past. But once in a while, you can just close your eyes, think of your favorite memories…and smile. Each time I look at that old eraser cleaner, I think of my 4th grade teacher, Audrey Cox. It is 1958. I am sitting in the front row…holding my hand up high…and she picks me to clean the erasers…and I am happy!

– John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.