Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wash It or Park It !


With our insatiable hunger for country stores, rural roads and those one-of-a-kind enterprises, we were drawn off the road by this sign. It is clearly an imperative statement since there's no question mark. They don't offer to wash it for you, they seem to command one to produce a clean car. Since none of the parked cars are clean, this would appear to be the dirty car impound. Who knows what became of the drivers.

Wash it or Park It appears to be the idea. We see some tough signs on the road and from where we sit, " Wash your Car ", does not sound like a request.

This demand appears stronger than signs against litter, speeding and failed health. Some billboards forbid motorists to have kidney disease or strokes. Others inveigh against mannequins and demand that we fight them or their philosophy ( Fight Mannequinism dot org or comm or something ), but that seems a bit one sided. Now, when we're talking strong signs, the ones we really like are those erected by SCDOT which grant motorists Godlike power when it begs, " Let 'em Work, Let 'em Live ". They'd better hope we're in a good mood when we come up on the road work.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

At Fenwick's Gate with Stoney's Date


Here we are at the gates of Fenwick Hall, no closer than we were to the Governor's Mansion a while back in Columbia. Sometimes we show you the icing, but not the cake. Fenwick Hall became a metaphor for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction as it had served that purpose not so many years ago. The house at Fenwick Hall would not be visible from this point so it will remain a mystery for the moment. The greater mystery, however, is the actual age of the place.

Samuel Gaillard Stoney in his classic " PLANTATIONS OF THE LOWCOUNTRY ", places the date at 1730. Sam Stoney was our recognized authority on local plantations, his book a Bible for those who studied and explored them. With renewed interest and some poking about the place, Mr. Stoney's date has been called into question.

Whether these doubts are the studied concerns of professionals or the raising of sand by folks who want to be noticed, the fact remains that Stoney does not attribute the date of 1730 to an actual source. It's a simple question easily posed today, but if Sam Stoney was alive it would be a different matter. He would likely settle the question either by producing or quoting his actual source or he would simply tell the doubting folks to go straight to hell. Either way would suit us.

Sam Stoney was at times even more interesting than the topics on which he wrote. He was a creature of a different era and would tolerate none of the modern massaging information or the endless nattering of consultants. The lack of documentation gives pause to the new people, but it well might be that he had this on good account. Stoney wrote historical sketches of 55 plantations constructed from 1686 to 1878 in his 'PLANTATIONS OF THE LOW COUNTRY" which was probably published around 1938 to 1940. He died in 1968. He had access to aged folks who kept either oral or unofficial written history. Not only are most of his sources dead, but they were usually genuine articles who might not have granted other researchers such information as Stoney was given. We generally respected Stoney's research and opinions without demanding documentation.

Regardless of whether the date of 1730 stands under modern scrutiny, a local architect believes that Fenwick Hall is at least pre-Revolutionary and, as he adds, " That's plenty old ". Mr. Stoney would probably agree on that at least

Monday, April 24, 2006

Asked and Answered


Now, we're not on very solid ground here either literally or figuratively. We are off the road on Johns Island, SC, at the foot of Bohicket Road, in a field and somewhat enchanted by this sign.

We are facing a fork at the end of this road. The path south leads to Seabrook Island, a once pristine sea island now developed into very expensive real estate, home sites and resort opportunities. The path north leads to Kiawah Island, a once pristine sea island now developed as above, but more so. This is to say, if you want to mondo in their condos, it's mucho dinero.

Every property owner, renter, visitor, peddler and abductee is greeted by these signs upon emerging from the gated developments. It's the first thing they see on their return to the real world where three dollar a gallon gasoline seems a relative bargain. Kiawah and Seabrook Islands have been extremely successful, earned tons of cash for savy investors and have highly elevated property values and taxes. Outside of the gates, island folks have only the elevated property taxes to enjoy. Many owners of modest homes, small farms, family businesses have been taxed off their properties. There is no villainy here just the cold heart of commerce beating the exit music for the little guy.

As to the signs, at law, this would raise an objection called " asked and answered ", a gesture by an attorney to make a statement rather than ask a true question. They are written in or a mock up of the Gullah dialect which bedevils standard English and often mixes plurals and possessives among other language gymnastics. We will let readers Google both " Gullah ", a delightful dialect and " Buckra ", decidedly not an expression of flattery. As to the body of the complaint, we will let readers consider what has happened and why. Comments or questions are welcome, but we won't speculate further in this posting. A speaker of Gullah might say simply that this has been " Axed and answered ".

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pray at the Pump


Gazers upon the TV box and increasingly internet dwellers seem to love bad news and demonstrate an amazing tolerance for even the clumsiest of reporters and networks which heap it upon them. One need be neither smart nor look good as long as the news is bad. Of course, you don't have to drill for bad news with all the unprovoked gushers covering us with the stuff.

Rising oil pricing is that bit of grit within the network oyster which brings forth pearls of wisdom. The frazzled soccer Mum or the grizzled working man will be posed at ....the pump. Their angry mugs will be wide angled into the screens of the pore counting viewers while the voice-over adds, " Some folks wonder where it's all going to end ". Well, it's not going to end until some bold step is undertaken. Would you like step into the convenience store, wait in a long line of lottery loiterers or would you rather Pray at the Pump ? Why not just drop down on those weak knees, bow your head beside the windshield washer font and pray like hell. We will !

