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Yes, You Can Go Home Again!

(L to R) Harriett Tindall and Pat Hiott-Mason. Back row: Patti Workman, Susan Holt, and Lee Wyndham. Photo submitted.

(L to R) Harriett Tindall and Pat Hiott-Mason. Back row: Patti Workman, Susan Holt, and Lee Wyndham. Photo submitted.

Recently, three of my friends and I discovered that you can go home again…and love it! We call our circle of friends “the ya-yas.” For the last ten years, five of us have been getting together annually at Edisto Beach, usually at the home of our friend Vivienne Price Good. Since Vivienne was unable to host us this year due to illness, we decided to return to our Walterboro roots. We were all childhood friends, and we graduated from Walterboro High School in 1960. Pat Hiott-Mason and her two brothers own a farmhouse deep in the woods near Round O, so that is where we slept. But our two days together were spent eagerly combing the streets of Walterboro, relishing our connections to our past.

We started with a tour of the new Colleton Museum and Farmers’ Market, an amazing place. Pat, an artist, was invited by Gary Brightwell, the curator, to have her own show in September, so we may have to come home again for that special event. Next, we stopped off at the Artisans Center where Pat has several pictures and postcards for sale. None of us could believe how that place has expanded through the years. We walked Washington Street together, reminiscing in store after store. My mother and Pat’s mother worked at Novit Siegel’s Department Store, and my father worked at Brown’s Hardware. Harriett Frazier Tindall’s mother owned Frazier’s Gift Shop. You might say that we literally grew up on that street. And Susan Snook Holt’s father had his surveying office in his home not far from Washington Street.

We were all very impressed with the uptown renovation results. We visited almost every antique shop. What a draw for shoppers from all over! We were tickled to see a friendly face from the past, Leona Fennell at Lucas Street Antiques. She made us feel right at home again.

Planning our places to eat lunch each day was a no-brainer. We absolutely had to eat at Dairy Land, Duke’s Barbecue, and Hiott’s Pharmacy. None of these eating places disappointed us, although we did think the hamburgers at Dairy Land had shrunk! I had been a soda jerk at Hiott’s when it was on the other side of the street, but things in the new location looked pretty much the same. The prices seemed to be pretty much the same, too, best value for the money in town. Neither Johnny nor Eddie Hiott was in the store, but we did get to see Paul Siegel, local attorney. Patti Fishburne Workman, a former classmate and now resident of Walterboro, joined us for lunch. What a great time we spent catching up since we hadn’t seen Patti in years. Her arms were splattered with paint from her volunteer painting earlier that morning at the Colleton Center.

After lunch, Patti took us back to our old Hampton Street Elementary School, now called the Colleton Center. We thought the auditorium looked good, and was almost as big as we had remembered it. When we were growing up, each class had its own production during every school year. We could almost describe every event. I remember being a butterfly in our first grade play. I was afraid I was going to fall into the spotlights, which were in the floor on the front edge of the stage. Now they have a much more sophisticated overhead lighting system. We were all in Mrs. Dorothy May Buckner’s glee club, and we have endearing memories of our elaborate choral productions. Jean Harrigal took us on a tour of our old classrooms upstairs, which are now being rented by several local artists. We all think it is wonderful that our elementary school building has been preserved so well, and that the auditorium is still being used to bring cultural events to the community.

Our roots run deep in Walterboro, and so we paid our respects to several family gravesites at the moss-laden Live Oak Cemetery. Then we stopped in to visit a friend, Patsy Utsey, who had just opened The Flower Barn. She is quite an entrepreneur. To cap off our busy day, we drove out highway 64 toward Sniders Crossroads to see the new Lighthouse Winery and Vineyards. We enjoyed sampling the wine and hearing about the owner’s plans to build a pavilion which will host weddings and other social events. I actually was born in that very house and lived there until I moved to Walterboro at the age of five. Who would ever have thought that my country house would become a bed and breakfast in the middle of a beautiful vineyard? For dinner, we got the delicious buffet-to-go at Duke’s Barbecue. No disappointment there!

On the second day, we really got sentimental as we toured our old Walterboro High School, now the University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie branch. Goodness, what memories we relived as we strolled through those wide halls. We missed our old gymnasium and lunchroom, but everything else was pretty much the same. We cut loose some cash in the library, as they happened to be having a book sale. Prices were so low it was unbelievable! Some books were only a penny each. We loaded the car down! After eating lunch on picnic tables at Dairy Land, we spent some time and money at the Rice Festival, which just happened to be in town. What a fabulous promotional event for the area!

After our long days, we retreated happily each night to our secluded farmhouse tucked away deep in the country. Only the wildlife knew of our return. While we watched the fireflies dancing and enjoyed the early spring breezes, we rocked and talked on the front porch, just as we had as children. Shortly after the full moon splashed light magically over the surrounding fields and dark forests (and the mosquitoes came a calling), we climbed wearily into bed.

Growing up in the small town of Walterboro held many advantages for us. Everybody knew us and helped to nurture us as we grew. We would not be who we are today if it had not been for dedicated teachers who encouraged and inspired us to use our talents, former pastors who planted in us a strong spiritual foundations, and neighbors and families who supported us each step of the way. Though all of us live in other communities, our identities and our hearts will forever be deeply embedded in our collective memories of the people and institutions of Walterboro, our hometown.

Yes, you can go home again. We did. We loved it. And we will most certainly return!

(Traveling with the group were Susan Snook Holt of Birmingham, Alabama, daughter of Sam and Ruby Snook; Pat Hiott-Mason of James Island, daughter of Lloyd and Ruby Hiott; Harriett Frazier Tindall of Edisto Island, daughter of Evelyn Frazier Brian; and Mary Lee Herndon Wyndham of Greenwood, daughter of Brantley and Virginia Herndon.) Lee is the author of a recently published book, “My Oh My,” which is available online.

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