I grew up in the town of Aiken SC. It was a great town to grow up in. The population was between 25-30k when I lived there. I moved to Aiken from Columbia SC when I was 6 after my folks split up. My mom moved my brother and I to Aiken because she got a job teaching at Aiken High School. It became what I will always consider my hometown even though I really only lived there for 12 years. But it was a great 12 years. Here are my top ten memories of those days from 1964-1976.
The Family I Had – It was just me, my Mom, and my brother. Columbia and my dad and grandma were 60 miles away. My dad and my mom got along very well – much better than when they were married. But being an hour away meant that seeing him was not all that easy. My mom did a great job as a single parent of taking care of us. My brother Scott was only 11 months younger than I was and we always got along but we were very different in terms of the things we liked to do. Despite my folks divorce I was very blessed with my family.
The Places I Lived – I lived in two different houses while in Aiken. 1) 633 Aldrich Street: A small one story 3 bedroom house in Crosland Park. It was a great little neighborhood that had a tree fort behind my house, minimally trafficked roads to ride bikes on, and friends within walking distance. 2) 848 Oleander Drive: A two story 4 bedroom off Whiskey Rd near the Polo Grounds. Good friends all around where I honed my basketball, baseball, and football skills because we were always hanging out and playing something.
The Schools I Attended – I attended North Aiken Elementary for 1-4 grades. For some reason I still remember all my teachers from there. 1st – Wessinger, 2nd – Sanders, 3rd – Fripp, 4th – Herndon. It was after 4th grade that we moved across town. I spent 5th and 6th grades at Aiken Elementary. 7-8th grades at Kennedy Junior High. 9-10th grades at Schofield and 11-12th grades at Aiken High School. This was right after school integration took place which is why my high school days were split between two schools. Schofield had been the black high school and Aiken the white high school prior to integration.
The Sports I Played – I played little league baseball all the way through Pony League and then played for my high school. Baseball was always my favorite sport and shortstop was my favorite position. Though in high school I was an outfielder my junior year and second baseman my senior year. The other sport I played a lot of was tennis – primarily because my mom loved to play ( and incidentally still loves to play at 80 years old). I played for my high school as a freshman and sophomore. I got into playing soccer rather late – played my senior year in high school because of the influence of some good friends.I also learned to play golf in Aiken and still remember getting my very first eagle on #3 at Highland Park Country Club.
The Friends I Enjoyed – I won’t be naming names here because I’m sure I would leave someone out but… I was very blessed to have incredible friends around me through all my years in Aiken. In fact, I can count on two fingers the # of people I have stayed connected with from college but there are too many to count from my Aiken days. If you are reading this and you are from Aiken, thank you for helping to make my years there an unforgettable time in my life.
The City I Loved – I have not been back to Aiken in many years but I know that it has grown a lot since I left. But when I lived there it was small town living at its best. It was safe for kids to play outside by themselves or ride their bikes to school or stay out after dark or talk to strangers. And I always thought Aiken was a beautiful town with the big old oak trees on South Boundary and all the horse stuff and polo grounds scattered around. It had a quaint downtown and was close enough to the “big” city of Augusta if there was something Aiken did not have.
The Deaths I Endured – 1) I was 13 years old and I remember my mom coming into my room and telling me that my dad had died of a heart attack. He was 42. I was in the 8th grade. His early death became much more significant to me when I became a dad. I didn’t want to die that early and leave my kids fatherless at a young age. So I have tried to exercise regularly and get annual checkups and keep my cholesterol and blood pressure under control. 2) I was 16 years old and I remember my mom coming into my room in the middle of the night and telling me that my uncle (my dad’s brother) and his wife and son were killed in a single engine plane crash. My Uncle Alan had tried to look out for me after my dad’s death – often inviting me to Columbia to see the Gamecocks play basketball.
The History I Lived Through – A lot of significant things happened in our country between 1964 and 1976. The Civil Rights Movement. Assassinations of RFK and MLK. Vietnam. Watergate. The Beatles. Elvis. Munich Olympics tragedy. Secretariat. The Energy Crisis. Hank Aaron hitting #715. Jaws. Charlie’s Angels. Disco. Roe v. Wade. Apollo 11. Apollo 13. And my personal favorite: The New York Mets winning the 1969 World Series – going from last to first.
The Experiences I Gained – I experienced a lot of “firsts” while I was in Aiken: first driver’s license, first broken bone, first date, first girlfriend, first kiss, first heartbreak, first best friend, first time on stage (Who’s On First routine by Abbot and Costello for HS variety show), first speeding ticket, first wrecked car, first time on a motorcycle, first time to go The Masters. I have blogged about my love of The Masters several times.
Top Ten Masters Memories
Memories of the Masters
Easter and the Masters
Amen Corner – A Metaphor for My Life
The Faith I Developed – I was born into a Jewish family in Columbia. When we moved to Aiken, religious involvement was not a priority for my mom so I essentially grew up knowing nothing about God. It was not until around 9th grade that I began attending First Presbyterian Church at the invitation of my next door neighbor and best friend Charles England. I went to youth group with him and began to get introduced to God and Christianity. The pastor was Jerry Robinson and his son Tim was also one of my good friends and I would hang out at his house a lot. Over the next few years I began to understand more and more: That God was holy and righteous. That I was sinful and separated from God and rightly deserving of His wrath. That Jesus was indeed the Messiah and lived a perfect life and was therefore able to atone for my sin and reconcile me to God. That His resurrection validated everything He said and did and that the only reasonable response on my part was to repent and turn away from sin and to place my faith in Him as the only one who make things right with God and give me eternal life. As a junior in high school I did this – though it took several years for me really grasp all that faith in Christ meant. But that decision completely changed the trajectory of my life.
After I left Aiken I lived in New Orleans for 4 years. The Boston area for 2 years. Raleigh for 11 years. And now Durham, NC for the last 24 years – a city that I love. But Aiken will always be my hometown.