November 4, 2004
Camilla-- Some people wish for a return to the old days and the old values, believing they have gone forever. For those who long for those days, you can step back in time if you go to Camilla and talk with one man in particular.
"Yes, sir. What can I do for you," says Vernon Twitty like he has said thousands of times before to customers. Those words, once common, might sound strange unless you visit his feed and seed store where time seems to stand still. "I've been here since 1936, about 70 years," says Mr. Twitty, sitting on a wooden stool behind a wooden counter.
No "plastic" needed-- the old paper system works just fine, as well as the hand-crank calculator and cash register, both at least 50 years old. "They are old and they've been here every year," says Mr. Twitty, who has been in his store every year, too, noticing how people have changed.
"One thing you always had was you depended on people, what they say, what they did and live up to their word," says Mr. Twitty. And, you can depend on him. "I was raised that way," says the businessman. Every Thursday he has a lunch date he hasn't missed since 1947. "That's 57 years," says Mr. Twitty with a proud grin. More than a half century of perfect attendance, going to at least twenty-seven hundred Rotary Club meetings, not missing a single one. "Yeah, that's a lot of them, all right," says Mr. Twitty a few minutes before the weekly meeting.
He came close to losing his perfect attendance one time when he was hospitalized, but fellow club members came to his rescue. "The Rotary Club got several of its members together, went to the hospital and had a meeting with him so he would keep perfect attendance," says Harris Morgan, a Rotary friend.
The local club started in 1944 and they immediately drafted local service men as members, even though the service men were off fighting World War II. Vernon Twitty and several other veterans kept their membership. During those 57 years, he did more than eat lunch. "I was treasurer for 22 years," says Mr. Twitty.
And a darned good one. "Didn't lose any money; Collected from everybody," says Mr. Twitty, including Robert Kirbo who has been his lunch buddy for a long time.
"About 30 years," says Mr. Kirbo who remains amazed as his friend's perfect attendance. Vernon Twitty saw his club change with the times. Women joined. Members call each other by their first name. Titles not welcomed. Monthly dues were eight dollars a quarter. He doesn't know how much they are now since the club's drafts his account.
The Camilla Rotary Club raises about $25,000 yearly for local projects, an achievement he is proud of. But something never changed in those 57 years. "I enjoy the company more than anything else," says Mr. Twitty who ranks as one of a few of the one-point-two million Rotarians worldwide with a perfect attendance record that keeps getting better every week. "I figure I'll be right here," says Mr. Twitty as he leaves the meeting.
You can bet a Rotary name tag on it.
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