When my mother, brother, sister and I moved to Walterboro in 1936, we lived on Warren Street. It was a nice neighborhood. Across the street from our house lived Dr. and Mrs. McKee. Doc, as my brother, sister and I called him, was a veterinarian and this really impressed us. He was a good-natured man and would talk to us like we were grown people, not just children, and we liked that. Doc was a big man, probably a three-hundred-pounder. He seems to us to be vey rich as he had a new car, a record player and a nice collection of records.
Our neighborhood was very small so we knew when everybody came home from work. Late in the afternoon we would watch Doc drive up, get out of his car and disappear into his house. Later on he would emerge with a toothpick in his mouth, accompanied by the melody of his latest record floating across the street. He would gently lower his huge body into the swing on his front porch. His expression was one of peace, pure bliss, as he gently rocked back and forth in his swing. Unfortunately, after a few minutes the swing chains would begin squeaking. As time went by the squeaks turned into shrieks and to my brother, sister and me it sounded like the chains were screaming for help. After a while Doc, obviously annoyed, would stand up and briskly shake each chain. When he resumed swinging the result was the same—the chains would whimper a while and then begin screaming again.
Meantime, in our house, the three of us had started giggling because Doc was fighting with his swing and what had begun as a relaxing, serene swing on the front porch had escalated into a full-fledged war. By this time we were enjoying the episode so much we moved to the front door and the front windows of our house so we wouldn’t miss a thing. This probably would have been all right but every time Doc stood up and shook a chain, we howled with laughter. Momma would finally make us go out on the back porch, hoping, I guess, that Doc wouldn’t hear us. The problem was we could hear him doing battle with the unfortunate swing and at this point imagination was funnier than watching the real thing.
We enjoyed countless battles between Doc and the swing. We watched him oil the chain, change it, soap it, rattle it, swing gently, swing with a little more vim, all with the same result. The only time a truce was declared was during the winter months when Doc would go indoors to his easy chair, then we had to look elsewhere for our late afternoon entertainment.
The best episode with the swing happened one afternoon when we had the incredible luck to be standing on our front porch. Oh, the joy of the whole thing! We heard the chair snap; we saw the one-sided crash as the swing and Doc hit the porch; we saw the look of surprise, shock and then outrage on his face. There was no need for us to pretend this was a run-of-the-mill incident—it was the funniest thing we ever saw! After a while Momma got embarrassed and made us go into the house and stay there because we were laughing and carrying on and making so much noise. I know she thought it was funny too, but she was grown up and had to pretend it was just a little incident and no big deal.