The first half of our furlough year was spent in Rock Hill, S.C. and the rest in Richmond, Va. Rock Hill was the home of my mother’s family, the Barron clan. Oakland Avenue seemed to be lined with Barron residences. Mother was one of eight brothers and sisters, all of whom (except mother) lived on that street except two who were living in places less than 25 miles away. One brother (Uncle Archie) was a doctor in Charlotte. Uncle John was a banker at the Peoples’ National Bank and was highly admired and trusted because he was credited with saving that bank from going under during the Depression when almost all other banks failed. The other three brothers (Ed, Will, and Earl) ran the Rock Hill Hardware Company along with the three sons (Edwin, Billy, & Caldwell) of the oldest brother… making six “Mr. Barrons” in the store.1
Aunt Lottie Barron was the only unmarried one. She taught history at the Winthrop Training School where I had the fall semester of my second year of high school. Student teachers from Winthrop College across the street were trained there, using us as guinea pigs. Aunt Lottie was a first-rate teacher, and an out-spoken critic of Hoover, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, an ardent supporter of Roosevelt and the “New Deal,” and was seldom lacking in a firm and incontrovertible opinion on nearly any subject. My other teachers were excellent too, and I remember the names of all of them: Miss Poag (English), Miss Rogers (mathematics). Miss Ingram (Latin), and Mr. Blakely (Physical Education.) Miss Rogers once told her student teacher before class that there was one boy who would figure out a shorter way to work a problem in algebra than the illustration in the text book. Sure enough, when I raised my hand to point this out, there was a knowing wink between the teachers and I learned of the prediction afterwards by the grapevine.
I tried going out for football practice a few times, but besides having no knowledge whatever of the game, I was too light-weight and quit after a day or so. I continued in scouting in the local troop and once I walked with another boy to Fort Mill and back to complete the fourteen mile hiking requirement. Father was away most of the fall working on his Th.D. at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Meanwhile we lived in a rented house right behind the Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church and only a block or so from Winthrop College. Now and then we attended that church but we usually went to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church down town. All the Barrons belonged there and as a rule every one of them was present. The session and deaconate was liberally sprinkled with their names. We sang the metrical version of the Psalms, as was the practice in that denomination. The pastor (Dr. Rogers) had served there more than 50 years and frequently repeated his soaring cadenzas of flowery oratory which the younger Barrons knew by heart and could imitate much to our amusement. Irene Barron (daughter of my Uncle Will, and now Mrs. Robert Lee Scarborough) was only a year or so older than I, so my sister Mardia and I especially enjoyed her company.
Per the Winthrop University Library, “The Rock Hill Hardware Company was organized on June 4, 1893 by A.R. Smith and John Gelzer, A.A. Barron and his sons R.E. and W.L. bought Smith out in 1896 and by 1907 had acquired the whole firm. The Barron family owned and operated it until it closed in 1978.” ↩︎