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Yesteryear with Sammy Way: Parisian visitor teaches course; POW sends Christmas letter

Posted 9/28/19

75 YEARS AGO - 1945

April 20 - April 26

- A powerful American offensive, supported by terrific naval and artillery shelling, was under way in full fury today against elaborate Japanese defenses across southern Okinawa. Three U.S. divisions - …

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Yesteryear with Sammy Way: Parisian visitor teaches course; POW sends Christmas letter


75 YEARS AGO - 1945

April 20 - April 26

- A powerful American offensive, supported by terrific naval and artillery shelling, was under way in full fury today against elaborate Japanese defenses across southern Okinawa. Three U.S. divisions - possibly 45,000 troops - were hammering fiercely defended enemy positions along a four-mile battle front before the capital city of Naha.

- Teacher recertification examinations were being held, and a number of the schools were closed so teachers could attend. A call to City Schools Superintendent W.H. Shaw's office was answered by the janitor, who seemed to be the only person in the building. Miss "Goldie" Gaston, Mr. Shaw's secretary, incidentally, is a patient at Columbia hospital, friends will regret to hear.

- Seaman First Class Talmadge Moody Cooke of Sumter has been cited by the commander of an assault group for his courage in saving six army personnel who were in danger of drowning off Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.

- At the meeting of the South Carolina Federation of Temple Sisterhoods held yesterday, the following officers were elected for the coming year: Mrs. Melvin Harris, Columbia, president; Mrs. T.C. Helden, Lake City, first vice president; Mrs. Nina Phelps, Sumter, second vice president; Mrs. L. Kornblut, Dillon, recording secretary; Mrs. Sam Reyner, Columbia, corresponding secretary; and Mrs. Sam Reevin, Sumter, treasurer.

- Pfc. Larry Sanders, 21, died of wounds in Germany on April 7, according to a telegram received last night. He was serving with the 68th A.I.R. with the 7th Army. He was recently commended by his commanding officer for bravery in helping to break the Siegfried line on the march to the Rhine. Pfc. Sanders was a native of Winnsboro. His parents are now making their home in Sumter, as is his sister.

- The Elks Club has selected April 25 as the date of the grand opening and housewarming at the new Elks home, the former Cadet Club on Broad Street. A program of music, games and refreshments has been planned for Elks, their wives and guests. Sidney Smith, manager of the club, has the dining room in operation now, according to the Elks bulletin.

- The Block Leaders organization, which assists in every worthwhile campaign, is now working for the clothing drive. Each block leader is requested by Chairwoman Priscilla Shaw to call the families on the block and remind them to give clothing to children to take to school on Tuesday, the second collection set by the schools. Final results of the block leaders' effort for the Red Cross drive was $3,270.76.

- When Chaplain James T. Williams fell ill and had to go to the station hospital to recuperate and the relief chaplain promised by upper headquarters also fell ill and failed to materialize, it looked for a time as if the Protestant boys would have to hold their own services Sunday morning. And in a sense that is just what they did, for Sgt. Paul V. Batson of Alcolu was finally persuaded to take charge of the services. Batson, who is an ordained Baptist minister, managed the various services with consummate applause of his GI congregation for his fine performance. His subject was: "Accomplishing the Highest Ideals."

- The role of coal in the Allied war effort, and the fact that the United States is the world's largest coal producer, lend added importance to the discovery of coal in Virginia in 1745, just two hundred years ago. Mined now in 32 states, coal has become the nation's principal source of heat and power. Coal was first discovered by American colonists near Richmond but was not mined commercially until 1750, says the National Geographic Society.

- Capt. James H. Witherspoon, who was in charge of the Barnwell Work Unit of the Edisto Soil Conservation District before being called to active duty with the United States Army, has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany from July 12, 1944, to Feb. 12, 1945, it has been announced.

- The Sumter theater will present Paramount News pictures highlighting the career of President Roosevelt. This will include his political days when he was a young man, the war years and the epochal meeting with world leaders to speed victory and a lasting peace.

50 YEARS AGO - 1969

Dec. 21 - 27

- While other areas in the nation outlawed Christmas as a pagan holiday, the South retained its old world customs and kept the Yule logs burning brighter each year. Early Sumter was no different, and wistful recollections of Sumter's Christmases are surrounded with warm nostalgia for a time that was. Sumter has always celebrated the Christmas season with traditions emphasizing the homey and religious aspects of Christmas which older residents now claim have given way to the more sophisticated and showy holidays of later years.

