The old courthouse in my hometown, Dillon, South Carolina
I truly feel I was blessed to grow up in a small Southern town in South Carolina. In the eastern part of the state, Dillon is the county seat and dates back to 1888. It’s about 45 minutes from the South Carolina coast which was a wonderful advantage growing up. We had family vacations each summer on the coast and when I started dating, that was our weekend place of choice.
My father ran a department store in town and my mother was a nurse who stayed at home until my brother and I went to high school. She did some private duty nursing and then became a health occupations teacher for the local school system. Daddy was named Citizen of the Year for his volunteer work for economic development and Mama was named the South Carolina Heath Occupations Teacher of the Year. They had high expectations for us as did many community families for their children.
My parents were active members of Main Street United Methodist Church. They both taught Sunday school and my brother and I were active members of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I also sang alto in the choir and really loved it.
My senior year of high school was a turning point for me. At the end of my junior year, the black and white high schools integrated into a new Dillon High School that opened in August of 1970. I was placed on a committee to select the mascot and colors for the new school. I have a strong sense of fairness. I thought the solution was simple. Choose a brand new mascot and school colors. I faced great backlash from my family and my white friends who felt we should keep the white school mascot and colors, which is what happened. It was one of the loneliest times of my life. I learned a great deal at the age of 17 about the power of culture.
We lived in a safe place. The parents in our community bonded together for the most part to protect us. If someone skipped school, an adult was sure to see it and call the principal. The town was just that small.
Source: Getty Images Our most famous citizen, Ben Bernanke, Former Chair of the Federal Reserve
Our most famous citizen was former Chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. Ben came from one of the few Jewish families in the community. His father ran the local pharmacy. One day in second grade at East Elementary School, the teacher walked in with Ben and said he was moving up from first to second grade. He had been reading to the children. I went to school with Ben from second through twelth grade. He was an amazing, intelligent, well-rounded individual whose rise to success was not a surprise to any of us. Our hometown honored him during his term as Fed Chair with Ben Bernanke Day. We held a high school reunion for this event. Our hometown was so proud. I read his book, The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath, the story of the economic crash of 2008. I truly believe that Ben’s scholarly expertise on the Great Depression saved this country from economic disaster.
These days, my trips to my hometown have been mostly for funerals. Mama and Daddy are buried there. We held their services in the church where we grew up. Facebook keeps me in touch with the friends I grew up with and I love that. We shared that special small Southern town experience that shaped our lives and in a good way. For Southerners, a sense of place is powerful and my small Southern town holds a special place in my heart and mind.