12) Leon Fayonsky's Reflections on his Father Harry



      Prologue: After having major surgery my life was in slow motion and immobility. Two rods and eight screws in the lower lumbar will do that! Frequent daily prayers and the remote control for TV propped in a recliner and limited movement was likened to a body of decay trying to heal.

     Suddenly while watching the major league baseball channel recently a spark to shock the brain came about while watching a re-run of the 1968 All-Star Game when Harmon Killebrew did a stretch at first base and snapped his hamstring. My thoughts went immediately back to Leon Fayonsky in the early 1950’s. Leon was well known by his school mates and later at Furman University with affection as “Hosky.”

     I do not remember ever missing a game when the Chicopee Chix or the Walhalla, South Carolina Razorback high school team had a home game at the mill village field. Charlie Leopard’s solid play at third base and the crafty Lefty Gilden at first anchored the two corners of the infield for the Chix, but on this particular day Leon playing at first base for the Razorbacks made me gasp as I saw him do a complete laid out split while taking a throw from the left side of the infield. Leon was on the 1951-53 baseball teams, and a reliable teammate on the Bill Yarborough and Charles Stancil dominating Razorback state championship 1952 team that was 26-0. Leon also played center and guard during that approximate period on the football team. That same day I thought immediately about his dad I had read previous accounts about Harry and twelve others who volunteered to go into WW I. All of them were not from Walhalla but did see combat action while were stationed in Europe.                                                

   While stationed in the USAF in Missouri a couple of guys from Franklin, North Carolina nicknamed me “Walhalla.” In the late seventies, Walter Cronkite, an iconic CBS news reporter was ending his show with a story about Walhalla and a man named Harry Fayonsky, the last man standing as part of the “13 Club” after J.B Todd had died.

      I was so proud to hear Harry’s name mentioned and a few weeks later Buddy Thompson, another former Razorback was as on national TV in a bull riding contest….so those boys from Franklin, really “put on the dog” with the “Walhalla” nick name.

     After inquiring Leon’s phone number from Harold Gibson, a friend of mine since the 1950’s, Leon and I had several interviews’ over the phone and exchanges of photos and note taking swaps about Harry, and from Leon’s knowledge about his father.

The following is directly from Leon’s memory and family history passed on to him.  


     “My dad was born in Czarist, Russia in 1896, not far from Warsaw, Poland and he arrived in America at age 11 in 1908 along with his father and uncle. His father did not stay long in America because he did not like having to work on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

     Dad had three brothers and one sister. The three brothers later in the 1930’s came to America. His mother, father, and sister, stayed in the old country. Dad’s mother died of cancer in the 1930’s. His father, sister and two children were killed in the Holocaust. I might note dad did not like to talk about this. Dad stayed with his uncle in Knoxville, Tennessee for a time then came to Greenville, South Carolina to open up a store and later dad came to Walhalla at age 18 to open his mercantile store but at some point he was not able to compete price wise with the larger stores so he moved on Main Street and opened a shoe shop.

     Later he became a clerk at several stores then opened another shoe shop in the 1930’s and it stayed in operation until after WWII. Shoes were rationed during WWII so there was plenty of business and I remember seeing shoes piled knee high in his shop which is presently at the same location now. He later sold that shoe shop and worked at Bailes in Anderson, South Carolina and Bailes- McCraken in Seneca, South Carolina. He retired in Walhalla after working several years at Collins Department Store. Dad was later asked, “How did a man named Fayonsky end up in Walhalla”? Harry replied, “Well, that was where the Blue Ridge Railroad stopped so I just got off because the train didn’t go any further.”
 The "13 Man Club" 



J.B. Todd and Harry Fayonsky



     The “13 Man Club” was formed March 13, 1937. Two men while enjoying a cup of coffee decided that it would be a fun thing to form social bonding between some of the WW1 vets. Each member would choose one person and that member would choose one until the number reached 13 and then they would close the membership.

     Monthly meetings were held the 13th of each month with dues payable of 13 cents per month. When the 13th of a month fell on a Sunday the group would put their names in a hat of each member’s church and draw out the name of that member’s church and all would attend. There was no special offering given by the 13 Club. After all 13 were chosen they purchased a bottle of wine that would be kept until one remained. Harry became the only one left, thus the “Last of the 13 Man Club.” 

     Leon claims to have roughly 35 newspaper articles about the “13 Man Club” from around the USA that were sent to honor dad when J.B. Todd died on January 12, 1977 and my dad was honored on TV stations nationally and locally Channel Four in Greenville included a special tribute when he died April 16, 1985 as being the last man from their historical club. When we got all the relatives together after his funeral we drank one final toast to dad’s group and I still have about “two fingers” of wine left from that bottle.”


Editor’s Note: Leon, I remember Harry when he worked at Collins Department Store and would come to Dukes Drug Store down below the Strand Theater on Main Street. Harry was a solid citizen of our community. He always walked in smiling and greeting the customers by tapping the coffee and soda drinkers on their shoulders sitting at the several tables Albert and Maxie Duke positioned out front of the soda fountain. Still remember the memory of Harry’s tap and on my shoulder since I hung out there and this brought tears to my eyes typing this sentence. As radio personality Paul Harvey would quote after reading this….”And now you know the rest of the story.”