Appeared in the September 2010 issue of The Southern Genealogists Exchange Quarterly

POMPEY RIDE THE ROOSTER

By J. G. Braddock Sr.

Pompey is the best remembered character of everyone who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina in the same era in which I did. He played a key role in what has always been one of my favorite remembrances of childhood. Because of some genealogy information sent to me by a distant cousin, he came back to haunt me almost 60 years later in a surprising and pleasant sort of way.

After arriving in Charleston in 1941 from Jacksonville as an eleven year old, Colonial Lake, several blocks away from where I lived, became one of my favorite hangouts. The rectangular shaped lake covers a several block area and is no more than three feet deep. A tunnel from nearby Ashley River supplies salt water to the lake. The bench-lined sidewalk around the lake, with little pedestrian traffic and no danger from automobiles, provided Charleston youngsters of my day an ideal bikeway for racing and for roller-skating—provided Pompey wasn’t lurking nearby to catch you and confiscate your bike or skates.

Pompey was a middle-aged plainclothes juvenile police officer who patrolled the streets of Charleston on a bicycle looking for young scofflaws up to any mischief, including skating and bike riding where they shouldn’t. Any time he passed by, some kid well hid behind a bush or tree or automobile was bound to yell, "Pompey ride the Rooster just like he uster!" a cry every kid in Charleston knew well. The "Rooster" was his red bicycle.

Every person who grew up in Charleston in my era has a Pompey story to tell. I have mine:

One day the A & P grocery store downstairs from where my family lived placed some old bread racks behind the store. After they sat several days, three playmates and I pronounced them discarded. We dismantled them by removing the pipes and spacers that held them together. With a saw and hammer and some nails we fashioned a rectangular shaped boat from the wooden shelves. We generously coated the seams of the boat inside and out with roofing tar to make the boat waterproof. We planned to hand-carry it to Colonial Lake and launch it. However, the tar made the already heavy boat almost too heavy to lift by four young boys, much less carry it several blocks to the lake. We had to load it on a wagon to get it to the lake.

With much fanfare we launched it, climbed in, and embarked toward the other side of the lake. A gallon of roofing tar notwithstanding, water immediately began seeping slowly through her seams. We helplessly watched it cover our feet and ankles and begin working its way up our legs as we rowed furiously to get to the other side. We rowed in vain. She slowly settled to the bottom halfway across. As we stood in her, water up to our chests, wondering what to do, a voice boomed from the far sidewalk, "You boys are under arrest! Come on in!"

There sat Pompey on the side of the lake in his usual uniform, a business suit and tie and a straw hat, astride the Red Rooster, waving for us to come in.

"What for?" we asked.

"For swimming in the lake!"

"But we’re not swimming! We’re in a boat!"

Seeing no boat, he naturally thought we were being smart-alecky. His face became as red as the Rooster. "Don’t get smart with me. You get in here right now, or I’ll make it even worse for you!"

Knowing we would never convince him we really were in a boat, which was now firmly stuck in the lake’s muddy bottom, we started slogging our way toward the other shore. Riding the ‘Rooster’ at breakneck speed halfway around the lake, he sat mopping his brow and waiting for us. We turned and headed back the other way, but he headed us off again. We stopped and refused to come out of the water. Apparently having more pressing business elsewhere, he rode off after sitting astride the Rooster and stewing several minutes. We waited in the water another ten minutes to make sure he had gone and was not trying to fake us out, then crawled out, grabbed the wagon, and hightailed it for home.

