What it is that people hold dear – besides their loved ones? If faced with a house fire or a threatening natural disaster, what items of importance are hurriedly grabbed? We all hold tight to some type of cherished treasures, whether they are truly valuable or just meaningful. This article draws the curtain on a cross-section of Columbia residents to reveal what is a favorite thing in their lives and why.
Favorite Thing: Step Stool
Melissa Bird’s grandfather was the president of Farmer’s and Merchants Bank in Aiken. When she visited her grandparents as a child in the 1970s, she says, “I deposited my money at my grandfather’s bank, as did other children.” In order to reach the teller, Melissa and other children had to stand on a step stool. When they deposited their money, the teller gave them a lollipop. The stool became known as the lollipop stool.
Melissa’s grandfather came up with the idea to shoot a local commercial featuring his then four-year-old granddaughter standing on the stool. Melissa remembers making the commercial, which aired in the Aiken and Augusta areas.
“Big Daddy, my grandfather, was standing right beside me as I was on the stool,” says Melissa. “He said to me, ‘Lil’ Puddin,’ which is what he called me, ‘Where do you keep your money?’ I replied, ‘In Big Daddy’s piggy bank.”
The stool now graces Melissa’s open, country-style kitchen at the home she shares with her husband, a pastor at Crossroads Church downtown, and their four daughters. It is decorated with painted lollipops and the name of the bank, all original artwork, and occupies a corner next to kitchen cabinetry.
“The lollipop stool stayed at the teller window for children for a while, but now I have inherited it, and it is most special … with sweet memories of Big Daddy and his piggy bank.”
Favorite Thing: Scrapbook
Lee Richards was a guard on the Keenan High School basketball team in 1975 when Keenan beat Irmo for the state championship. It was the highlight of Richards’ senior year. At the awards banquet, two girls came up to him – one he remembers being a Keenan student and another who he had never seen before or since. That unknown girl gave him something that he treasures dearly – a scrapbook of his senior basketball season.
“I had not kept a single article or memento, and here this girl comes up to me that I didn’t know and hands me this scrapbook with every newspaper clipping and even my name and my points underlined,” says Lee, now an anesthesiologist at Lexington Medical Center. “It was humbling. I wish I knew who she was so I could thank her.”
For the last few months of his senior year, Lee spent much of his time at his best friend’s home. He graduated, went to college, enrolled in medical school, married, and is now raising five children with his wife, Elizabeth. In the meantime, he lost track of the scrapbook.
“The last time I saw it was during my senior year. I didn’t know what happened to it, but I thought about it often and wanted to show it to my kids.”
A little over a year ago, Lee was visiting the father of his high school friend. The father told Lee, “I think I have something of yours.” He brought him the scrapbook, which Lee realized he must have left at their home 30-plus years earlier.
“I was so thrilled!” says Lee. “I had told my kids about that year and our wins. With the scrapbook, I was able to show them what that year was like.”
He adds, “It’s a treasure to me, really the only ‘thing’ that I treasure. I am so grateful to that girl for giving it to me.” Lee says he now keeps the scrapbook in a safe place in his bedroom.
Favorite Thing: Rocker
Michelle James, director at Prosperity Project, rocked her two sons, now 9 and 11, in the rocking chair that was owned by her great grandmother.
“My great grandmother had given it to my mother,” she says, “and my mother presented it to me at my first baby shower.”
Michelle’s father and siblings had all been rocked in the rocker as babies. “We’re thinking it’s at least 75 years old.”
Although it was in bad shape when it was finally passed down to Michelle, extensive work was done on the Shaker-style rocker to refinish the wood and update the upholstery.
“It is now in pristine condition and sits in our guest room for any visitors to use who might have babies,” says Michelle. “I fully intend to pass it down to one of my son’s wives.”
She says she anticipates that there will be many more babies to be rocked in that rocker in the future.
Favorite Things: Bible and Gun Cabinet
Eric Barfield, a pilot and an insurance agent at Hope Aviation Insurance Inc., says there are two treasures that he holds dear: his grandfather’s Bible and the gun cabinet his father built for him.
