John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Memoirs and personal remembrances

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Chapter 9 - WW I ends, my parents marry, I was born

In 1918 at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" an armistice was declared in Europe and led to full peace talks.

The allied politicians characterized the event as the end of "The War to End All Wars."

The American people gloried in this mindset through the 1920's, the returning "dough-boys" perhaps most of all.

They truly believed they had "made the world safe for democracy."

In a few months David Julian Whichard came home to find a father tired of newspapering -- it is possible that he was already beginning to feel the effects of the disease which would take his life in a very few years.

During the war David Jordan Whichard had taken on double-duty, serving also as the Postmaster for Greenville.

Now he wished to give that position his full attention

He sold The Daily Reflector to his son who became editor and publisher.

It took Sam Bridgers longer to get home.

He was sent from France to Germany to server in the Army of occupation while the Treaty of Versailles was being negotiated.

When he got back to Elrod his father, John Bridgers, provided him the single rehabilitative hand back into civilian life -- he took him to a nearby general store and bought him a new suit off the rack.

So outfitted Sam traveled to Wilmington to see Mr. Bennett, his old boss and still regional agent for the Railway Express.

He left Mr. Bennett's office designated the new agent for the office in Lumberton, N.C. the county seat of Robeson and near his boyhood home.

Once more provided with gratis train travel he set off for Greenville.

Within one week Essie Whichard became the wife of Sam Bridgers.

The ceremony must have been modest for it was held in the Whichard home.

The couple went immediately to Lumberton when Sam took up his new duties with his new wife as his paid assistant.

But this was not to be a completely happy interlude at either end of her leave-taking.

She was apparently very homesick, and as well, was evidencing unusual restlessness.

My father recalled that just before the marriage my grand-parents had apprised him of their daughter's "breakdown" in college.

He had felt it was too late for second thoughts, and indeed, thought he could handle any such condition.

The warning came back to give him discomfort.

Essie's father, at once, was missing her badly.

I never heard anyone in the Whichard home speak disarmingly of "Pappa," though of course, this was after his death.

Apparently things were not always that happy when he was alive, according to my father.

Many times, particularly at meals, Grand-mother and "Little Hennie" were said to be on him about this or that.

On one such occasion my mother joined in and my father said:

"Mr. Whichard just looked at her sadly and said, 'Not you too. Essie.' "

She broke into tears and left the table not to return.

It would seem the two of them found solace in one another.

Though reportedly happy with her husband she was unhappy in Lumberton, and home beckoned as a haven.

Post-master Whichard enjoined his son-in-law to take the civil-service exam, and if successful to take a job with him.


So it was that Sam and Essie Bridgers returned to Greenville in less than a year, and Sam became Assistant Postmaster.

Without fully realizing it Sam Bridgers was becoming a Whichard in spirit if not in name.

His first step had been going to work for "Brother Henry" Sheppard.

His second step had been his marriage, his third had been going to work for his father-in-law and his fourth moving in with his wife's family.

Mother returned home carrying me, and when her time came went to Kinston in the next county so that she delivered in a hospital.

I was born on July 4, 1920 -- I would be 10 - 12 years old before learning that all the celebration on my birthday was not for me.

This completed the family circle I would first remember as a toddler.

David and Hennie Whichard gave their daughter a wedding present of the building lot on Ninth Street just behind their corner home.

The small home Sam Bridgers built there was the first expansion toward the family compound to come.

We lived with the Whichards during construction, lived in the new house briefly and moved back to the big house when my mother's mental status required more hospitalization.

All this happened below the sill of my memory.

Deep in the mind, operative though irretrievable, are circuits activated by the first things which happened to us -- records of experiences intermingled with the built-in imprints of instinct

Though we can't bring these things to the level of consciousness they're there -- the shadows of memory.

It's hard to say what we really first remember, but we do generally know who we first remember -- those to attended us before we could care for ourselves.

The first thing I'm certain I recall is the birth and death, in the same day, of twins, a brother and a sister, -- this is also the first definite memory I have of my mother.


I doubt I actually remember my grandfather though I was told so much about him it's as if I do.

Sometime in my first year the family learned he had pernicious anemia, a disorder which in those days was uniformly fatal.

In addition to weakness from a decreased blood supply, there usually are digestive difficulties and progressive neurological deterioration.

He spent his waning days in a rocker on the front porch and I've been told I played much around his chair.

There is a snapshot of us together.

He died just after my second birthday when he was only 60 years of age.

Later in medical school I learned that injections of crude liver extract were found to ameliorate pernicious anemia within the year after his death.

I can recall the first thing I remember about my father, though not exactly when it was.

It was Christmas eve and I was trying to get to sleep in our bedroom which was the front parlor of Grandmother's home.

The room was heated by a small wood stove, the flue of which entered a large metal sheet which completely covered the opening of the fireplace.

My father assured me I need not worry for Santa Claus would find his way down the chimney one way or another.

I also remember my mother taking me in the post office one day to see my father, which was across the street from David and Hennie's office.

Soon after David enjoined Daddy to join him in business.

My father said he told David that he knew nothing of the newspaper business, and that David's reply was:

"Come on -- we'll learn together"

That was the first step Sam Bridgers took in becoming as much a Whichard as a Bridgers.


That transfer happened in 1923 and the two of them were to work together in the same office daily for the next sixty years.

They grew as close to one another as either of them were to any of their own siblings, and closer in some instances.

This also completed the family staff of "The Daily Reflector:

    • David handled the editorial and production end of things,
    • Daddy handled the solicitation of most of the ads and kept the books,
    • "Little Hennie" handled the circulation and the society news, helped in the latter by my mother,  and
    • "Crick" was liaison with the people in the tobacco market, which was the backbone of the town's economy.

We all continued to live with Grandmother at Evans and Ninth.

The next thing of great moment to happen in our group was the birth of my sister in 1924, Elizabeth Sutton Bridgers.

From the first I remember everyone being taken with her.

I remember her as a pretty, healthy baby becoming a pretty and lovable child-- as a toddler she developed long, golden curls, the color of which all said came from our grandfather.

Four years is a considerable age difference in the pre-school and early school years, but we spent time together.

The one thing which irked me about Libba was that she was totally unafraid of the big collie dog belonging to the Phelps, across the street, whereas I was petrified of him.

David was particularly attentive to me in those early years.

He had one of the few automobiles in town -- a large Buick touring car, a convertible sedan with rubberized and isenglass curtains which could be fastened across the side openings in inclement weather.

In the back seat there was a square storage compartment in one corner, and that was my private perch when riding.

I often rode around with him on his various errands, and he often found time to get me to special events such as parades, circuses, wild west shows and the like -- he enjoyed them as much as I did.


"Crick" always had a moment for us, but it was usually in passing -- he always seemed to be on the way to somewhere else.

David and "Crick" were as different as two brothers could be, and one would suppose their dominant genes came from different sides of the family.

David was quite short, certainly not more than five and a half feet, and probably less.

Though very slight in his later years he was stocky and well set-up as a young man.

He was quiet, but had a very dry sense of humor, and could be counted on for terse and wry comments.

He was brown-haired and had character in his countenance.

"Crick" was of swarthy complexion with decidedly black hair.

Most considered him a handsome young man, and I remember him as looking a lot like Robert DiNero, the mover actor.

He was of average height, probably just below six feet.

He was a great talker and often described as never having met a stranger.

His conversation was often banter, but he lacked the irony of his brother.

There were close to one another, but in general had different sets of friends -- with one amazing exception which I was to discover later.

________   _   ________


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