Remember When: Remembering Tommy B. and Jim J.

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 17, 2018

News of the too early passing of Tommy Burrell was a shock to us.

I had to read of his survivors to realize that he really was the guy I have known as a friend for years.

I met his wife, Sharon, first when she was a teller at Tryon Federal, then Tommy and their son, Cale, at church. Tommy came out with a group of men from church to do some yardwork for me during my recovery from my first open-heart surgery.

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Sharon retired, and Cale grew up and married during the intervening years. I consulted with Cale about repairs to my Uncle Wallace’s clarinet, choosing then to donate it to Cindy Gilbert at the high school, perhaps for one of her band students.

I was planning to write about the Pullman car at Landrum until I was brought up short by word of the passing of Jim Jackson.

I had just seen Jim and Sheila at White Oak Sunday, and asked him whether he still considered his life to be in the “briar patch.” We had a good time reviewing Br’er Rabbit, Farmer McGregor, and the briar patch.

I traded a copy of my “Amen Corner” book for Jim’s “My Life in the Briar Patch” autobiography when it came out, a privilege enjoyed by many authors. I enjoyed reading Jim’s book, as he chronicled his adventurous life hitch-hiking all over our country.

He was still at it recently when we invited him to join us at Wendy’s one afternoon. He said “It’ll cost you.”


“You’ll have to take me home afterward.”


Jim explained that he spent a lifetime hitch-hiking as a way to meet new people!

My mother taught me never to accept a ride with a stranger, doubtless one of my late highway patrolman father’s advisories. So, I dutifully “paid my way” on busses and trains until I could buy my first automobile.

Jim was delivering the Tryon Daily Bulletin when I was folding and inserting them in the office.

Because the little papers cost only a nickel back then (early ‘40s), Mr. Vining did not charge his army of little delivery boys for them. Instead, he would have them empty the waste baskets, or write out theater passes for them.

I would like to explain here that Mr. Vining had an agreement with the Tryon Theatre owner to run his ads for free, in exchange for issuing the countersigned tickets. I guarantee that no one ever forged one of those tickets, because only Doc Dedman, the linotype operator, could read Mr. Vining’s writing, and absolutely no one could come close to duplicating it!  

Jim said that Mr. Vining would ply him with questions about his family, then publish his answers in next day’s paper. After a few episodes of this, Jim’s family strongly advised him not to say anything more about them.

Jim was president of the Polk County Historical Association when I planned and executed a Polk County Scenic Tour as a fundraiser for them shortly after I retired here. When I reported to their board about the Tour, Jim informed them that he could no longer be president.

Betty Doubleday Frost pointed to me and said, “He’s our next President.” And so it was…

Fran remembers a lunch at the former George’s restaurant, during which she overheard two little old ladies conversing. One said, “We have to hurry and get to historical. Little Jimmy Jackson is their president, and that little Goodwin boy is the speaker today.”

My subject was Mr. Vining Sr.

That is the small world that I became a part of early on!