Surviving the Great Depression in Landrum: C.R. “Bill” Dill

Published 12:19 am Saturday, October 24, 2015

By Robin A. Edgar





Born in 1923, C.R. “Bill” Dill was one of eight children of Jesse James Dill, from Landrum, and Mamie Horton, who was originally from Mill Spring but moved to Landrum as a child. The Dill family had lived in the area since Bill’s great grandfather, Jesse Earl Dill, moved there from Pleasant Hill, S.C. Bill grew up in a house by the Ingleside Church along Hwy. 176, south of the Landrum city limits. Besides farming, his dad ran a junkyard with mostly junk cars and was also associated with moonshine to earn a little money on the side.

“Whenever I smell alcohol today, it reminds me of my dad’s white lightning. The smell of ground coffee reminds me of when I worked at A&P store in Tryon where one of my jobs was to grind A&P coffee. I also used to sit out on the road by Ingleside and sell watermelons for 25 cents up to a dollar, depending on the size.

COLUMNPersonalLegacies10.23 BillDill


“As kids, we would earn money picking cotton at our farm for 50 cents per hundred pounds. I was learning to read and would walk down to the mailbox to get the paper. One corner had the weather and the other corner had the price of cotton and I remember cotton was usually five cents per pound (a bale was 500 pounds). In those days, there were two gins to take your cotton: part of the old building (a woodworking place now) on the other side of Landrum Cemetery and another place in Campobello. I would lie on top of the cotton that we took to the gin on a two-horse wagon. The chute sucked up the cotton up as it moved it back and forth over it and I can still remember the sound of the cotton the seeds hitting the metal as the gin separated them out. In the 30s, the price of cotton went so low, my dad held his cotton in the barn until it went up higher in the 40s.


“Times were tough during the Depression. We grew our own food to survive. The hobos came off the train every day and they would knock on the door for something to eat. My momma would cook eggs and grits and give them leftover biscuits. People helped each other then. The government also gave out canned goods and one neighbor even got a mule.


“My wife’s granddaddy, A.P. Caldwell, was in charge of the Work Progress Administration (WPA) workers and I remember the WPA working on school grounds and up and down the road, putting up the rock retaining walls. The District One school office in Campobello used to be the Campobello grammar through high school. They were the only school in the area that had school buses to pick up students from Owensville, Oka Grove, North Pacolet, etc. The WPA built the ball field at that school with pick and shovel.

At the first Brookwood Park Pavillion are, left to right, Olin Hayes, Bill Dill and Pete Caldwell. The photo is dated between 1935 and 1938.

At the first Brookwood Park Pavillion are, left to right, Olin Hayes, Bill Dill and Pete Caldwell. The photo is dated between 1935 and 1938.


“Growing up, the highlight of our lives was county fair. I loved the rides, the girls, and the food. On Friday nights, we would go to Inman to the movies where I loved to watch Zorro movies. I used to shoot marbles with the Simmons boys who were from a colored family that were our neighbors. We had black sharecroppers that farmed for us. Their family lived nearby and the father, Sam Allen, eventually bought some land in Landrum and built a house there.”


Bill graduated from high school in Campobello and went to work in Milliken before enlisting in November 1942. He served three years and one month in the Army Air Corps before he was discharged in December 1945. After the military, he went back to work at Milliken before he bought Bishop garage in Landrum in 1947. He and Lou Evelyn Brady married in February 1948 and eventually had four children: Melinda, Melissa, Michael, and Michele.  Bill opened an auto parts distribution warehouse called Dill Automotive located near the filling station on US 176. In 2011, he sold his business and retired and is still active with the Masons, the Shriners, and the First Baptist Church, which he joined in 1953.


Keys to survival: We grew our own food to survive.

Advice for future generations: Work!