Editor’s note: The following is a chapter from the manuscript titled “Ole Mean Carrie Buck,” written by Thomas Buxton of Columbia, S.C. The manuscript is based on interviews with his mother, Carrie Miller Buxton, about her life in Blowing Rock in the middle of the 20th century.
Just a few weeks ago, I took a very interesting trip with Bob and Ann to Sea Pines Plantation near Hilton Head for Bob to paint an old lighthouse. I met two lovely ladies from Savannah who has taken a boat there for the day. One of them said, “Since you are from North Carolina, did you ever hear of Blowing Rock?” I said, “Did I ever hear of Blowing Rock? That’s my childhood home, and all my 90 years I’ve been in and out of the place!”
Miss Morgan said, “Well, Honey, 60 years ago, I went to a girls’ summer camp there that was run by Mr. and Mrs. Hodgkens from Savannah. I remember it so well. It was located across the hill from Chetola.” Miss Morgan said the name of the camp had skipped her mind, but I told her I remembered it: Camp Allowestee. That must be an Indian name.
She also asked me if I ever knew the people who lived in a beautiful house with a big lake in front. She thought their name was Stringfield, but I corrected her and told her that it was Stringfellow and that my daughter was selling real estate there now. She recalled that Mrs. Stringfellow was always nice to the girls at camp and would let them pick wild strawberries o the hill above the house.
They were such cute ladies. They said that they came up on the boat often to sit in the big red rockers and wonder what the poor folk were doing. This is certainly no place for poor people. They said that they’d bring their lunch with them. They couldn’t afford to buy it there.
As the three of us sat there rocking in the breeze and exchanging memories, it soon felt as if we were lifelong friends. With that familiarity, some family secrets began to emerge that we wouldn’t have felt comfortable to share with someone with whom we live on a daily basis. As the focus of the conversation turned to our children, I related that your father had been a strict disciplinarian and had been so rigid in dealing with Mary that it had caused a very strained relationship between the two.
Joy Dargan related that she thought a parent of the same sex as the child could probably understand the child better. She recalled how she and her husband had agreed that if they had daughters, she herself would take primary responsibility for rearing them, and that if they had sons, her husband, Bill, would assume primary responsibility for parenting. As it turned out, they had three daughters, and Joy did take responsibility for them. She even related that she had spanked her oldest daughter, Sarah, on her wedding day.
Joy said that disciplining children must stop short of abuse and went on to relate the horrible details of how her father had beaten her when she was a child and that his hatred for her was obvious. Her mother, she said, was a weak woman who greatly feared her husband. Her brother feared for her safety, and convinced that her father would eventually beat her to death if she remained in the home, scraped together her belongings, put them and his little sister in a wagon and rode to a nearby town. There, he went door to door until he finally found a family who not only took her in, but welcomed her with open arms. She related how they had been so kind to her, whereas none of her family, except her brother, made contact with her. She remained with the family and met her future husband in high school there. Mrs. Dargan shared the experiences with such emotion that I was reluctant to pry into any more of the details.
Her story caused me to reflect on just how important it is to make a home safe and happy for children, and that is something I’ve always tried hard to do. Though Ken was of the philosophy that children should be seen and not heard, I certainly never condoned abusive behavior. As you all know, I never physically punished any of you.
We continued reminiscing and rocking until Bob had finished his sketch and it was time for Miss Collins and Mrs. Dargan to board their boat for the return trip to Savannah. I just never know what interesting people I might meet and what me might have in common. To me, that’s an exciting aspect of traveling around.