The People of Georgetown

Jul. 26, 2019

His name is Alan and he’s homeless. He’s the man who wanders around town with his dog’s kennel in tow. The dog’s name is Levi. Alan has been blasted all over Facebook as of late so I thought I might address his issue.

Alan is disabled. He has a condition that affects him in many ways. As a result of his medical condition, he has a service dog, which is, in fact, registered as an emotional support dog for him. He has the paperwork, the certificate card, the leash, and the service dog vest.

His disability check does not afford him enough money for rent, lights & water, and groceries, etc so, he’s homeless. He gets just enough to eat off fast food joints and feed his dog. I admire that he refuses to be a burden to anyone and prefers to care for himself.

After talking to him, I realized that he lacks the trust more than anything to comprehend a lot of things. For instance, he was told he should keep Levi on the same dog food and not switch brands otherwise, the dog could suffer intestinal problems. Whoever he got Levi from had been giving him Rachel Ray dog food. That’s why Alan will only feed him Rachel Ray.

Likewise with his disability check. The Social Security Administration told him that he was not allowed to work on the side and if he did, he would lose his (sole source of) support. People have offered to give him jobs and he refuses.

He does not trust people enough when they say, “It’s okay to work on the sly, you won’t lose your check.”

Alan is convinced people want to harm him by taking his only companion away. In his own words, he feels like people are out to get him – again, he lacks trust.

Currently, he has asked a couple of places for work so that it will be reported to the Social Security Administration, as the law states it should be. I would love to see that happen and encourage businesses in town to give him a chance.

He’s not your garden variety homeless man, either, because Alan does not ever ask anyone for anything. He does not panhandle, he’s not looking for a free-ride, or a handout from anyone, at any time. He just muddles along.

McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell have banned him citing he can’t come in because “he has a dog.” So… I called their headquarters and spoke with their customer relations teams. I explained that although Alan is homeless, he does not ask for free food, bother customers for money or food, and isn’t standing outside making a nuisance of himself. If anything, he sits quietly inside and pays for his own food.

Because the sign on the front says, “No Pets,” he doesn’t bring his dog inside when he is well within his legal rights to do so. Again, trust. The sign says not to, so he won’t.

McDonalds and Burger King called me back and insisted this will be rectified. As I said to them, “I also have a dog; two as a matter-of-fact. Does that mean I can’t go inside anymore, either? Further more, sometimes when I’m just running in for a second, I will leave my dog outside, as well… Is that saying I cannot come inside?”

Both entities stated, “They should have never kicked him out in the first place or banned him because he’s homeless and certainly not because he has a dog.”

Taco Bell insisted they did not want him there (see note below). She was very frank in stating she did not care if they were discriminating against him or breaking any laws against the American Disability Act. That’s basically what is happening, he’s being discriminated against because he is not living as society has decided that he should live.

Levi gives him purpose. Alan has someone to feed, take care of who depends on him, and most importantly, he has someone to love. If anything happened to him what would happen to Levi? If anyone took the dog away then what would happen to Alan? Would he digress even more mentally? Would Levi become devastated by losing the only human and companion, he himself, knows?

If you really want to help him, stop by and say, “Hey, I have an extra… (insert whatever extra you have), would you like it?”

It’s 50-50 whether he’ll even take it (trust), but that shouldn’t stop you from offering then, or even later. Don’t try to do for him. He won’t accept because he will feel that he will have to pay for something he cannot afford. He will politely, but honestly, decline.

Before you point a judgmental finger in his direction, ask yourself those questions, and then ask yourself, what if it were you? The truth is, you don’t know what you’d do in his situation. Alan did not want to grow up and be homeless and for now, he could do with a little humanity from our little town.

I will leave off with this little reminder from the greatest teacher of all time: “He answered and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” Luke 3:11

(NOTE) Taco Bell did finally call back. They knew who Alan was and explained the person who told him not to come back inside was a new manager who has since been let go because of her "lack of people skills." 

