Thursday, April 26, 2007


The smell of the country store is not chemically defined nor is it from a single element on any shelf. It is an admixture of so many little things which live in the atmosphere of such places. As we roll down the long roads we like to stop and smell the country stores along the way.

A convenience store is business owned by someone else who lives many miles, perhaps states away and staffed by a clerk who is overworked, underpaid and incapable of telling you how to get there from here. It's a throbbing enterprise which depends upon a high volume of lazy impulse buyers who constantly flow past the point at which the building was inserted after considerable market research. It matters not how you are treated because there's a long line of others behind you who don't care. When did anyone ever pull up to some such place and feel sentimental?

If you're the clerk in a true country store you may well be the owner or at least their blood or kin by marriage. Whoever left the property to you probably did not leave you with a mortgage, but with considerable history in and some obligation to the community. You see more old faces than new. So, if you have an actual country store like our friends on Hwy. 176 near the Sandridge Community at the northwestern end of Berkeley County, why not just call it THE COUNTRY STORE?

The pictures above are of The Country Store, the interior of the place and a picture our old friend John before his recent stroke. We've been stopping here for years and have come to know John and his wife and little bits of their history and that of the store. We always get a broad smile and an immediate report on the boiled peanut situation. They sell buttons and mercerized thread, Magic Shaving Powder and Citrate of Magnesia (none for us, thanks), hunks of cheese cut from a large red waxed wheel and old fashioned candies no longer found in the outside world. That store's been a part of almost every day trip we take up that way and it's been a reminder of the charm and courtesy which is so scarce in today's wretched retail experience.

We found the store closed several weekends in a row with no sign of explanation. We knew they weren't on a cruise nor were they likely to be on a gambling junket in Vegas. They went down to the store everyday so we worried a great deal. Last weekend we saw the folks and learned why. We're more than a little sad about all this, but at least there's hope for improvement maybe even recovery. For now, the store is closed. Those folks and their store have come to mean a lot to us. We cannot spare them.

When's the last time you passed a convenience store and wondered how their folks were doing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


We automatically think of barbecue restaurants as rural fixtures, free standing small buildings on secondary roads or at the edge of small towns. We don't think of Moncks Corner, SC, as a major metro area, but it has grown considerably. It once had a downtown section which decayed with the urban sprawl of shopping malls and scattered subdivisions. The town is making an effort to revive their friendly past.

We came upon Music Man's Bar-B-Que restaurant by accident after missing a turn toward Eutawville, SC, with Schwettmann's on our mind. Just over the tracks on Railroad Avenue we spotted the place. It is sandwiched between other restored downtown structures in what appears to be a sincere effort at urban renewal. It seemed unnatural to eat barbecue within the confines of an incorporated municipality, but we were hungry and Music Man's was inviting.

Clean barbecue joints surprise us. While orderly, fresh and efficient, it was also a bit funky, folksy and very hospitable. On entering a little girl would pop up out of a cardboard box long enough to greet visitors then retire within the box awaiting the next customer. The walls are adorned with signed illustrations of wide ribbons of sheet music, a guitar and a set of drums. We were told that the fellow who owns the place is a long time drummer in a popular local band. Today was their first anniversary in this cozy little place.

You may eat in or take out as you wish. The buffet is very nice and the pork is offered cooked with or without sauce. We enjoyed the meal so much that we're considering placing Music Man's on our list of the 20 top BBQ joints in South Carolina. When folks are partial to a particular BBQ spot they will drive all day to get there. We think that Music Man's will become an important draw in the renewall of this section of downtown Moncks Corner.

As we eased out of Moncks Corner an organized crowd was gathering just across the tracks. It looked festive, the police were smiling and a street dance was about to begin. The shindig seems yet another constructive and family oriented gesture of support for the revival of this old downtown section. As wildly increasing growth in population and construction sweeps Berkeley County, the restoration of charm and comfort to downtown Moncks Corner is encouraging.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Upon any given ground different people see different uses for the land. It is natural to project one's values and desires on to that which the eyes behold. The moss in these oaks is bending to a gentle breeze off the adjacent salt marsh. This is open public land on to which one may step without a pass or fee. It's just there for the enjoying. It has no theme, structure of declared purpose.

Kids will see climbing opportunities in these trees. Their parents will enjoy the shelter of the shade as they watch them. A young couple might find this the ideal picnic spot while it's perfect for someone to toss a Frisbee to their leaping dog. To campers this is a tempting target for their Airstream and a sweet spot to watch the stars from a sleeping bag.

This looks like a great place for a retired couple to build their dream home. Of course, to others it's just where they want to put many homes and close together. We can already see a meandering road snaking around the trees each lit up at night near cute wooden cut out signs posting a 13 MPH speed limit. That was a novelty 25 years ago when Kiawah and Seabrook Island seemed fresh adventures in convenient island living rather than the expensive subdivisions which they have become.

