One of the special events for many in our area during our summers are the small and large family reunions.
I would love to simply say that it is a southern tradition, but in reality it has no boundaries. During the early years of my life it was an event etched firmly in our family calendar along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
It fell on the second weekend of August and it was known as the Beacham Family Reunion.
There was another family reunion that we always attended in my early years along with “Ma” and “Pa,” and that was the Currie Family Reunion held above Laurel Hill at the home of Fred, Ralph, and Minnie Currie. We weren’t related, but there was a deep “family-like” bond held by that older generation. I can recall Fred Currie sitting in his ladder back chair looking at his pocket watch, and waiting on noon to arrive. At the noon announcement everyone became silent and the food was reverently blessed.
When Daylight’s Savings Time started, Fred would not change from “God’s time,” but rather the blessing and meal was held at 1 p.m. The Currie Family Reunion is held the same day as our family reunion, so attending both is impossible.
Some things do change
As for the Beachams; my great grandfather, W. K. Beacham, his wife, Elizabeth moved to Laurinburg from Ansonville in the 1880’s as he was given the position to establish a utilities department for the new community. They had 16 children – 14 of whom lived to adulthood. Considering the size of their family, they must have been half the population of Laurinburg during those early years.
I can remember “Pa” as he told and retold the stories over and over following the passing of my grandfather, Papa, in 1955: “We got tired of our family coming together for funerals and decided to start coming together for fun, so the Beacham Family Reunion was born!”
In those early days I can remember going with adult family members to the “ice plant” as it was commonly called or Harris Ice and Fuel Company as it was officially known. There they would bring out a large block of ice from their large freezer room, break it down, and drop it in a crusher. We would then get our double paper bagged ice and carry it home to cool down soft drinks and make homemade ice cream for the main event on the following day. One icy wash tub even contained real lemonade!
Up to four generations gathered at a home on Everett Street, under the shade of pine trees and funeral home tents, as central air conditioning wasn’t even a dream. There was even Aunt Willa, Aunt Pansy, and Aunt Mayme there from the oldest generation, or our parent’s, parent’s generation. I only wish that my current interest in family history had been prevalent it those days, but heck, how many pre-teens or teenagers are truly interested in anything at reunions except eating and playing?
Thinking about eating … There had to be at least half dozen platters of different home fried chicken, and we felt that it was our responsibility to eat at least one sample from each just to discuss which was the best! Of course all of the food was prepared at the homes of different family members and even the vegetables were in abundance, along with casseroles, ham biscuits, and desserts.
In the 1960’s it became obvious to even us young’uns that the family was changing. Older cousins were getting married and there were new family members to meet and new babies or cousins to watch as they grew from year to year.
On one early reunion in 1966, a family member left after eating and died from a sudden heart attack. The tone of the day quickly changed from joy to grief, but miraculously the reunion survived.
The following years brought more losses from our parent’s generation, or the generation that was our foundation. By the early 1990’s the reunion was on life support and an attempt in 1993 and 1994 by a few in my generation to keep it going fell short. After forty years, the Beacham Family Reunion belonged to the ages.
The second weekend of August continued to arrive annually, and most of my immediate family and cousins were mindful of the heritage and fun that we shared in those days past, but there was little motivation to exert the effort restart the tradition.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2011. In an 11 month period the Beacham family gathered 8 times to remember and reflect upon departed cousins, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sons. There were two losses in the older generation, three losses in my generation, and three losses in the younger generation – including our own son.
We began to repeat history, as we looked at each other in our disbelief and grief and said: “We’ve got to stop meeting like this and come together for fun!”
In August, 2012 the Beacham Family Reunion was reborn on the second weekend of August. Family from Florida to Virginia, from Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina attended.
This year we will gather again here in Scotland County in the Mason’s Cross area for another, and it has never been just for family, but also for close, long-time friends. Three generations will gather this year. My generation is now the “old folks,” and we will reminisce and laugh at family stories, our children’s generation will bring their children and babies, and the younger generation will swim in the pool, eat, and play.
We were also blessed this year to receive invitations to two other “non-relative” family reunions: one at Caledonia where about 40 were in attendance and another near Wagram where about 200 were in attendance. Though the sizes of those in attendance vary, the themes are all the same: laughter, fellowship, history, prayers, and the presence of God’s love.
Today, our family reunion is the same as in the past: we will pray and thank God for our blessings, each other, and our food; the adults will talk and laugh, and the children will eat and play. Of course there will be many new faces, there are one or two extra generations that separate us – but you would never know, the host’s home is air conditioned, their screen porch is shaded, and the swimming pool will be full of laughing children, but the opportunity for a family to gather in happy times is always a blessing and – most importantly – the memories being created are priceless!
Beacham McDougald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.