ROCKINGHAM – I’ve always been fascinated by people older than me. Listening in amazement as they told stories about what it was like to be a young boy or girl during the Great Depression. Stories of childhood adventures, adolescent hi-jinks, school days or jobs they held. I learned so much listening to these stories of life long before my own really began. This is one such story.
Mr. Doris Weldon Cannon was born at home in 1930 to a family that included 7 brothers and 4 sisters. His entire family worked a 60-acre farm in Andrews, South Carolina, raising tobacco, corn and sugar cane. Doris was named Horace by his mother who took ill following childbirth, but his sisters decided to change his name by changing the “H” in Horace to a “D” and changed the spelling to make his name Doris – a name that caused him some teasing throughout his school years.
When Doris was 14, his father died, forcing him to quit school and work the farm full time. Doris worked for his oldest brother who now owned the farm. He plowed and worked that farm for 50 cents each week and one-half acre of tobacco, but he still found time to work part-time at a garage. In 1947, Doris left the farm and came to Rockingham where two brothers and two sisters lived. His first job was at Lawrence McInnis’ garage making $45 per week. It was during this time he met Lucille Player who would become his wife and go on to celebrate 73 years of marriage and counting.
One day a man asked if Doris would like an “inside job” and he said “sure,” and for the next 5 years he worked as a meat cutter. Doris worked hard and enjoyed cutting meat until Roy Benoist offered him a chance to own Rogerson’s store in Blackbottom. Roy loaned Doris $3300 to buy the store including enough money to make change for customers the day he opened. $3300 was a lot of money back then.
Doris would stay in the grocery business for 34 years. He started the IGA store in 1976, served as a county commissioner for 8 years and, after selling the IGA store in 1982, he would sell used cars for 23 years. Today, Doris can be found caring for his wife, attending his church, or having breakfast and lunch at the Holiday Restaurant. He always has a kind word for everyone and a wry sense of humor. A quiet and friendly man, he is affectionately called “the mayor” by the breakfast crowd.
Asked if he ever had an opportunity he regretted not taking he said, “absolutely not.” He never regretted staying in Rockingham for more than 70 years and building a life here. He described his formula for life very simply: “Go to church, be honest and care for people.”
Older people in our communities hold years of wisdom gained through life experience. Their stories can inspire us and help us better understand and navigate the world around us. Doris’ life shows us that where you start in life doesn’t control where you end up. That life is determined by the decisions we make, the doors we open and the doors we decide to not enter.
If you know someone with an interesting life story, e-mail me and I may write about them as well.
Ed O’Neal graduated from Richmond Senior High, served in the military for 24 years and is an inventor and business owner. You can reach him at Ltcedoneal@hotmail.com or 910 995-1366.