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March 5, 2023

Our friend Sheila Ingle is the author of five books. Her books are written for children and early teens. Four are about the heroines of early South Carolina history, especially during the American Revolutionary War. The other book chronicles the story of eight women who worked in the cotton mills of the Upstate. Sheila was recently honored by the Spartanburg County Historical Association as the recipient of the Dr. Jeffrey R. Willis Award for her work in preserving the cultural heritage of Spartanburg County. Congratulations, Sheila! You can read more about her work on her Website: Her books are:

Courageous Kate (2006)

Fearless Martha (2009)

Brave Elizabeth (2013)

Cosmic Possum (2017)

Walking with Eliza (2020)

Read her books and give them to your children and grandchildren.

Thursday, March 2, was celebrated again this year as National Read Across America Day. Created by the National Education Association in 1997, Read Across America is an initiative to encourage reading. Elementary school students in many places dress up like Dr. Seuss characters for the festivities. Why? Appropriately enough, March 2 was also the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. He is one of the many authors celebrated at this event.

Clare treasures books as much as I do. Children’s books are among her favorites. She has saved books from her childhood and most of the books our five children enjoyed as they were growing up. Clare and I still have children’s books in our home – a lot of children’s books. Now our grandchildren love coming to our house and delving into Miz Clare’s Children’s Library. Clare has even set up her own check-out system so the grandchildren can borrow books and return them after enjoying them for a while.

My job is to keep the books in good repair. I patch the treasured volumes with tape when much-handled pages accidentally tear.

I was at that task not long ago when I realized how many books we have that were written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.

The Cat in the Hat is regarded as the defining book of Dr. Seuss’s career. The popular book was developed through a joint venture between Houghton Mifflin and Random House. Houghton Mifflin asked Dr. Seuss to write and illustrate a children’s primer using only 225 new-reader vocabulary words. Random House obtained the trade publication rights because Seuss was under contract with them, and Houghton Mifflin kept the school rights. With the release of The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss became America’s best-known children’s book author and illustrator.

As I secured the crumbling spine of The Cat in the Hat with strapping tape, I wondered how the beloved Dr. Seuss got his start as a writer of children’s literature. An internet search revealed his fascinating story.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born into a family of German immigrants in 1904 on Howard Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father, Theodor Robert, and his grandfather were brew masters. His mother, Henrietta Seuss Geisel, greatly influenced his successful writing career. At bedtime, she often soothed her children to sleep by chanting rhymes remembered from her youth. Theodor credited his mother with his ability to create the verses for which he became so famous.

The Geisel family enjoyed a comfortable and prosperous life until the beginning of World War I. Prohibition presented both financial and social challenges for German immigrants. The family persevered through the difficult times and prospered again. Theodor and his sister, Marnie, had a happy childhood. Memories from that childhood time in Springfield are reflected throughout his work. In addition to its title, the first children’s book by Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, is filled with imagery from his hometown. Even the red motorcycles used by the police department are fashioned after Springfield’s famed Indian Motorcycles.

As a teenager, Theodor left Springfield to attend Dartmouth College, where he became editor-in-chief of the Jack-O-Lantern, Dartmouth’s humor magazine. His tenure as editor ended when Theodor and his friends were caught throwing a party, which was against the prohibition laws and school policy. He continued to contribute to the magazine, signing his work Seuss. This is the first record of his use of the Seuss pseudonym. It was both Theodor’s middle name and his mother’s maiden name.

To please his father, who wanted him to pursue an academic career as a college professor, Theodor went on to Oxford University in England after graduation from Dartmouth. However, he lost interest in his academic studies and decided to tour Europe instead. At Oxford, he met a classmate, Helen Palmer, who became his good friend, his first wife, and a children’s author and book editor in her own right.

After his return to the United States, Theodor began to develop a career as a cartoonist. The Saturday Evening Post, a weekly magazine, published some of his early pieces. Most of his creative attention was devoted to the advertising campaigns for Standard Oil Company. He held that job for more than fifteen years.

As World War II approached, Theodor’s focus shifted, and he began contributing weekly political cartoons to PM magazine. Too old for the draft but wanting to contribute to the war effort, Theodor served in the United States Army with Frank Capra’s Signal Corps making training movies for soldiers. It was then that he became skilled in the art of animation. He developed a series of animated films featuring a cartoon trainee called Private Snafu, a military term meaning “situation normal all fouled up.”

While Theodor continued contributing to Life, Vanity Fair, Judge, and other magazines, Viking Press offered him a contract to illustrate a collection of children’s quotes. Although the book was not a commercial success, the illustrations received excellent reviews, giving Theodor his first big break into children’s literature.

