Our mission here at the Darlington County Historical Commission is to protect, preserve, and promote our county’s rich and varied history.
Which is why I get sad when I come across an empty file in our archives. When this happens, my mood sours as I ponder the reasons why the file is not, like thousands of our other files, overflowing with information. Where are all the photographs, I ask myself. Where are the news clippings and legal documents, deeds and minutes from meetings, receipts and letters?
I sometimes think of our files as children, and I bemoan the fact that some are fat and happy and receiving lots of attention, while others are skinny and sad and starved for affection. Ironically, our vast collection of files is housed in the old Darlington County Jail (the cells in the basement still work), and I don’t like that some of those files will never see the light of day; some of those files, however deserving, will never be granted parole.
Yesterday, while I was digging in the Merchant section, a long row of filing cabinets teeming with information about businesses in Darlington County past and present, I found one of our skinny-sad children labeled “Hartsville Floral Shop.” The only item inside was a business card that read as follows:
HARTSVILLE FLORAL SHOP HARTSVILLE, S.C.
Before I continue, indulge me a quick aside.
On March 31st, my mother, the kindest person I’ve ever known, retired after 50 years in the floral business. Among her many, many accomplishments, she was the President of the North Carolina Florist Association and a multi-time winner of the prestigious Designer of the Year Award. More importantly though, Teresa Everhart had (and still has) a passion for flowers, and for half a century, she brought beauty to a lot of people. And whether those folks were celebrating a birth or mourning a death, getting married or going to prom, it was my mom’s beauty as a person that was just as memorable as the roses and carnations and tulips she so elegantly arranged for her customers.
Now back to that business card.
With flowers and my mom my mind, I dialed the number 9161. A recorded voice said, “Welcome to Verizon Wireless. Your call cannot be completed as dialed. . .” So I turned to Google; I got some hits, but none of them about the Hartsville Floral Shop, which, I then assumed, was no longer in operation. Next, I bounded up the stairs to the second floor where we keep the Family Name Files. There, among the dusty filing cabinets, I looked up Lucile Hendrix and found three items: a Family Name sheet that claimed Lucile Hendrix married Clarence Windham (no date given); an obituary for Lucile H. Windham; and a newspaper article dated September 23, 1953, all about a fire that swept through the Pee Dee Hatchery and the business next door, which was the Hartsville Floral Shop. The fire, according to the article, did about $16,000 worth of damage, mostly to the Pee Dee Hatchery. A picture of Mrs. Lucile Hendrix and her little dog “Mitzie” sifting through the damage accompanied the article. Per the photograph’s caption, Mrs. Hendrix was asleep in the apartment next to the floral shop when Mitzie sounded the alarm.
After squinting at Mitzie, who looked like a small Terrier of some sort, I turned my attention to the obituary, a tiny entry dated October 26, 1995. The notice was so short, in fact, that I felt compelled to break out my ruler and measure it: 3.2 inches. 3.2 inches of print for 82 years worth of life? The math didn’t add up. I’ve never been a guy who measures a person’s worth by his or her wallet, and I certainly wasn’t going to start using an obituary as some type of scorecard, either. But still. . .3.2 inches? Didn’t Lucile H. Windham deserve more than a small obit stating she was a member of First Baptist Church and operated the Hartsville Floral Shop for 40 years? Not to minimize or any way devalue those very fine things. Church is good. Operating a flower shop is good.
But that wasn’t enough.
Perhaps the Internet, that glut of information, has spoiled me, for I just wanted to know more about Lucile H. Windham.
So after scouring our archives and finding very little about Lucile H. Windham, I re-read the last paragraph of the obituary: “Surviving are two step-daughters, Bobbie Lucile Bradshaw of Hartsville and Mary Talbert Howard of Lexington. . .” Should I contact one of them? I wondered. And if so, how? By telephone? Email? Facebook?
But, at that point, it was no longer purely about Lucile H. Windham and wanting to beef up our files. It was about something more than that. Somehow, by learning more about Lucile H. Windham and writing about her and her flower shop, I thought I might draw some small amount of (deserved) attention to my mom and her half-century-long career as a florist.
And whenever I found Bobbie Lucile Bradshaw on Facebook, I just hoped that whatever she might tell me about her step-mother, it would be positive.
So I held my breath and emailed a list of questions to Bobbie Lucile Bradshaw, who, it turns out, was Lucile H. Windham’s niece, not her step-daughter. Much to my relief, Mrs. Bradshaw had this to say about her aunt:
“She was a loving and caring person. She took in strangers that were down and out and gave food and things they needed. And she went to the part of the hospital where the poor were. . .She bought them things they needed. She was a giver to everyone.”
A giver to everyone.
That’s something anyone would be proud to have on his or her tombstone. If you asked twenty people about my mom, I’d bet money all twenty would also use the word giver to describe her.
Bobbie Bradshaw went on to say that her aunt “had a really pretty apartment built within the shop” and that Bobbie “spent many nights there with her.” She also said she remembered “a little dog named Mitzie,” and that her aunt helped spark her own interest in flowers.
Passing on a love of flowers?
Not a bad legacy, either.
Some of us aren’t going to leave behind thick files, and that’s more than okay. A life’s worth is not measured by thick files, or thick wallets and purses. Bobbie Bradshaw did not have any photographs or documents or artifacts with which to fatten up our file for the Hartsville Floral Shop, but she did give me a fuller picture of a kind and thoughtful human being, and nothing could be more valuable than that.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go call my mom.
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