- A tree of 200 beautiful dolls glows in the window of The Salvation Army's toy shop on 34 N. Main St. Dressing these dolls has become an annual custom for generous Sumter women. Mrs. Sarah Boykin, a member of The Salvation Army's advisory board, distributed the dolls in November to the women of Trinity, Aldersgate and St. Mark's Methodist churches, Northside, Crosswell, Alice Drive, Grace and First Baptist churches, First Church of the Nazarene, Church of the Holy Comforter (Episcopal), First Presbyterian Church, Project T-Square and the Golden Age Club.

- French teachers, students and Francophiles will be given an opportunity to improve their conversational French and general pronunciation of the language in a special night course scheduled to begin at Sumter Area Technical Education Center. Miss Martine Chaumeil, a young college graduate from Paris, who is in this country temporarily, will serve as instructor.

- While many people in the Sumter area are busy stuffing Christmas turkeys and stockings, more than 30 volunteers are "stuffing" March of Dimes mailers to be sent to county residents. More than 13,000 homes will be receiving the mailers containing not only their appeal for donations, but also additional information on how and what is being done by the national foundation in its fight against birth defects.

- The Edmunds High School Distributive Education Chapter began its official Program Development this week to bring to the attention of Sumter residents the activities of this group. Mayor Graham signed a proclamation declaring January to be Distributive Education Month in Sumter. The local high school chapter is a member in both the state and national DECA associations. Through its various programs DECA seeks to instill in its members vocational understanding, civic consciousness, social intelligence and leadership development.

- Sid McGhee won the 1969 club championship at the Oakwood Hills Country Club by defeating Dusty Rhodes 5-4 in a 36-hole playoff last weekend. Things didn't come easy for McGhee, twice runner-up for city champion in his native Gainesville, Georgia. In his first round, he defeated Bill Reardon 4-2; however, things got tough in the second round match against Franz Johnson when Johnson had McGhee 2 down on the turn, and he had to fire a brilliant two-under par 33 to go up on Johnson 2-1.

- Radio Hanoi today broadcast a Christmas message it said was recorded by U.S. Navy Cmdr. Walter Eugene Wilbur, a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, to his family in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The message said: From: Walter Eugene Wilbur, commander, United States Navy, serial number 539459, camp of detention for U.S. pilots captured in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. To: Mrs. Walter Eugene Wilbur. Dearest Jean and Bruce Thomas, Mark and Susan: As the blessed Christmas Day approaches, I want you to know these things: I love you and miss you very much; You are always in my thoughts and prayers; And I am safe, healthful and strong. Do not give any worry over me as I am just fine. My living conditions are good, and my hopes are high. I trust your health is equally as good."

- Christmas mail at the Sumter County Post Office has increased 3 percent in volume - 1,664,000 pieces through Monday - over last year's bulk of mail. All 106 postal employees are working overtime. In addition, 16 trucks borrowed from Shaw Air Force Base and the local National Guard unit are being used in the Christmas rush. A total of 200,000 special-issue Christmas stamps have been sold in the Sumter area.

- "All I want for Christmas is to make all the children happy," said the old man in the red suit and white beard. J.R. Pack is Santa Claus to the children who visit Santa's house at Woolco Department Store in Wesmark Plaza. Pack, who hears all the children's secret desires, says children this year are asking for clothes, not toys. "They're right conservative this year," said Santa. "They're not asking for foolish things. All the girls want those Easy Bake Ovens that are advertised on TV. That's all right, but these 6- and 7-year-old boys asking for mini-bikes - why that's the most unreasonable thing I ever heard of," said Pack from behind Santa Claus' whiskers.

- During the winter months, the Sumter YMCA program is in full swing. Those who visit the Y these days cannot help but be impressed by the vibrant program and the enthusiastic participation by the more than 2,000 members. The growth of the Sumter YMCA has been nothing short of phenomenal, creating a dire need for expansion in spite of the fact that the present facility is only four years old.

- Several members of the Kiwanis Club were recognized at their regular meeting at Sunset Country Club for more than 25 years of service and perfect attendance records. Sheriff I. Byrd Parnell, president of the club, recognized Murr Hall for his 41 years of perfect attendance to the Kiwanis meetings. S.K. Nash and Harry Ryttenberg received plaques for 40 years of service to the club. Hugh McLaurin received a plaque for 35 years of service; Roy Nichols received a plaque for 30 years of service; M.W. Edwards and J.H. McLean received plaques for 25 years of service to the club. Many others were also recognized.