Of course, this would make a good amusement park or go kart track or a marina since water of a practical depth is less than fifty yards forward of this point. Many greedy hands fairly tremble at the prospect of grabbing this land. This property is, however, held by Charleston County as a public park and recreational area. The County has not always been the best shepherd of public land or the best protector from exploitation of private land, but there is hope that a rising voice to conserve Wadmalaw Island is being heard by County Council. If not, let's give them hearing aids before November.

You really can't improve this spot in any decent or meaningful way. The best plan will be to just leave it alone, to neither add nor subtract anything and allow this to remain a free public place. Nothing is all you need to make this place just right.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When we asked, he said nothing, nothing at all.

There is little of the Indian lore which seems to be substantial. The shifting sands of sentiment for and against the American Indian tend to wear away more documentation with those shifting sands.

Osceola was born in Alabama in 1804 to a Creek Indian mother. There's not father's name on the birth certificate, but he went by the name of Billy Powell for many years. His "Stepfather"; was a Scotsman by the name of Powell, though he took Osceola as his name . Osceola is itself a corruption of the word "Assin-ye-ola"; a long, drawn-out cry that accompanied the ceremonial drinking.

Osceola led armed revolts against U.S. Army forces which sought to force the Seminoles back on to lands reserved for them on designated Indian lands west of the Mississippi. In September 1837 Osceola was captured while negotiating under a white flag of truce. While may American were happy to have this aggressive Indian finally under arrest, many citizen took strong exception with their government due to the manner by which he had been taken . By December Osceola and about 200 others were taken to a prison at Fort Moultrie, SC

Landing at Sullivans Island, SC, New Years Day 1838, visitors were surprised to see Osceola clad in a Union Officer's uniform and that he was granted full liberty within prison compound yard. Some of the leading lights of Charleston society went to Fort Moultrie to meet and visit with Osceola. By year's end, Army Doctors had diagnosed Osceole with a throat infection which was the result of Malaria. Thereafter, Osceola declined to allow trained medical doctors to tend him preferring instead to call in the voodoo healers form his tribe. On January 18, 1838, he died.

Osceola one frim request was that he be allowed to rest in peace, but that was violated by an Army Doctor removing Osceola's head. So, we are parked at the site of the grave of , say, 80% of Osceola.

We recall ghostly stories from elders when we were kids. On held that the teller had gone late one night under the full moon to graveside to ask Osceola what he had done to deserve this. Osceola was to have replied: Nothing, nothing at all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

El Baile de los Delfines or Flipper UBER ALLES

We live to drive and drive to live that we might bring back an interesting photo or account of some unusual, inspiring or one-of-a-kind marvel once in a great while. We have thus become very careful what we wish for at this most recent discovery. Three dollars a gallon seems cheap passage to these gates.

This place lies at the finish of dead end Roseville Road. As we made our way slowly, carefully along, folks stopped, paused and looked at us in the puzzled way they might have watched Captain Willard's progress to Col. Kurtz. Those looks suggested that either we'd never be seen again or we'd never be the same again once we found our target.

Upon arrival, our adjectives ran off the road like Saturday night drivers on Wadmalaw Island. Was this a mercury flashback from a bad piece of swordfish? Had the late Walt Disney taken the wheel and run us slap down to Orlando? Had Flipper and Charlie the Tuna formed a lifestyle partnership behind these gates? When speech returned, the only utterance we could muster was that charming upstate exclamation, "Golly Bum". There you have it in two words.

The gate's welcoming ribbons bears, "El Baile de los Delfines" or Dance of the Dolphins in English, but on the island mostly translates as "Gait Gawd!"

We'd love to claim that we found Xanadu here by sheer dint of detective work and directional acuity. Frankly, we saw it in one of those glossy magazines which looks like it's going to tell you a lot about Charleston, but is actually trying to sell you things. It looked like an Adobe Workshop show off, but this place does exist. It stands not a mile from Cherry Point Seafood, that storied, cherished old landmark over which we fret and which we most recently posted. We had no idea what was already waiting for us just around the bend.

There is, of course, no accounting for taste. Someone might fall in love with this place on reading our post tonight. We're not calling this garish, absurd or freaky nor are we suggesting that it was designed by scuba divers who came to the surface too fast, but we do find "El Baile de los Delfines" just a bit this side of classic sea island style. Now, just put a Charleston Green joggling board at the gate and this would fit nicely on the Battery in downtown Charleston.

So, amigos, the good news is that it's for sale. If you want to shag with the dolphins, getting your name on their dance card will cost you only TEN MILLION DOLLARS or 109,915,000 Pesos. Living here does entitle one's children to attend either Frierson Elementary or Haut Gap Middle School. We'd add a few flying squirrels to the gate if it were ours, otherwise, it's a turn key deal.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Shall We End State Maintenance

Our world is largely the secondary roads of South Carolina, the back roads, but they are not always the roads less traveled. They may, however, be the roads less maintained.