As a measure of our sincerity we traveled to a church camp meeting area in search of inspiration and found a prayer pump. We believe that this could be the boot camp which would launch thousands who would go forth and Pray for Petrol. Some may fail through weakness of faith so their only alternative is the "Georgia credit card", a length of syphon hose.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Caeser, Visa and 50 Days O' Easter


Fifty days in the life of All Saints Church, Pawleys Island, SC, is, but the wink of an eye. They were founded in 1848. 50 days means at least one oil change for the Mustang, founded in 2005. It means one mortgage payment to most mortals and just ten days to the next one. In a fifty day period we pay Caesar, Visa and some fellow member of the congregation is waving the alms basin in your face about seven times. We may cross paths with the hearse, the curse or worse during that time.

Now, today, April 21, you're probably sighing, " Well, thank heavens Easter's over." You would be wrong. It ain't half over and for you sinner's, hell ain't half full. Easter has a Fifty ( 50 ) day run so there's plenty of time for your soul to pick up a nail and go flat halfway down this road. You clueless lot who think you can prove or disprove Easter may also believe that you can speed right through these 50 days, but you'll just wear the tread clean off your soul. We haven't found this important principle in scripture yet, but the soul is where the rubber meets the road.

The clearest testimony to this is the fact that the Energizer Bunny is stands for Easter, get it? When their marketing geniuses went to work, they didn't take a cheetah, horse or monkey, they co-opted (stole) the Easter Bunny for their own because THEY knew that Easter is really a fifty day event.

All Saints Church had been on the Episcopal Church's main road for most of it's long life, but recently they took a detour down the Anglican alley. They broke with the main church and its doctrine. This won't be a 50 day plan. Better break out that atomic powered Energizer bunny because this story will keep going and going and going....

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Horse of the Same Color


In our travels to and through scores of small towns we find many in the process of reclaiming and resuscitation of their faded downtown commercial sections. In some towns those areas are coming slowly back from the dead. In others, the city fathers have brought the main stream back to Main Street before the last of them had checked out.

We've noticed that in most of these revived towns a hallmark of the restoration involves some sort of theme. For many it is animal mascot statuary, models of which grace their corners and squares. Hendersonville, NC, proudly posted bears in many postures, Athens, GA, placed dogs ( dawgs ) of a single design on the sidewalks, Aiken, SC, has horses. Aiken is home to more real than statuary horses, but their displays are far more colorful than the real thing. A decided advantage is that they draw visitors, but do not drop road apples in the path of tourists.

Being fond of the horse metaphor we were taken by Aiken's distinctive steeds and toured the town for them. Being the blue Pony car, as it were, we were drawn to a horse of the same color. In the center paddock of the town we found the above pictured (four legged) beauty. Well, he's blue in the neck only. Otherwise, the horse seems to be sectioned off to represent various promotional messages. He looks rather like one of those old U.S.D.A. beef maps of a cow detatiling its various cuts. Perhaps he's a guide to the more tender chops of the town which lights the way through the choice into the prime portions of Aiken.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

You Can't Get Gin from Corn or Corn from the Gin


Motorists not in tune with our back road ways seldom see any sort of crops until they roll into the produce department of a grocery store. Interstate cruisers probably think that unseen farming is devoted entirely to food crops if, in fact, they give the matter any thought. Well, don't be toting your corn here or the boys at the Williston Gin might find a way for you to wear the cob home. This gin is for cotton, but then they might raise a glass of good seasoned corn if the gin has a good season.

King Cotton was once the major economic force in the U.S. prior to the onset of the Civil War. Cotton was our major export much of which went to England and as such was significant to the economy of the North as well. Cotton could be seen as white oil in that it was to the industrial revolution what oil is to our way of life today. We have, of course, had some fussing over both.

It is making quite a comeback in South Carolina which anyone who drives the secondary roads of our state during growing season has seen. Williston Gin has been in business for just over a hundred years. It's not a museum. When you slip into that eighty dollar Izod shirt or fall upon your high thread count sheets, that cotton might have been ginned at Williston right on Hwy 78 in South Carolina.

We know where cotton is planted and ginned, but we speculate that polyester is grown out there on the interstate closer to its market.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bridge Ices Before Road


Not today, thanks. Well, where ARE we? Muncie, Indiana ? Yellow Knife, Alaska ? Moose Jaw, SK ? Nope. We're in Georgia ( USA , Not Russia ). We didn't see a lot of ice even though the bridges in South Carolina warn, year 'round, that " Bridge Ices Before Road ". Georgia is more seasonally correct in reminding drivers that " Bridges Freeze in Winter ". No muskeg to report in that portion of the Peach State.

It being April and the ground visible, we pulled into this store to see about some red clay tires as that appeared to be our only road challenge at the time. The man said, " We ain't got no ' red clay ' tars, but what you need are some sidewalk tars since that seems to be whar you lack to drive ".