Jun. 24, 2019

I had an amazing afternoon that I want to tell you all about! I had the esteem pleasure of meeting some very extraordinary men (and wives) of a group that was once known as the Winyah Rescue Squad. Someone, no names mentioned (Ricky Martin), introduced the idea of writing about this amazing group of people and so I made several phone calls, passed the word around, and met with them at Hog Heaven for dinner.

When they were originally formed in 1969, they were called Civil Defense and Rescue. After several of the members (Ed Dingle, Johnny Cribb, Teddy Barrineau [deceased], and Larry Howard [deceased]) applied for a charter with the state, they were granted one in 1973 and the Winyah Rescue Squad was born.

Since then several members have passed through, making it their commitment to serve the county of Georgetown – most of them stayed in the squad until it was disbanded in the 90s, or at least until the sheriff’s department took it over in the mid-80s.

“I was with them for thirteen years until they were finally dissolved,” said Dannise McKenzie, who was sitting with David Harper. “The best diver on the team was Chris Baker – No matter what, Chris could always find a body, even if it were on the bottom.”

“We were a non-profit organization, but we still put our all into it,” David Harper shared. “And when I lost my leg, I thought that was it for me. I didn’t think I could do anything else for the team.”

Someone from behind shouted out, “We weren’t letting you retired that easy, David. You could still man the radio!”

Ken Morant recalled fondly, “It was a right of passage for most men. You joined when you were young, like eighteen, and you were taught commitment, responsibility, and you had to take it serious because people’s lives were in your hands. It was up to you to be apart of the team and to save lives; it wasn’t a game.”

“When we first started out, we had to use our own personal equipment,” Ed Dingle shared. “Someone (Georgetown City Planning) had donated a 21 foot whaler; a boat. That’s what we started with.”

Gene Baker was one of the main pilots who donated his personal plane, the fuel and his time whenever and where ever it was needed. Sonny Hutchinson who was with SLED, was also a pilot, and of course, the late David Hodge, who was lost at sea when his plane went down. Peter Thomas was also with him on that fateful day.

Each man played an important role on the Winyah Rescue Squad, be it pilot, diver, or search team; together, these thirty men took each mission to heart and each person was important to them. Their wives and other volunteers formed the Winyah Rescue Squad Auxiliary group and often cooked meals, aided where ever they could, and supported these brave men who put their own lives on the line to bring back our lost loved ones, dead or alive.

I asked the question, “Can you tell me a time that it was just a great day?”

Bill Blake and Gene Baker answered together. “Any time we brought someone home alive it was a great day.”

“A lot of these people were our friends – people we knew personally,” Gene added somberly.

At one point, Glenn Wilson, who was a captain on the team, asked the group, “Does anyone remember what was the one day no one wanted to get called? February 13th,” he reminded. “We lost five different people at five different times on that date, including Wright Skinner in 1988.”

I listened as the men shared stories with one another. Ken Morant laughed and asked if it were safe to tell the Strom Thurmond story now that he was gone… I didn’t ask about it. They knew the story and obviously, it was a fond memory of theirs that I didn’t want to exploit. However, the story of Kevin Morant’s dive at the pier is fair game.

Glenn Wilson was talking about how the squad was on the boat having a training day in Garden City when they noticed a bunch of women waving madly at them. Thinking there was something wrong, Kevin jumped in the water and swam to the pier to find out what had happened. The ladies, all bathing suit clad, were just trying to warn them there were sharks in the water.

Weldon Rollins snitched on Gene Baker. He and Bill Blake were laughing at a fond memory they had about hamburgers. Gene got roped into it hosting a get-together feeding everyone on the team hamburgers for dinner.

“It was easy,” explained Weldon Rollins as everyone around him laughed, “Gene is very forgetful so when we told his wife he invited us all over for hamburgers that night, it fell right in line with how he is. No questions asked.”

I spoke with Glenn Wilson a good bit. He had brought a scrapbook with clippings, awards, letters and so much. I, along with Scott Harper of GAB News, took a lot of pictures (please view the photo album I made. It can be found under the “photo album” tab on CrankyHag.Com).

