Top Ten Memories of Aiken (the Town I Grew Up In)

aiken-sc-logoI 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.


Top Ten Memories From My College Years

I graduated from Aiken High School in 1976. I applied to 4 colleges: Duke, Cornell, Clemson and Tulane.  I got put on a wait list at Duke. I did not get into Cornell. And I got accepted to both Clemson and Tulane. I chose to go to Tulane for several reasons: 1) At the time I wanted to go to a school different from where all my friends were going (I’m not sure that I would make that same decision today), 2) It had a very good Engineering department, 3) my granddad went to Tulane, and 4) New Orleans – it seemed like a fun place to do college.

I was at Tulane from August of 1976 through May of 1980. Here are ten of my memories from those years… in no particular order.


  1. I majored in Biomedical Engineering – Biomedical Engineering was still a relatively new field in those days. I had always had an interest in medicine and I had always been pretty good at math and science so it seemed like a good fit. I had no problem with the book side of the major – finished with a B average, but I was not very good at the application part – which is pretty much what engineering is all about. So while I enjoyed the major, it was clear to me by my junior year that I would not make a living as an engineer.
  2. Sigma Alpha Epsilon – Many of you reading this will be surprised that I was a frat guy. Me too. Here’s how it happened. I knew exactly zero people when I arrived at Tulane. My roommate became my first friend. He had been impressed with the guys he met during pledge week at SAE and encouraged me to go by the house and check it out. Which I did. They extended me an invitation to join and I accepted along with my roommate. I was pretty active for my first 3 years but then was inactive my senior year. I never lived at the frat house but enjoyed getting to know a lot of the guys over the years.
  3. Intramurals – The fraternity gave me an opportunity to be involved in sports while at Tulane. Back in the day I was a really fast runner. I still remember several fly patterns I ran for touchdowns during football season. I also played softball and soccer – having played baseball and soccer in high school. Good times. Fun memories.
  4. Running – It was while I was in college that I began running. One of the nice things about New Orleans is that it is flat. And one of the nice things about Tulane is that it was right across from Audobon Park – a great place to run that took you down by the Mississippi River. I set a goal for 1979 to run 700 miles – which is only about 2 miles per day but it meant that I had to be disciplined to get it done. Which i am proud to say that I did. I ended up running until I was about 45 and then realized that I had never really enjoyed it like some people do – so I became a walker instead. Which I still do.
  5. Andre, Pete, Jason – I finished up my high school days with a lot of good friends, many of who I am still connected to today – thanks to Facebook. I had three guys that I would consider good friends while I was at Tulane. Pete – my roommate freshman year, Jason – my roommate sophomore year. And Andre – my suite-mate sophomore year and fraternity brother. Both Pete and Jason transferred away from Tulane and I have lost touch with them – haven’t been able to find them on FB. Andre, a Louisiana cajun, moved to South Carolina not long after college. We still stay in touch and occasionally see each other.
  6. New Orleans – New Orleans was an interesting place to do college. But it is not a city I would want to live in. Way to hot and humid for me. Still, lots of fun memories: The French Quarter, jazz music, great food, Cafe Du Monde and beignets, Mardi Gras, streetcars, Audobon Park, the Mississippi River, the Garden District, and sporting events…
  7. Sporting Events – I was able to attend two once in a lifetime sporting events while I was in college: 1) I went to Super Bowl XII in January of 1978 between Dallas and Denver. I got to see Roger Staubach lead the Cowboys to a 27-10 victory over the Broncos. Andre and I were able to scalp tickets outside the Superdome – face value was only $35 back then. I got my ticket for $50. 2) I was also able to see Muhammed Ali win the heavyweight title for the 3rd time in September of 1978 in a unanimous decision over Leon Spinks. History and a sporting icon at the same time.
  8. Cru – My first full day in my dorm freshman year there was a knock on my door – A Campus Crusade for Christ staff guy introduced himself and so began my involvement. I was a very young, immature Christian when I went to Tulane and the Lord used this ministry to disciple me and help prepare me for my future. I was able to be involved in leadership in several ways over the years. Josh McDowell came to our campus when I was a sophomore and I had a chance to give him a ride from school to his hotel. But the transforming highlight of my involvement was participation in CCC Beach project following my junior year.
  9. Hearing God’s Voice – I have detailed this experience HERE. But suffice to say that it was while I was at Tulane that God spoke to me loud and clear in ways that changed the trajectory of my life. I am very grateful that He  intervened in my life in supernatural ways rather than letting me follow my own path. I suspect that my life would have turned out far differently if God had not stepped in. I have been incredibly blessed over the years and take great joy in knowing that the Lord is guiding my way.
  10. A Song and a Kiss – Linda and I met in Galveston, Texas and began dating while we were both on the CCC Beach Project. At the end of the project she traveled with me back to New Orleans before flying home to NC. We had a magical night together that featured supper in the French Quarter at The Chart House, yummy stuff from Cafe Du Monde, our first kiss in Jackson Square, and me telling her I loved her for the first time – as we hung out on one of the quads at Tulane and I sang and played on my guitar Jim Croce’s song “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song.