- The Sumter Holiday Tournament got into full swing with Hartsville and Winyah of Georgetown clashing in the opener at the Edmunds High School gym. Eight teams are competing in the fourth-annual tournament, fast becoming one of South Carolina's top high school basketball events. Edmunds is the defending champion in the tournament; however, two teams in the field, Orangeburg and Camden, have bested Edmunds in their only regular-season encounters.

- Christmas came early in the Runyan home this year, with the best present brought by Postmaster Loring Lee - a six-line letter from Lt. Col. Albert E. Runyan, a North Vietnamese prisoner of war for the past four years. Since he was shot down in April of 1966, the Runyan family has received no information from or about their father. This letter is the first they have heard from him. However, they knew that Col. Runyan was alive, for Newsweek Magazine ran a picture of him as a prisoner in August 1966, but since then, it has been mostly guessing and hoping.

25 YEARS AGO - 1994

Sept. 20 - 26

- Sumter School District 17 trustees voted to put the final stamp of approval on the district's five-year strategic plan. "It's certainly a road map for the future - one that is very detailed," said Trustee Kay Teer. More than 150 teachers, administrators, parents and community leaders have been working for several months to draft the document, which is an expression of the school district's goals, objectives and beliefs. About 50 of those people attended the meeting.

- Mentally disabled residents of Sumter County will benefit from an $856,000 federal housing grant that will provide for the construction of four new homes that encourage semi-independent living. The U.S. Department of Housing and Development grant will pay for the construction of four community training homes to be located on Radcliff Drive, Kendall Avenue, Burns Drive and Dover Circle.

- Injuries are a part of football, one neither Tom Lewis nor Curtis Threatt are likely to become very fond of. Lewis' Sumter High Gamecocks and Threatt's Hillcrest Wildcats are preparing to open their Region IV-4A schedules, and each coach has had his fill of injured players. "We're about as bad off as we've ever been," Lewis said. "All of our starting linebackers have injuries that will keep them out of the game." Threatt's situation is worse with no fewer than 10 players sidelined for injuries in an upset loss against West Florence. "Our injury list just keeps getting longer."

- The Sumter Opera House presents The Patchwork Players in "King Midas and the Golden Touch." The story of King Midas is based on a myth about a king whose wealth means more to him than everything - everything except his daughter's love. This is discovered when a magical creature visits Midas and grants him the wish that everything he touches will turn to gold ... including, unexpectedly, his daughter. The audience helps Midas break the spell and regain his daughter's love.

- Start with a humorous plot about young love, add a cast of energetic student actors and actresses, throw in a wagon, a scooter and roller skates, and you end up with what director Frank Jackson calls "comedy on wheels." Lander University's first dramatic production of the 1994-95 season will have the audience rolling in the aisles as the cast members roll across the stage literally. Melissa Yeatts, a freshman from Sumter, is cast in the role of Giacinta.

- Get ready. It's almost time to eat cotton candy and funnel cakes - or have your grand champion bull, apple butter or windowpane bird-nest fern scrutinized by judges for a chance at a prize. The Sumter County Fair opens Tuesday. It closes next Sunday. The fair has been held consecutively for 77 years, except five years ago, in 1989, when Hurricane Hugo battered Sumter County and the fairgrounds just days before it was scheduled to begin.

- A federal judge scolded The Citadel's lawyers during a contentious hearing over what activities Shannon Faulkner may participate in at the all-male military college. "Not an inch do you give unless the court requires you to give it," said U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck. Faulkner, who wants to become the first woman cadet at the state school, asked to join the orchestra, the yearbook, the student legislature and ROTC. Faulkner, 19, is attending day classes but not participating in military training while the school appeals Houck's order allowing her into the corps. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has put Houck's order on hold and will hear arguments in December.

- The first students to graduate from Sumter School District 2's new high schools are sophomores this year at Mayewood, Furman and Hillcrest high schools. The first students who will complete all four years at the new facilities are seventh-graders now. What can these lucky students expect? Visually, sloped roofs and the generally modern appearance of the buildings are expected to be a pleasant deviation from most of the state's flat-roofed brick schools. The schools will have similar layouts for a commons area/lunchroom and an open-air courtyard in the center of the building. Classroom wings will branch off the commons area.

- Hubert Avin has been in the fair business for more than 20 years. Each year, however, he's amazed at how the complex event seems to pull itself together at the last minute. Food vendors, rides and livestock always seem to somehow fall into place, he said. Although he's a much-experienced member of the American Legion Post 15's fair coordinating committee - the group that sponsors the fair - this year, it's Avin's turn to be the committee's ringleader. Making sure the fair runs smoothly is no easy task, Avin said.