Monday, January 29, 2007

Aboard Kirk's enterprise


We will resist the temptation to ask Scottie to beam us up and make no report as to the status of intelligent life found down here. We have paused at the intersection of Old Number Six Highway and Resort Street, the portal to Kirk's enterprise.

Kirk's is, but one station in a planetary array of waypoints along the coasts of Lake Marion in Orangeburg County, SC. Each of the landings has a marina or some form of dockage, a campground for recreational vehicles and dining opportunities. Each has an individual charm in both design concepts and the manner in which they do business. Most have origins dating back to the days when lake property was cheap and fish camps were the primary land use. The lake and it's inhabitants are in for a sea change.

All those certain parcels of property laying, situate and being upon the banks of Lake Marion, once known as fish camps are hereafter classified as "WATERFRONT" property. By this simple errand of semantics Crappie roe is transformed into Beluga. Leftward migration from the decimal point in the future conveyance of these parcels will confirm this principle of the Realtor's "First Miracle".

Expect land prices in these parts to go, shall we say, into orbit.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Outpost at Huger


Things are quiet here at the confluence of Steed Creek Road and Hwy 41 in Huger, SC. Huger is an old South Carolina name pronounced, "Hugh--Gee" or even "You-Gee", but NOT "Hugger or Hew-gur". We know the name of the community and its correct pronunciation, but we don't know the name of this store. It has the ambiance of an outpost. From time to time someone comes to the door and stares out at nothing in particular.

At this junction one is safely out of reach of urban sprawl and ghastly malls. Steed Creek Road runs back to Hwy 17 North just above the point to which malls have sprawled. There's pressure to widen Steed Creek, but preservationists just want it patched. On the way here we had to dodge a deep pothole and very nearly hit an oncoming car. We vote to patch that road. From here one can head north on Hwy 41 or west on Hwy 402 which skirts a series of old plantation properties then past Mepkin Abbey to Moncks Corner.

Without a doubt development is rushing up Hwy 41, but for now it's peaceful, uncluttered and uncrowded. It may be a little too uncrowded for the folks who run this store. One pump's out of fuel and we're not sure what's in the other. It seems slow going here, but they appear to be surviving.

And so the juggernaut of development will roll over this place in time. The dominoes are falling this way from Mt. Pleasant. There will be gated communities at least one of which will have "Pointe" in its name. The SUV's will then outnumber the tractors and logging trucks. The white tires will be replaced by landscaped gardens with embedded lighting. This little store and those who work it will be gone and replaced by a massive convenience store stocked with everything you find everywhere else. We bet even money that it may well have "El Cheapo" in its name.

For now this is just a little outpost waiting on the inevitable.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nope, but thanks for asking.

Visit Mustang Rolling

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

..but what became of the monk ?


As children we heard this well known song many a time, but never did it remind us of anything so much as Hampton Park in Charleston, SC:

I went to the animal fair,
The birds and the beasts were there;
The big baboon by the light of the moon
Was combing his auburn hair.

You ought to have seen the monk,
Who sat on the elephant's trunk.
The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees,
And what became of the monk, the monk?

We're parked in front of the gazebo on the east end of Hampton Park. The park is bordered by The Citadel, Dunneman Avenue, Rutledge Avenue and Moultrie Street. It's just over 60 odd acres and odd they were indeed by the 1960's. Hampton Park was built as part of the West Indian Exposition of 1901 of grand structures, elaborate lighting and a horse racing track. Any photographic account of Charleston's history worth it's silver salts will display pictures of the Exposition's opulent layout.

Those accounts go on about President Theodore Roosevelt's visit, the dramatic horticultural presentations, the mass and scale of the thing and on and on. Some accounts just end there while others begin with the new Hampton Park which we see today. There's a very large gap between those two periods. You don't read much about the park going broke after the Exposition nor are there detailed accounts of the zoo which by the mid 1960's had entered a period of squalor matched only the Tijuana Jail. We had a lion with three legs, a large bison in a very small fenced cage and the world's most profane and hygienically offensive monkeys. Visitors often tossed cigarettes at them which they had learned to puff and what they tossed at visitors we do not wish to describe. There were interconnected troughs of putrid water in which otters and some undefined slimy creatures would frolic. There were, we believe, actual mutations which obtained from these confinements.

