Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Highway to Hell Hole

We pulled into Jamestown, SC, three weeks ago and four months too late to make the Hell Hole Swamp Festival. We are parked in front of the festival headquarters, a little building donated by Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. We seem to have missed quite a bit.

In early May the festival was held to observe it's 36th anniversary. The shindig included the Miss, Mrs. ( no Ms it seems ) and Mr. Hell Hole Beauty Pageants, a Bar-B-Que Cook-Off, Whiskey Still display,10K Gator Run, parade, a talent show, a Tobacco Spitting Contest, Horseshoe Pitching Contest and the Moonshine Ball. We don't know whether the festival has an official car, but we're not in the running.

Running is a feature of this festival. The Hell Hole Gator Trot is the oldest 10 Kilometer race in the state. You must always stipulate that it is a people race rather than a NASCAR sanctioned event in these parts. Only the first and last mile is paved. The rest is run on crushed-rock logging roads that, depending on rainfall the days before the race, can range anywhere between hard and dusty to shoe-swallowing mush. May is springtime in many places, but it's pretty close to summer here. It's no Alpine retreat, but it draws runners from far and wide.

Everyone in South Carolina knows the name of this place, but few know the origin of that name. During the Revolutionary War in a letter to King George, General Cornwallis called the swamp—from which Francis Marion and his band of guerrillas mounted their attacks upon the British troops and then vanished—"one hell of a hole of a swamp." So it is the derision of the British Empire rather than the Chamber of Commerce which hatched the name.

Not everyone knows where the festival is held nor do they know how to get to Jamestown. You just get on the Ocean Highway, US 17 North, out of Charleston to McClellanville. There take a left on Hwy 45 which intersects with Hwy 41 at Jamestown. It's the highway to Hell Hole.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

It looks as if we've stumbled upon one of the abandoned movie sets of "Star Wars." That's not one of the Empire's robots behind us, but the remnants of a water tank behind the Awendaw, SC, Town Hall.

Awendaw is a small village just north of Mt. Pleasant, SC. It has been something of a fire break in the inferno of development which has largely finished off Mt. Pleasant and the undeveloped land north up to McClellanville and into the Francis Marion National Forest. As many little coastal villages have awakened to the threat of development, they have taken steps to preserve their unspoiled lands, their way of life, their sanity.

Awendaw is not an affluent community. Much of the land is occupied by families which have owned their lots and tracts for generations. If development is allowed into the community the values will skyrocket as will their property taxes. They would be taxed off of their own land. It is a lesson learned over 30 years ago when Kiawah and Seabrook Island brought high taxes to Johns and Wadmalaw Islands and drove many families off their land. We figured that the folks in Awendaw had learned from that lesson, but apparently not.

Awendaw has voted to allow municipal water lines to come into their community. Development had been waiting at this door for quite a while. To what extent developers have influenced the candidates in the upcoming election we cannot say, but logic suggests that no all are unmoved by the promise of "progress." The Empire has indeed struck back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Mount Pleasant Moment

We're tempted to go out on Halloween for Trick or Treating disguised as a convertible. We found one which is also Windveil Blue and thought of simply stealing the thing, but the owner was watching so we pretended to be friendly. That would save a lot of cosmetic surgery just for one night's fun. Of course, many have done much more to themselves for much less.

We spotted that GT convertible at an open air market at the intersection of Highways 61 and 165. This looked like no more than another roadside vendor pushing pumpkins, but at least he's not pushing the season. Some chain retailers we've had the necessary misfortune to visit were hawking Halloween back in early September. We were just glad that they didn't have a large lighted Styrofoam Santa to greet us here at Pumpkin World.

On leaving we realized that we were in the middle of yet another land use controversy in Dorchester County not far from Summerville. There is a large convenience store gas station on one corner, something just like it on the other corner and on the third corner the leavings of another nationwide drug store chain. This forth, more or less north west corner of 61 and 165, is in the sights of a developer. We're not sure what they're up to or how this could conceivably affect them, but we know that someone down 61 on Plantation row is grumbling about the plans.

Many unspoiled spaces are worth whatever effort is required to save them. This spot, however, is what we call a Mt. Pleasant Moment: nothing left to save. Finishing off this corner will give the intersection a sense of fully balanced anonymity. A uniform dullness will obtain and be thus enhanced by the routine landscaping which numbs the scene sufficiently to pass muster.

The complainant should have called this one in three constructions ago. Now, it's just something for the medical examiner to ponder.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Three Faces of Dillon County

Dillon County, South Carolina was created in 1910, a neoplasm excised from the upper torso of Marion County. One year later the Dillon County Courthouse was built. It is a massive Neo-Classical styled building designed by William Augustus Edwards. The SC Department of Archives and History says that "The elevations are unified by the discipline of the Ionic portico, which imposes its order on all elements of each elevation." The imposition of order seems an appropriate role of a courthouse. We were surprised to discover that every sixth brick course is recessed to simulate rustication.

In our survey of Dillon County, it did not seem necessary to cultivate rustication. We've included a picture of South of the Border which we discussed in detail last July. While it is dramatically less inspiring and attractive, it is the far better known wonder of Dillon County. Not very many students of architecture pull off of I-95 at this point.

Price's (new and used) Furniture sports the classic Coca-Cola ad, bears the official "Antiques" crest and was unable to resist posting, "Prices are Right at Price's" on the brick face of their store. In addition to appliances they've got a little something extra for the shopper. You will also see guns, "Long and Hand," offered at Price's. Would you like a Kalashnikov with that Kelvinator, a Magnum with your Maytag ?

At this elevation of human endeavor a building which imposes a sense of order seems meet and right.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Nothing Could Be Finer to Be With Petrofina

If you look very closely just behind the Mustang you can make out the logo of FINA on both of the old gas pumps. They've probably been dry since before gasoline prices hit the third digit.

The Belgian petroleum conglomerate, Petrofina, moved into the U.S. market in 1956 when it purchased Panhandle Oil Co. They gobbled up one group after another and gained significant market share. Petrofina began marketing its gasoline under the FINA brand name in 1958.

Gasoline advertising, incapable of shame, took considerable artistic license. By 1961 FINA introduced its "Pink Air" campaign. "Pink Air" was available FINA stations and when introduced into the customer's tires it would prevent them from deteriorating. FINA gasoline went more than one better. It's special additive, PFLASH, was said to improve mileage, smooth out bumpy roads and turn red lights green. We'd certainly love to have a tank full of that stuff.

It is unclear whether the FINA dealer pictured above ever used "Pink Air" to promote the product. Likely as not the dealer would have been laughed out of the county and left such strategies to his counterparts in the more gullible urban areas. "Pink Air" didn't prevent the FINA brand from deteriorating in South Carolina nor did it long extend the mileage of this little country store.

This is probably an eyesore to those who dash along this road from the midlands to the coast or the reverse. How many times has someone in a passing car said, "They ought to tear that thing down?" We like them. There seems to be a tendency in the country where land may be cheaper and space more plentiful to leave things alone after they quit working. We see all sorts of little out buildings, stores, small houses, large equipment and a good many automobiles which have been allowed to die in place. At the end of the service lives of these many things the country folks just let them be. We'd like to spray our own variety of "Pink Air" on them and thus preserve these relics we've come to treasure.