Good times! Good memories!


Top Ten – Masters Memories

Screen shot 2016-04-07 at 3.26.48 PMThis is the first of a series of “Top Ten” posts that I plan on doing over the next few years. I thought it appropriate, since my favorite golf tournament teed off today, to start with my top ten Master’s memories. These are confined to memories from my lifetime – whether I saw them in person or on the telly. I started going to The Masters around 1968 when I lived in Aiken SC thanks to the generosity of 1) friends who stayed at our house who had tickets and 2) my 1st cousin Alan who graciously allowed me to use his tickets many times over the years. The Master’s is the greatest golf tournament in the world and I have had the fortune to watch some of the greatest in the game make some of the most memorable shots ever recorded. So here are 10 of my favorite memories from Augusta National…

1) Over the years I have probably been to Augusta National 30+ times. And as much as I have enjoyed going I have also loved being able to take people with me who have never ever been – and then watching them fall in love with the course. One of my favorite memories is from the late 70’s when I took my buddy Andre Hawkins (a Tulane University suite mate). He was a huge Jack Nicklaus fan and when we walked on to the course and he saw him on the 1st tee he broke out into goosebumps because he was so excited. That happens a lot at The Masters.

2) This time of year it is not uncommon to see people proudly sporting their Master’s gear – hats, shirts, etc. Augusta National is very proud of their branding and it is not inexpensive to buy Master’s paraphernalia. But their concessions are  very affordable. I always look forward to getting their ham on rye sandwiches at the course, They are very yummy.

3) Nowadays you are not allowed to do any autograph seeking on the course side of the clubhouse. I was able to twice get Jack’s autograph as he walked from the practice tee back to the clubhouse. But in the early days of my going I got two autographs I am very proud of on the course side: 1) In 1972, I saw this 20 year old kid who was playing in his first Master’s standing near the 1st fairway with no one around him. I went and asked him for his autograph which he was glad to give me. In 1984 he won his 1st green jacket and then added a 2nd in 1995. His name was Ben Crenshaw. 2) In 1973, Tommy Aaron won the Masters. But he had to hold off a hard charging Jack Nicklaus who shot 66 in the final round and finished tied for 3rd. I had followed him around the course that day. When Jack exited the scoring tent just behind the 18th green he was mobbed by hundreds of people, including me, trying to get an autograph. I was several rows of people deep but thrust my arm through the crowd and somehow he grabbed my pad and pen, signed it, and even more miraculously got it back into my hand. I still have that autograph… somewhere.

4) In 1993 Bernhard Langer won the Master’s. It was his 2nd green jacket, having also won in 1985. The Sunday that he won also happened to be Easter Sunday. Langer is a very strong believer. I remember him saying after he had donned the green jacket that he considered it a great blessing to win The Master’s on the same day that we celebrate Christ rising from the dead.

5) Of course one of my favorite memories is from 1986. As a Nicklaus fan for many years and having followed him around Augusta dozens of rounds, I was thrilled to see him him win his 6th green jacket. Here is one of the most iconic moments in Master’s history:

6) One of the other iconic moments is when Tiger chipped in on #16 as he clawed his way to victory in 2005 for his 4th win and his last at The Master’s.

