Most everyone in Greenville is familiar with Johnson Street as it is one of the main thoroughfares to downtown. But very few people are aware that Johnson Street between Park Street and O’Neal Street used to not exist. I know, because I grew up in a large white house at 2501 O’Neal next door to Kavanaugh Church.
Facing straight down Johnson toward downtown was the magnificent Joe Becton Hospital, pictured below, which was razed, like so many other great historic structures in Greenville. That was many years ago. Since then our family moved and our wonderful house was torn down.
So, for years, when stopping at that corner, I would look to my left over the vacant lot that housed so many memories. A fleeting touch of sadness would run through me as I’d reflect with fondness, the wonderful childhood I experienced in such a small corner of the world. I was truly blessed.
Over the years, I had grown to regret that we ever left the old white two-story house, and I have more than once imagined what it would be to live there now. I had supposed I would always feel the remorse of what could have been.
One Saturday morning in December, a number of years ago now, I had a great excuse not to join my Kavanaugh Church friends as they were spending the day confirming that I would never realize my foolish hope of building an exact replica of my childhood home. I had decided to deviate from my normal course for my Saturday bike ride to see how far they had gone with their plans to build a playground for the church children.
I was amazed and somewhat ashamed to see so many people working so hard on “my lot.” Instead of continuing my selfish journey, I circled back home, quickly changed and sheepishly returned to see if I could, in some small way, contribute to what seemed to be an almost completed task. As it turned out, there was just enough left to do for me to say I had helped. As the evening shadows approached and the final touches were completed, my only regret was that I had not arrived earlier that morning.
To this day, I still stop and look to my left at that familiar corner. I still get an occasional tear in my eye, but now it is out of joy instead of sadness, for I see a spectacular playground, one that anyone would be proud of, especially me.
I often see children playing and making their own wonderful memories on that glorious lot, memories that may last a lifetime, just like mine.
Kavanaugh continues to care about our city’s children by partnering with Travis Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Clubs. Their Kava-Kids program provides a safe haven every school-day for at-risk elementary students by assisting them with homework and giving them love and support.