Taylor Baynum, a recent graduate of Sussex Technical High School, is the 2013 recipient of the Jim Cresson Scholarship, named for the late Cape Gazette reporter.
Taylor has been an honor roll student majoring in media broadcasting. He played both baseball and basketball and in his spare time enjoys writing music. He will be attending High Point University in North Carolina in the fall and plans to major in communications, concentrating on journalism.
Cresson, a Sussex County native, was a journalist and photographer in Delaware. A Vietnam veteran, outdoorsman, artist, and musician, he had a great love for his country and nature, and a particular fondness for Native American history and culture. He spent the final years of his journalism career writing and taking photographs for the Cape Gazette before dying in an automobile accident in 2005.
The Jim Cresson Memorial Fund Scholarship recognizes a Sussex County senior who, through an essay contest focusing on interests that Cresson shared, demonstrates the character of Cresson. Each year, Sussex County seniors are invited to apply for the scholarship in the second semester of their senior year.
Administered by the Greater Lewes Foundation, the Jim Cresson Memorial Fund was established by friends of Jim to perpetuate his memory. The following is Taylor’s winning entry:
I saw him every morning, at the foot of the hot stove in Pizza King. He was an army veteran. An old guy. A little husky too. Born and raised in Sussex County, Delaware. His socks were pulled up to his calves and he was wearing white New Balance sneakers, looking like an old gym teacher. A man that when you look at him, you would never guess that he has been through hell and back.
Archie was a breakfast cook. Every morning he would be at the foot of the stove pouring French toast batter and flipping pancakes. A job that fascinated me when I was little. Archie was a man that after leaving the army he needed a new start. My dad hooked him up with a job and it seems like he has been flipping flapjacks on a fire stove forever! Or at least since before I was born. I looked up to Archie. Every time I came into Pizza King for breakfast, Archie would make my blueberry pancakes. When he wasn’t busy, he would make animals like a dinosaur or some other creature out of the tasty batter.
As I got older, I began to question something. I questioned why he was always happy. It made me think because I thought everybody got mad or sad, but Archie was always smiling. Archie was nice to every employee and customer he talked to. He colored with the kids at tables and helped out with dishes and cleaning. He would always say to me, “Good morning! And how are you doing today.”
“Good!” I said. “How about you.”
“Well Taylor, so far so good,” He said excitingly.
Why was he always nice? I needed to find out, so I asked my father. He told me that Archie had been through some trouble in the past years. Before he worked at Pizza King, and after he left the army, he had a drug problem. My dad never told me what kind of drugs, but he was messed up. He needed doctors and therapy. It wasn’t good. I was let down. I saw Archie as role model, a great person, and then I hear this. I just wanted to scream. It stuck in my brain like someone tattooed it there. All these drugs led to family drama and he lost his house. He couldn’t pay for anything. Homeless. It sucked for me to hear and see that.
Days, maybe weeks went by without me ordering anything for breakfast from Archie. My diet of blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs had disappeared. Then, one day, I talked to my dad about Archie. He knew him better than I did. Maybe he had a reason for what Archie had been through. “Everybody makes mistakes son, forgive and forget.” So I did. I figured out that he’s changed. He got help and got off drugs. I was just too blind and too selfish to see. He was a hurt man inside and needed a friend. I saw him every morning and I was that friend.
Archie had a white beard. A beard so white it looked like the beards I would form out of bubbles in the bath tub when I was a little kid. But the beard, the beard was a mask. The smile, an expression to help hide his emotions. Camouflage them so no one could notice. The one thing I remember most is when he took that mask off. Recently, he lost his 31 year old son. I never knew how or what really happened, but when I saw Archie, his mask had fallen to the ground, shattered into a million pieces. He cried. Tears rolled down his cheeks, eventually dampening the white beard. A couple weeks later, he returned to work, happy as can be. He must have gotten a new mask. I thought.
Archie has been through a lot. Everybody knows that. Especially him. But when I see him at the foot of that stove in Pizza King flipping pancakes into the air, he does it with smile. The thing about Archie is I can never really tell when he’s wearing the mask now. I think he enjoys life. He got a new start. He is grateful for it as well. Because he’s happy. The most important thing Archie has taught me since I have known him is that you always need to keep your head up and see the good things that you have. To be grateful that you are alive and well. That you have friends and family by your side. It always brightens my day to walk into Pizza King and see Archie working. I order my blueberry pancakes and while I’m chowing down he says, “How are they.”
I say, “So far so good.”