“I grew up thinking that my mom’s dad was a preacher,” says Eric. “I found out he was actually a salesman who simply sold out to the Lord and took every opportunity to teach and preach wherever and whenever he could. My granddad was an inspiration to me in that no one will remember me for my aviation insurance acumen, but hopefully there will be some folks in Heaven who might remember some small thing the Lord did through me to help them in their journey.”
Even though Eric has never been a hunter, he cherishes the gun cabinet his father made for him out of some heart pine from an old barn on the family tobacco farm in Eastern North Carolina.
“After my wife and I had moved to Columbia so I could work for Hope Aviation, my dad brought his handiwork. I keep a couple of shotguns in it that my dad gave me, one of which belonged to my grandfather. But I also keep special mementos in it, including my grandfather’s Bible.”
Favorite Things: Sideboard and Painting
Erin Galloway, a Blythewood based interior designer, recognizes that she probably won’t be able to grab her beloved sideboard in case of a fire or natural disaster, but she might consider grabbing a painting that has significance.
“I absolutely love the sideboard in our dining room for the reason that my husband Scott’s great grandfather made it – probably in the early 1900s – and because it’s old, rustic, farmhouse style made of oak with no nails, only wooden pegs.”
For a completely different reason, however, Erin cherishes a painting by local artist Debbie Martin that was given to her by the artist as a remembrance of her sister, who died suddenly in a car accident.
“It’s a very contemporary, modern art piece with bright cheery colors of chaos on one side and peace on the other. There is an image that looks like a cross at the top. Debbie calls the piece ‘Hope.’ It was the first real, large piece of original art that I owned.”
Erin adds that when people enter her house, they comment on the painting as being beautiful or interesting. “But for me it has meaning that is all about my sister.”
Favorite Thing: Silver Heart Necklace
When Lisa Sendler’s only daughter, Bailey, was about seven years old, her husband Scott bought her and Bailey a heart necklace set for Mother’s Day. Bailey’s necklace matches her mother’s in shape, but it is slightly smaller so that it fits inside her mother’s.
“We both wear them all the time, and we both feel a little anxious when we have to take them off for a performance,” says Lisa, who is a dance instructor at Bailey Fine Arts where her daughter is a dancer. “I think that over the last seven years, we’ve both grown very accustomed to being able to reach down and fiddle with it, and we both love knowing that the other is wearing their heart.”
Lisa says she tears up when she feels the heart and thinks back to when Bailey was young. “When we first got the necklaces, she would show everyone how they fit inside each other. She was so proud and excited. She would make me bend down and press really tightly up against me so she could pop her heart inside mine. She would say, ‘See, we fit perfectly.’”
Favorite Things: Piano
Dawn Smith Jordan learned to play the piano alongside her sister, who was tragically murdered 20-plus years ago in Lexington in an infamous case that led to a made-for-television movie. It was her grandmother’s piano, the one her mother and children learned to play on. And it has been the piano she has used as her instrument to build a career as a singer, songwriter and piano instructor. Dawn won Miss South Carolina in 1986 and is signed as a recording artist with Urgent Records. She travels nationwide singing and speaking at women’s retreats and conferences.
“My love of music began on that Acrosonic piano and has continued in both of my children’s lives. My daughter is an accomplished pianist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, recording artist and worship leader. My son is an accomplished guitarist, drummer and composer, who first began learning to play music on that same piano when I began teaching him at the age of 5, at his request,” says Dawn. “It is my prayer that the joy music has brought into my family and our lives will continue in the students I am now teaching, as music is truly a gift that keeps on giving for years to come.”
Dawn says her grandmother probably never imagined how much the piano would affect so many lives. When her daughter was young, she took some drumsticks to the keys and chipped away some of the ivory. “When the piano tuner came to tune the piano, he tried to talk me into getting a new piano, with no success,” she says. “I simply told him that the sentimental value was worth far more than a brand new piano would ever be to me.”
Dawn’s mother passed away seven years ago, which makes her cherish the piano she passed on even more. “I treasure the piano my mother gave to me as an inheritance, and I will one day pass it on to my own children.”