Saturday, October 9, 2004

The John dela Howe Years Lethe Cottage

In January 1944 the three of us arrived at John dela Howe late in the day and were placed in the old infirmary just inside of the campus next to the Branch House for the first night . Sometime during the night I guess I may have been crying and maybe scared being in a strange place and not knowing what was going on and what was going to happen to me. Peggy my big sister must have heard me and came from her room and sat on the edge of my bed , I remember it like it was just night before last, said " baby brother it will be all right ,because I am here with you and always will be." Just a few years ago at the cemetery sixty-five years later as the people gather around to hear the preacher say some last words as my big sister was laid to rest those words were all that I could hear and think about " Baby Brother it will be all right , because I am here with you and always will be." So all through the years she was there for me to give advise , to help me anyway she could , I always knew that I could call on Peggy my Big Sister. Never a day goes by that I don't think of her. The next day Harry and I were placed in Lethe Cottage . The matron was named Miss Morrow. Stayed there for I don't know how long I know I was there through the summer because I did not go home that summer and the kids that stayed on campus that summer went to Cherry Grove for a week . It was some kind of camp( found out years later as my wife and children and I were vacationing at Myrtle Beach for some reason we rode up to Cherry Grove and sure enough the camp was still there, of course this was just about 20 years later. The camp was owned by the 4H club of Florence , SC. It has been demolished now I guess to make room for progress. On the way back to John dela Howe there were two buses full of children . I was on the bus in the rear and the bus developed trouble , I remember we pull the bus into a church yard . The bus in front had no way of knowing our predicament continued on. What ever was wrong with the bus what not a speedy repair. So there we were about 30 or so kids and several adults sitting in a church with no food or accommodations . Some how the powers that be got in touch with the right people and the church was opened for our use and some very nice people brought in sandwiches and refreshments. I have often wonder who those nice people were so I could thank them . The bus was repaired hours later and we traveled on to the school , got back after dark the other bus had gotten back in time for the afternoon swim. So sometime after that summer I was placed in Palmetto Cottage . I think Harry had been placed in Carolina Cottage sometime earlier...

BOY WILL BE BOYS AT JOHN dela HOWE___

As the old says goes “Boys will be Boys” and was never more true than with the boys at John dela Howe. There was never a day that went by that we were not doing something not necessary bad thing or wrong things just endeavors that left memories and thoughts of the fleeting days of our youth. We played, worked and I mean some hard work, we went to school, we went to church, we ate and we slept. There is a story in each one of these activities and they will be told at a later time. The story for this writing is about a cabin that we built in the woods and the camaraderie the bond between friends that I still remember to this day and the good times that we had as we played and explored the woods just like the early settlers had done before. I hope that the boys that came after us had the same life and bond as the band of brothers of our youth.
THE CABIN
Abbeville, the name of a town also the name that was given to one of ten cottages that were space around a circle campus, Abbeville cottage is on the right side of the road that leads to highway #81 toward the dairy. Some of us boys during one of our excursions in the woods which was about every day ,but more so on those Saturday mornings that we were free to do our own thing ,decided to build a log cabin. We had gone into the woods behind the cottage and crossed over highway #81 in to the woods on the far side. I don’t remember who or what made us have the brain storm to come up with the idea to build a log cabin but it was a great project for about 5 or 6 eager house builders. We picked a spot in a ravine and started to work I am sure we had some saws or hatchets. The plan was to make it two stories (now that shows we were ambitious ) but we lived in the world that taught us to do the undo able , dream big nothing was too hard for us to do.
The plan was, as I said to build it two stories. The first story would be completely in the ravine with the top room being at ground level. You would enter the top room and go to the bottom chamber through a hole in the floor. I hope you get the picture. Even to this day I can close my eyes and the image of our cabin is seared in my brain. One day if possible I would like to return to that part of the woods and see if I can locate the site. I am sure it is not there, but if by chance I could stand in that old ditch where we as boys built our mansion so many years ago.
We got the cabin built, don’t remember how long it took several weeks I am sure. Now don’t get the impression that this was a cabin built with foot thick logs. No this was build with pine saplings about 3-4 inches diameter. The cabinwas built we set out to outfit it with the comforts of home our stove and coffee pot consisted of a couple of gallon cans that we got at the kitchen. We bought coffee and bread at Cades grocery store. The dairy supplied us with butter and some cream and also some molasses. This molasses was used at the dairy to pour over the cows feed they said to sweeten the milk. All this was done of course without Mr. Blake the dairy boss knowledge. With our booty in hand and our cabin in all its splendor waiting we were ready for a feast. A campfire was started and the coffee was poured in the can with water, now don’t asked where we got the water, I don’t remember, but I guess we took in into the woods from the cottage. The coffee boiling we then wait for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Sitting there in the woods drinking coffee from cans eating butter and molasses sandwiches with the trees swaying in the breeze and nature all around us we felt like kings and I guess we were because, we were rulers over our domain. Our Cabin in the Woods.