I did not know Pompey’s real name until April 15, 1983 when an article titled "Yesteryear: Skaters and ‘Pompey’" appeared in the local newspaper. The article gave it as Spencer C. Schill, which meant nothing to me at the time. The article went on to tell that Pompey was not the uncaring kill-joy our young minds had conjured him up to be, bent on keeping us from having fun. His job was to protect pedestrians by enforcing the law prohibiting skating and riding bicycles on sidewalks and to protect us from being run over by automobiles by enforcing the law that said we could skate only on streets from which the city had blocked off traffic for that purpose. If he caught you violating either law, he would confiscate your bicycle or skates. However, he would show up at the miscreant’s door that evening, hand over the bicycle or skates to the parents, and ask them to caution their child about the dangers of bicycling or skating in unauthorized places. Bicycles and skates weren’t his only jurisdiction with juveniles. Although his job was to protect the children of Charleston from endangering themselves physically, it was also to keep them from endangering their futures. I’m sure that the thought that Pompey might come riding around the corner on the ‘Red Rooster’ at any minute deterred many a youthful criminal intent.

Fast forward to 1998:

Cousin Barbara Hunt Apodaca, who lives in Nevada, sent me a full page of genealogical information on one of the branches of her limb of the Braddock tree. One of the names on it seemed vaguely familiar. She noted by the name, "My great-uncle Spencer Schill worked for the police department in Charleston for 20 plus years." I pulled from one of my scrapbooks the yellowed old newspaper article about Pompey. From it and the genealogy Barbara sent me I learned that Pompey, the man who threatened to arrest me almost 70 years ago, was my 3rd cousin, twice removed. I wish I had known that then. I would have reveled in bragging to all my playmates that the notorious Pompey was my cousin.

I also learned the following from Barbara, who is Pompey’s grandniece:

Pompey’s father, Gustave A. Schill, was born 10 October 1850 in Ebhausen, Germany and migrated to New York in 1869. A fellow German he met in New York, who owned a lot of property and orange groves around the St. Johns River area, enticed him to come to Florida to work for him. Some time after his arrival he met and married Ruth White Braddock 13 March 1883. Ruth, who was born 24 March 1865 and died 20 March 1940, had a heavy dose of Florida pioneer blood in her. Her parents were Spicer Christopher Braddock Sr. and Jane Harvey Houston. Spicer Christopher Braddock Sr. was son of William Braddock and Charlotte Christopher. Jane Harvey Houston’s parents were John Carroll Houston and Mary Greenwood Braddock.

Gustav and Ruth had ten children, all born in St. Johns County, Florida:

Gustav W. Schill, born 27 February 1884 in Florence, FL, died 23 March 1965 in Jacksonville, FL, married first Daisy Ortagus 2 October 1904, married second Emma Frances Mickler 22 May 1912.

Mary (Mamie) Greenwood Schill, born 13 March 1885 in Oak Ridge, FL, died 31 December 1953, married Domingo Pacetti 10 Nov 1902.

Marshall Charley Schill, born 28 December 1887 in Florence, FL, died 6 August 1954, married Grace Tucker.

Spencer Christopher Schill, born 27 December 1890 in Florence, FL, died 12 November 1953 in Charleston, SC, married Belle Catherine Mickler.

Ruth White Schill, born 7 January 1893 in Florence, FL, died 15 April 1982, married first Cecil M. Dupont, married second Gus Olson.

Esther Schill, born 7 January 1895 in Florence, FL, died 12 November 1910.

Frances Schill, born 2 December 1896 in Florence, FL, died 23 October 1987 in Jacksonville, FL, married first Edgar C. Iwanowski, married second Forrest Keller.

Jeannette Schill, born 24 March 1898 in Orangedale, FL, died 17 April 1987, married Francis Reyes.

Ozilla L. Schill, 3 February 1901 in Orangedale, FL, died 7 November 1993, married first Lawrence Baya, married second Elzie L. Tanner.

Annie Schill, born 14 Apr 1904 in Orangedale, FL, died in 1984, married Curtis Charles Skinner.

Some of the surnames added to the Schill family tree by the descendants of the children of Gustave and Ruth are Reyes, Pacetti, Iwanowski, Barbarito, DuPont, Gibbs, Hunt, Jones, Wallis, Apodaca, Baya, Tanner, Skinner, and Swindler.

 

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