It was a beautiful Spring day, a Sunday. I had some of the windows open with a very cool breeze blowing through the house. I had the back door open and Abby, my faithful dog, sitting on the back step listening to the sounds of Spring.
I turned on the Dumont stereo sound system with 1.5 watts of power per channel. I tuned in WORD radio on the AM radio and began to listen to a gospel music radio program called Master Control.
The title Master Control grabbed my attention because then, like now, I was an audiophile. That is, I was an aspiring audio engineer.
The program spun in and out of commercial breaks with the station ID slug as well as the name of the program along with the song “Turn Your Radio On” sung by the Hovie Lister & Statesmen playing in the background.
I sat down at my Brother Electric Typewriter to type some letters. From time to time, I would visit local churches on Sunday mornings when I did not go back home to the little town of Iva, South Carolina for the weekend. If I did go back home, it was a given that I would attend my church, Flat Rock Baptist Church.
When I did not go back home, I would sit in my house and write letters on Sunday mornings. I would write to my Grandma McClendon (Grandma Ruby), and Granny. Granny was Charlotte Madden. She was not really my grandmother, but she was closer than my maternal grandmother and as close as my Grandma Ruby.
I remember this particular morning I wrote a letter to the youth pastor at Flat Rock Baptist Church, Eddie Bledsoe. In that letter, I typed a bunch of random characters and at the end of it typed “I found I can type much faster when I don’t try to type actual words.”
After I finished typing the letters to Granny, Grandma Ruby, and Eddie, I sat back and thought, “Is there anyone else I should write?”
The song on the radio, I don’t remember what it was, said “Listen to the Master’s voice.” At the same time I heard clear as a bell, actual spoken words in the room that said, "Why don’t you write to Suzanne?”
I could only think of one person I knew named Suzanne. That was Suzanne Gunter. I had met her at Crescent High School in Starr-Iva, South Carolina, during the 1979-1980 school year. That year was my senior year and her freshman year.
I had noticed Suzanne walking by the Chemistry classroom window several mornings in a row. Suzanne stood out to me because she was wearing a denim skirt at a time that most girls wore jeans or other types of pants. I did not know who she was at the time, but I knew of the girl she was with, Holly Bevens.
I don’t know how I knew who Holly was. I am, and have always been, a very self-centered person. I did not normally know who someone was unless I came into very close contact with them or there was something unusual about them.
Often times I would know of someone and not have a clue who they actually were. I would hear unusual names over the school’s intercom system and the name would stand out because it was unusual, but I would have no clue who the person was. Often I would pass them in the hallway everyday and maybe even say hello to them, but never really know who they were. I have even had classmates that I did not know their names or anything about them. As I said, I am a very self-centered person.
As I said, I knew of Holly Bevens. I knew who she was, what she looked like, what her name was, and that she had some sisters. That is all I really knew about her.
One day during the early part of the year, Holly came to the window of the Chemistry room with Suzanne in tow. She introduced herself and Suzanne and said, “Feel how cold Suzanne’s hands are.” I felt Suzanne’s hand and it was ice cold. Both of them were.
As I held Suzanne’s hands, she giggled. You know that kind of school girl giggle where you don’t know if they are giggling at something you did or if they are just nervous or are just being silly little school girls.
For a while every morning, Suzanne and Holly came to the window and Holly and I talked while Suzanne giggled. I did not even know if she COULD talk. I had never heard her utter a word.
One day I was with the Crescent High School Marching Tiger Band at the McDuffie High School/Crescent High School football game. It was held at McCant’s field, which was at what is now the old McCants Middle School.
Holly came up to me and we started talking. Soon her sister Debbie came up to us and started making eye motions to Holly. Holly asked me “Why don’t you like Suzanne?”
Well, I am a goofball of major proportions. If she had asked, “Do you like Suzanne?” I would have said that I did and would like to get to know her better. But with a lead in like “Why don’t you like Suzanne?", the goof ball got the better of me.
I answered, “She’s probably a virgin and can’t date yet." A totally stupid response and the fact of the matter was that I was also a virgin and was in no real hurry to change that status. It was also very rare for me to date, by choice.
When I did go out with a girl, it was extremely rare for me to ever ask her out a second time. I did not want them to begin to assume a relationship that was not there.
I went on to say that no, really I thought she was a nice girl and I would like to get to know her better. All that got back to Suzanne was the “She’s probably a virgin and can’t date yet’ part.
Fast forward back to 1981 in my house with the voice telling me to write Suzanne.
As I said, this voice was as clear as any I had ever heard before or since. I answered the voice back and said, “I think I really messed that one up.” The voice told me, “Write Suzanne anyway.”
I made a very compelling case with the voice, which by now I was convinced was the Holy Spirit. I told the Holy Spirit, “I don’t know her address.” The voice answered back. “You saw her and her siblings walking along Hwy 81 near Master’s Store. She lives near there.”
I was pretty familiar with the area and knew that this area was at the border of several different postal routes. It could be an Anderson city route. It could be Route 6 Anderson, or it could be Route 12 or 13 Anderson. It could even be Route 1, Starr, South Carolina.
The voice answered, "Mail it to Suzanne Gunter, Route One, Starr. Mr. Ferguson will know where to take it."
Mr. Ferguson, I believe his first name is Allen, had the Route 1 Starr mail route since time began. He knew everyone on the route. He knew when they had new babies and when someone passed away. I said, "It is a long shot.”
The Holy Spirit answered in a very clear, loud voice, “Nothing is a long shot for me; I only deal in sure things.” I wrote the letter. As I was getting ready to type the address, I heard the Statesmen sing “Get in touch with God, turn your radio on.”
Read my next post to find out what happened next.