Mr. Peters was a teacher that demanded respect. I was the only student in his class. I sat in the living room and listened.
"Grandma and Grandpa Peters lived in Greenbrier after they left Raleigh and before settling in Boone," my father said. I knew about Raleigh and Boone. Sir Walter threw his coat across a mud hole in the name of chivalry and Daniel was none other than Fess Parker. Dad was born in Raleigh and I had visited my grandparents in Boone. But I drew a blank on Greenbrier. He sensed that.
"Mom and Dad lived there while I was in Korea," Dad continued, "and your Uncle Lloyd went to school in Williamsburg for a time." Still nothing.
"Sam Snead is from the area." Ding! We have a winner. I knew of Sam. He is pictured with Ted Williams on a 1959 Fleer Baseball card. I excused myself and retrieved card #67 from a cigar box and read the back. They were fishing buddies--the greatest hitter that ever lived and the golfer with the sweetest swing.
Ted Williams was from San Diego. Sam Snead was born in Ashwood, VA, but spent a large part of his life in White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, WV.
"Slamming Sammy" was synonymous with The Greenbrier Golf Club, located in White Sulphur Springs. His got his first professional job there in 1936. He continued as golf pro there until 1974, when he returned to VA. He came back to The Greenbrier in 1993, with the title of pro emeritus.
Other cards from the 1959 set show "Teddy Ballgame" in military uniform. He was a pilot in World War 2 and Korea. Lost the better part of five seasons to the military. Wow! His numbers were already terrific. But what they could have been.
I've done some research on Greenbrier since that first lecture. I have a 1951 "Mountain Breezes" yearbook. Uncle Lloyd is pictured twice. I have read a letter that Dad sent from Korea addressed to Williamsburg. I know that John Stuart, Revolutionary War vet and historian, was a native. I know there was a bunker built under The Greenbrier resort to house government officials, in case of nuclear attack. I know the McClung surname is popular there. My Huffman family lived there before ending up in Jackson County.
I see two men sitting on a pier, pant legs rolled up, their bare feet resting in the water of a calm lake. Their heads are shaded by straw headgear or floppy hats adorned with lures and flies. They talk about their grips, swat mosquitos and procrastinate. They remind me a little of Lemmon and Matthau in "Grumpy Old Men." Or Huck and Tom with two-day beards. Maybe we'll go deep sea fishing, they ponder. Maybe they'll put on their waders, fly rods in hand and go for trout. Tomorrow. "You remember when..." a story begins. The other listens with a skeptic's ear. He knows this is the story about the big one that got away.
Ted and Sam are the ones that got away. The golfer's departure, earlier in the year, was with less fanfare and a lot more dignified. The children of the baseball player can't decide whether to cremate or freeze. Fire or ice? They are in desperate need of mediation.
The two men are pictured on an old flash card, a prop from my early days in family history class. The teacher is leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head, feet propped on the desk, grinning. Better than a shiny red apple.
The pupil remembered that the golfer was from Greenbrier County.