Tidbits - August 23 2018

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TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY


MOMENTS TO REMEMBER

  When my college roommate Mickey Gresham did not answer my “Happy birthday, old man!” text on July 26, I knew something was wrong.
  I later found out Mickey was found unconscious on his birthday and was in the hospital in a coma.
  He began to make a remarkable recovery, just as he had in previous health scares.
  Last Monday, I contacted Mickey’s son Max on Facebook Messenger.
  He said he had just left the hospital, and Mickey was talking and watching television. He said Mickey did not have his phone, but Max would have Mickey call me on his phone the next day.
  I was looking forward to hearing from him, but Tuesday morning I got a text from Max saying Mickey had two heart attacks during the night and it didn’t look good.
  I began to prepare myself for the worse, and it came Friday morning when Max told me the sad news.
  I met Mickey in the fall of 1969 on the seventh floor of Burney in the Towers (Honeycombs) at Carolina.
  On that floor were blacks and whites; Protestants, Catholics and Jews; Northerners and Southerners; rednecks and intellectuals. Despite all those differences, we all became as close as a group of teenage boys could get.
  We endured all the things that happen freshman year, bad test scores, break-ups, partying, Gamecock losses, you name it.
  We would do some impulsive things, like the time Al Steele, Bobby Schulz, Max Herring and I decided to drive to New York City at the end of the Christmas holidays. We drove all night, stayed two days, and covered all of Manhattan.
  In the spring we witnessed the Carolina riots. None of us took part in the rioting, but when we were watching the conflicts on Assembly Street from the dorm rooftop, we saw a Guardsman shoot a tear glass cannister our way.
  We made a mad dash to our room, but the tear gas got in the AC units, and made our rooms unbearable. We sat in the halls, with wet towels over our faces.
  When we heard the rumor The Weathermen were coming to Columbia to blow up the science building, which was across the street from our dorm, eight us crowded into a room at the Orvin Inn.
  Mickey disappeared for about an hour and we were worried about him.
  When he finally returned to the room, we were amazed to find out Buck Freeman, Frank McGuire’s college coach and a then Gamecock assistant, lived at the Orvin Inn, and Mickey ran into him and talked with him for an hour.
  Freshmen at Carolina couldn’t have cars back then, but when Mickey got a brand new, red and back, Oldsmobile Cutlass our sophomore year, we started cruising.
  Mickey was the type who would say at 10 p.m., “Let’s go to the beach.”
  “When?,” we’d say.
  “Right now,” he’d say.
  So, we’d pile into the Cutlass and go to the beach. We’d arrive around 3 a.m. and discover there wasn’t a whole lot to do at the beach at that time. So, we’d sleep until the sun came up, find some place to eat breakfast, walk on the beach, and then Mickey would say, “Let’s go back home.”
  One weekday night, Mickey said, “Let’s drive to Lyman. There’s a guest singer at my church I want you to hear.”
  So, we drove to Lyman United Methodist Church, where Bill Mann performed his hit gospel song, “Fill My Cup, Lord.”
  When I became choir director at Emory, I made sure we sang that wonderful song once a year.
  As his 21st birthday approached, Mickey said, “Let’s go to Las Vegas.”
  This was not a jump into the car at the moment situation. You had to have money to go to Las Vegas.
  When we both managed to come up with $250, we left. That is correct, $250.
  We’d drive 12 hours a day. Our first night we stayed in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The next night, we were “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.”
  On the final leg to Vegas, we made a side trip to the Grand Canyon and stayed 30 minutes.
  We later crossed the Hoover Dam, and Vegas was on the horizon.
  Elvis was playing Vegas then, but his show cost $35, and we did not have that kind of money, obviously.
  We did see two show, complete with meals. A breakfast cost 35 cents in the casinos. Vegas was cheap ... except for Elvis.
  On the second day on the way home, we got a hotel room in Memphis on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Since we were on Elvis’ street, we decided to ride down it until we found Graceland.
  I was disappointed. I was expecting a house the size of the Biltmore House, or at least the Clampett Mansion. At $35 a clip, he should have had a bigger house!
  I believe when we got to Mickey’s house in Lyman, I had $19 left.
  What fun that was!
  Like me, Mickey loved to sing. When we’d ride around Columbia, he’d stick a The Lettermen tape in the 8-track and we’d sing to the  of our lungs, even though neither one of us had a tenor voice, like the Lettermen lead singer. There was a lot of straining on “I Believe.”
  The college years ended, and Mickey and I did not see each other very often. Usually, it was at a Carolina game, when we’d meet, along with our dear friend Debe Greenway Randolph, who was our third Musketeer.
  Then, this thing called the cell phone came along, and we started texting several times we week, talking about sports, our shared love of singing in our church choirs, family and friends.
  At his funeral, the final song was “Go Rest High on  the Mountain.”
  When it was over, I said to myself, “That was wonderful, I’m going to text him about that tomorrow....”
  Then I realized there would be no more texts. A friendship of nearly 50 years has been laid to rest.
  I’m going to miss him.
  I’m also going to miss Clinton Winn, who died Friday night.
Three Herlong sisters, Eugenia Shealy, Mary Ellen Winn and Carrie Calk lived within a stone’s throw of each other, and their children were more like brothers and sisters than first cousins. Their lives were centered around Calk’s Store for decades.
  Their batch of children, of which I was a member, were close too.
  When I was a little boy, Clinton told the story of a man in community, who aggravated the children when he ended every conversation by saying “a gulk, a gulk and a gee.” For the next 60 years, when I’d see Clinton, I wouldn’t say his name, but say, “gulk, gulk,” instead.
  I remember that pretty, yellow and white ‘53 Chevy, which I have been told he called “Mustard and Mayonnaise.” His first cousin, Willie Calk, across the road, had a two-tone green Pontiac two-door coupe. I think that those two cars propelled me to my love of automobiles.
  I remember when Clinton married Frankie, and when David and Lisa came along. They moved out of Calkville to Edwardsville, but they still frequented the store.
  I’ll always remember how Clinton loved  to laugh and make you laugh.
  I can just hear the laughter at the Calk’s Store reunion in Heaven, and I hope Clinton sees that aggravating guy and says, “a gulk, a gulk and a gee!”
  Here’s a little irony. One of the songs sung at Mickey’s funeral was “In the Garden,” and I was asked to sing that song at Clinton’s funeral Monday.
  When I was driving home from Mickey’s funeral, there was a beautiful, red and white 1953 Chevrolet broken down on the side of the road, I kid you not. How often do you hear of or see a ‘53 Chevy?!!!

CROSSING THE “T’s”

  A new sign was put up on the SHS press box that reads, “Herlong Stadium at Mathews Field.”
  No sooner did the sign make an appearance, school officials started getting calls that the name “Mathews” was misspelled.
  No, it’s not.
  Dr. T.B. Mathews, who gave the land for the field spelled his name with one “t.”
  It was his son, Candler, who added the extra “t” when he as a student at The Citadel.
  He eventually married as a two T Matthews and his four children were raised as two T Matthews.
  “We didn’t know growing up,” his daughter Verda Matthews Potts told me.
  They eventually found out.
  Although the SHS Stadium has been called Matthews Field for decades, the family requested that any future signage reflect the way Dr. Mathews spelled his name.
  As I announced at the game Friday, the spelling of Mathews was not autocorrected!