I enjoyed this event as much as the Winyah Rescue Squad. Their stories provided me so much material to write about. Some of the stories were heartfelt, sad, enlightening, as well as so many hilarious ones – too many for me to share at one time.

In the end, they did add one more fond memory of this group. This one included me in it – this day, this amazing and exhilarating day. Thank you gentlemen:

Harold James, John Gainey (Alberta), Weldon Rollins, Joe Jordan, Gene Baker, Ricky Martin, Glenn Wilson, Bill Blake, David Harper, Dannise McKenzie, Dick Pangburn, Bobby Cordray (Sheryl), Johnny Cribb (Mary), Eddie Dingle (Jenny), Chris Baker, and Ken Morant

Mar. 17, 2019

I went in to talk with the new owner and proprietor of 700 Modern on Front Street. I had spoken with her on the phone a few times already as we set up a day and time to meet. She sounded so petite, but I know from experience that most people do not match how they sound on the phone. Boy was I wrong! Gigi is a sweet petite young lady with the prettiest eyes ever.

Some of my interviewees will ask if I can just send them some questions, but that is not how I do things. Like always, I explained what I do and how I do it. I am more personable than a list of questions so when I arrived, the interview began.

Gigi and her husband, Jamie, have been married for 25 years and have two children. “One of each,” Gigi said of her children, “A boy and a girl.”

We started off talking a little about many things like the restaurant, her career, what role her husband is going to play in this business. Although, Gigi is straightforward, but more reserved than her husband is, she does strike me as a person who can handle things with a no-nonsense, yet, gentle personality.

One thing she did share with me was that she’s always wanted her own restaurant since she was a young 14-year old girl. I believe she has the right personality to be in the restaurant business. It’s taken her about 30 years to make it happen, and at 45 years old, she finally managed it.

I asked her to tell me about herself as this was her story, but she explained to me that she felt uncomfortable talking about herself. Instead, we talked mostly about the business...that seemed to be her comfort zone. I noted that her beautiful green-hazel eyes lit up when she talked about it, too.

“I didn’t even know it was on the market,” I commented casually.

“Well, we heard about it from someone,” Gigi explained, “So we checked into it and it turned out that the previous owner really was looking to retire.”

I glanced in Jamie’s direction. He shrugged a little and reconfirmed, “She’s always wanted this, it was her dream to have her own place, and it was our chance to get it.”

“What about you?” I asked Jamie. “What will you be doing here?”

“I’ll be doing whatever she needs me to do,” he answered quite frankly. “I don’t have a title here like waitress, or manager; I’m just here to help her make it work.”

I turned back to Gigi. “You said you’ve always wanted your own restaurant; why?”

“I don’t know. It’s just something I like to do. I even started out as a server, waiting tables and things. I guess I just enjoy making people happy like my customers. It’s like...they’re family. I remember them, their special events, and what they like to eat and drink,” she explained. With a laugh she added, “I just sometimes draw a blank with their names, but everything else I can remember well.”

I nodded and said, “That’s like Andrea Johnson at Aunny’s. She’s always worked in restaurants and it’s been her passion to one day own her own place, as well.”

We did talk for a little while longer about the future of the business, past and present alike. In closing, I want to say that one thing I feel is unfortunate is that 700 no longer serves sushi. They had stopped long before Gigi bought the place.

Apparently, when Rollin Local opened, they naturally became the competition in the sushi department, but when the previous owner’s sushi chef retired, he just decided to stop serving it completely. No matter. The rest of the menu is just as good as it ever was.

However, on the up side of their recent purchase: Gigi is planning to reopen during lunch hours again. “We’re just working on a lunch menu and making a few changes and adjustments and then we’ll be open for lunch, too.”

Before I left, I asked her to share a funny story story with me from her personal life or work experience. She thought a minute, laughed, and then answered, “On my first job, the first time I ever poured someone a glass of tea, I poured it into his lap.”

“How did that happen?” I asked.

“The pitcher had a top on it and I misunderstood how it locked on and when I poured, it came off and poured the tea into his lap. He was okay about it, but I thought for sure I was history. I thought to myself that this wasn’t going to work out so well. He laughed about it, though.”

