The CRS Club
by Russ Lancaster
The CRS Club… no one can say for sure when it started but it exists even until today (2000) and has for quite some time. It consists of a group of long time Hamlet citizens and even though it has no written charter or rules, they are understood by group consent. They meet Monday through Friday around 9:30 a.m. and again around 1:30 p.m. There is even a Saturday morning session. The meeting place is an old time gathering place on Main Street – The Birmingham Drug Co. There is a story on that fabled old place elsewhere on this site.
Oh yes, the name – CRS… it is an acronym for "Can’t Remember Squat". Actually "squat" is not they word they use but it suitable here for family reading. I’m sure you can fill in whatever you like that starts with "S".
The Birmingham Drug Co. allows the club to use two small tables with eight wooden chairs right in the front of the store by the plate glass window so they guys can monitor the events on Main Street. They have their own coffee pot, cups, cream and sugar, and charge each other 50 cents per cup. Heck, they may even buy you a cup of coffee if they take a liking to you.
Nothing escapes their eye, a customer entering the store has already been had by these wily old guys before they come in the door. Mostly it is kind comments they utter but let a good looking young (or old) female walk by or even feint an entrance to the store and these guys suddenly become as frisky as teen-agers. They are truly amazing.
There is not much about Hamlet they don’t remember from 1912 to the present. You name it, they have a story. A living encyclopedia they are. Go by and say hello to them sometime. Ask them a question about Hamlet. You simply cannot stump them. They are dentists, railroaders, reporters, athletic directors, store owners… they are Hamlet.
I know… you want to know their names. Let’s see if I can get it right. There is JT Graham – retired railroader, Bert Unger – retired reporter, editor and city councilman, Jules Hughelet (youngest of the bunch) – retired Jeweler and current antique dealer, Victor Farris and his guide dog Gabby – retired city councilman, Joe Blaylock – retired master of all trades, John Williamson – historian of the group, Wilson Ramsey, Julius Crowell – retired railroader, Wingate Williamson (Class of ’41) – dentist for the last 55 years and still practicing, Herbert McManus (Class of ’35) – retired railroad officer and father of a gorgeous daughter that I had a crush on for many years, Tyree Brown – one of the best baseball coaches ever, Bobby Brown – owner of the Hub Grill during my teenage years, Nelson White – railroader and baseball coach, Monk Thomas (Class of ’41) – retired businessman and former owner of the Pink Platter restaurant, Nelson Henry from the HHS Class of ’46, and last but not least, Bob Wood. I may have left a few names out and apologize in advance if so, but, as I said, there are no written rules nor any written memberships. These guys know their own rules. I will probably hear from some of them about all my mistakes but will welcome their criticism.
Some of these men have weaseled their way into historic events like attending the funerals of both Eisenhower and Kennedy. You would not believe the places they have been. Heck, if you name a town anywhere in the U.S., they claim Wingate Williamson will have been there. True or not, that’s the way it is.
These men, this Club – told stories while I was there in 1999 about the first inter-racial athletic contest ever held in the state of North Carolina when their VFW semi-pro team took on the old Capital Highway High School in a basketball contest. This happened way back between 1948 – 49. They say they won the game but only because the black athletes let them. I saw that old team (the Railers) in action as a young boy and know they were good but I won’t discount these guy’s memories. They also talk of the last time a Hamlet High School team ever beat Rockingham in a football game. Seems it was back in 1948 when they met three times in the same season with Hamlet winning one of those contests. I know I can’t remember such a thing happening.
There are two men missing from the club that should be there, Jack Howie and my dad, Jack Lancaster. They have both passed on but I suspect they keep tabs on this group from the hereafter. They would have fit right in.
Billy P. Horne (as I knew him) and his son Bill Horne as well as Susannah Horne must think well of this group as they allow them their gathering place. I suspect they listen in on some of the conversations as I did. What a nice group of owners to provide a place for some of Hamlet’s finest. I did see a "no smoking" sign posted prominently in their meeting area. Questioning them about that I was told that sign stopped a couple of them from coming in but for only a day or so. Carrying on the memories is much more important. The thought of a cigarette never entered my mind while I was talking with them even though I smoke a pack a day (soon to quit, I hope).
I thank the Horne’s for allowing them a meeting place, I thank the Club for its existence, the men for their memories and the town of Hamlet for allowing it all to be there. It is a place like no other I have ever known.
Someday, some morning, take a stroll down Main Street Hamlet, take in the sights, remember how it used to be, what has changed and what has not. Remember all you will and when your memory fails you, walk into the Birmingham Drug Company, look around the walls at all the old railroad pictures from 1939 to the 1960’s. Then, look up front by the plate glass window. You will see them there – the CRS Club, those who are there and maybe even a hint at those who are no longer around. Ask them to refresh your memory with things not written in newspapers or books or recorded on film or video. Let them tell you of Hamlet’s great old past from the memory of one who has been there and seen it all. You will be truly impressed.
Thank you, Hamlet… thank you Birmingham Drug Company… thank you CRS guys… I remember you all, but most of all…. I remember Hamlet.
This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.
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