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.
My dear mother, God rest her soul, passed away there in Blowing Rock on January 12, 1973, at the age of 95 and a half years, and we laid her to rest in the cemetery of the Reformed Church adjacent to the plot where my husband, Ken, is buried. Her passing grieved all of us terribly. I’ve often said that it was only by the grace of God and Mama’s help that we had survived so many times of crisis in our lives, and my heart is really heavy for not being able to have her with me during her final days. Good times or bad, she was always there for us, and we could always count on her. Life without Mama would never be the same.
When the Lord closes one door, he opens another. After I had been a Davidson for a few years and had become comfortable with life there, something happened one spring day that, unknown to me at the time, would have a dramatic effect on me and our entire family for many years to come. It all began by chance when Doris Pharnham, a friend of mine living in Charlotte, called me and asked me if I could drive from Davidson to Charlotte and take her to inquire about a job that she had seen advertised in “The Observer.” She was living alone in a very small apartment off the Plaza and was anxious to move somewhere else and saw the ad as a possible opportunity for doing so.
Doris had been married to a professor at Cornell, and had been divorced for many years at the time I met her. She was answering an ad placed in the paper by an elderly gentleman in search of someone to live with him and take care of him. “Mr. E.” as we would come to call him, had retired many years before from the Aetna Insurance Company and was living alone in a large two-story white house on Kenilworth Drive near downtown Charlotte. I drove the Charlotte and picked Doric up and took her there for the interview.
Doris and Mr. E. discussed what the job entailed and the salary being offered. If Doris were to take the job, it would require her to keep upstairs and go up and down the steps. At that time, she was having a lot of trouble getting around, so she informed Mr. E. at the conclusion of the interview that she would have to give that fact consideration before giving him a decision about the job.
I took Doris back home and ate supper that night with her there in Charlotte. She told me, “Carrie, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle a job like that. You see, whoever took that job would have to be able to go to the grocery store, and I can’t drive a car.” Mr. E. had his old Chevrolet sitting there in the garage behind his out at the time, and the car was in good operating shape, but Doris had never driven a car in her life. She told me, “Carrie, I don’t think I’m equipped to take care of the job.” She called Mr. E. to inform him of her decision, and he had obviously anticipated it. He asked her, “Well, how about Mrs. Buxton? Would she be interested in the job?” Doris replied, “Well, I don’t know. Carrie has a job as a housemother at Davidson, and I don’t think she would take the job.” All this occurred in the spring of the year just before school was out as Davidson.
About a week after Doris declined the job, Mr. E. called me and asked if I would take it. He told me that he had known Grandfather Buxton and Uncle Harry in Hartford, Conn., before Factory Insurance Association had sent them to Charlotte and Aetna Insurance had likewise sent him there. I thought, “Well, it is indeed a small world!”
Regarding the job, though, I told him that I was still occupied with duties at the fraternity and would be for a while until spring semester was over. He said, “Well, how about his summer when you get out of school? Would you be available then?” I told him that I had already made plans to visit Ann in Florida and Tom in Columbia during the early summer. Mr. E. replied, “Well, go ahead and do what you want to do, and when you get back to Davidson, how about coming by and let’s talk about it.”