However, publishing a book he wrote and illustrated was much more difficult. After receiving twenty-seven rejections, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was finally accepted for publication by Vanguard Press. After a great deal of persistence on his part, the career of Dr. Seuss in children’s literature was launched.

After his first wife died in 1967, Theodor married an old friend, Audrey Stone Geisel, who was not only influential in the publication of his later books but served as the president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises until her death in 2018.

Clare and I often have conversations about authors and writing as a career. By any measure, Dr. Seuss was among the most influential to people of all ages. How many children have delighted in the rhyming lines of Green Eggs and Ham? How many parents have read Fox in Socks until sleep overtakes both young and old? How many grandparents have held little ones on their knee and sympathized with an elephant who can just barely hear the combined voices of Whoville in Horton Hears a Who? How many families have gathered around the television in December to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

At the time of his death on September 24, 1991, Dr. Seuss had written and illustrated forty-four children’s books. His books have been translated into more than fifteen languages. Over 200 million copies have found their way into homes and hearts around the world.

In addition to his books, his work has been made into eleven children’s television specials, a Broadway musical, and a feature-length motion picture. Other major motion pictures are on the way. Good news! Random House published a newly discovered manuscript on July 28, 2015. What Pet Should I Get? It was written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel, received many coveted honors, including two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.

So again, this year, National Read Across America Day was celebrated on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The day is intended to encourage all children and youth in every community across the United States to celebrate reading. That may be the very best way to remember Dr. Seuss.

Whenever I open a book with a child, I think of the words of Dr. Seuss from his book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Oh, the places you’ll go!

 There is fun to be done!

Could I encourage you to read a book? Visit your public library or your local bookstore. They will be glad to help you find a volume that will suit your interest. Could I also encourage you to read to a child? You both will honor Dr. Seuss and all of those who love good books. It will do you and the child a world of good.


Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, storyteller, teacher, pastoral counselor, and retired pastor.

He can be reached at

Over these past months, I have asked that we contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that these nonprofit organizations are quickly forgotten unless they are called to mind. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week consider volunteering your time or making a financial donation to Friends of the Library – Spartanburg County Public Libraries,, 2355 South Pine Street; Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302, (864) 585-0111.


March 2, 2023

The week before Christmas of 2022, the first extremely cold blast of winter affected more than half of our nation. The bitter weather heightened my awareness of the plight of the homeless people across our land, especially in our community.

In 1997, our son Erik wrote a series of articles on the problem of homelessness in Spartanburg. Erik’s journalism led to the establishment of the Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network.

I have taken excerpts from two of Erik’s original articles for this column. Though Erik wrote these words more than twenty years ago, the problem of homelessness persists. For this column, names have been changed, and some details have changed over time, but the hard truth remains. Our community has a homeless problem,

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.   (Matthew 8:20)

The first morning Joann Beaufort woke up homeless, curled in the crawl space under the house she had been evicted from the day before; she felt like the only person in Spartanburg without a roof over her head

“You’re so scared about everything that’s going on in your life that took you here,” she said. “And then one night, you’ve got no walls.

“I feel so exposed, so alone.”

Beaufort was not alone. A 1996 Housing and Urban Development grant application from the city tallied 2,736 homeless as needing care. Other estimates of the homeless in Spartanburg County run as high as 4,000. Both numbers are little better than guesses. Homeless folks’ range and low visibility make them an underestimated group, encountered and recognized only in their most extreme forms.

Those members range from men with matted beards sleeping under bridges to single mothers and their families holed up in a friend’s living room. It is a range of people scraping toward a home of their own, each individual at a different stage of sheltering themselves.

Beaufort has achieved a measure of security since that first night sleeping on the ground two months ago. She is now a squatter in her brother’s girlfriend’s apartment in Camp Croft, a few paychecks from getting her own place, she said.

Chuck Black, another member of Spartanburg’s homeless, does not share that optimism. A 1990 study of the county’s homeless found that 67 percent were without shelter for less than three months. Still, Chuck has been living in abandoned buildings and camping beside railroad tracks in Spartanburg for more than twenty years and makes no pretense about ever changing his lifestyle.

Each morning, if he has the money, Black buys a bottle of Rock and Rye red liquor and walks to Labor Finders to look for a day job. He has no desire to turn his odd jobs into a regular paycheck, no desire to move from the streets to a permanent home.

“I’ll die out here, that’s for sure,” the 63-year-old Spartanburg native said. “I wouldn’t want it no other way. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it’s not going to change now.”

The spectrum of Beaufort’s temporary slide into homelessness and Black’s chronic transience makes helping the homeless a difficult task. This is possibly the most severe problem we have in Spartanburg. Homelessness comes with a cluster of other issues that have to be dealt with before someone can be stabilized in a residence.

That’s the case for Darren and his wife, Wendy. Their crack habit and problems with alcohol and marijuana got them evicted from their apartment in August. The couple also lost custody of their three young children.

