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Remembering Ben White and Tryon Fuel Supply

By Garland O. Goodwin

Remember When column

The reports of hand sanitizer being “contaminated” with methanol made me think of my great friend of our High School days, Ben White, Jr. His Dad owned Tryon Fuel Supply and signed my Diploma as School Board Chairman.

Ben Jr. and I worked at the Bulletin office, mostly doing the “single wraps” for mailings outside Tryon. There were about a thousand papers mailed to Army Post Offices and Fleet Post Offices for distribution to our troops serving overseas during WWII.

Ben entertained us with several ditties, but the one that the methanol brought to mind goes like this: “We never stagger, we never fall, we sober up on wood alcohol . . . “ You can read more about Ben in my first book of these columns, “A Boy in the Amen Corner.” I had to publish a second edition when 1150 copies of the first one were gone!

I found copies of Mother’s bills from Tryon Fuel Supply signed by Christine Glover, a classmate at Tryon High. She was my Prom date at the suggestion of Mrs. Bowen; she is now in White Oak medical, so I got to visit with her on Sunday afternoons before THE VIRUS restrictions came to be.

Oh how these columns grow! Ben White Sr. bought Tryon Fuel Supply from Tom Costa when he went back to Florida. Tom Costa’s residence here later became the Stonehedge restaurant, and is now the home of Tryon’s huge benefactors, the Scott Lanes.

The house originally had a greenhouse attached, and on a visit as a boy, with Aunt Mildred, I noted with wonder the oranges and lemons growing in that ”sun room.” Aunt Mildred was friends with Lillian Costa, who had a flower shop adjacent to Tryon Fuel Supply.

There was a truck scale by the office for weighing the loads of coal before delivery to the customers. I marveled that the coal had first been unloaded by gravity from the railroad cars into the bins, and later into the dump truck, which was unloaded again by gravity down a chute into our basement. I think a ton of coal lasted all winter.

The coal bin was handy to the hot water jack (stove) in the basement, but I had to carry buckets of coal upstairs for the space heater in the living room. Gravity did not help me with that!

When Mother later switched to fuel oil, the oil flowed into big storage tanks next to the coal bins, from which it flowed into the delivery truck, all by gravity. Then a pump on the truck put the oil into Mother’s tank, from which it flowed, again by gravity, into our house.

The Lanes have lovingly restored the Tryon Theater as well as their host of other restorations. We saw “Gone with the Wind’ and other great movies there during WWII. Mr. Vining Sr. used to write Theater passes for the little boys who delivered his Tryon Daily Bulletins around town. No charge for the Theater’s ads, and absolutely no one could forge one of those passes!

I should add that John Vollmer hired my Dad to help with landscaping at the Costa house. The Vollmers made wine from their vineyards on Warrior Mountain, and Elbert Arledge printed labels for the bottles. I remember having to wait for the gummed labels to uncurl so we could print the second color. There are examples of the labels in the Polk County Historical Museum in Columbus.

Did not know Earl Bettinger peronally, nor his late wife Lillian Jackson Braun, but Fran read Ms. Braun’s “Cat Who” books. Earl lived a full life among us; glad he was eased gently into the hereafter.

Glad to see most of our restaurants open. Fran and I enjoyed breakfast recently at Waffle House; good to see Sue, Flo and Drew as always When I asked about Kat, Sue told me that she had passed. The House had not been “the same” without Kat’s cherry “Mornin’!” to welcome us.