Remembering St. Joseph’s | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 19, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: October 18, 2017 at 10:16 am
Charles Williams was going through the family photos amassed by his late mother Vernice Middleton, when he came up with an idea.
Among the family photos were ones showing him and his sister Gail Williams’ formative years; the years spent attending St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and studying at St. Joseph’s Elementary School.
With the church and school gone now, and for the most part forgotten, they decided the photos needed to be seen. “St. Joseph and its history don’t exist anymore, which is really sad,” he said.
Williams brought the idea of donating the photos to the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market to former director Gary Brightwell and assistant director Jill Chadwick. They gratefully accepted the donation and agreed with Williams that the photos could form the backbone of an exhibit to hopefully resurrect the memory of the former school and church.
When Brightwell retired as director, the task of transforming the donation into an exhibit fell to Chadwick.
On Oct. 16, the exhibit, “You Can Get Anywhere in Life from Here,” had its grand opening.
It was the first time Williams got a chance to see the results, and he was ecstatic. His sister Gail passed away before the exhibit was completed. The original plan was to dedicate the exhibit to the memory of his mother, but it now honors his mother and sister.
Williams said the title for the exhibit spurs memories of Father John McCarthy, who started the Gruber Street school. Father McCarthy would end each weekly assembly with “You can get anywhere in life from here.”
“It was imprinted on my mind — I could be anything I wanted to be,” Williams said. The saying rang true “because they taught the basics and they taught it excellently. It was as good as education as you could get in the United States.”
After graduating from high school, the family moved to California. Williams returned in 1978, settling in Columbia and taking a post in the Columbia City Manager’s Office.
St. Joseph’s on Gruber Street and St. James the Greater in Catholic Hill, Williams said, were linked. “St. James and St. Joseph were for all intents and purposes the same parish; we did everything together.”
When St. Joseph’s built a new school, the children who had been attending the elementary school at St. James began attending St. Joseph’s.
Williams said when segregated schools ended, St. Joseph ended. Both St. James the Greater and St. Joseph became part of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. “St. James remained significant; St. Joseph just went away — all the people who did such a terrific job of educating young black kids just went away.”