Ponds surrounded by concrete sidewalks were home to some pretty weathered swans, random ducks, hobo coots and things which caused swirls at the water's surface, but did not show themselves. At a nice little concession stand one could buy snacks, but children bought mostly Cracker Jack of which they ate only small portions preferring to feed the balance to the demanding waterfowl. They would advance with viscous honking noises upon children offering treats while snapping angrily at the tiny hands. There was not a pleasant creature in the park. Nothing herein reminded one of Walt Disney's sweet little animal hooey.

Well, the aviary wasn't so bad. It had a very large tubular frame of galvanized pipe with miles of chicken wire wrapped about the enclosure. There was room for only short flights though creature-to-cage-size ratios were the best in the park. There were some talking birds which bad boys had taught to say nasty things. Careful mothers moved the kids swiftly past this exhibit on to dazed and smelly, but non-swearing animals.

Around 1975 the City began a program of reforming the park which remained a somewhat dangerous place into the early 80's when Charleston Police established their horse barn in the park and conducted saturation enforcement against muggers and bums. Today Hampton Park is full of beauty and light. It's visited and used by citizens more now than ever. This very gazebo, however, has been the end of life as many men knew it. They hold weddings here. Speaking of creature-to-cage-size ratios...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Where Did They Go, Why Where They Here ?


Usually we try to provide some background of the places we visit, some reason for its being and our being there as well. Sometimes we know their past lives and sometimes we do a little research. All we have are a few faint memories of this nice little row on the north side of Heriot Street just west of the City of Charleston Fire Station.

This is a curious building which seems to be a set of units, perhaps stalls. It could have been a stable at one point in time. Charleston is filled with many buildings which have been through generations of widely varying usage.

We recall that in the not too distant past several vendors used these spaces to sell raw seafood and cooked goods. Live crabs and sandwiches were sold, beverages and bets went down. It was a busy place of foot traffic and happy faces. The offerings varied a great deal from day to day. There was no advertising or open promotion so it was clearly by word of mouth that buyers were drawn to the delights of the day.

It was that way for many years then one the people and the electric meters were gone. This enchanting building has no place in the new development of the Neck area of the Peninsula. It's probably not old enough to qualify for preservation protection, but then there are few if any who trying to save structures of character up here.

Should anyone happen upon this posting who has further knowledge of the use and history of this place, please send us a comment. It would be nice to know more as we'll soon only have this photographic record. It was not frequently photographed through the years. The world mourns the fall of great hotels, but little notes the passing of these little points in time.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Signage of the Times


We're parked in front of Mel's Filling Station on Dorchester Road, North Charleston, SC. Don't expect to pick up any Quaker State motor oil or S&H Green Stamps or any of the ten cents per gallon gasoline. This is not a functioning store, but an automotive museum. The classic signage on the building is more than a gesture of nostalgia. Next door is a garage filled with old automobile from the thirties, forties and earlier.

Today, January 11, was to be the first regular meeting of the Lowcountry Model A Club. We didn't pop over to check it out, but devoted owners of classic cars seldom miss an opportunity to get together. Those who suffer through laborious restoration of ancient automobiles obtain a bond similar to brothers of combat.

The Mustang in the photo is actually a nostalgia driven design. It owes a lot of its lines to the 1969 Mustang GT. Now that the Baby Boom Generation is the 50 to 60 year old range, nostalgia is a heavy pitch tool in marketing.

We wonder whether our graceless present so overwrought with expediency and mass marketing causes our longing for kinder times or whether we tend to paint the past with a warm sepia tone that obscures the reality of those good old days.

Anyone who has ever hand cranked a Tin Lizzie or fretted over old pitted ignition points or tried to hand tune the carburetors of early 60's sports cars learned now expressions of profanity in the process. The pure fact is that living day to day with what are now classic cars was no small misery when one depended on those rigs for daily transportation. Not one honest person in a hundred would not be grateful for today's microprocessor controlled cars which start first time, every time cruising 100,000 miles between tune-ups.

It's only when we are safely out of such dark ages and able to afford modern, comfortable, safer transportation that we begin to miss the bad old times. What men once suffered bitterly through out of necessity they now undertake joyfully as hobbies.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Scarecrow, Icon or Harbinger ?


The concept of elevating an exalted icon goes back as far as the origin of church steeples. The church spire rises to the heavens as a gesture to the Almighty. This icon lords over an area just a few miles west of Felderville Community, SC. It has a purpose which we are unable to define at the moment.

