There are numerous figures of speech such as, 'If I live to be 100 years old...' For this particular Mount Pleasant veteran who turned 100 earlier this month, this lifetime milestone is nothing but a number to man who just eclipsed a century.
James "Jim" Hollingsworth, born Dec. 8, 1918, was the son of a rural West Virginian coal mining family. Back in his days of youth there was no electricity and grade school children walked to school until the bus became an option.
World War I had just ended a month prior to Hollingsworth's birth. Little did he know he would later be woven into the history of World War II.
After completing his high school studies, Hollingsworth wasn't interested in continuing his education. What did spike his interest was joining the National Guard.
The year was 1940 and then president Franklin D. Roosevelt had conscripted a National Guard for a year's training. Hollingsworth penned his name on the dotted line. He signed up and was shipped off for training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.
"A year rolled by and I came home on furlough for my birthday," Hollingsworth said. "On the way home a car radio told us Pearl Harbor had been attacked. All personnel return to their base."
"It was a short furlough," he laughed. Hollingsworth never did get to properly celebrate his 23rd birthday with his family. Duty was calling and he had no other choice but to answer.
That day, Dec. 7, 1941, was the beginning of Hollingsworth's role in WWII. From the point on, everyone was "charged and ready to go." The citizens at home were just as ready as those on the front lines, he said.
When Hollingsworth returned back to camp, 10 days later he found himself on a 'fruit boat' deployed for the Panama Canal. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Panama declared war on the three major Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and allied with American republics in defense of the hemisphere. The objective of Hollingsworth's mission was to protect the canal from being overtaken by the Axis powers, which at the time was one of the most valuable conduits between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
He spent 18 months in the trenches of the Panama Canal and claimed he never encountered combat. He then volunteered to join a regiment to invade Japan. This was his ticket back to stateside, where he would be sent to the Palmetto State at Camp Croft in Spartanburg.
"I accomplished nothing. I was just doing my job as a sergeant," he said.
While at Camp Croft, Hollingsworth was assigned to help make bombs for the war. Then one day the training ceased. He was honorably discharged in October 1945, shortly after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He had the option to enlist in the reserves but he wholeheartedly declined. If he had done so he would have been engaged in the Korean War. After serving nearly five years, the threat of war decided to leave him unscathed.
After being released back into the civilian world, Hollingsworth and his wife Fran (a cryptographist in Washington, D.C. he met after returning home) settled in a garage apartment in Spartanburg. Then they packed up and decided to plant their roots in Iowa. There he would then utilize his GI Bill to study food processing at University of Ames - Iowa State University. This Midwestern adventure was short lived.
"I finally decided this was not the life for me," he said.
In the early 1950s, the next stop of Hollingsworth's post-war career hunt was Charleston. He had friends who lived in the Lowcountry and heard word of mouth about the Charleston Naval Shipyard. Soon thereafter he began working for a company called NavelX, where he specialized in building minesweeper technology.
"I had a good life. I had a good job. We were family oriented from day one right on up through church, school and PTA," he said.
Hollingsworth would go on to become treasurer of Presbyterian Church in North Charleston, his family's place of worship. He helped build the church's sanctuary and also devoted a bit of his time to the Omar Shrine Temple, which he joined in 1964.
Afterward he sent his two boys Bill and Jim to the University of South Carolina. Bill later served in the Air Force Reserves and then the insurance business. Jim elected the National Guard and then the real estate business. Not to mention Hollingsworth fostered 63 years of marriage with Fran, who passed away 12 years ago.
Upon his retirement Hollingsworth took up carpentry. He developed a passion for woodworking, specifically clock making. His home today, in which he independently lives alone, is adorned with an array of grandfather clocks that tic indistinctly. He claims this hobby attributes to his ability to keep his mind sharp.
At his most recent doctor checkup, his doctor couldn't believe how good his bill of health was. He asked Hollingsworth what his secret to longevity was and he said with a laugh, "Two glasses of Evan Williams whiskey every night."
On his most recent birthday, number 100, Hollingsworth received congratulatory letters from noteworthy dignitaries such as Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
"The most significant part of my life was my family. Meeting my wife, raising my children, that was the main part of my life I would say," Hollingsworth concluded.