The stories are told in old photographs sealed between clear plastic sheets. The black and white ones are of a bygone era as are most of the ones in color, many of which are muted from age.The photographs capture children at play that was snatched between the hours of work in the school’s cafeteria or dairy or laundry or working on the farm. Children today would recoil at such labor as they often do when asked to simply unload the dishwasher or haul the garbage can to the curb.
But for the children and teens who spent a few or quite a few years at the historic John de la Howe campus, it was the work that made them the adults that they became. And they don’t hesitate to credit the school, their education and their work schedules for helping them succeed in life.
As the children, now adults, gathered in the L.S. Brice School on a fall morning in October that seemed better suited to college football games or family outings, De La Howe alumni spent hours looking through scrapbooks and yearbooks to find photos of themselves and those of their friends.
“Seventy-five percent of the life skills that I learned came from De La Howe,” said Sherrell Masters who came to the 2018 Biennial Homecoming with her two daughters and granddaughter. “If it hadn’t been for De La Howe, there is no telling where I would be now.”
For Masters, who was at De La Howe from 1966 – 69, the “now” is being retired from a career as a healthcare professional. Even with the work of her youth at De La Howe and the years of a busy career behind her, Masters still wakes up daily at 4 a.m. – the time that she reported to the kitchen to help prepare breakfast for the other students.
“To this day, I am still up at 4 o’clock in the morning,” she said.
De La Howe taught Richard Limehouse “how to work.”
Limehouse arrived at De La Howe from Summerville after his father was killed, and his mother was left with five boys. During his time at De La Howe from 1936 – 1947, Limehouse had a variety of jobs – feeding the hogs, working in the Dairy Barn and serving as a water boy for those who were plowing the fields.
“We worked hard, but we had a lot of fun, too,” said Limehouse, who visited the campus with his son Finley Limehouse, a minister at Beech Island. “This became my home. Mr. (E.F.) Gettys was the only father I knew.”
De La Howe became so much of a home to Limehouse that he attends as many of the Homecoming events as he can. “We’ve been making this trek for as long as I can remember,” Finley Limehouse said.
After graduating from high school, the senior Limehouse served in the U.S. Navy and then pursued the work for which De La Howe had trained him – farming. “It’s what I knew best,” he said.
His friend Thomas Pope was living in Hampton his father died and his mother was left with four children. The oldest son went into the Navy, and the other three went to live with a grandmother until she was unable to care for them. A lifelong farmer, Pope echoed the sentiments heard over and over from alumni. “If it hadn’t been for De La Howe, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”
Pope, who was at De La Howe from 1943 – 1948, married and had two sons. He lives in Brunson now with his wife Cathy, who said, “his stories from being here really touch my heart.”
Bulah Parsells lived at De La Howe from 1981 – 1985. She, too, arrived on campus when her father died. “I really had nowhere else to go.”
While the campus routine seemed difficult at first, Parsells said, “I got with the program,” which included getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to cook breakfast and then returning to the cottage to get ready for school.
Parsells, who lives in Greenwood, was in the library looking at scrapbooks with her son Nicholas, 17, who had come with her to the Homecoming. She has two other sons and two daughters. She credits the school with giving her the determination to move ahead in life. “They taught me how to live.”
She was joined by former classmate B.J. Bradley of Lancaster who lived at De La Howe from the second grade in 1977 until she graduated from High School in 1987. Bradley came to the school because she stuttered. Teachers and others at her elementary school told her parents that she “was dumb and would never amount to anything.”
Bradley becomes emotional when she talks about her early life. “There were nothing but ‘Fs’ on my report card when I left home. Within six weeks, the ‘Fs” became ‘As’ and ‘Bs.’ ”
Teachers and staff at De La Howe “worked with me to help me learn. Eventually, I even graduated with honors.”
B.J. also spent the day with her sister Edna Mills from Lancaster, who was at De La Howe from 1969 – 1979. In all, the two sisters– along with four other sisters and a brother — were part of the De La Howe story.
“We loved it. There was a lot to do. We had tennis, swimming, picnics in the park. Once you were here, everything was self-contained. I wouldn’t have given up De La Howe for anything,” Mills said.
Bradley agreed. “This was my home. De La Howe was my rock. I have so many great memories from being here.”
While the photos may have faded with time, the memories of alumni are vivid and bright.
Pope’s wife Cathy summed it up. “Everybody has their story,” she said. “My husband had a place to come when there was no family to help him, and that place is still here. It was a gift.”