Browse More Essays

Set Up

The first person with a double name I ever met was a fellow named Jimmy John Kincaid. Daddy had moved us to Bessemer City, North Carolina in late summer 1958, just in time to begin the school year there. I was to use the end of August to make new friends before entering the fifth grade. Jimmy John was one of a whole clan of Kincaids, all of whom lived at the top of the big hill. I was closer to his cousins, Billy and Donny (or “Donald Frost,” as he was known to his mother). The Kincaids had another cousin, Penny, who was older, and in the second year of our residence there, Penny appeared one Saturday morning on “American Bandstand.” I am not sure how another cousin, Richard, fit the family, but his last name was Kincaid, too, and they all claimed kin.

We lived in the first block that began the climb of that big hill, and I vividly remember old Mr. Kincaid, grandfather to them all, walking to work early each morning—his lunch in a pail—and then home again late in the day. He had the Esso station by the railroad overpass at the bottom of the hill. Today, Jane and I live just two blocks from the gallery in Charleston, and I often think of Mr. Kincaid when I make the walk to and from work. Surely the rest of America would envy the opportunity.

Whole families of friends are a good thing. I spent as much time in the Kincaids’ house as my own and was strengthened by watching them as family, just as they were by taking in me and mine. Many things stand out to me from that time in Bessemer City, two years in all before we would pack it up and move back to Spartanburg from whence we had come.

Roger Eisenhower was a little older than me and had an afternoon paper route which I took over halfway through our tenure there. Roger showed me the route, how to keep up with the money, and told me who would try to beat me out of it—and she did. On proudly announcing to Mama and Daddy that I had secured a job, my father suggested that I take Roger to Queenie’s, a tiny family-owned grocery store on the corner opposite Mr. Kincaid’s Esso and “set him up.” I had no idea what that meant, but Daddy explained that in a gesture of appreciation, I should spend a little money on Roger—buy him a popsicle, maybe some candy and a drink. I did as instructed and remember that Roger was surprised and appreciative. I picked up the tab—less than a dollar, I’m sure.

A year later, when I got tired of that lady’s turkey chasing me when I tried to collect, I casually asked my father if the fellow I was handing the route over to might set me up at Queenie’s, as I had Roger. Daddy replied, “I don’t know, but why don’t you meet him there once he has learned what you can teach him and y’all share some treats.” He further cautioned that unless the other fellow offered, I should stand ready to pay the bill. You know how that one ended. What a lesson my father taught me, though, about extending my hand in friendship and being prepared to provide for others in so doing.

Emil Holzhauer (1887-1986)
Street Scene, Macon, Georgia (1950)
Oil on masonite
20 x 28 inches
Signature Details: Lower Right
Owner: Private Collection
1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
Get Our Email Newsletter
Created by . Easy site updating through Backstage CMS.