05) An Old Table

                                    Dr. B Frank "Doc" Sloan
                                  Passed in 1936
An Old Table

Julia Melvina Camps’ Mother had a table built for her. Highly skilled craftsmen made it of oak and with all the leaf additions it could seat fourteen people. When Melvina married Anson Cummings Merrick, they both enjoyed the table for many years. When Melvina died she willed it to her daughter, Emma Claire Merrick (1883-1970) who, on June 2 1904, had married Bayliss Frank Sloan MD (1878-1936). Emma and “Doc” lived happily in Walhalla, South Carolina and raised a family of ten children in a large “gingerbread” house, which were popular at the turn of the century. Emma needed a table that large to feed “Sunday Dinner” to ten children

As time passed, occasionally Doc. Sloan would use the table as an emergency operating –table on weekends or at night. On one such occasion he asked his second daughter, “Nell”(Nell Poe Sloan 1915-1998) to, "come here and hold that lantern closer so I can see what I’m doing.” When Nell saw the blood and gore and heard the anguished cries of pain she felt lightheaded and decided that she didn’t want to be a nurse anymore. In later years she would brag,” At least I had enough sense to pass the lantern to “Earl” (Earle Dendy Sloan 1917 –2000) before I fainted.”

Earle had an overweight playmate named “Marshall Grubbs” who for an undermined reason sat on the edge of he table at the center. The sharp crack of the wood brought Emma from the kitchen with urgent questions. Everyone had to be careful of moving the table ever since. Emma never forgave Marshall for his childhood mishap although he wasn’t a “bad boy”.

Another time, Dr. Sloan asked that they all hold hands around the table before Sunday Dinner and pray for the spirit of “Allan Green”. Allan was related to “Pearl” the black housekeeper who worked for the Sloans for 30 years who allowed Emma some relief in the raising of ten children. Allan was involved in nearly the same situation as in “to kill a mockingbird” except Doc Sloan wasn’t afforded the opportunity to be “Addicus Fench” and be an instrument of justice.

All he could do was “pronounce him dead” as they cut Allan’s bullet riddled body down from a tree. The vigilantes tied him to a tree, and all fired at once. Emma told one of her grandchildren that the “trashy” men sold parts of the tree to which he had been tied. The pieces that had a bullet or where a bullet trail could be seen brought the highest prices.

          The fourth daughter “Margaret”(1920-1995) told of a time when Doc. gathered the whole family after dinner one night to see 2cent matinee to see a “Laurel and Hardy” movie the Doc. Particularly enjoyed. The Doctor rented the entire theater after it was closed. (The proprietor owed a past-due bill.) So great was his mirth that he insisted the entire family come and enjoy it with him.

The only thing funnier than Stanley bellowing with pain was Oliver crying and wringing his tie.

Emma told one of her grandchildren about when Doc. Couldn’t eat Sunday Dinner because he had just watched one of his patients die that he had chained to a tree. That, and pray, was all one could do for someone who contracted “Rabies” in the early part of the century. Once so chained, the patient was off limits to his wife, children, kin, and friends because rabies is very contagious. They could not render aid or comfort, only weep and mourn. This was a terrible way to die that would weaken and humble the strongest of men. It was understood that the “best Man” had the obligation to dispatch the “unfortunate” when the “running” began, but it was often it was executed by the doctor when the patient was in the final throes of agony. He wouldn’t allow a man’s wife or children to perform the sad function. The “day after” usually included a cleaning walk in the sun and a counting of blessings.

          When Emma and her polio stricken first son “Frank” (Bayless Frank Sloan Jr. 1906-1984) finally moved out of the old house, she gave the table to Nell. Emma no longer could afford the upkeep, there were only two of them, and that’s where they put the new main highway. Nell respected the heirloom for some 40 years. She would proudly serve the most delicious food all made from scratch when the occasion warranted. She rarely used a can opener. Sometimes she would have 15 dishes of the most delightful food. One always knew that a special dignitary would be in attendance when she got out the very old fine china and sterling silver tableware. The only finer meal in existence was when she and her sister Margaret competed to serve the most prized dish. One knew it was a really special occasion when she included “Tomato aspic” which everyone except Emma despised. I tried and never did learn to like it. She explained that it was a Southern tradition” which went back at least to the War Between the States and it would be included on her table. Even her husband Gus (Clell Augustus Goins 1915-1977) would not insist that her boys eat a helping, as was the norm.

          Around the table Nell continued the tradition of everyone meets at least once a week, usually after Church at Sunday dinner. The iron rule of you must have fried chicken, rice (that didn’t stick) with gravy, green peas or butterbeans that she had shelled with her own hands war rarely broken. I am still unsure how she had time to prepare the feast when she went to Church also. These Sunday meals were also where Nell tried to convey “all that was proper in the world” to her boys (and Husband).

          Don’t say “ain’t”, that’s a word for the unlearned. Don’t chew with your mouth open, hold your fork right, and the only time you used the salad fork was on he salad. Pity the one who didn’t use the butter knife on the butter. To belch at her table was a sacrilege. No “Class” person ever used a toothpick in public. Ending a sentence with a preposition was automatically corrected, and my favorite, “that for which you seek is right before the at”. Her boys didn’t know it, and probably neither did Nell, but these meals were Nells giving her boys her portion of their “birthright”. Thereafter, the boy’s knew their manners, recognized and could speak proper English even if they didn’t use it or couldn’t intelligently use a semi-colon or conjugate a verb. [He, She, it, and everybody else; shall have will run!]

          A successful “Sunday Dinner” gratified and sustained the Lady born into an old southern family width gentle Southern customs. The labor involved was truly a labor of love. She seemed to consider them her “duty”, as God had given her the light to see that duty.

          In 2003 the table is with, and belongs to Nell’s granddaughter “Suzie”(Suzette Amanda Goins 1967) who lives in Kennesaw Georgia.

WebMaster Note:
This article submitted by RM "Mike" Goins - July 24, 2011 

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