Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Life’s Great Lesson’s – #2 Small acts of kindness are the greatest rewards

Grandmamma Feemster - Mother's Day 2009

Grandmamma Feemster – Mother’s Day 2009

The hustle and bustle of this holiday shopping season reminded me when I was a little boy my Grandmother Feemster used to take me shopping with her. She lived about 15 miles outside of Rock Hill (SC) in what we called “the country.” On Saturday mornings, she would wake me to a bowl of Frosted Flakes cereal and then it was “off to town.” Grandmother enticed me on the excursion with the promise I could pick out a toy, typically a model, I could put together later that day if I joined her.

It seemed I spent five minutes picking out my model and five hours waiting on Grandmother as she went from store to store looking at all the latest women’s fashions. After many hours of looking at garment after garment, Grandmother would take my hand and walk me into the Shoney’s where I always purchased a “Big Boy” hamburger and Grandmother had a salad with French dressing.

We still had two stops left. I was once again treated for my patience with a Vanilla milk shake at the Crown Creamery and Grandmother purchased a Black Cherry ice cream, usually one scoop in a cup. The last stop was at the fabric store just before we left town.

There she would buy patterns, fabrics, zippers, and thread for all the pretty garments she had seen earlier in the day. Granddaddy Feemster was typically off fishing with his buddies on those weekends. So, Grandmamma would serve me up a Turkey TV Dinner for supper which was always my favorite as I watched Mannix on TV.

She in turn would hover over her Singer sewing machine and began re-creating the pretty dresses she had seen earlier in the day. Some she would sell for spending money. Others she made for her daughters – my mother Sarah and Aunt Betty. But rarely, perhaps never, was one of those pretty dresses for herself.

A few night ago, someone asked what was the most memorable Christmas I had as a child? It didn’t take me long to think. When I was 7 or 8, Grandmamma went to town and bought all the grandchildren Christmas Gifts. I don’t recall now what she purchased my cousins Jim or Kim, but when I opened up my box, in it I found a stuffed monkey.

I still remember crying that I wanted what Jim had received. Not some old stuffed monkey! My mama explained that the gift I received was actually more expensive than both of their gifts put together. But she couldn’t stop my tears. Who wanted a dumb stuffed monkey?

Well, my Grandaddy Feemster didn’t tolerate such behavior and he promptly took the monkey, opened up the front door, and tossed it out in the front yard in the dark abyss beyond my sight. I can still remember my shock as I thought about my poor old monkey laying out there in the cold.

I ran outside and rescued him and from that day forward I slept with him until we put aside little boy ways. I still have my old monkey. He’s tattern and torn. One felt hand is missing and an ear’s about chewed off. He’s been ripped and sewed up more times than I can count. He and I have both been through a lot but we’re both still here and my monkey is the only toy I have from my childhood.Billy's Monkey

Granddaddy Feemster passed away in December of 1988 and we lost Grandmamma in February of 2011. My grandparents were never wealthy people and what little granddaddy had he spent on fishing and drinking – his favorite past times. It was largely grandmamma who worked from the time she rose until the time her head hit her pillow. Her nickname was Miss Tillie from Tillie the Toiler and toil she did.

As I listened to the folks share their Christmas memories the other night, I thought of Grandmamma – Miss Tillie. Everyone in her life came first. What I wouldn’t give to turn back the clock and spend one more afternoon with her. I’d love to be able to buy her one of those pretty dresses or treat her to a Back Cherry Ice Cream – just one scoop.

But I know she’s in heaven with all her brothers and sisters and the man she loved so much – my granddaddy. She’s Walking in the Garden, a song she hummed so often while she sewed, and she’s wearing a pretty dress all her own. A dress woven of love and stitched by the hand of God himself.

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January 1, 2015 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment

The Greatest Gift of All

Bill Russell alias "GI Joe"

At the age of six, I was pretty certain of my career path – I would likely be a soldier or a cowboy.  I looked pretty sharp in my new G.I. Joe uniform my Grandmother Feemster bought that year and I had a rather nifty little salute. It was about that time though that dad and Granddaddy Russell bought me a pony and I was also pretty sure I could be the next John Wayne.  That same year Santa left a “doctor’s kit” under the Christmas tree.  My present included a microscope and a doctor’s bag equipped with stethoscope, a little flashlight to peer into ears and mouths, and little candy pills to remedy nearly any non-life threatening ailment. 

Mom had also purchased me the Board Game “Operation” that had players remove items from the board without touching the sides setting off a buzzer. My family marveled at my steady hands and surgical abilities. Granddaddy Russell often served as my patient over and over again as I gave him one examination after the other, always leaving him with a “pill” to take to cure any sickness. Granddaddy started referring to me as “Doc” and often called me that long after I grew out of my doctor phase. I never made it into medical school, instead turning my attention to business.

Tall in the Saddle at 2 years old Jan 1961

Recently in a staff meeting, we all spoke about the tremendous activity at the Chamber. While business may have slowed down over the last couple of years, there are more seminars and programs going on at the Chamber than ever before.

Our Chamber coordinates consultations and business assistance with the SBA and SCORE to help our businesses create or redefine their business marketing and financial strategies. In essence, the Chamber is much like the doctor’s office as we help the struggling and ailing businesses get back on their feet, ready and able to compete in the marketplace. This month, our Chamber members and service organizations will collect “Coats for Kids”; deliver toys, clothing, and food to families needing a helping hand; make Santa visits to shut ins and kids in hospitals; and volunteer their time, talent…and yes, dollars to make this a memorable Christmas for those who are less fortunate.

I cannot count the number of times I have participated in a “Christmas Charities” event, providing for that family who would otherwise go without that family Christmas celebration. Having that mother look me in the face, with tears in her eyes telling me she had explained to the kids there would be no Christmas – no Santa this year. “I didn’t think anyone cared,” one woman once said to me as her little boy hugged tightly at her waist.

Merry Christmas from Bill, Gipper, Abbey, and Mad Dog Murray!

Long ago, I came to understand that it’s not what we get in life that matters but what we give to others that counts and what we become by doing it. That service to humanity, service above self, is the greatest gift. In a way, I became that doctor that I envisioned as a little boy. In a real sense, that’s what our staff here at the Chamber means to our local businesses. And yes, at times, I may still be a little bit of a cowboy.

As we enjoy, this holiday season, let us all remember the real purpose of our celebration, and perhaps share with others … the greatest gift of all.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment