Jim Turner Stories

Jim has furnished the two following stories about experiences as a young man in Pacolet. The first deals with the large army training base, Camp Croft, that was only a few miles from Pacolet.

The Mortar Shell Incident

 I am unsure of the year, but it was either 1942 or 1941, because I was still in school at Pacolet High, and I graduated in 1942. Memory plays tricks, because it declines to confirm how stupid some of us – including myself – were. It does recall details that now seem strangely insignificant. 

For instance, I was two or three weeks into a typing course and had to drop out because my left middle finger was in a bandage about the size of a Polish sausage. I had two minor roles in a play and appeared in both with that conspicuous bandage. 

It was bandaged because I had removed the fuse from a trench mortar shell, struck it with a hammer (just to see what would happen) and a piece of it, like shrapnel, mutilated the end of my finger. Fortunately for me, nothing else was in the way.

Other characters in this episode were less fortunate. I remember with certainty only one. My friend, Jack Robinette, had a job with the Community Cash grocery between Pacolet and Pacolet Mills. Two or three other youngsters worked there, too. (Do I remember correctly that the manager was a Mr. Weathers? I want to say he was known as L. D. Weathers, but I likely am mistaken.

Now let’s go back a few days. Camp Croft was "full out," and one of the things it was full of was a trench mortar training range. How we found out about it and why we were crazy enough to go in there remain lost to memory. I know I was there, and I know Jack was there. I’m not certain, but I seem to remember that James Robinette and Clyde Rook were with us. We were looking for "duds"–shells that had landed but failed to explode. And we found them and brought them home.

The episode with my finger should have been the end of it. But then Jack took one of those "dud," 60-millimeter shells to the Community Cash store. He gathered those other young men around him in a back storeroom to "show off" his prized possession. Perhaps someone jostled him; perhaps he was excited. He dropped it among their feet and it exploded.

One of Jack’s feet was ruined. Another boy had a chunk of metal in his back. At least one other, perhaps two, were injured. There were holes in floor and ceiling; a water cooler was destroyed; several bags of flour were slashed open. And, of course, all of us were visited by the Army’s MPs, who took away all our treasures.

(I regret the failure of my memory, but there are some things it just doesn’t like to recall. I hope somebody–maybe some of the guys who were there--can fill in the gaps.)

The second story involves a nationwide radio broadcast on Halloween, 1938 by the actor Orson Welles. The program was about a fictious invasion of the earth by aliens. Announcements were made before the broadcast that the story was fiction. However, thousands of people did not hear or understand this and thought that the invasion was real. They were terrified. Jim's story is an account of what happened to folks he knew in Pacolet who heard the broadcast.
War of the Worlds

On October 30, 1938, I was 13 years old; my brother, Lannes ,was a month shy of 18; and Orson Welles nearly panicked the nation with his radio broadcast, War of the Worlds.

I didn’t hear the broadcast. We didn’t even have a radio. But Lannes heard it!

Alongside the road just north of Pacolet Mills was a service station. (Don’t ask me who owned or ran it, or what brand of gasoline it sold. Maybe somebody can remember and add such details to this little story. There might have been a little beer involved; if not there was certainly some Nehi Orange Crush or Coca-Cola, which some at that time called "dope.".) Anyhow, it was a favorite "hang out" for teenagers, and that’s where Lannes and some of his pals heard that broadcast. 

I don’t know at what point they decided the world was ending. They didn’t stay to find out but took off running for their homes in Pacolet–stopping now and then to pause, kneel, and pray. Especially if they happened to see a meteor in that dark night sky.

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