Candy and sour oranges at Christmas

It could come as a surprise to some folks but I some way or the other had the feeling that there could have been something of a caste system in place at Clinton mills and perhaps at other mill villages as well. It seemed to me that children of certain families were called on to assist with certain company activities while others were not with me and my siblings always being among the “others.” A case to consider is the Christmas fruit bags. Every year at Christmas the Company would give every member of every household at Clinton and Lydia Mills a large bag of fruit. The fruit bags were prepared in the basement of Bailey Memorial Methodist Church which stood on Bailey Street facing west at the corner of Academy. The building has been replaced by a more modern building and is occupied by the Pentecostal Church I think. The bags were filled completely with fruit. Mostly oranges with an apple or two, some raisins on the stem and a little bit of hard candy plus a few nuts. Now did I say sour oranges? If not, I should have. Every year when Christmas rolled around, Mr. Ott Thomas, the mill truck driver, would go to some place in Florida where they had sour oranges. He was the only one that ever went as far as I know. The truck he drove was a single axle International that was painted green. It had a flatbed trailer and, as far as I know, he never let anyone else drive it because they did not know where the sour oranges were. Mr. Thomas never failed in his appointed mission. When he returned I think some grown ups organized the fruit bagging and the children of certain families were called in to assist. Each bag was filled with mostly oranges, two or three apples, some raisins on the stem and some hard candy that usually was not wrapped. Once in high school for something I got right I was awarded some of this kind of candy and allowed to eat it right then, but that is another story of sorts. On a Saturday morning after the bags had been filled, they were loaded on to trucks and delivered to the homes. I can visualize the trucks coming down the street even now. Lists were available to be sure that no one got two bags. We always ate the candy first along with the raisins and nuts and then got started on the oranges. As I recall Mama and Daddy let the children divide their bags. All of it other than the sour oranges was soon consumed. These fruit bags were a significant part of the Christmas observance at 15 Gordon Street. We never got bicycles. We got scooters. My brother and I got bb guns but not the Red Ryders that we wanted. And I strongly suspicion that one Christmas passed without our observing it. Back to the mention of children of certain families. They really were no different from the rest of us and if they were I doubt they knew we thought they got a few breaks. They never acted like it. (Bobby Meadors is retired unit administrator at the Clinton armory of the SC National Guard. He lives in Clinton.)

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