Episcopalians, which I am one of, set great store by the community of saints. It may startle you that I would reference them when writing about the Mill history sweep on February 25th at the Braswell Library. It makes perfect sense to me, but then I sat and watched several times a digitalized black and white movie where Mill families and friends, toddler children, and pals with an arm slung around a shoulder, stood for the camera, with a wave, a grin. The mill women on the film were wearing their better afternoon dresses and clunky shoes. One of them could have been my mother, or yours, dressed as they were. You know me well enough by now to guess that I wiped a tear away while no one was paying any attention because I was moved by this gathering of saints that were being remembered.
I looked over the shoulder of a woman who brought a cardboard box filled with photographs, clippings, even love letters. Wandering around, I meet new people and greeted friends. It was one of the moments in life when I felt surrounded by this particular Community of Saints that are the Rocky Mount Mills family. There were the Mill parents and grandparents, childhood friends, co-workers, all gathered together, remembered by their names, their stories told. If that wasn’t enough, this amazing thing happened to convince me that this special opportunity, hosted by The UNC Community Histories Workshop and Braswell Library, was something special.
“Stepheny, aren’t you making too much of things?” I suppose I am, BUT… did you see the movie, Field of Dreams? Do you remember the scene when out of the cornfield Shoeless Joe Jackson and the seven players banned as a result of the 1919 White Sox baseball scandal, return to the field to play ball? I want you to imagine those attending the history sweep scattered around the room, heads down, busy looking at film, digitized photographs and talking with each other, when out of the blue, Milton Bullock from The Platters, is introduced. Everyone stops what they’re doing and begin to listen as Milton sings acapella not one, but two love songs the Mill Grandparents were singing when they fell in love. At the last line of Only You, Mr.Bullock invited everyone to sing along; you can hear my voice and others because those of a certain age all knew the words. For a few minutes from off stage somewhere, out of the corn field, if you will, the community of saints showed up. You could hear them singing too, these love songs about them and to them. There is no doubt in my mind that it was a wonderful afternoon for ‘a game of baseball’ or more to the point, a history sweep.