I finished making my notes and closed my notebook. Personally, I cannot wait for the lunch menu. I love having lunch on Front Street so I’ll definitely be waiting in anticipation to check out the new menu. I may even have to do a follow up on this just to update.

Until then, thank you Gigi Avant for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk to me. Georgetown wishes you the best of luck with your endeavor.

Feb. 14, 2019

I have completely enjoyed doing these articles for Valentine’s Day. I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of the beautiful couples who helped make it possible. Not only have I enjoyed it, I learned from it. Even though my husband and I will be married 35 years as of June, we still have a lot of years to go before we catch up to my Valentine Couples.

I believe I have written before (I know I’ve said it out loud) that when Scott Harper first mentioned writing a Valentine special, I didn’t think it would go over so well. I truly felt I might get one or two couples to choose from, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The response was so overwhelming that I decided to write about everyone I could up to Valentine’s Day.

I think my original opinion was largely influenced by the many young couples who put their personal business on Facebook and then complain that people stick their noses into their relationships. I quickly learned that these couples, who have been married for 50 plus years, do not ever do that, with emphasis on ever.

Long-term marriages do not succumb to social media. Take Scott and Rebecca Harper for example. They’ve been married for only 20 years and they don’t put their personal business out there and he’s a reporter. It’s his job to run his mouth...So to all you new couples just starting out, take notes and learn, just as I did about how to stay married to the one you love.

For the most part, they all had the same recipe (just about anyway) so apparently it works. Nonetheless, I am going to choose one thing from each couple’s recipe to bring back home to my own marital cookbook. Here are some of the things I’ll add:

1. First and foremost, all of the couples have said that God is important.

2. From Harriet and Frankie Davis, I bring with me: “Do things together as a couple, vacation as a family and not separately.”

3. From Jeanne and Tom Rea: “Try not to argue a lot. Bad days are going to happen so don’t take everything to heart.”

4. From Mary and Ronnie Cavalieri, I will sprinkle a pound of: “Marriage is not 50/50, it’s 100/100 – you have to put your all into it and not just a piece.”

5. From Marilyn and Lenair Altman, I will add: “Humor. You have to able to laugh together and enjoy life. No one is getting out alive.”

6. From Evelyn and James Wragg, I will put in my mixing bowl: “Honesty. If you cannot be honest with one another then you cannot trust one another and vice-versa.”

7. From Connie and Wesley Owens, I will add a pound of: “Not going to bed angry. Respect each other, always.”

8. From Ruthie and George Dugan: “You should be best friends so you can talk to one another and tell each other everything.”

9. From Catherine and Joe Lawrimore, I bring with me: “Values and sharing them with my husband so that he knows, when the chips are down, I won’t be,”

10. From Weezie and Jeep Ford, I will add 100 pounds of: “Kisses and affection. Every day, kiss one another and tell them that you love them.”

When you put all of those ingredients together, it bakes a huge pie of the vows we took before God and everyone to love, honor, and respect one another for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health, until death do we part.

Feb. 13, 2019

Holy guacamole! I just met the most amazing couple of all. These two take the cake, the pie, and the whole doughnut shop. They’ve been married for 72 years, 73 as of 2019! I know people who feel fortunate enough to live that long, much less be married this long.

Jeep Ford is 94 years old and his blushing bride, Weezie, is 91. They have a lot of stories to tell. As Jeep astutely put it, “I’m a walking history book.” He wasn’t kidding either.

As I sat down and opened my notebook, Jeep said, “What do you want to know? I’ve loved her since she had long curls in her hair and riding her tricycle.”

“Her tricycle?” I stammered.

With a laugh, he said, “Yes, we’ve known each other most our lives. I was born and grew up on Screven Street and she moved here when she was about two years old.”

“No, I’ve lived here all my life. I was born over on Broad Street,” Weezie corrected with a laugh.

“Well, I know that,” Jeep stated, “I just meant you moved to Screven Street when you were about two years old.”

Still in awe of his original comment, I asked, “How old were you when she was riding her tricycle?”

