In Memory of J.B. Milano

The Watermelon Saga

It was the summer of 1955 to be more exact it was late June of 1955 just a week shy of the 4th of July. John Milano my best friend and his family were going to get a fresh watermelon from the Watermelon Capital of Would Pageland, SC. He asked me if I wanted go? Not one for turning down the chance to see the “Watermelon Capital of the World” I jumped at the invite and asked my mother if I could go. She called Mrs. Milano and asked if it was okay for me to go? My mother gave me the okay and slipped me several dollars with instructions to bring her a ripe watermelon.

We all loaded up in Mr. Milano's' 1951 Black 4 door Caddy. John his younger sister Janet and I set in the back seat and Mr. Milano and Mrs. Milano in the front seat. David the oldest son was working at the A&P Store bagging groceries. After traveling through Matthews and Monroe we finally arrived in Pageland. Watermelons were on every street corner with pickup trucks piled full. Mrs. Milano was ready to stop at the first the first stand, but Mr. Milano told her we would go further into to town and the prices would go down because these farmers were further from the people coming from Charlotte to buy a watermelon. After several blocks Mr. Milano wheeled the black Caddy over the curve and we all got out. Mr. Milano was a natural “Wheeler Dealer” and started haggling with the farmer over the prices of the watermelons. After what seemed like forever a deal was reached by the seller and buyer. Mr. Milano asked the farmer if he bought a dozen melons could he get a better deal? The farmer scratched his chin and rolled his eyes for about a minute and said; yes I can give you a better deal. A price was quickly reached and we started loading watermelons in the trunk, with the trunk full we still had more melons that were piled on the floor board of the back seat. The last melon was placed on the front seat between Mr. & Mrs. Milano.

We left Pageland with the back bumper of the Caddy only inches away from the ground. As we started up Highway 601 towards Monroe the car was a handful to steer with front end swerving from left to right and right to left. Mr. Milano could only drive at about 35 miles an hour to keep control of the car. After several miles we hit some great big hills and Mr. Milano rode the brakes down the hills with cars and trucks blowing their horns as they past us. I don't remember how far we got when the car began to bump bump and Mr. Milano let out a string of profanities that we had a flat tire. We drove at a snails pace until he found a place to pull over and change the flat tire. The fun began when we had to unload the watermelons out of the trunk to get the spare tire and jack out. With sweat running down his face Mr. Milano got the tire changed and then the heavy work began loading those watermelons back in the trunk after he secured the flat tire and jack in place. John and I were pressed into service picking up the melons and handing them to Mr. Milano as he stacked them in the trunk. With one melon left Mrs. Milano asked Mr. Milano if we could cut it? We were all hot and thirsty. He agreed and pulled out his trusty pocket knife and began to cut on the melon handing each one of us a plug of the red juicy melon. That was one of sweetest melons I ever ate. We worked on the melon and what was left the yellow jackets feasted on.

Back on the road again we finally we reached Monroe. As we rode by the Union County Courthouse a Monroe police officer blew his whistle and motioned Mr. Milano over to the curve. Mrs. Milano asked Mr. Milano what he had done wrong? He said: he didn't have clue as the police officer walked up to car. The officer wanted to see his drivers license and wanted to know what he was hauling in the trunk. Watermelons officer as he handed his drivers license to the officer. After looking at the license he asked Mr. Milano to step out and open the trunk. Mr. Milano got out and he and the officer went to the trunk and Mr. Milano opened it. They stood for a few seconds and Mr. Milano closed the trunk. The Officer shook Mr. Milano's hand.  Mr. Milano got back in the car laughing. Mrs Milano wanted to know what was so funny and why did he stop you. Mr. Milano said, he thought we were hauling “Moon Shine” in this big black Caddy with the back end sitting down on ground. After what seemed like hours we finally got back to the Milano house. After we unloaded the watermelons I borrowed Janets little red wagon took my mom a watermelon. This is not the end of the story. Mr. Milano made a sign and stood it up in his front yard “Watermelons for Sale.” John and Janet set out in the front yard as traffic drove by and after several days of slow sales and over ripe melons the white flag went up and remaining melons were drug to back to dog lot where they rotted away. In late September the Milano's had some of the prettiest watermelons vines on the street behind the dog lot.