Photograph of bicycle ignites memories of a West Ashley aren’t familiar with
I think that is my bicycle in front of the Avondale Pharmacy in that picture in your paper.” That was the message left at the West Of Free Press office by Bobby Owens. The referenced picture ran with the last of a four part West Ashley Flashback series on how the water infrastructure was installed to supply St Andrew’s Parish and subsequently celebrated by the community.
This never-the-less intriguing statement commanded a return phone call. Bobby Owens worked as a delivery boy for the Avondale Pharmacy. He had a bicycle, knew the rewards of work, and understood the value of a nickel — which bought a lot in the 1940s.
Owens’ father, Daniel Singletary Owens, moved his family from Sumter in order to take a job at the Charleston Dry Dock. Jobs were plentiful in Charleston during World War II and many local stories begin with people moving to the area seeking well-paying jobs. The family lived briefly on the peninsula, and then the opportunity presented itself for housing west of the Ashley. In 1942, the war housing project St. Andrew’s Homes, was being constructed on the Ravenel “Little Farm” located with entrances on Magnolia Road, Sycamore Road and what is now St. Andrew’s Boulevard.
The housing was designed for the families of the men working in the war effort. Daniel Owens with his wife, Annie Frances Montalbano (nee) Owens, and their three children, Bobby, Frances Ann and Melba Teresa were one of the first families to move into the community. Their first home was located on Bear Avenue and had two bedrooms. Later they would move to a three-bedroom home on Seneca Avenue. They were quickly joined by a growing number of young families who would populate St. Andrew’s Homes during the war.
There are numerous stories, anecdotes, and memories that circulate from the young families that lived in St. Andrew’s Homes. They could fill a book and like Owens’ story, they have some common threads. Bicycles play a roll in many of these stories. The children who were fortunate enough to own bicycles saw them as means for broadening their horizons either by exploration or enterprise. In Owens’ case it was a little of both. His first bicycle was a Victory bicycle that he received as a Christmas gift. Owens modified the position of the handlebars in order to “ride for speed”.
He attended elementary school at the newly constructed Albemarle Elementary School (now The Schoolhouse) beginning in his third grade year. Albemarle was conveniently located across Sycamore Street at the corner of Magnolia Road so the children of St. Andrew’s Homes could easily walk or ride their bicycles. Some of his classmates were Bruce Lyerly (of the Lyerly’s Cleaners family), Harold Kennedy, Donald Proctor, Wendell Dean Aultman, and Charles Elmore (one of Owens’ life-long friends).
One of Owens’ enterprises was delivering for the Avondale Pharmacy. After school this pharmacy was just a short ride down Magnolia Road and Owens could begin his deliveries to Byrnes Downs, Carolina Terrace, Windermere, and St. Andrew’s Homes and hope to make a nickel or maybe even a dime as a tip.
In addition to having a little spending money in his pocket, he had his eye on an Ansco Clipper, a point and shoot camera with an extendable lens that collapsed for ease of carrying. The camera cost $8 and each roll of 616 film produced 16 images. He bought the camera on a payment plan from the pharmacy store and soon was documenting life in St. Andrew’s Parish from the point of view of a young adventurous boy.
After graduation from Albemarle Elementary, he attended 8th grade at St. Andrew’s Parish High School and then transferred to Murray Vocational School where he took an interest in the field of electronics. Next he would enlist in the Army, take basic training at Fort Jackson, deploy to Germany and extensively document his adventures in the military.
What is your story growing up in St. Andrew’s Parish? Contact Donna Jacobs at email@example.com