Remember When: Remembering Jack, Mariel and the Melrose Inn

Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2018

I met Maj. Jack Brandon at PRO gym as we worked out together on occasion.

Jack flew F8U Crusader fighters, an airplane I did design work on back in the day. He also flew corporate jets after his retirement from the Marine Corps, so we had plenty to talk about.

He also served as a landing signal officer aboard the carriers to which he was assigned. Jack referred to that work as “waving” the pilots aboard.

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Jack shared with me several of the special interest magazines he received.

Jack lived at White Oak, so we sat in the rocking chairs on their porch to continue our “hangar flying” sessions. Hangar flying is the next best thing to flying, and I had sense enough to listen to Jack’s many flying storie — both his combat flights over Vietnam and weather stories of his whisking executives about in their private jets.

Thanks to the Bulletin, I read of the passing of Mariel Derby Runkle.

Mariel was a few years ahead of me at Tryon High School, but her younger sister, Janet, was in my class.

Dr. Derby was a dentist, and filled his house with little people. There was a Derby in each of several classes: Bill, who married Hope Schilletter (her father, Col. Schilletter, was superintendent of Tryon Schools until he was called away to World War II); Jean; Mariel; Janet;and Joe. Joe and Janet were twins, but Joe somehow fell back a grade.

I went to the 75th anniversary festivities of Tryon Presbyterian Church, hoping to see many people of my acquaintance. Bill and Joe were the only Derby family members present. There, I learned that Joe was a dentist practicing near Charlotte.

Joe had printed the pages of our first yearbook (Class of 1947), which we named “The Tryonite.” I was its editor in chief, so I had the type set at the Bulletin office. Don’t know where Joe learned the printing trade, but he printed the pages on David Wick’s press.

Apparently, there have always been hobby printers among us!

A correction is in order: A workout companion from PRO informed me that the railroad car at Landrum is not a Pullman, but a day coach.

I have to add to my train lore that I was sent by the Air Force from Fort Warren AFB in Wyoming to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana by day coach.

The coach was not air conditioned, and it was summertime (July 1949). I stood in the space between coaches for hours at a time.

The result — my “class A uniform” (Army khaki, not Air Force “silver tans”) had taken on a decided gray cast from the smoke of the steam locomotive that was pulling us right down the middle of the United States. Needless to say, I took a serious shower before lying on my just-issued clean sheets and pillow case!

Very sad breaking news as I write this — Melrose Inn is on fire, and is a total loss.

I have so many fond memories of being inside the inn over the years.

One of our late friend Ellen Delahanty’s daughters is the most recent owner. Marilyn Doheny had filled the place with her treasures, and had renovated some of its many rooms.

Now, it is all gone but Marilyn. We have lost a unique inn and a historic Tryon landmark, but Marilyn has lost her very life — her quilts, the décor she worked so carefully to present to her guests, all of those art objects she had spent a lifetime accumulating. Gone!