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... baby Ken.

 June 24, 1940
The Early Years... page 1
The Early Years... page 2
Your comments are welcome and you can do that at the bottom of this page and any of the other pages in this series.
04/06/21 Adding content and making a few corrections.

Bring Me Back The Change
In today's world we often have 'teaching moments' when we need to show or explain to someone, often a child, some new skill, so I guess that's what we can call this short story about my Dad, Grey Kimbrell, trying to teach me the value of money and how to follow instructions. We should say right up front that I was an abject failure at this whole skill set. We could argue that Dad's minimalist approach to his teaching technique could be too light in details for a 6-7-8-year-old kid, but I think that must have been one of the main points that he was trying to make. It would be many years later when I was an adult before understanding began to overtake me.  

The drill usually went something like this, on Saturday morning Dad would load my two brothers Ron and Phil and me into his old Chevrolet pickup truck and drive us to the nearby town of Chesnee, SC and when we arrived there he would park in a vacant lot that was close to the downtown shopping area. Then he would give me some money, usually a 50¢ piece or a one-dollar bill and send me off to buy something that was just for him, like a pack of smokes, or a cut of chew. His only instruction, other than the product, was, "Bring me the change." And that dear friends is where my troubles would begin.

The cost of whatever the product was that I was supposed to buy for my Dad was always less than the coin or paper bill that Dad would hand to me, so whatever the amount of leftover change, that's what I should have in my hand when I returned to the pickup. But, of course, I never did. There was always the lure of some bright shiny piece of candy, or some other colorful object the store would so prominently display upfront on the counter so that they could snag all the kids like me who were weak and gullible, or had a sugar addiction and just could not resist all that candy. Of course, some of us had all of those afflictions and more.  

What makes this lack of self-control all the more troublesome was the fact that I was very much aware of the consequences, but would break weak anyway. While I was looking at all that candy my anxiety levels were already beginning to ramp up because the outcome was a foregone conclusion, but to me, there just did not seem to be an alternative solution... that candy absolutely had to go into my pocket! The fear was that Dad would yell at me or whip me, but I don't recall that he ever did either of those but instead looked at me in great disappointment and that was just as bad, or maybe worse, than yelling or whipping.  

Years later in my adult life my Dad and I never had any discussions about those trips to Chesnee, so my thoughts posted here are based on memories of his treatment of me in other ways. It has always been my impression that Dad thought of me as reasonably intelligent, even as a young boy and that he expected me to make reasoned, rational and logical decisions whenever called upon to do so.
I think what Dad was reaching for was an understanding on my part that the leftover change was not mine and that the bright shiny candy should not be a source of weakness on my part, rather that I should be strong enough mentally to overcome any and all temptations and do the right thing and in other words, "Bring me the change".

... in 1950 the population in Chesnee was 1051 and the numbers below are from 2010:
Chesnee is a city in Spartanburg and Cherokee counties, in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 868 as of the 2010 census, making it the smallest city of South Carolina in that census.

Pool Shooting & Beer Drinking!

...random Google image.

Chesnee, SC was a typical little country town, surrounded on all sides by cotton fields and peach orchards and tobacco farms. During my time there the main road through town was U.S. Route 221, with the part that goes through Chesnee only covering about 15-20 blocks and had one four-way stop with a flashing yellow light. The population was always small, ranging from several hundred's to a little over a thousand back in the 1940s and 50's and when my story was being played out in its stores, it's movie theater and it's beer parlors and pool halls. About now you may already be looking back at the timeline, trying to figure out my age during these exploits and saying, "Was he really already visiting pool halls and bars before he was even a teenager?" Umm, Well yes... yes I was.  laughing7
BTW... Chesnee is still basically the same even today in 2019.

The bars and pool halls would let you in and sell to you if you had a bit of size about you and a bit of money, so very early on I was shooting pool, playing on the pinball machines and, yes, drinking beer. The beer was 10¢ for a 10oz glass and 25¢ for a 'schooner' which was way larger, but I don't remember how much it held. One of my favorite haunts served some really big, really greasy cheeseburgers and for 50¢ you could get one of those burgers and a schooner and to a 12-year old that was pure Heaven. Some of the beer halls in the area were really dives and catered to the hardcore drinkers, but I stayed away from those places, going to the quieter and more friendly places. The reason for playing it low key should be rather obvious, because going to one of the rowdy bars meant the risk of running afoul of the police and that would mean that my parents would find out about my adventures and put an end to these thrilling exploits! Sorry to say, but that's another conversation that I didn't pursue later in life with my parents because it might have given me an important life's lesson to discover whether or not they ever knew about my pool-hall forays and what their thoughts were about those little adventures of mine. All children keep secrets from their parents I suppose, some secrets we seem to keep for a lifetime.

There was not much danger of getting drunk because I rarely had enough money to buy more than a couple of beers and while that would sometimes give me a light buzz the thought of being drunk was scary because how would I ever be able to hide that from my Mom?! Masking my 'beer breath' was to fall to the gum that I would chew, but Moms are usually rather perceptive so I may not have been nearly as stealthy as I had imagined myself to be.  