7) In 2004 I was out of the country on a missions trip to Jamaica during The Master’s. On Sunday afternoon I was very surprised to find a TV that picked up the telecast. A bunch of us from the team huddled around the TV and watched Phil win his first Master’s and then make his incredibly goofy jump into the air to celebrate. A jump I will never forget.

8) In 1986, 1987, and 1996 Greg Norman managed NOT to win The Master’s in very memorable ways. In ’86 he was tied for the lead going to #18, made bogey and lost to Nicklaus. In 1987, he lost to Larry Mize on the 2nd playoff hole when Mize chipped in from off the green. And in 1996 he blew a 6 shot lead on Sunday and lost to Nick Faldo who said, “It was the only time I felt sorry for someone I’d beaten.”

9) I will include 2 memories here just because they have similarity. In 1997 Tiger exploded on to the golf world with his 12 stroke victory over Tom Kite at -18. And then last year when Jordan Spieth made a definitive statement when he also shot -18 and finished 4 strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

10) I will also include 2 memories here from the 2012 Master’s. The first memory is when Louis Oosthuizen made double eagle on #2 to vault him into contention. The 2nd memory is Bubba Watson’s shot from the woods on #10 – the 2nd sudden death playoff hole – an incredible gap wedge that he hooked 40 yards to put on the green and win him the championship over Oosy.

In years past I have written a couple of other Master’s related posts. If interested you can check them out here…

Amen Corner – A Metaphor for My Life

Easter and the Masters

Memories of the Masters – I wrote this 5 years ago – it has a few of the same things I mention here but also some that I don’t mention

10 More Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Me

  1. I was raised by my Mom. My folks split up when I was 6. My dad died when I was 13.  My Mom did a terrific job of giving my brother and I a healthy home environment while balancing being a single mom and working. She is one of the most caring people that I know and her compassion for others had a huge impact toward my becoming a pastor.
  2. My favorite musical artists growing up included The Doobie Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Chicago, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot , and Linda Ronstadt. The first album I ever owned was Jim Croce’s Life and Times.
  3. The first time that I told my wife that I loved her was in New Orleans on one of the Tulane University quads. I played guitar and sang her a Jim Croce song:” I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song”. She continued to date me even after hearing me sing.
  4. My first car was a red Toyota Corolla named Lionel. I developed a habit from the very beginning of naming my cars. Good memories of Percy, Wilson,  and on down the line to Edgar my Ford Edge truck that I have and love today. My theory was that if I treated them personally that they would treat me well. I have not been disappointed.
  5. I have memorized at different times in my life 2 entire books from the New Testament: 1 John and 1 Peter. While I can’t recite them back now, the exercise of hiding God’s Word in my heart by committing to memory extended passages of Scripture has proved invaluable through the years. I highly recommend it as a spiritual discipline if you want to maximize your growth potential.
  6. I was a member of a fraternity when I was In college – Sigma Alpha Epsilon. I was not really a fraternity kind of guy but since I went to a school knowing absolutely no one it was a good way to meet a lot of people quickly and have a place to belong. 30 years later I only stay in contact with 1 of my frat brothers.
  7. I grew up in a little town called Aiken, SC and went (at the time) to the only public high school there: Aiken High School. Aiken was a wonderful place to grow up. I have such great memories of the 14 years I spent there and still stay in contact with a bunch of the people that I graduated with.
  8. I picked up several hitch hikers when I was young but I have only tried to hitch hike one time myself. My buddy Wallace McNair and I were in southern France traveling after college graduation and we missed the last train out of Monte Carlo that would take us back to our hotel in Nice. We tried to snag a ride but no one would pick up two young hoodlums from America.
  9. I roofed houses for 6 months after I graduated seminary. In the cold of winter (25degrees) and the heat of summer (90+ degrees). This helped me to hear from God as to what kind of ministry to pursue. Mostly I knew that I didn’t want to be a roofer. It also gave me a great appreciation for everyone who works in the construction industry. That is hard work.
  10. I have been in pastoral ministry for 27 years (22 as a youth pastor). I have only been in 2 churches and have been blessed to serve under two great pastors. When people ask me how I have been able to be successful as a pastor I usually reply, “I stayed.” It is certainly not because of great giftedness – I have just hung around long enough to have an influence. Too many people in ministry don’t (in my humble opinion.)

