After searching for three days for my remote with no success, I made the trek to Mullens to visit Shentel. After I related my sad story, the lady there was almost in tears when she handed me a brand new refurbished remote device. That saved me a call to 911, because a lost remote at the start of football season is a real crisis.

I then drove on down the street to my other destination.

I had heard that Joe Hill had been sick and even in the hospital. A quick visit to the bank and a chat with John Lay and Ron Bowling confirmed that Joe had indeed been in a Charleston hospital and had since been released and was staying with a daughter who lives in the Charleston area.

I crossed the street to the barber shop where Joe had cut hair and socialized for the better part of 70 years. Think of that. 70 years.

I read the white paper stuck to the locked glass door. It said, "Closed till further notice."

I pressed my nose against the glass and shaded my eyes so I could look inside.

There was the empty barber chair where countless friends had sat over the years. It looked so lonely - so empty.

I am not ashamed to admit that tears welled up in my eyes at the sight of the empty chair and Joe not around. Memories of bygone days that were still as vivid in Joe's mind as the day they happened. And he loved to talk about them.

Joe was about the same age as my brother Bob. They were in the same class and graduated together from Pineville High School. I never went in Joe's shop unless he asked about Bob.

Probably Joe's favorite sports memory was of the 1946 county tournament in which the Pineville team, led by Joe Hill, beat Oceans and Mullens on successive nights to claim the coveted county title.

Joe was also proud of a team made up of himself and his siblings - the famous Hill Brothers basketball team.

In the late 1940s and early '50s, there was a very popular basketball tournament for independents called the Gold Medal tournament, which attracted teams from all around and featured some All-American players as well as the best of county talent. One of the teams was a team of brothers - the Hill Brothers. Joe, along with brothers Buren, Junior, Carmel and Edwin, soon became the fan favorites and went all the way to the final game before losing. That raised some eyebrows.

Joe met a pretty girl from Mullens and he was forever after from Mullens - not a Rebel, but from Mullens.

Joe, of course, is over 90 years old. But, until this latest bout, he was still in his shop every working day. A few old customers still were loyal, but I think as many came to visit an old friend as much as to get a haircut.

The shop door is locked now, but I hope it re-opens soon. If it does, I will be a more frequent visitor. I want to listen as Joe recalls old friends and old memories like it was yesterday.

Email sportspaige30@gmail.com.

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