The most likely explanation is that it once promoted an automobile repair shop in the distant past. It is decidedly the BEFORE image if that's the case. As the car seasoned it may have come to represent a junkyard or auto parts recycling center as they prefer to be called. Whatever its original purpose, it appears to be freewheeling these days. There's nothing at the foot of this monument to reap the rewards of its attraction. It is for all intents and purposes abandoned and adrift aloft.

This reminds us of the many odd items seemingly abandoned along the country roads which we travel. They take on a certain presence which will not suffer themselves to be moved. No one carts these things off. This custom is not limited to commercial turf. We cannot count the trucks, tractors and automobiles which lay fallow in yards and fields. Every cent of value has rusted out of the vehicles which are fully beyond restoration. Why are they kept?

The subject automobile appears to be an early 50's Chevrolet. One day it's going to tumble back down to Earth, an event which seems unlikely to be provoked by mortals. A little more oxidation and good gust of wind should do the trick. Maybe even rusty hulks find their way into the sentiment of human hearts.

We can only wonder whether this thing is used to ward off unwelcome visitors. Could it have become an icon of spiritual proportion for the community ? Perhaps it's a harbinger of the fate of the fossil fueled automobiles secretly maintained by the Sierra Club. We don't know. We're the first to admit that it's a wretched looking piece of junk, horrid and without the first redeeming feature. Still, we always look for it to appear as we reach this point in the road. We'd miss it but, we can't say why. We, too, appear to have fallen under its spell.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Out of ReTirement


Oh, that's a dreadful header, but it's quite literally what this store is all about. This nice little CBS (Concrete Block Structure) is located on Hwy 301 at the lower tip of Calhoun County. It does not yet appear in the National Register of Historic Places, but it is surely a place with a past.

In fact, a past is about all this place has today. It was probably a bit more prosperous as was most of Hwy 301 before Interstate 95 was laid. Hwy 301 supported a host of general stores, gas stations, diners and motels or motor courts as they were called in pre-interstate times. Accordingly, the traffic which 301 conducted through South Carolina supported quite a few folks and their families.

Since 301 is a conventional highway, drivers could pull over any time, at any place which attracted them rather than waiting for an exit to which one is guided by billboards on the interstates. Frequent visitors such as truckers and traveling salesmen got to know the places and people who ran them. You could get directions from local folks who actually knew the area, the latest jokes and random thoughts on the human condition. The shopkeepers probably had many a tale to tell their friends of travelers who stopped along the way. Travel was paced and there was time to visit.

Once Interstate 95 was opened, traffic on 301 dropped dramatically. Just as reduced blood flow brings atrophy to the body's extremities, the many independent businesses on 301 soon went the way of the yellow leaf. It happens fast and in a sense freezes things in place. Nothing new was built so what you see today is where the clock stopped on 301.

Perhaps the sale of used tires is enough to keep these folks going. We'd have suggested PRE-OWNED TIRES for the sign, but we weren't asked. Even though they have only a two star rating, we figure that they've got enough confidence to give this a go, but we note the little yellow sign which says NO CREDIT. It's one day at a time for this operation. They're buying no green bananas.

Friday, January 05, 2007

No More Water, but by FIRE Next Time !


The promise of "NO MORE WATER" sounds like a drainage project for this flood prone area of the Crosstown in the middle of peninsula Charleston. Good news? Not a bit of it. When you have a closer look at the north wall of this house on President Street at the Crosstown there is a stronger message. "NO MORE WATER..BUY BY FIRE NEXT TIME" suggests that the 40 days and 40 nights of rain endured by Noah and the Ark crew was a relative pleasure cruise compared to what's next for a wicked world. In less than 4 hours of hard rain these streets are under a lot of water so this location is appropriate. Gridlocked drivers get a nice long look at this message when their cars flood out.

The message is a traditional one of lessons not learned, of squandered grace and of a great reckoning to come. Forget your umbrella for the next round and put on your asbestos underwear. Whether one believes that "JESUS IS THE ONLY FIRE ESCAPE", even the secular humanist can already smell the smoke.

We're not sure if that's Jacob's ladder the gentleman is climbing, but there is more than a modern day Esau chasing him up. We have no name to credit for this bit of instructive art work. The colors are striking. Those dabbings of white represent clouds against a deep blue sky. The rainbow is dramatic and surely the product of much time and devotion to the project. In contemporary corporate lingo, this painting does keep one "on message". When we step back to confront the whole picture, it's not Judy Garland's famous, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" which is playing in our head.