Every year, on the second Saturday in September, Earlene Boyd of Loris, and her family, host the Grammar School Reunion for anyone who attended one of Horry County’s country schools in the 30s, 40s or 50s. This year, it was at Big D’s BBQ Trough in Conway.
The schools are long gone, but men and women who attended them share memories of those days and the time between then and now when they meet. As children, most of them were in hard-working farm families or mill workers. Bill Gause of Georgetown looked at life a lot from behind a mule. “I decided there had to be a better way to make a living than looking at a mule’s backside,” he said.
After graduating from Conway High, Gause served 20 years in the Air Force. As a mechanic for Titan 11 missiles, he was stationed in California, but checked and worked on missiles in silos in several states..
“They didn’t have Titan 11 missiles in Vietnam, but they wanted warm bodies and I was a warm body,” said Gause, who was sent to Vietnam where he supervised a crane used to remove crashed planes from the runway at Phan Rang. After leaving the Air Force, Gause worked 20 years with the U.S. forestry Service and volunteered 18 years at Georgetown Hospital.
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Felton Causey of Springfield, Va., traveled farther to be there. His son, Randy Causey of Reston, Va., drives his father down every year. Felton went from first grade to graduation in one school at Nichols. He served in the Army, and spent most of his time at Fort Bragg, N.C. With other soldiers, he witnessed one of the atomic bomb tests that the U.S. conducted at Desert Rock, Nevada. Seven miles from the bomb site, he got out of his foxhole and stood on a rock to try to see what was happening and the blast knocked him down, he said.
After he got out of the Army, he went hunting one day In the Nichols area and was walking down a road when a car stopped and a man asked directions. The man was recruiting for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and had gotten lost. That chance encounter led to Felton working 40 years with the FBI, doing all sorts of jobs, including carrying America’s secrets in briefcases sometimes locked to his arm. .
Born to parents coming out of the Great Depression and into a world war, many of those former students carry memories of hunger or of having enough but never too much of anything while attending schools with no lunchrooms or lunches. Wilfred Benton recalls watching some of the children of families who were well-off compared to his as they ate the lunches they had brought to school. “It was hard. I had nothing to carry,” he said.
Benton retired after working 35 years at Red Hill Chips (New South) and he hasn’t had to go hungry for a long time.
Sisters Rometa Beverly and Angela Richardson of Myrtle Beach recall school days marred by war as their family worried about their uncle, Sgt. Jessie Hucks, who went missing in the Philippines. Praying for their Uncle Jessie’s safety became a big part of their lives as he spent almost three years in a Japanese prison camp. “That was a happy crying day when he came home,” Beverly said.
Donna Durant Suhrstedt of Lexington retired from teaching business at Lexington High and the Lexington Technology Center. One of her grammar school teachers taught her to say the ABCs forward and backward, and she can still do that, just as fast one way as the other.
If you attended any of the country schools, you are invited to the 2017 Reunion at the same place. Videos of soldiers watching the atomic testing at Desert Rock can be seen on YouTube and other websites.
Peggy Mishoe, email@example.com, 365-3885.