White Socks

I was surprised to recently learn that Don Giles, a friend since fourth grade, usually wears white socks six days a week. It’s not for style. He says they’re better for your feet. Enlightened by his example, I’m considering a gradual shift from black as toe holes mature.  

Socks are not something Don and I normally discuss. The subject came up in a text with him and our pal Mike Chason on my 70th birthday. Mike shared some memories from our time at Valdosta State College. He recalled my innovative pairing of black socks with white tennis shoes on the basketball court.

To be clear, I wasn’t on the college team. Coach Jim Melvin preferred players with high-school experience and talent. The same was true when James Dominey of Vienna took over. The gym, however, was open to students on weekends and was a gathering place for guys to shoot hoops. We tried to attract cheerleaders but none jumped at the chance. 

Don, Mike, and I were members of Delta Chi fraternity, which consistently excelled in intramurals. I wasn’t a prospect for that roster either. Mike, a high-school basketball star, played with Delta Chi but polished his game with us outliers on weekends. 

Several fraternity brothers, including Don and me, decided to form an intramural team just for fun. The Delta Flyers were sort of a low-talent version of the Globetrotters except for our special strategy – ignore the score. 

We didn’t fly very high so I saw no need to change socks for our games. I wore the black ones I’d begun the day with, thereby avoiding unnecessary additions to a smoldering laundry pile. 

Black socks fit perfectly in my pursuit of roundball mediocrity until our coach pulled rank. Danny Chadwick, another fraternity brother, was a Physical Education major and took his leadership role seriously. He decided we should dress like a real team.

Danny politely suggested I wear white socks on a couple of occasions, then finally delivered an ultimatum. “Joiner,” he said, “if you show up with black socks again I’m benching you!” Not wanting to jeopardize a three-game, two-point scoring streak I complied.  

Mike’s mention of my unique attire prompted Don to suggest a column: “White socks and other things I’ve learned as I’ve grown older.” I can’t promise anything exceptional, but the best place to start is perhaps the beginning. 

One of my earliest lessons came because of our dog, Mug. I followed her into the wheat field until she left me behind. Having no idea how to get home, I sat on the ground and cried until Mama found me. Daddy explained later that looking up could have helped me find the way back. He said to look for a tree top or something high and walk straight toward it. 

Since then I’ve discovered there are thousands of ways to get lost. Some are minor detours while others lead to dead ends. Regardless of how far we’ve strayed, though, the best path forward comes through looking up.

Captain Kangaroo deserves credit for another early lesson, one that’s essential. He taught me to sing the ABCs, a tune that still readily comes to mind. Mr. Green Jeans, Dancing Bear, and Grandfather Clock were regulars on his show. I don’t remember much about the series except that Grandfather Clock slept a lot. He was probably tired from having too much time on his hands.    

A third thing I learned early is to keep a salt shaker in the truck during summer. Daddy and I loved wild plums and both preferred the half-ripened stage. Each year we’d stop on the roadside at volunteer orchards. We’d sprinkle salt in our palms then lick each plum before rolling, chewing, and spitting the seed out. 

Pomegranates were another seasonal favorite of ours. Mrs. Dora Rogers had a big bush from which she generously shared. My earliest memory of eating a pomegranate is of sitting at our breakfast table as Daddy separated the fruit from the bitter pulp.

When I asked if the President of the United States had someone who prepared his pomegranates, Daddy said he didn’t know. We put a few in the freezer one year but they were mushy when thawed. Some things are intended for the moment and not much use later on. 

Hopefully, that won’t be the case if I make a belated transition to white socks. Switching colors fifty years ago kept me from being sentenced to the sidelines, but making a change now may be even more important. If white socks are good for the feet, they’re bound to be good for the sole.              

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3 Responses to White Socks

  1. Judy says:

    Thanks for the enlightenment; a good start to the day.


  2. jim pearson says:

    Mr Joiner: Thanks for continuing to remember me in your ramblings. Never before have I read such a way to present stories. Please keep it up. As you may recall I am a 91 soon to be 92 somewhat homebound old man who began reading you column some years ago here in Moultrie. Thanks again and may God bless us all. We need it. Jim Pearson


  3. Curtis Greer says:

    Brother Neil, another good’un. p&B


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