Remembering Joe Williamson

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, April 14, 2016

By Garland O. Goodwin

When I noted that Charlie Covil, who painted much of the house I built in Holly Hills (I painted the outside myself), bought his paint from Williamson’s Paint store in Landrum, I started going there whenever I needed paint. There I met Joe and his son Tom. In the store I saw a photo of a B-25 over a desk in a far corner, and asked about it.

There was a B-25 over my house on Rippy Hill nearly all the time during WWII when I was a boy. They were based at Greenville, South Carolina, and the pilots all came to our mountains to practice Lazy 8’s and skip-bombing runs on our prominent buildings, such as Tryon School.

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Joe owned up to being an Army Air Corps veteran of service in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre during WWII. Since I later served in the Air Force, our conversations were as one ol’ Sarge to another. He would always come over to visit while Tom mixed my paint, his warm smile making his pleasure in reminiscing apparent.

Years later I found him in White Oak on my Sunday afternoon visits. Years ago I would visit a few friends there occasionally; now there are too many to count. But their numbers are diminishing at an alarming rate nowadays. I won’t get to see Joe today, but I am remembering his wonderful personality and that great smile as I write this.

When I was about 14, I decided to go to Greenville Army Air Base and see those B-25s up close. I rode the bus down to Greenville and another one out to the base. The MP who came aboard the bus at the gate asked for my ID. Since I had none, he told me I could not enter the base and I had to get off the bus.

I started walking back to town and a Lt. Morrison picked me up. He heard my sad story, promptly made a U-turn and we rolled thru the gate with only a snappy salute from the same MP . . .

He took me out to his airplane on the flight line and I got a thorough look at the outside and inside of his bird, complete with explanations from him. I could not quit grinning as we rode back to town and he let me out at the Trailways station. I kept his business card and tried to find him over the years, but without success. I hope he survived the war and might still be living . . . I know that he sure made one kid’s day and then some!

Joe sold Benjamin Moore® paints in his store, as did Tryon Builders Supply when I worked there in 1947-48.  We also had the new Kem-Tone® water-based wall paint in all those wild colors that became available after the war (“the war” always means WWII to us geezers who lived through it). Everyone wanted to roll on that new paint with the soapy water cleanup.

However, the pros always bought Moore paint. When I was President of the Polk County Historical Association, we needed a lot more money than we had for a project (don’t remember what it was now!) so I approached my late, great friend Tom Moore for a donation. He said he’d be glad to “journal over” some of his stock in the Benjamin Moore company.  We even had some left over when we sold the stock, so I asked Treasurer Al Creasy to put the excess in a separate account so that I could approve small expenditures without going to the Board. When George Comparetto succeeded the late Richard Cannon as Curator, I told him he could do anything he wanted “as long as it does not cost us anything.”

My goal was to leave more in the treasury than I had found, so we kept a tight rein on our funds. I felt that since I had single-handedly obtained the money from my friend, I could spend the excess pretty much as I saw fit. Al called it my “slush fund,” and he finally just added what remained to the treasury when I very carefully did not spend much of it.