Compared to the interstate highways which we eschew at all costs, the secondary highways have fewer customers, but they were never built to the specifications of the interstates and they're not in such good health. We see a lot of patched potholes, but more which are not. The tar filled fissures in the pavement snake along for mile after neglected mile. The road shoulders are narrow, loose or nonexistent. We don't mind the road signs being shot up here and there since that's a rural sport, but when the roads are shot that's another matter.

With the sorry state of existing secondary roads the Highway Department, D.O.T. or whatever it's called this year, insists upon building new ones. New major highways are being built at the behest of developers more than on the basis of need. Next to extended water and sewer lines, new highways promote urban sprawl more than any other incentive. The funds for road repair seem to be diverted to new road construction. To us this is like buying a new car, but keeping the old tires and the tread's wearing mighty thin.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Parking on the Edge

Here at the Edge of America, Folly Beach, SC, its popularity has reduced available parking considerably. Even on a cool, somewhat blustery Easter Sunday, Folly still draws a crowd. While it appears that we have parked in the sand, at the water, on the edge of the Edge of America, we are next to a delightful mural painted on the wall of The Terrapin Restaurant. The No Parking sign is no more real than the Palmetto trees reflected in the hood.

Every square inch of buildable beach sand along the coat has become extremely valuable. Folly was a bit slower to appreciate, but once the other beaches were fully built over, Folly caught on in a very big way. The new houses are huge, often garish and frequently overdone in design and ornamentals. We saw one beach mansion which boasted an elevator on its FOR SALE sign. We have never imagined much less seen evidence of an elevator in any dwelling which we'd recognize as a legitimate beach house.

A quick tour of Folly confirmed the impact which development is making on the island. We did, however, notice that many of the modest idiosyncratic cottages have held on, dug in as it were, and defied the developer. Whether the owners are the remnants of the classic Folly rugged individualist or just new folks who fell in love with the funky little places, we can't say. We are glad to see a considerable number of holdouts. The fact that we can still find colorful, inventive murals suggests that preserving some of Folly's character might even be commercially viable.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Will They Stick It to the Bohicket ?

Last May we rolled down to Rockville, SC, to Cherry Point Seafood Company. Today we're parked on a different side from our original picture, but like the entire tract, it provides a commanding view of the Bohicket Creek. Cherry Point is an old family business run by an old island family which has long held that land to its current use. They make their living supplying shrimp trawlers with fuel, ice and off-loading facilities.

As they survive in this business so survives something of an unwritten land trust, a compact with the their neighbors to hold the line against abandoning this very choice parcel of real estate to developers. The pressures of development on the coastal communities of the low country are stronger than the countless hurricanes which they have endured. It causes a rapid erosion of the character and tranquility of little villages such as Rockville.

Development comes in all sizes from major high density subdivisions to individual residential structures which are increasingly outsized and outstanding against the relatively modest fabric of the village. People who have the money to buy into expensive coastal lands increasingly want their castle to reflect the outlay. They will cloak this desire in far kinder terms, but it's quite simply conspicuous consumption. Just one such temple to the ego can lean hard on village ambiance.

The shrimping industry has been hit by wildly increasing fuel costs, heavy regulation, foreign competition as well as the host of natural disasters which come with that territory. As the shrimpers are increasingly against the ropes Cherry Point feels every punch. We can't predict what will happen here, but the winds of change are picking up. If they have to quit any part of this fetching waterfront property it is certain that development is at the door. The questions is not if, but when development comes to this site, will they stick it to the Bohicket with some mansion made in the image of Tara II or will it be consistent with the design and tempo of this endangered little village?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Persistent Paint

>We're along side of what is currently called M and J Grocery , 224 Coming at the corner of Spring Street. Their sign, courtesy of Miller Lite, looks a bit less enduring than that of a previous occupant, Ben Yaschik's National Grocery. We were both puzzled and charmed by the patchwork of carpentry visited upon the siding over the years, but the painted ads haunt us more.

M and J is offering shots at the S.C. "Education" Lottery and Camel Wides which we at first took to be the means by which Elmer Fudd might travel around the Pyramids of Egypt. They are, of course, the shortcut to the inside of the pyramid. Yaschik was promoting and suggested that we'd like "Ashley--Real Cream". That could have been a popular cream soda of the day or actual dairy cream. Back in Yaschik's day, Ashley had not yet become a name given to every third child born and could well have been a local product. We could not, however, find anything before 1972 and that was for Ashley's Ice Cream in Gilford, CT, which we think is way north of Georgetown.

Yaschik's other promotions have equally faded into history as have the painted ads on the north side of this building. Old paint like the wood which it covered is far more enduring than the new. Unless it was sandblasted away it usually began to reemerge as the new coatings predeceased the old. The vivid colors endured because they contained the oxides of numerous heavy metals which refused to surrender to sun, rain, wind, dirt or time.

The integrity of old paint reminds us of the endurance of our people, their buildings and customs in Charleston through some three hundred years. The emergent messages from old commercial buildings are faint flickers from a past that won't fully fade away. It would be nice if we could leave a few of these facings alone to lend a bit of patina to the new construction which is just around the corner.