Since then, Darren has stayed at his mother-in-law’s house, spent several nights in his car, and spent a few more at a homeless shelter. The couple was forced out of the shelter and their Narcotics Anonymous group for relapsing into crack use.

Homelessness is often out of sight and out of mind in the South, a region that prides itself on hospitality. Families without apartments are taken in by friends or family members. Folks on the street are cordial or prideful enough to make beds out of the public’s line of vision.

The lives of Bo Carpenter, who makes his home in the canebrake behind the Church of the Advent, and Sam Smith, who builds a fire under a different overpass each night, are evidence of the homeless problem.

Robert Jamison wakes up with his day stretched in front of him – a void of empty time.

Under the Magnolia Street train trestle with eight other men, Jamison throws off the layers of ratty blankets, plastic sheeting, and cardboard that sheltered him during the night.

He takes a morning drink, Old English 800 malt liquor or Bull of the Woods Grape Wine, and scrubs at his teeth with the broken bristles of a toothbrush he carries in his front pocket. Jamison is the man people think of when they hear the word homeless – living on the street, middle-aged and white, an alcoholic and lethargic panhandler – the classic portrait of the wino.

“People don’t know we’re out here. Not in Spartanburg,” Jamison said, his back against the concrete trestle. “But we’re all over.”

Some are out on the street for a few nights while they look for a better place to stay. But a large portion of these men are chronically homeless, without a plan or even a desire to get off the street. A certain portion of these men aren’t unhappy with their situation. They don’t want to come off the street.

That’s the case for Mick Compton, who has been homeless for more than forty years but can’t remember exactly how long. He has tried living in shelters but can’t stand living under other people’s rules. Compton doesn’t romanticize himself as a hobo and said he can remember a time when getting off the street was important to him.

But now, the restrictions of living in society outweigh the uncomfortableness of being homeless. He bounces around a series of abandoned houses he knows most nights and spends his days on the street in front of the Spartanburg County Courthouse, looking for odd jobs.

“Nobody here’s going to tell me how to live,” Mick said, gesturing at the men leaning against the wall in front of a law office. “These guys are going to treat you a whole heap better than folks you meet out in the rest of the world.”

Ronnie Love stands outside an abandoned car repair shop on Main Street, leaning his head on the plywood covering the windows. He had been sleeping in this building for the past five weeks since the weather turned too cold to stay outside at night. Now, all of his belongings, including a coat and a popcorn popper, are inside.

Ronnie is still struggling to adjust to life on the street. He is eighteen years old, homeless since he aged out of his foster home last spring. Ronnie said that soon after becoming homeless, he was raped twice by older men while high on crack. He said he would like to live in a shelter, but his drug dependence keeps him away.

David Oakes, 39, said the freedom of living homeless outweighs the dangers.

Oakes, an Army veteran, diagnosed with manic depressive illness, left his wife and three children in Philadelphia and ran south. He has been homeless for five years. Oakes said it bothers him to see the homeless beg, that the point of this lifestyle is its independence.

“I couldn’t handle all that family jazz,” he said. “It weighed too heavy on me.”

Lying on a dirt shelf under a bridge, he pulls a picture from the breast pocket of his Army jacket. It is a photograph of his family standing in front of their house.


Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, storyteller, teacher, pastoral counselor, and retired pastor.

He can be reached at

Over these past months, I have asked that we contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that these nonprofit organizations are quickly forgotten unless they are called to mind. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week consider volunteering your time or donating to a charity that provides for the homeless. Thank you.


February 26, 2023

I had two calendars side by side on a coffee table in our den. One, labeled 2022, was the calendar I used all of last year. The other, labeled 2023,  is my calendar for the new year.

Our teenage grandson commented, “I guess it’s that time of year.”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s time to break in a brand-new calendar.”

He replied, “You know, if you knew how to use your smartphone, you wouldn’t have to do that.”

“I’m just not smart enough to keep up with my smartphone,” I countered.

He laughed.

 Several years ago, at just about this same time of year, our daughter and her family were packed and ready to depart on an early morning flight for Chicago. Clare was rocking our three-year-old granddaughter, saying goodbye. The little girl was sad to leave after a delightful Christmas here in the Upstate.

She said to Clare, “When we have time together, we must savor every moment.”

We were all surprised at this profound truth spoken by our grandchild. “Out of the mouths of babes…” came to mind.

 When I worked at the lumberyard, the family business started by my grandfather, the days leading up to New Year’s Day were always the time to take inventory. Every 2×4, every bag of mortar mix, and every piece of plywood had to be counted. My uncles, my dad, and my grandfather would spend the week tallying building supplies. I remember taking a pad and pencil to one of the smaller warehouses to count doors and windows. Taking inventory was a tedious task, but it was necessary to the operation of a small business.

