2018-07-06 / Travel

Ode to my Father

Part 1: From Greeleyville to Forest Hills
By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.


My father and grandmother, Ganny, pose for a photo with Baby Warner at our apartment on Harden Street above Five Points. My father and grandmother, Ganny, pose for a photo with Baby Warner at our apartment on Harden Street above Five Points. My father, Miller Montgomery, a good, kind, loving man, died in 1996 at age 83. He was born and raised in Greeleyville, S.C., a place that, to him, was close to paradise. He followed his older brother, John A. (aka Uncle Bub) to Presbyterian College, then to U.S.C., and then to Columbia and The State newspaper where Uncle Bub was a writer, then sports editor, and eventually retired as editor of the spinoff Columbia Record newspaper.

Daddy met Mary Gourdin at a dance in Pineville, 12 miles from Greeleyville, married her, and rented an apartment overlooking Five Points.

I was born in 1939, the first baby born in the Providence Hospital , and my parents bought a home in the new Forest Hills subdivision humorously called “Bagnal’s Bottom.”

Uncle Bub and Aunt Lottie moved to Bagnal’s Bottom (our backyards shared a fence) and Cousin Carole soon arrived. She was followed by Sister Mimi, Cousin Al, and Cousin Carter.


My father, Miller Montgomery, was able to nap anytime, anyplace, as he is doing here on a front porch in Pineville. My father, Miller Montgomery, was able to nap anytime, anyplace, as he is doing here on a front porch in Pineville. Daddy sold advertising for WIS radio station, a job he kept until he became manager of the radio station now known as WQXL. In 1963, Daddy and Harold Booker, a former editor at The State newspaper, started The Star Reporter in Five Points. (A star has Five Points! Get it?)

Daddy loved Greeleyville. All Columbians know Greeleyville: the blinking yellow light between Manning and Andrews where you turn to go to Pawley’s Island.

To my family, Greeleyville was a mythical place where Daddy, Uncle Bub, and their Our Gang entourage ran rampant throughout their childhood. As we learned on our grandmother’s knee, Greeleyville was full of cousins, cotton fields, swimming holes, rattletrap cars, silly girls, drunk fools, and where Daddy and Uncle Bub “worshipped” a boy who should have been a football All-American but killed himself a year after high school. Greeleyville’s mischievous boys ran between The Drug Store, The Bank, The Church, The School, and The City Hall dodging Aunt Minnie and Uncle Bun... and their mother’s switch.


My mother, Mary Gourdin, was raised on a farm in Pineville and was quite the horse-woman before marrying my father and moving to the city. My mother, Mary Gourdin, was raised on a farm in Pineville and was quite the horse-woman before marrying my father and moving to the city. My North Carolinabred grandmother married her Greeleyville man, Alex, and soon lost her hearing and her first child to “the fever.” When her sons moved to Columbia, she moved in with Uncle Bub and Aunt Lottie as the family matriarch. “Don’t ever call me Granny, I despise that name,” she commanded, “Call me Ganny.” So we did.

Ganny was the only grandmother I knew, and I sincerely loved her. She spent her last several decades serving as reluctant matriarch and the family babysitter. She died at age 100 when I was in college. She is buried beside her husband in the Greeleyville graveyard, and is a good listener whenever I stop by with a problem.

Daddy loved to visit Greeleyville on Flag Day. We would pile into Daddy’s 1946 Studebaker, stop for a bag of boiled peanuts at the Fairgrounds, and hear for the umpteenth time how Miller met Mary. After watching the Flag Day parade, eating BBQ and more boiled peanuts, Daddy would drive by the four houses he once lived in. Strangely enough, most of the houses had burned down, but the ruins of each one reminded him of a story wrapped around the antics of his Aunt Minnie and Uncle Bun. We would visit a few relatives before buying more boiled peanuts and returning to Columbia.

Next week: The Greeleyville Gang

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