FORT MILL — If you’ve signed a kid up for baseball, spent a summer day shooting hoops in the gym or been caught kissing boys out behind the pool the past 40 years, chances are you already know Linda Hinson.
Hinson, a staple of Fort Mill recreation since her pin-setting days four decades ago, retired Wednesday. She’ll no longer pass out lollipops or take registrations from behind the Recreation Complex on the Greenway front desk. Which isn’t to say she won’t still be there.
“I’m going to come out here and aggravate everybody else,” Hinson said.
Hinson set pins, by hand, at a six-lane bowling alley that once existed near Fort Mill Golf Club beginning in 1974. She worked at the course and snack bar. She taught exercise classes on the alley and course. When the complex opened in 1977, Hinson started taking guest fees and passing out basketballs and towels there.
“We didn’t have a cash register,” she said. “We had a toolbox.”
Recreation Director Tammy Woods figures she isn’t likely to find anyone who spent much time at the complex in the decades since without crossing Hinson’s path.
“She’s always been there,” Woods said. “And she’s worn a lot of different shoes.”
She’s cooked. She’s led field trials. She’s donned the Mrs. Claus costume during the holidays. She ran a craft fair for a decade.
“She’s been busy,” Woods said.
Paid time included tasks like entering in member information when the complex digitized its operation. It included, a week after her lifeguard certification, saving someone from the deep end of the pool with a shepherd’s hook. It once included the Heimlich maneuver, as a little girl began choking on candy.
But Hinson may best be remembered for what never made it into her job description.
“She also raised most of the kids out here,” Woods said.
Before so many new neighborhoods and the pools or weight rooms that sometimes come with them, there was the complex. At a time when many Fort Mill residents knew each other, parents often left their children at the complex for the day.
“They didn’t think about feeding them,” Hinson said.
So she made peanut butter and jelly. She did a little parenting if anyone got out of line. Hinson still runs into people at the grocery store who introduce her to their children – or even grandchildren – as the lady who looked after them at the complex. Or who caught them sneaking a kiss.
“Linda kept an eye on everybody’s kids,” Woods said.
Those people are the ones who kept Hinson coming back for so many years. Her husband, Dave, is one of the longest-serving volunteer youth coaches the complex ever had. He spent years coaching teams and running the card and comic shop on Main Street. He’d often bring packs of cards and hand them out to his teams.
The pair of them share a love of Fort Mill and the people who make it interesting.
“She loves that job,” Dave Hinson said. “She’d never leave it. The only reason she’s leaving is she’s retirement age. If she was any younger and they’d let her stay, she’d probably stay.”
A native of Fort Mill, Linda Hinson graduated in 1968 from the high school on Banks Street, just beside where she began her recreation career at the Banks Street Gym. Crews cleared and tore down the ld high school building recently. But for Hinson, even buildings like that school or the complex aren’t about the brick and mortar.
“The people,” she said. “The people and the children. I love seeing the babies coming in, the kids taking swim lessons.”
She’ll admit there were plenty through the years who came in with problems, late sports registration and a host of other complaints among them. But Hinson won’t recall those encounters as vividly.
“There’s been a lot of people come through those doors,” she said.
Some people may know Hinson from her full 40 years of service, but many who come in looking for her couldn’t. They’re the youngest members who know her as the lady giving out lollipops if they ask nicely. Recently a co-worker gave Hinson a puzzled look after a request. Proving that even after four decades, there’s at least a little work left before closing the door behind her.
“You’ve got to train them for the lollipops,” Hinson said.
John Marks • 803-831-8166