There was one other establishment that comes to mind in this little tale and that would be the Cash And Henderson Drugs Store. We rarely had prescriptions filled, but when we did that was the drugstore that we used and... it had a soda fountain! That's the old fashion, root-beer float, big banana split, malted milk kind of soda fountain!
I took Kay there once in the 1980s ('88/'89) and we had one of those milkshakes, but I don't remember if we liked them or not.

Movies and TV
The movie theater in Chesnee was very small with a single screen and perhaps 100 seats at most, or maybe even less. The afternoon matinee would cost 10-15¢ and would often be a cowboy film and that was my favorite kinds of flick, so if I had enough money for a good movie and a couple of beers I would go see the movie, but if it came down to a choice between the two... well you already know the answer to that conundrum! Ha!

If you look at a list of Western Films 1950-54 you'll see names like "The Baron of Arizona", "Bells of Coronado", "Broken Arrow", "Rio Grande" and many, many more. And the actors, there were so many that I liked, like Gene Tierney, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Audie Murphy, Joel McCrea and but my favorite was always John Wayne. When I was 12-13 years old I would practice making my voice as low as possible and with as much base as possible, trying to sound like John Wayne and my Uncle Joe Hamrick because he also had a deep rich baritone voice. At that point in my life, my goal was to be a Hero like my uncle Joe and a cowboy like John Wayne. I never achieved the hero status, but several decades later I actually worked on an 11,000-acre cattle ranch in Northern California and while strictly speaking I was not a real cowboy it was a real cattle ranch with horses and branding pens and a bunkhouse and a few 1000 cows! But that's a story for another page.
Oh, and as most of you know, I did manage to build a bit of base into my voice.  :wink:

Speaking of baritone voices, Uncle Joe's voice made for some wonderful singing and if I could make wishes come true then I would love to post an audio file here for all to hear...
Whoa! Speaking of wishes coming true! After writing that last bit about Uncle Joe's voice it kept bothering me because I just knew that I had two or three mp3's of him singing in the last years of his life and sure enough, back in May 2010 Cousin Terry Hamrick visited with Mallie up in Pennsylvania and he sent me a DVD containing copies of interviews that he did with Mom and he included three songs that Uncle Joe had recorded to tape. this next link is for one of his songs.

He Touched Me, Joe Hamrick, MP3
... please note that the MP3 player will open in this same window, so just click your back arrow to return to this page.
... another way; hold down your keyboard 'Ctrl' button, then cllick on the MP3 link and it will open in a new tab on your browser.

One little movie adventure side note:
Not sure how old I was for this adventure, possibility 7-8, but a car full of my Hamrick cousins and me were going to see a cowboy movie in Forest City, North Carolina and it was an evening show. Where we parked on a side street the lighting was very poor and so when I stepped out of the car and onto the sidewalk I dropped straight away into an open manhole, luckily my reflexes were good and after stopping myself by grabbing the edge of the opening my cousins helped me out of the hole. I've forever after held onto an irritation of manholes, causing it to always be a troublesome thing to have to walk over one or even to drive over a manhole in the street. I dislike them with a somewhat irrational passion and can very often be heard venting and ranting whenever riding or driving down the street.  

And, a little about TV's  
When I was growing up we never had a TV and in fact, we didn't even have electrical service available to our house! The power lines were installed to our road a year or two after I left for the US Navy at the age of seventeen. Some of our neighbors and many of our cousins did have power and did have TV's, so from time to time my brothers and I would get to watch some TV and we likely became pests to some of those folks because we would be glued to their sets.
In the late 40s and 50s one of my Uncles, Dewey Hamrick, worked on repairing radios and TV's and I can remember seeing three and four-inch TV's in his shop and those screens look like magnifying glasses. Never saw one of those in action myself, but the video on those little monitors must have been really difficult to make out.

Newspapers, Saw Mills & Pulp Wood

Grit (newspaper)
As a young boy, I tried several ways to make some spending money and one of my first ventures was newspaper sales and distribution. The Grit newspaper was the perfect paper for a kid to work if you lived out in the countryside because you got to build your own routes and customer base and it only came out once a week making it easy to fit it into a weekends endeavor. Each week you would receive your delivery, by USPS IIRC, and the number of papers was based on how many you thought that you could sell at 10¢ each. I don't recall how the money was divided up, or how much I made, but it's these kinds of endeavors that tend to shape ones life through the years and I'm sure that some of my decisions later in life were influenced by that experience. To me this Grit experience led directly into my willingness to engage with my Cousin David Aldridge in the pulp wood business.

Firewood & Saw Mills
Growing up out in the country as we did, it fell to us boys to gather firewood because we used it for heating and in the early years we also used it for cooking. It was only in later years that we had electricity connected to our house and got an electric stove for cooking. The firewood proposition was always a troublesome issue because you were supposed to do the collecting during the summer months and being the kids that we were, we had difficulty grasping the logic in that thought process.  laughing7

So, in any case we muddled our way through and it was this firewood experience that led me to my employ in a sawmill when I was about 13 or 14 years old. One of the small operators in our area talked Dad into selling his trees from the 50 to 60 acres that we had that were covered in timber. They gave me some flunky job because I had asked Dad to make that part of the deal and I'm sure that they did so only to get the deal made... they should have been a bit more careful in what they agreed to!

... more later.

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Comments: 1 *

  1) Re: June 24, 1940... page 2
Comment by Ken on April 28, 2019, 10:59:52 AM

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