“I was about 8 years old, she was about 6. I thought she was the prettiest thing and I’ve loved her ever since.”

“Tell her about the birthday party,” Weezie encouraged laughing jovially. Obviously, Jeep is the storyteller of the two. “Go on, tell her about that.”

“What happened at the birthday party?” I asked as I feverishly wrote notes. “Did he try to hold your hand?”

“No, that was the hay-ride when we held hands for the first time,” Jeep started. “Well, with the birthday party story, I was old enough to drive; I was fourteen...”

In anticipation, Weezie picked up the thread, “...My girlfriend and I were talking about who Jeep would be interested in more; her or me.”

“It was her,” he confirmed. “We dated on and off through high school, and we kept going together even after I went off to the war and she went off to college. I would go visit her and we’d go to dances and dates and different activities.”

Weezie nodded, agreeing. “Most of it was church activities, too. It was during World War II and I was in Winston-Salem while Jeep was in the service. I was a music major.”

“World War II?” I thought that was amazing in itself.

“Yes, World War, II,” Jeep confirmed. “I got drafted in when I was 18 years old and sent to the Pacific for about 23 months and then I came back and was sent to Washington DC for 13 more months. I was happy about that because then I was closer to her while she was in college.”

They talked a little back and forth about how they dated secretively, how Jeep was frustrated that he never got to further his education with his G.I. Bill, their three children, grandchildren, then back to eloping, and Jeep working at the hardware and grocery store on Front Street, then working fifty years at Parrish Motors.

Wait...eloping? Park the Model-T!

“You two eloped?”

Both were laughing now, “Yes, we sure did,” Weezie answered. “The funny thing is one of my girlfriends needed a ride so I asked Jeep if he would mind giving her a ride. It was after we’d gone and eloped and he said it was okay so we gave her a ride and never said a word to her about what we’d just done. When she found out she said, ‘oh my! I was with you on your honeymoon’.”

Jeep talked about working on President Teddy Roosevelt’s yacht while he was stationed in Washington, DC. “The smoke stack had an elevator in it, but you’d never know it. It was so Roosevelt could ride his wheelchair up to the upper deck. After Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman took over the yacht.”

“You worked for Truman?” I asked.

“Yes, I did,” he confirmed. “I was one of four men to work on that boat. I liked Harry. I could talk to him just like I am talking to you and he was a man of decisions, too. I liked that a lot about him.”

I knew Jeep wanted to get his nap and I was holding him up. At 94 years old, he was entitled to it so; I finished up with my final question: “What is your recipe for a successful marriage?”

Weezie answered first – “God is first, always, but outside of that, I’d say communication is a big factor. You should talk to each other about everything; you need to have a mutual respect for one another; and, generosity. I think that’s important, too. If you can’t be giving to other people, you can’t be a giving person to each other so; you should be kind and giving to all. The last thing is you should always be loving and affectionate to one another. Every morning, Jeep gives me a kiss good morning.”

“That’s because she’s still so beautiful,” he said of the curly haired girl who stole his heart while riding her tricycle.

“Now you tell her what you think a good marriage needs,” Weezie instructed. “Those were my thoughts, you tell her yours.”

“God is first. Your faith is the most important,” Jeep began. “Like Weezie said, ‘communication is important, too’. Compliment each other and hold hands and such”

“Responsibility, too,” Weezie added. “You have to be responsible in your life.”

With passion, Jeep included, “And live by your vows! Love one another for better or worse, richer or poorer, and sickness and in health, until death do you part!

“I know that if it wasn’t for Weezie being as strong a woman as she is, I wouldn’t be here today. We both feel very blessed to have lived this long and been together as long as we have. We’re very blessed.”

I closed my notebook and with a sense of reverence at this amazing couple, I said my goodbyes. Before closing, though, I have to say that when I first posted on Facebook about writing these articles for Valentine’s Day, these two became a big focal point. Now, I see why. They are a hoot! I loved meeting them and I will always cherish what they gave me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jeep and Weezie. I hope you have many more good-morning kisses to share with each other.