In 1926, when my grandfather, Edward Richelieu Minus–known as Ned– moved his wife and five children to Greer, South Carolina, he was 44 years old. My father, the youngest of the 5 children, had just turned 8 years old. All I know about Ned’s early years was that he and his young family farmed some family land in Low Country South Carolina along the Edisto River.
Ned was born in 1882–just 17 years after the Civil War ended in 1865. Then, when he was 32, World War I broke out in 1914, followed by the Spanish Flu in 1918, then the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted for 10 years.
After all that, and having been a farmer with a wife and 5 children to feed, I guess he was past being ready for a change, and Ethel, his wife (my grandmother,) had to have been pushing him along.
When I stop and look at the dates, I am so disappointed over not knowing more about those 44 years. Just think, when he turned 20, the bloodiest war in our history had only been over for 37 years. There would still have been veterans around from both sides with missing limbs, along with widows, and young people who had been raised without a father. I can’t imagine how hard life must have still been in the South.
I regret not having been old enough or smart enough to have pressed for more detail. To my knowledge, neither Ned nor Ethel nor any of my dad’s older siblings ever shared much about those years. Well I guess, as they say, “that’s water over the dam.”
In Greer, Ned rented a house on South Main Street and a building on Trade Street where he opened a furniture store. Not the best timing, as the Great Depression came along in 1929, just 3 years later.
By that time my dad was eleven, and, in his later years, he would occasionally tell me a story or two about those Depression years. He remembered hunting with Ned–not for fun or sport, but to put food on the table.
It seemed that having been a farmer, pulled the family through the hard depression years. Ned had a large garden, chickens and even a milk cow– all on a large residential lot only a few blocks from what was known as “downtown”.
My dad raised pigeons that he could sell cheaper than chicken. People were hungry and squab was a good substitute. The three cotton mills in town continued to operate, although at fewer hours, but Ned was able to extend credit to their workers, which kept the store going.
By the time I have memories of him, Ned was in his sixties, still walking to his store every day and working in his garden every afternoon. He walked the four blocks back home every day for dinner (lunch). In the summer when I and my cousins were at Ethel’s table a lot, all the vegetables came from Ned’s garden, most of which he had picked the afternoon before or early before the summer heat.
We sat on the back porch, where Ned enjoyed poking fun at us as we ate beans, new potatoes in butter, fried okra, corn-on-the-cob or sometimes cut off the cob and quickly cooked with milk and butter. There was often no meat, but the best cornbread in the world.
In addition to my cousins, now and then a neighbor kid or two would stop by. I remember one youngster who stopped by–usually around lunch time. I don’t remember his name, but will never forget his answer when Ethel invited him to join us, which she always did. He said–and I am not making this up–“No thank you, Ma’am, I ain’t been long done et.”
Ethel would later tell us that must have been how his mother had taught him to politely say “No, thank you”.
In the summer, Ned would walk back to his store after lunch and to his favorite overstuffed chair kept in a back corner in front of a fan for his nap. In winter, his nap was taken in the same chair, but in front of the old oil heater. Depending on the length of his nap, he would walk across the street to Walt’s Barbershop for a shave, then down the street to The Sanitary Cafe for a cup of coffee and a visit with the Greek owner, Mr. Tallie, who had come to Greer about the same time Ned had.
Except when working in his garden, I remember always seeing him in a suit with a vest and a pocket watch. He was always smoking a pipe. In fact, he had smoked a pipe so long that his front bottom teeth were obviously worn far beyond normal.
Ned loved and enjoyed having his grandchildren’s visits. The last time I saw him, is one of those memories that is as clear today as it was then. The street in front of their home was being resurfaced and the workers had left a large rock in the road. Ned went out and picked that rock up and carried it to the side. The next day he was in the hospital and I never saw him again.
Among my most treasured items are his pipe and pocket watch pictured above. The very most treasured item is his 16-gauge double-barrel Lefever shotgun. Ned, according to my dad, hunted with that gun from his years on the farm until he quit hunting. From age 12, I did the same.
KEEP THOSE MASKS ON AND PLEASE SUPPORT THE SANITY THAT HAS RETURNED TO THE WHITE HOUSE.