From Competitor To Comrade

In my column today, I want to share with you an amazing account of a continual narrative of my life that started nearly fifty-four years ago in the summer of 1965. The two main characters of this ever unfolding drama are a fellow named Thomas Manning, Jr. and me. At the beginning of the narrative, Thomas Manning was not a friend, but a foe of sorts. However, to be completely honest about it, Tommy (as we called him) was not my enemy. I was his enemy. It all started when I became interested in this girl named Donna (not her real name) who was actually his girlfriend. Donna and Tommy were classmates who attended Maple Elementary School (that was located on Beaufort Quarters). Although, we were in the same grade, I attended Gordon Elementary School in Newtown. I had never even officially met Donna in person, but had seen her from a distance a few times and thought that she was one of the most beautiful girls that I had ever seen. I had initiated a relationship with her by way of the telephone. Without being considerate, I would call her on the phone of Busy Bee Café on Hampton Street. The family who owned and ran Busy Bee were neighbors and friends of Donna’s family who lived right across the street. Almost without fail, they would go and get Donna. Certainly that was a selfish and silly thing for me to do back then. However, when you have been bitten by the bug of infatuation and first love, you can do some foolish things. As my infatuation with Donna developed, due to no enticement or manipulation by her, she became a leading character in my imagination and dreams. Consequently, I launched a daring, despicable, and crazy attempt to take Donna away from Tommy by intimidation, intrusion, and the force of numbers from certain members of the Lucius Road Gang, who were accomplices in my foolishness. As Donna and Tommy journeyed from the Criterion Recreation Center on this particular Sunday afternoon, along with a few of their friends (mostly females), we followed close behind them with taunts and criticism of Tommy that primarily came from me while my buddies gave their verbal agreement. I distinctly remember my attempt to belittle and make fun of him with these words, “Look at him! He don’t even know how to hold her hand.” The joke was on me because when they finally arrived at the front door of her house, he gave her, his girlfriend, a big kiss on her lips as I stood watching from a distance in shame and envy, wishing that I was in his shoes. Ironically, their relationship was very brief and platonic. Nevertheless, I fell deeper into the bosom and bondage of fascination and admiration of Donna, which would last for a few years until I would ultimately be set free by the beautiful and virtuous woman that I have been married to for over forty-five years.
Fate would orchestrate Tommy from being a competitor to being a comrade and friend to me and four of my brothers. We each acknowledge that he has been the one person who has had the greatest commonality and comradery with the Goings brothers over the years that have never wavered or waned. His friendship has remained intact, indelible, and unquestionable. First, as a fellow Gordon Trojan football player, he played as both an outstanding defensive back and running back with four of us Goings brothers at the same time. We shared many gridiron adventures and experiences with our friend Tommy. Then as a member of the P.Y.M Fraternity where he served as the president and I as the vice-president our senior year in high school, we have fond memories and a history with our special friend. He and my brother Randy courted two identical twin sisters for a few years and Randy eventually married one.
Sometime in the early seventies, Tommy started working with my father’s construction crew. As a common laborer and through much diligence, he quickly became an apprentice bricklayer. It wasn’t long before he developed into a master mason who could handle any job or assignment that he was asked to do. He is today one of the most skillful, talented, and prolific bricklayers you will find anywhere who is still working with one of my brothers as his most dependable lead man. Perhaps the thing that I most appreciate and remember about Tommy Manning was that he served as the best man and only witness to my marriage vows. As a matter of fact, he signed the marriage license as the only witness. To his credit as a true friend, it was he who chauffeured my wife and me to our honeymoon destination in Florence, South Carolina and picked us up about six days later because I did not have a car. One of the most unforgettable things that Tommy did in his unique role as our most enduring comrade and friend was to join the Army with my brothers, Randy, Earl, and me on the Buddy Plan back in May of 1975. Our friendship and comradery grew to another level with our buddy, as we all were stationed at Fort Bragg when we finished our Advance Individual Training at Fort Seal, Oklahoma as artillery men. Amazingly, we never had to stay on post because we proved to the first sergeant that we could make the formation count every morning at 6:00 a.m. Those trips back and forth from Fort Bragg truly knitted us together and taught us the importance of teamwork and getting the right amount of sleep when it was your time to drive at 4:15 a.m. in the morning with the lives of your buddies and brothers in your hands.
The last thing that I will share with you about my good friend Tommy Manning and me was the fact that he met his wife Shirley when she was participating in a play I wrote called, “The Children of Ebony.” I had asked him to take some of the cast members to Columbia for me (in his blue Cadillac) where we were scheduled to perform the play at Benedict College. Tommy met Shirley during this time and one thing led to another. Today, they have been married for many years and have two grown children, a son and a daughter, as well as a few grandchildren. Hopefully, my role in facilitating the meeting of he and his wife have in some way atoned for the initial stupidity that I displayed when we first met.