"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." -- Anne Frank
Other links of interest
e-Childers.com. The webguy's personal take on things.
SHS photo-spread. A photo-documentary of the Spartan High campus.
SHS.spart7.org, our alma mater's official site.
In the Spartanburg I knew as a kid back in the 1950s, the
Holiday Season was pretty much the same as it was anywhere else in this
great country. The city put up Christmas lights, staged a parade, there were
store Santas, and lots of wigged-out shoppers looking for bargains.
But during the month of December, there was one spot of peculiar, institutional whimsy -- the front show windows of Aug Smith’s Department Store. Along about 1955, the late Buck Buchanan, the store’s display manager and our town’s unofficial artist-in-residence, crafted A Visit from St. Nicholas diorama, which was given the season’s place of honor in those windows on Main Street. Subsequently, the eight shadowboxes making up the diorama was displayed there each December, until the store moved its operation to the Hillcrest Shopping Center.
The August W. Smith Company. As late as the early ‘60s, Aug’s was Spartanburg’s answer to Neiman Marcus and Harrod’s. You could buy a leopard skin coat there, Wedgwood china, or fancy Italian shoes. Remember? Aug Smith’s. They almost had a lock on the good stuff. Heck, even the people who worked there came across as coming to the game with a little extra. Certainly James (Buck) Buchanan was a case in point.
In any event, looking over material sent me by Ms Theresa Mann of the Spartanburg County Museum of Art, there are other names familiar to me associated with that store. Oh, please, Webguy, tell us who. Silly me, you are interested. Okay, like Harry Smiley, who, when he was a young man in Nashville, dated an equally young Dinah Shore; and Perrin Smith, who wore impeccably tailored clothes and shoes with a spectacular shine. Me mum wrote ad copy for Aug Smith’s, so I’d got to meet some of those people -- including Buck, about the time he was putting the finishing touches on his diorama.
Aug Smith’s was a one-of-a-kind business in that they really did take the high road. For example, a local minister, possibly self-ordained, used to buy his shirts there. Or at least he came in once and bought shirts. Each year after that, he’d return with a complaint about his "purchases," and the store would replace them. That went on for the better part of a decade, before the man died or spontaneously sprouted a conscience. Point being, the store had an incredibly lenient return policy, and what did that cost them? Lots.
The fact that Aug Smith’s allowed Buck to give his prodigious imagination free rein may have been another indication of a lack of a competitive corporate spirit. Buck went to a lot of trouble and expense for some of his displays, and the store would always foot the bill. When their last CEO stated that displaying the diorama was not about business, he was telling the truth. That diorama sold precious few sets of panty hose or cardigan sweaters. Those eight shadowboxes were about art, and things of beauty for their own sake. Not business, but art.
Had not the retail economy in downtown Spartanburg collapsed, Aug Smith’s might still be there. As it was, they had a run of over 60 years, and in that time the store enjoyed a good reputation. For quality, and for dealing fairly with their customers. They also allowed a man with talent a nearly unprecedented degree of artistic freedom, and for that alone, rest assured, the August W. Smith Company will be remembered.
The diorama? As recently as 10 years ago, it was displayed for the holidays in the front window of the old Kresge building. If I were anywhere close and Buck's creation was up and running this year, I'd bop on over there, for old times' sake.
I was visiting Sparkle City not long ago, and thinking good thoughts. I'd frankly forgotten about how one could see mountains from my hometown. There's a lot of beautiful views in that part of the world, and the sunset I witnessed from the home of a former classmate was absolutely spectacular. Got me to pondering whether or not I could live there again. I think the answer is yes. I have a lot of good memories of Spartanburg, Greenville, Charlotte, and, well, okay, even Gaffney.
Actually, we've all known Gafnians who were decent enough. Back in the early '60s, some of their football teams were certainly "decent," in the sense they were competitive. Poor guys, they'd show up for every game, score way more points than they actually needed, and all for what? The thrill of victory?
Hey, it was just a game.
Is the Peachoid still there? I've got friends across the water who ask about it on occasion. Seriously.
For what it's worth, I haven't seen Gaffney since I visited the Hamrick sisters in 1984. That two hour visit with those ladies was a footnote to my life, a marvelous footnote.
But getting back to Spartanburg, my old hometown looks prosperous, to say the least. I was impressed.
If I walk into a restaurant and have a bad experience, I tend to blame the manager. If I have a good experience, by the same token, I give the lion's share of the credit to the manager. One could well apply that same rule to a city, especially one which seems to have employed a plan to transform itself. Spartanburg, happily, is just such a success story, and, without a doubt, that has to do with the current city administration.
Spartanburg is a happening place. I bet good things are going on in Gaffney, too.
The Spartanburg Viking
You can tell a lot about a person just by the way he looks.
Take this gentleman, for instance – by the set of his lantern jaw and the prominence of his brow ridge, it’s obvious to even the casual observer this guy is respectful to his elders, flosses daily, takes out the trash, and brakes for small animals.
Yep, the Spartan Viking. What’s not to love?
Questions or comments? Email the webmaster at PaulMChilders@gmail.com
Late in the spring of 2005, Barry Brown, Class of '64, went for a walkabout with his camera through and around the Spartan High campus. Want to see what he saw, click here.
The front portico.
What’s with that Viking dude?
Here's a plausible explanation of how the SHS Viking came to be:
In the late ‘60s, the Feds finally began running out of patience with the slow progress of racial integration in public schools across the South. By the early ‘70s, you had to be crazy blind not to see that the Justice Department was gearing up to do some serious shin kicking -- it was all over the papers and everything.
In order for the Spartanburg city schools to get in step with federal regs, Carver High was closed, with Spartan High absorbing Carver’s students.
For those who’d previously cheered the Carver Tigers, being presented the opportunity to root for the Spartan Crimson Tide Redbirds wasn’t exactly an answer to a prayer. There were those among the new arrivals who wanted -- demanded change.
Fans of pro football may remember about that time the Minnesota Vikings were doing especially well. Even the Mary character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show alluded to the Vikings' prospects in the upcoming '73 Super Bowl. The highly publicized success of Minnesota’s NFL franchise, one way or another, had something to do with Spartanburg High’s adoption of the Viking mascot. It may have been a case of any port in a storm, any feel-good name in a crisis of self-identity. Do it, and get it over with.
In any event, whether by administrative fiat or the student body had choices for which to vote, the Spartanburg High School mascot is now… the Spartan Viking.