Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Ole Anderson, the Good Samaritan

by Peggy Lathan
Special to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Think Ole Anderson was always a nasty, cold-hearted villain? Think again.

Those of you who know me know that during the 1970s, I was a regular on the front row at the wrestling cards in Spartanburg, SC every Saturday night. I went to the matches with my mother and grandmother and I can't remember ever missing one. No matter if I was sick, or if I had attended a Clemson football game that afternoon (and raced to Spartanburg after it was over with a Tiger Paw still painted on my face), or had just gotten back from the beach (I had to be back on Saturday!), you could bet that I was always right there on the front row - - section B, row 1, seat 10.

My mom had bought a new pocketbook that had a zippered pocket on the outside flap that folded over the main opening to the pocketbook. She would put her car keys in the zippered compartment so they would be easy to find. One night after the matches (about 11pm I guess) it was raining and when we got to the car, mom could not find her keys. The zippered pocket was empty, which meant we could not get in the locked car. We had to call my dad in Liberty, wake him up and get him to bring us another set of keys. Those were the days without cell phones - we had to use the pay phone in the auditorium. Thank goodness for collect calls! It took about an hour to get from Liberty to Spartanburg.

Anyway, here we were standing at our car in the pouring rain waiting on dad. Most everyone that had been there that night, fans and wrestlers, had already left and went home. Everyone except Ole and Gene Anderson. Being the hated villains, they would wait until the parking lot cleared out before they would leave.

I had been friends with Ole and Gene for several years. My grandmother Nannie loved giving the Anderson brothers a lot of grief at the matches for many of those years. They knew her well.

Ole and Gene came out and saw us standing there and asked me what was wrong. I told him that mom had lost her keys and we were waiting on dad to bring another set.

"So you're going to stand out here in the rain for an hour" Ole asked? I told him we had no choice.

"Wait a minute, " he said and told Gene to go on to the car. Ole went back inside the auditorium and reemerged a moment or two later with a wire clothes hanger. It took him a minute or two, but he finally got the door opened for us.

He told us to get in and lock the doors. My Nannie, who had given Ole such grief from the front row at matches all over our area, suddenly had a momentary warm spot in her heart for him. "You hurry along, too," she said. "I don't want you to catch cold." That was my Nannie.

We thanked him for going to all that trouble to help us, and he jumped in his brown Ford convertible with Gene and they left.

A few weeks after that at another Saturday night wrestling card in Spartanburg, mom lost her car keys again! We had to go to the pay phone and call my poor daddy again. Needless to say, he wasn't too thrilled about that. But my daddy is a good man and here he came again, another hour to the auditorium.

So here we are again, standing at the car and Ole came out and saw us and said "Not again!" I said yep. He just shook his head and went back inside, got another clothes hanger and opened the door for us.

Mom was so disgusted with the pocketbook, she began cleaning it out to throw it away. After emptying the main compartment, she shook it to be sure everything was out. She heard a jingling noise, but the main compartment was empty. But she could tell something was still in there! Come to find out, when she put the keys in the zippered outer pocket and lifted the flap to access the main part of the pocketbook, the keys would fall straight down into the bottom of a false-pocket. Because of a poor design, that outer zippered compartment was not sealed off at the top! There, behind the main pocket of the pocketbook, were two full sets of car keys.

Many of you may know the story of how Ole was stabbed by fan at the matches in Greenville, SC in 1976. I was there that night and helped administer first aid to him as he lay bleeding in a hallway at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium waiting for an ambulance. He always tells me I saved his life that night. Ole's good deeds to me and my mother and grandmother those two nights in Spartanburg might seem less by comparison, but they were just as significant to me. Ole didn't have to stop and help us. It was late on those Saturday nights and he and Gene needed to get on to the next town. But he did help us, and it was events such as these over many years that have led to our lifelong friendship.

I will never forget him being my family's Good Samaritan. Twice!

- Peggy Lathan