THE LAST DAY WE RODE THE TREES DOWN
Trees, one of God’s great and wise gifts to man. We use them for about all of our needs , the build shelters , to burn for warmth, in some cases for food that they bear, for wood to build all sort of things such as furniture , we use them for shade, and they are necessary to filter and replenish the oxygen that we breath but the boys at John dela Howe used them for another purpose. We would climb up to the top of the young saplings and swing them over. Some times they would bend all the way to the ground and you would drop off. Some times they would just bend so far and you would have to drop the rest of the way to the ground. Sometimes they would bend so far and then break and down you would come to ground. So you learned to expect about any of these things to happen as you were in the top of the tree swinging it to a fro to get it swaying so that it would go over with you and once it started you maneuvered to the ground side as extra weight to carry the tree on over and hopefully to the ground.
This was how we would spend time, usually on Saturdays and days when we had some spare time and were not working or in school. At the time I was in Palmetto cottage and the wood that this story is about lies between the cottage and the dairy. There was a path which was a shortcut as opposed to the road when we had to go to the dairy. This patch of wood is the setting or stage if you prefer of the story.
We were in the woods swinging the trees over and having a good time as we always did, shouting and yelling “Ride em over boys”. Well as I said before sometimes the sapling would break so all through the wood were these stumps of popular trees protruding into the air, some 8 or 10 feet high and some with sharp spikes on them where they had broken off. If you are getting ahead of the story you probably realize what was about to happen. One of the boys as he was riding to the ground his tree broke and as he was falling he hit one of these spike on one of the previous broke tree and the spike luckily broke off and he fell to the ground. As we rush to him the shiver of tree had entered his back and was close to exiting the front of his body. Not sure if we carried him out of the woods or went to get help. Either way he was taken to the infirmary of course it was not equipped to handle anything like this so he was rushed to the hospital in the near by town. His injury was serious but not life threading . There was no damage to any of his vital organs and as I remember he was back at the school in a few days..
To my knowledge that ended the sport of tree riding. Not sure if it was not allowed after that or whether we just did not see the fun of it any more. All though we never rode the Trees over again I for one thought of that day each time I walked through that patch of woods. More than 60 years have passed and I can’t remember the name of the boy that got injured or for sure the other boys that were with me that day. I do though remember the events of that day crystal clear. I recall them often , On that The Last Day We Rode the Trees Down.

..Gaines




7 comments:

Snow said...

Good words.

Randy Ballew said...

I too was a JDH graduate, only of a different time period. I was in the wilderness program there for about 4 years and must say, the best darn 4 years of my childhood. Now in my 30's I look back and reminisce

Gaines said...

Randy the Alumni has a website you can go to and look at pictures and make comments about your days at JDLH if you would like send me your email address and I will send you back a password so you can check the site out... Thanks Gaines
W4gh@charter.net

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Bev said...

Hi, Gaines! My name is Beverly Herndon Meetze and I was a Lethe girl! I was at de la Howe summer of 88 to summer of 1990. You sound like you have very fond memories of De la howe....I will soon be 40 and the memories I made at de la Howe still live with me. My brother and I were both there, except he was there many years before I showed up there. I went there to be with him, and he left me about 4-6 months after I got there...

Bev said...

oh...and I'm already a member of the Alumni website...