Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Country Come to Town

Again with the murals ? Yes, we love 'em and we are always pleased to see them on what would otherwise be wasted, boring or unattractive wall space in public view. We view them as welcoming visual gifts to the passer by.

This mural appears upon a building on one of the main roads passing through Dillon, South Carolina. Since most of our state had been largely agricultural in occupation and culture, this seems a nostalgic gesture. Somewhere along the road of transition from country life to urban sprawl we lost a good bit of our regional character.

These paintings seem to be sponsored by the building owners rather than a project under the direction of municipal or state government control. This may be why the are so attractive and often innocently happy images. Once a government agency at any level got through with tacking on every possible item which every interest group demanded, which every regulation required, which satisfied every political urge of the bureaucrat in charge, you would want your ugly old blank wall back.

Where a business or private citizen undertakes to celebrate the community or enhance the view without sinister or cynical motive, we feel that public harmony makes a small advance.

Monday, July 16, 2007

No Visitors - No Sales, but ...welcome

During our forays into the hinterlands, up and down our coast and occasional incursions into Georgia and North Carolina we sometimes blunder upon places of interest. Sometimes we have a clear objective in mind. The past weekend we had set our sights on the Blenheim bottling plant in Marlboro County, South Carolina.

We wanted to see where the famous Blenheim ginger ale was produced and figured naturally enough that it was at Blenheim, SC. Last minute on line research indicated that the brew was now bottled at Hamer, SC, in Dillon County at a location which was much improved over the original and welcomed visitors. We go the impression that tours were in the offing.

The relatively quicker and decidedly dirtier path was I-95 right to the state line. We chose Hwy. 41 which afforded a largely rural passage to our target. Getting there was all of the fun, but finding the plant was puzzling. We received differing accounts of the fate and location of the plant with each person we asked along the way. Finally, we were put wise by a maintenance man in the office of a campground which appeared unoccupied.

Our photo taken at the gate to the property indicates the level of welcome we received. The Blenheim crest well resembles the seal of a not very public military agency. So, this is what our Blenheim trip became, but the real fun began with what we next discovered. One hint is that the Blenheim company was acquired in 1993 by the family and or estate of the late Alan Schafer. We will explain this in detail in our next posting. It became decidely more strange.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

3 Clawed Mutants, Anyone ?

We pulled off of Hwy. 174 at Flowers Seafood Company to get a closer view of the artwork on the building and to inspect their wares. We drove away with this image and two pounds of fresh local shrimp.

The trend toward dressing up otherwise uninspiring buildings with attractive or unusual murals is one which we welcome. Such artwork usually depicts nostalgic images from a past life of the building or functions as creative advertising for the current business within. The daunting creature on the wall is not one of those dreaded dust mites seen through an electron microscope with which duct cleaning contractors scare us to death. It's the old Atlantic Blue Crab done in black. That's a shrimp on the left rather than a third claw. There could, however, be three clawed mutants somewhere in the world ready to be shipped our way.

A pleasant, polite and alert young man (these days a treat in and of itself) was at the counter ready to answer questions and sell seafood. We got what seemed like honest answers to a series of questions. What was said to be fresh clearly looked fresh. The interior of the shop was quite clean and sanitary, no mean feat when you have lots of uncooked seafood laying on open ice all day. It smelled of clean seafood rather than the overwhelming chlorine scent of a public pool.

We haven't joined any particular crusade, but find ourselves quite keen for both local and wild caught seafood. We tend to think of farming as a good source of beast, fowl, eggs and planted goods. Fish farming doesn't quite seem grammatical much less prudent. Farm raised fish may well be fine and healthy eating, but we like to look forward to the joy of seasonal treats and this applies to seafood as well as the revered corn, tomatoes, melons and other rich harvests of the sea island soils.

It seems like we're bucking the natural order of things when we import from other states or other countries those things which we are granted in our own back yard each in its own season. The big ripe red juicy Johns Island tomato seems like a gift from above while the hard, greenish ones we bring in from who-knows-where seem more useful to vandals for breaking windows.

Of the more endangered species we include the independent folks who gather all of our local fish, shrimp, oysters and those who bring them to market. They tend to sink or swim with the seasons. They cannot long endure a series of bad seasons or much more of the competition from massive retailers who import that which we take from local waters in the proper season. They can't very well freeze their families or creditors until the prices improve.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


This is a photo taken in Branchville, SC, of a series of patriotic murals on a disused building. We posted this photo last year on the 4th while we were out of the US. It seems odd to be in a foreign country on this day. It's like not being home for Christmas or having Thanksgiving dinner at Burger King.

We were glad to come back and grateful that we had one to return to.

Happy Fourth of July.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Successors to the Heavier Trades

Do you want to sell a Citadel cell phone (now required) case or a College of Charleston woven basket (interesting course) or a Clemson checkbook cover (tuition is up)? One major source is the Collegiate Licensing System which has agreements prepackaged and ready to go for vendors who want to market through old school ties. The folks who run the business pictured above have that option. The are found in the Collegiate Licensing System's list of licensed manufacturers.

We discovered this valuable information while researching the company operating out of the old store front at 747 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC. We at first thought we'd spotted yet another restaurant upon seeing the lady painted on the stucco. She looked like a distant cousin of the gal portrayed on north wall of Hominy Grill with some diversity of origin. Upon closer inspection this turned out to be Billy - Joe (heart over "JOE"), American's Favorite Homewares. The lady is washing dishes rather than serving them which doesn't seem entirely modern, but makes the point. Further research indicates that the company is Lee's Homewares, Inc., d/b/a Billy-Joe. We had always thought such goods were called "housewares", but "homewares" sounds, well, more cozy.

On their website [ ] one can buy a host of homewares such as sink strainers with pineapples, dolphins, and hearts. There are never enough refrigerator magnets in any home so they offer them with Happy Frog, Bernard the Cat and hearts. We couldn't see much of a walk in presence and this may be on line ordering only. Their offerings are extensive.

This building once housed Baker Brothers, a refrigeration supply company, where the HVAC contractor would go for parts when your system stalled out. We like the artwork and the irony which successors to the heavier trades often bring to the reused buildings on the Charleston peninsula. In this case the loading dock pit is the legacy. A popular King Street restaurant has kept the old neon bicycle which was atop the Robinson's Bicycle Shop many years ago. We also liked the old claw foot bathtub which is growing tomatoes at the moment. So, both building and bathtub are back to work at very different occupations. Putting old buildings and (some) old people back to work seems productive.