April 6, 2021

INTERLUDE IN A COTTAGE WITH A WHITE PICKET FENCE

Tom and I lived in this charming little cottage in Clinton, South Carolina, for just less than one year.  His first post-graduate job was as Chairman of the History Department at Presbyterian College.  The school owned this property just a couple of blocks from campus—306 South Adair Street.  Like the town itself, the cottage had its own Southern charm.  On the left was a sunroom with two walls filled with narrow windows.  French doors closed it off from the living room which had a fireplace.  

There was a lovely back and side yard where we often had cookouts for Tom’s students. And in the side yard was the mostly unused doghouse we got for our beagle named Homer.  Like Snoopy, he preferred sitting on the doghouse roof!  

I had a part time job teaching General Science at the local high school and also continued doing some freelance editing for M.D. Anderson in Houston. It wasn’t enough to keep me busy. Clinton was filled with the beautiful homes of wealthy families like the Vances who’d founded the MS Bailey Bank, and some owners of the Winn-Dixie grocery chain.  If you weren’t from a prominent local family or a Presbyterian, you weren’t noticed.  We were neither, but the locals did tolerate the college folks.  

We made friends with several faculty couples, including the Maupins.  Joe was head of the ROTC program at the college and Shirley had great recipes from all the countries they’d been stationed.  Joe Gettys was the college dean and his wife Mary Lou would swing by my house several mornings a week for coffee and encouraging conversation.

On November 22, 1963, I was watching television as Tom answered the phone.  The call was from Western Union—a telegram from McGraw-Hill Publishers congratulating him on the publication that day of his first book, Will Success Spoil Jeff Davis? The book was a satire of the Civil War Centennial and they thought it would sell well for Christmas gifts. Just then, Walter Cronkite broke into the CBS programming with the announcement of JFK’s assassination.

The people of Clinton had no use for Kennedy and the Democrats.  School children there actually cheered with the announcement of his assassination came over the intercom. I closed all the bamboo shades in that sunroom and sat before the television set weeping for days as I watched the funeral and other coverage. There were very few humor book sales that year.

It wasn’t hard to leave Clinton.  Years later we moved to Columbia and the University of South Carolina, just 50 miles from Clinton.  On trips back and forth to Tennessee, I often would exit at Clinton and drive by to show Heather and Patrick the campus and our little cottage on South Adair Street.  I took this photograph on one of those detours through Clinton.

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