10 Things You (Probably) Don't Know About Me

  1. I LOVED baseball growing up – huge NY Mets fan. Woke my daughter up in 1986 at 1 am when they staged their miracle comeback against the Boston Red Sox. Went to the All Star Game in Detroit in 1971. Saw 6 future Hall of Famers hit home runs: Clemente, Aaron, Bench, F.Robinson, Killebrew, Jackson. Reggie Jackson launched a shot that almost went out of the stadium.
  2. I met my wife in Galveston, Texas on a beach project with Campus Crusade for Christ that neither of us were supposed to be at – but that God made happen.
  3. My undergraduate degree is in Biomedical Engineering. I use it everyday as I do pastoral work.

    Zermatt, Switzerland
  4. I was the spelling bee champ of the 5th grade. To this day it drives it me crazy to see a word spelled rong.
  5. I have had facial hair since 1980. A friend of mine and I traveled around Europe when we graduated from college and grew mustaches. I haven’t shaved mine since.
  6. My first job was working in a Baskin Robbins while in high  school. I learned to make a fantastic banana split.
  7. At a youth camp in West Virginia about 12 years ago I jumped over  7 standing people in a line at one time. I think Jason Palmer was one of them.
  8. The BEST steak I have ever had was at a restaurant in Bratislava, Slovakia called The Three Musketeers.
  9. The most beautiful place that I have ever traveled to is Zermatt, Switzerland. I’m going to take my bride there one day soon.
  10. I was at the 1978 Super Bowl in New Orleans, La when the Dallas Cowboys (with Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett) beat the Denver Broncos. To get into the game I scalped a ticket outside the stadium for $50. Do you know how much it costs to go to a game nowadays?

(and one bonus…)

  • My favorite golf tournament is The Masters. I grew up 20 miles from the course and have probably been to the tournament 30 times. When I was a kid I managed to get Jack Nicklaus’ autograph 3 times.

Ode to Disc Golf

It’s been about a year since I have been soundly converted from a regular golfer to a disc golfer. Here are some reasons why I love the sport of disc golf:

Cost is minimal – All you need is one disc to play and a disc only costs about $15. There is no green fee or charge to play a disc golf course. Now admittedly most serious DGers have a bag full of discs but still for under $100 you can get years of play in. Contrast this with golf golf where an average green fee is around $50 for one round.

Takes about an hour – When I played the other kind of golf it was at least a half day event. 4-5 hours for a round was minimal. I can play a round of DG in about an hour if I am playing with one other person – 40 minutes if I play by myself.

Good exercise – Everybody says that walking is good exercise. The course that I generally play on has some hilly terrain so I feel like I am exercising when I play. I had gotten to the point where I almost always rode a cart with golf golf – not much exercise in that.

Fun way for guys to hang out – Guys don’t do good just sitting down over coffee and talking. They need to talk while being distracted by other stuff so that they don’t feel like they HAVE to talk. This is the great thing about DG. Guys can play together and find out about each other’s lives without the pressure of trying to keep a conversation going.

Hole in one – I played golf golf for 40 years and not once did I ever have a hole in one. I have been playing DG for about a year and already I have one hole in one under my belt. Pretty thrilling I must say.

My sons enjoy it – All 3 of my sons enjoy the game and we have a good time playing together. We actually started an annual Reyner Christmas Championship – Scott is the reigning champion.

I can be competitive – When I first started playing I would shoot about +18 for a round. Now I expect to be par or better. My best score to date is -5. And I feel like I can beat anyone I play I with on any given day. It usually doesn’t work out that way but at least I feel like I have a shot. Not bad for an over 50 guy.

Close to home – My home course is only 7 minutes away from my house. I love the fact that I can be at the course so quick.

Play year round – I would never play golf golf if the temperature was under 45 degrees. I can play DG all year. Last year I was out playing when it was 22 degrees. Just throw on a couple layers of clothes and I’m good to go.

Gives me something to ask for for Christmas – I never know what to ask for for Christmas or my birthday. Now that I’m playing DG I can always ask for a new disc that I want to try out. It’s something I will enjoy and an inexpensive gift for someone to buy.

So there you have it. So if you are reading this and have a sudden hankering to try the game out then give me a call. I’d love to get in a game with you and show you why its such a great sport.

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