Since those days at the lumberyard, I have realized the importance of taking an annual personal inventory. I have tried to set aside some time in the last week of the year to take inventory of my life. I usually get a new calendar for Christmas. I ignore the interruption of the telephone and sit down with last year’s calendar and a calendar for the year ahead. This has become for me an important time of self-examination, prayer, and decision-making.

Some years ago, during my private year-end inventory, I complained to God that I did not have enough time to do all of the things I wanted to accomplish.

In a moment of quiet reflection, I received a message from God. Mind you, there was no flash of light, no audible voice. There was only a quiet truth seeping into my heart and mind.

“Kirk, you have exactly the amount of time that I intend for you to have, no more, no less. I have given you 24 hours every day, seven days every week. Day-by-day, week-by-week, this is what I allot to all of my children. You have the same amount of time as Mother Theresa had. You have the same amount of time I have given to Bill Gates and to Billy Graham. Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer received the very same allotment I give to you. Look at your calendar. This is the time I give to you for the year ahead. How will you use it?”

I realized that, not only do I have enough time, I have exactly the right amount of time, the time God had ordained for me. The words of the psalmist came to mind, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

A friend proudly showed me his Christmas present.

“A new wristwatch!”

“No, it’s not a wristwatch. It is a chronometer. It is very precise, very accurate.”

The new gift on his left wrist looked just like a watch to me. The name chronometer reflects the meaning of the Greek word Chronos. It means time that can be measured, time that is sequential.

A year-end personal inventory presents us with a new calendar, a clean slate. Some things have already been planned for the New Year, but before filling up the spaces, make a list of the things you simply do not want to neglect.

Certain occasions, such as holidays and anniversaries, come around only once a year. When I have gotten a new calendar from Clare for Christmas, the important days have sometimes been marked for me. For most of our married life, we have had regular calendar sessions together. It is a safeguard against a husband’s absent-minded ways.

The birth of a child, beginning first grade, a graduation, a wedding, all are occasions that happen just once in a person’s life. Sometimes these things can be planned ahead of time and written on the calendar. Others are unpredictable and require a spontaneous response.

These non-repetitive events have been some of the high points in our marriage. I think especially of the birth of each of our children. Being together in those miraculous moments are treasured memories for us. 

The Latin expression tempus fugit, time flies, is frequently inscribed on clocks and sundials. The Roman poet Virgil wrote, fugit irreparabile tempus, which means, irretrievable time flees.

It expresses concern that our limited time is being consumed by something that has little or no importance. Time is irretrievable; once gone, it’s gone.

One spring afternoon, I listened to a young mother describe her day. “I wanted to spend some time working in my garden. First, I had a number of errands to run. I left home early, dropped my third grader off at elementary school, took my four-year-old to preschool, picked up a breakfast biscuit at a fast food restaurant, dropped several letters in the gooseneck at the Post Office, went by the bank to make a deposit, dropped books in the return drop at our public library, picked up a prescription at the pharmacy drive-through, and I left dirty clothes and picked up clean laundry at our local dry cleaners. All the while, I was talking on the cell phone. By then it was time to pick up my four-year-old. We returned to the same fast food restaurant to pick up lunch. When I got home, I realized that I hadn’t even been to the bathroom. In fact, I never got out of the car!”

Most of us have had similar days.

Taken together, the two Latin phrases, tempus fugit, time flies, and carpe diem, seize the day, help us understand how we can best be good managers of our time.

Time is constantly moving. It stands still for no one. We need to make the most of every opportunity.

Our granddaughter took all of us by surprise on the morning she said, “When we have time together we must savor every moment.”

It was a remarkable statement for a child, one that she had no doubt heard from some adult in her world. It is a lesson that she has learned from her mother and her grandmother.

Our granddaughter became a little professor for all of us, speaking a truth that we all need to remember.

A good resolution for the new year is to savor every moment, especially those we share with the people we love.

With our grandchild’s admonition in mind, I look forward to breaking in a brand-new calendar for a brand-new year.

Clare joins me in wishing for each of you a blessed new year.


Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, storyteller, teacher, pastoral counselor, and retired pastor.

He can be reached at

December Light 1916 is a Christmas novel by Kirk H. Neely.

It is available at all fine bookstores and all online booksellers.

Over these past months, I have asked that we contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that these nonprofit organizations are quickly forgotten unless they are called to mind. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week consider making plans to give some of your time to your favorite charities. Please include your place of worship in your generosity. Thank you.

Over these past months, I have asked that we contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that these nonprofit organizations are quickly forgotten unless they are called to mind. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week consider making plans to give some of your time to your favorite charities. Please include your place of worship in your generosity. Thank you.