Andrew Dys

December 17, 2013

Rock Hill Salvation Army bell ringer whistles Christmas carols

A Salvation Army bell ringer entertains as he collects outside a Rock Hill Walmart.

The carols go on. And on. And on.

Walmart shoppers go in and out, in and out.

Somehow, the whistling bell-ringer’s lips do not get tired.

“O Come, All Ye Faithful,” fills the air outside the Newport Walmart. Then comes “Winter Wonderland.”

Not lyrics. Not music on the radio.

These Christmas carols are whistled by this one bell-ringer, 59-year-old Navy retiree Kavin Scarborough.

In front of the store at the far northeastern edge of Rock Hill – 10 hours a day, four days a week and sometimes more – Scarborough rings a Salvation Army bell and collects donations. There are many volunteers and some people are even paid to ring the bells and collect for the Salvation Army in red kettles that are as much a part of Christmas as fat Santa.

The Salvation Army helps the poor, the needy, the hungry – and Scarborough is sure proud to do his part.

But there might be only one whistling bell-ringer who has become an icon in his hometown. Only one has people showing up daily just to hear him and drop dollars in his kettle. Scarborough is now in his third year of ringing the bell – and whistling – outside this same spot.

“This is one way I can do some good for people, and entertain them at the same time,” Scarborough said. “I run into old sailors like me and we laugh. Some people just like to stop and listen.”

Service runs in the Scarborough family. Back in 2010, after the Haiti earthquake and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Scarborough’s granddaughter, Gracie Ramsey, 7, stood next to their home for hours selling lemonade to send to help the people affected.

Scarborough does stop whistling from time to time – almost always to thank people who donate, sometimes just to say “Hello” and “Merry Christmas” and more to the shoppers.

But mostly, he whistles.

There’s not a Christmas carol he can’t whistle. He does take requests.

“I’ve always whistled, but I’m no professional whistler,” Scarborough said. “Whistling pros are something else. I’m just an amateur.”

But the customers seem to like it. The money drops into the bucket. The people smile and Scarborough stops a few seconds to thank them.

And then he starts up again.

“Silent Night,” whistled.

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