Friends meet again after 60 years

Published 10:29 am Saturday, June 26, 2010

FRANKLIN—Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scottish writer from the late 1800s, once wrote of friendship that “we are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”

He could have had James Olds and Roy Chambliss Jr. in mind with that phrase.

Olds and Chambliss were childhood friends who lived about six houses from each other on Gardner Street in Franklin and graduated from Hayden High School. They were best friends. But they went separate ways in the 1950s and hadn’t seen or spoken to each other since.

Until Thursday, when they sat down for lunch together with their nieces at Preau’s At Station One restaurant in Franklin.

“He went in one direction and I went in another direction,” Chambliss, 79, said of his 80-year-old friend, Olds. “This is the first time I’ve seen him in 60 years.”

Both men left Franklin — Olds in 1948, Chambliss in 1950 — and served in the U.S. Army.

Olds entered the service during the Korean War, then returned to Franklin and worked at the Navy yard and the air station. He then went to work for Bethlehem Steel, where he retired. He now lives in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Chambliss went to Virginia State University, then entered the service for three years. He returned to Virginia State to work for the next 40 years in the purchasing department. He retired 16 years ago and now lives in Petersburg.

Their nieces, Elsie Olds and Belinda Reid, both attend New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Franklin.

“I found two years ago that my uncle and her uncle grew up together,” Elsie Olds said. “They haven’t seen each other since they left school.”

The nieces coordinated schedules so the next time their uncles were both in town they could see each other again.

Asked if he recognized Olds, Chambliss laughed, “Oh yeah. I could tell by the way he walked.”

The two won’t let another 60 years go by before seeing each other again.

“I’m going to stop by his house in Petersburg on the way back to Baltimore,” Olds said, to which Chambliss added, “I’ve got two nephews, one lives in Maryland and one lives in D.C. When I visit them, I’m going to drop by him and see what he’s doing.”

Elsie Olds said she was pleased the old friends could get together again, and even offered up a quote of her own.

“Friendship is a rare thing nowadays,” she said. “But friendship can survive throughout the years.”