We resisted the urge to leave a portion of our "tars" on his sidewalk and eased on down the road before the gentleman reappeared with some sort of tar iron.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Samoa Toccoa


Rolling up Georgia Hwy 17 five days ago we slipped into the town of Toccoa without ceremony and with a decided lack of wonder. We don't fault the place for looking like just about every other place since those other places look pretty much like Toccoa so it's nobody's fault. Our sights were set above and beyond Toccoa. At that moment, however, one eye was open for a gas pump with the number "93" upon it, the other on the fuel gauge. Neither eye paid much attention to the town we were passing through like you-know-what through a goose.

Suddenly there loomed a grand mirage with a covered bridge, babbling brooks and what could pass for one's old Kentucky Home. As pastoral scenery goes, this was one for the books. The fact that this was all packed into the parking lot of an auto parts store made it all the more odd. We thought we saw Stephen Foster looking over the spark plugs in the store.

It was so realistic that we almost hit the proverbial wall since that's just what this is: a painted wall. This mural, as many like to call them, (fresco is the correct term) is beautifully done, most convincing and had it not been for our ABS braking system, we might have bought into one of the town's leading businesses, the Toccoa Casket Company where all sales are final.

Faithful readers will recall our fascination with these artistically painted masonry walls. They'd become so popular that you will see more of them on the road and many The day will come, however, when someone will lament in song or story the passing from the national scene of the plain, blank, windowless concrete wall. " Where have all the blank walls gone..." We can pass that one along to Joan Baez. She'll probably need a job by then.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Return to Glory: Greenville's Westin-Poinsett


One of our central pleasures in the making of this journal is the finding and recording of buildings, businesses and places of color and individual charm just prior to their passing into grist for the developers' mills. It takes all the horsepower we can muster just to stay a building ahead. When we overtook the old Poinsett Hotel in Greenville, we were stunned by its tasteful return to dignity, its exciting return to glory. " Magnificent " is too weak a word to describe the place.

Little more than a generation ago, the Jack Tarr Poinsett Hotel had become a boarded up refuge for bums and dopers, hookers and outlaws with a watered down version of the Manson family sequestered in the ballroom. It had developed its own eco system and probably had a rain forest within the building. It had been a sister ship to Charleston's Francis Marion Hotel in the Jack Tarr Line, but it went to the bottom with the general sinking of downtown Greenville.

What sank Greenville's downtown sank most other downtown areas in the region: flight to the suburbs and the sprawl of malls beyond the city limits. There were, of course, certain other factors, but this was the basic drift. The shoppers, diners and customers of the community excised the downtown with all the regret with which one parts with a gangrenous limb. " Grim " is too mild a word to describe the process.

Many downtown areas languish yet today and some of the comebacks have been partial even artificial. Convoluted traffic designs, curious plantings in wayward medians and funny lighting do not a revival make. Greenville's downtown has come back to life in a robust and orderly manner by sound planning, prudent investment and sheer dint of will. Charleston resident, Steve Dopp, is fully responsible for the inspired renovation of what is now the Westin-Poinsett which illuminates the once dead end of Main Street.
The enlightened partnership between Greenville's Mayor and the business community has reanimated the corpse of their downtown and given it the happy human face of independent businesses. They are not dominated by chain stores and formulaic franchisees.

Not every business is new and not every business surrendered during the declining years. Charlie's Steak House around the corner on Coffee Street, the last place in the world where one can still obtain Thousand Island dressing, has been serving beef to beat the band for a mere 87 years. " Steadfast " is the right word for Charlie's.

We'd love to check into the Westin-Poinsett and avail ourselves of all their amenities except valet parking. We still like to do our own stunt work including parking. Mayor White might give you the keys to the city, but we ain't giving up our keys to nobody.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cedar Shoals City Hall ?


We cruised into this historic north Georgia town on a bright spring morning last weekend.

This town began as a tiny settlement and trading post that evolved at Cedar Shoals, where an ancient Cherokee trail crossed the Oconee River. When we relieved the American Indians of the burden of the lands which they wandered, we at least kept the Indian's names of those places.

In 1801 a group of gentlemen made their way to Cedar Shoals much as today's developers forage the pristine coastal ranges for their next Condo Mondo sites. These five men had higher motives. One of their group, a John Milledge, purchased 600 or so acres on the high ground at Cedar Shoals and donated it to a yet to be built institution of higher learning chartered six years earlier by the state legislature, the General Assembly.

This tract of land laid within the boundary of Jackson County, but the General Assembly cut those 600 odd acres out of Jackson and named it Clarke County in honor of the Revolutionary War hero, Eligah Clarke. Milledge named this town after a cultural center from the Old World. Can you name the city as it is known today ? A small hint follows on the panel below:

Find the Hidden Name

Here's your one and only clue. The name given by Milledge to Cedar Shoals is hidden in the artwork above. The artist, Hirshfield, hid his daughter's name in the pen swirls of almost every cartoon he drew. This artist may be a bit this side of Hirshfield so it might be a little easier to guess this one.