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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Erwin recalls Erwin, Erwin's (Feb. 3, 2016 issue)

What a place Erwin must have been to grow up! Lou Thornberry, a native, certainly affirms the notion. His memories of a former schoolmate, who went on to become a North Carolina Superior Court judge, led me to contact William Erwin Spainhour for this piece.
Answering to the name “Erwin,” he has fond memories of the town and Erwin’s, the store. On a recent visit he and wife Jane found downtown, “very attractive.”
Memories tell of the times, as well as his personal experiences. The summer of 1947 he was four and a half. As his family followed the moving van across the mountain from North Carolina to a new home at 418 Unaka Way, he kept “a close eye on my fire truck,” strapped to the rear of the van. At the prospect of not taking it, he had “objected to such an extent” it had to come, too.
“Toys such as bikes, wagons and fire trucks were hard to find during World War II, and Dick McNabb, a friend of my parents and later mayor of Erwin, had rehabilitated that fire truck that he had found somewhere and given it to me. It looked like new.”
Grandfather William M. Erwin had asked Erwin’s father, Richard E. Spainhour, a high School principal in North Carolina, to come help run Erwin’s, the clothing store at the corner of Main and Gay streets (now home to Baker’s Shoe Repair & Saddle Shop). Later, Erwin rode his bicycle around town, including to the store to run errands. He took clothes to Erwin Cleaners, a few doors down Gay from the back door of Erwin’s, for alterations and made trips to the Post Office and bank.
Remembering former Little League baseball buddies, Erwin knows, too, that he “will never forget the awful sadness and tragedy” of losing one killed in Vietnam. They had been on active duty as Army officers at the same time.
Boy Scouting is among memories associated with Erwin Presbyterian Church, as the Men’s Bible Class sponsored Troop 62. Hiking and camping made for “a wonderful place in which to grow up for those of us who liked to be outside and in the woods.”
“The church played a significant part in my growing up and, together with what my family taught me and what I learned academically, formed the basis of my understanding of right and wrong,” he credits.
On a less serious note, he remembers the oily spot left on the sanctuary wall by a napping grandfather’s head. Then, there was initiation into the class for high school boys by upperclassmen “thumping” freshmen on the back of the head when the teacher wasn’t looking. Or, the time the sun angled in just right for a boy to distract others with a shadow image on the wall that looked like a bird in flight. “I do not know the price he paid for this, but I am sure he remembers it.”
Spainhour did, of course, go back across the mountain. At my request, he shared memories about cases he tried as a lawyer and heard as a judge (though retired, he still serves as an emergency judge). Outcomes were serious business—as weighty as life and death. That must be another story.