Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hangman's Tree

On St. Delight's Road in rural Georgetown stands a cypress tree with a gruesome history that began in pre-Revolutionary War days.  Only a short highway guardrail and a nearly invisible plaque on the old tree's side delineate it, demonstrating ambivalence over man's duty to call attention to ugly deeds.

It is called the Hangman's Tree.

It is known that a group of Tories and British soldiers were executed at the tree during the Revolutionary War, as were unruly slaves, criminals, and at least two Civil War soldiers.

In later times, it was known as the sight of racially-inspired lynchings, but the specifics of those have been expurgated from memory and the victims' names forgotten.  

The tree occupies an ideal location on the line between two counties on a well-traveled old road, and the hangings stood as a powerful deterrent to others contemplating the same crimes.  A massive limb directly over the road held the noose and the body was left hanging for days as a reminder of justice to all who passed.  Vultures and crows called attention to the corpse, as if one could miss the sight of a body twisting and swaying over the center of the road.

The limb was struck by a tractor trailer truck
 several years ago and broken.  

The scar remains.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Small Town, Big News

Things have been heating up with the election of a new mayor and the on-again off-again possibility of the old steel mill reopening and bringing 200 jobs back to Georgetown.  
On Nov. 4 I felt the same way I did when Barak Obama won the election in 2008, like I
was present at an important moment in history.   By a large margin Georgetown, founded in 1729, got its first black and Gullah mayor.  Brandon Barber is a 7th generation Georgetonian whose forefathers came to work the rice plantations.  He has served on the town council for 20 years and is a guidance counselor at the high school.  Since Georgetown's population is about 60% black, it seems like it's about time!  
There was plenty of drama in the race because the town is divided over the direction of its future.  The major issue is whether Georgetown will grow as a green city of the future with clean industry and planned development of its valuable waterfront and harbor, or if it will attempt to return to its industrial hayday circa 1960-80. 
The current mayor was green and ran for reelection in a primary against Barber, who is sort of rusty green, and the votes came in at a tie. A runoff between Mayor Scoville and Barber resulted in a win for Barber and he became the Democrat candidate for mayor.  

Georgetown is built around a steel mill on the harbor that has sat idle now for over two years.  
Photo South Strand NewsLast summer a study was done and beautiful plans drawn up to tear down the unsightly mill and develop the watefront with green ways, parks, shops, art, and attractive waterfront housing.  At nearly the same time, a surprise bid came in from a British company, Liberty Steel, to purchase and reopen the mill.  

It's not a pretty sight, it blocks the beautiful view of the harbor, and is a source of air and water pollution.  After you cross the graceful bridge high over the Sampit River this is everyone's first view of the historic old town.  Not pretty!

When the eyesore closed the best jobs in town disappeared and the town lost a third of its population.  It has never recovered and the unemployment rate remains high.  The steel workers' union still works tirelessly to bring back the days when the steel mill brought a good life to many families.

On the right is a white house still covered with "red dust" from the steel mill.  Much of the town looked like this when the mill was running. Some of it still does.

The mill site is contaminated by the chemicals of 150 years of industry (it was an alcohol factory and lumber mill before it was a steel mill), and would cost unknown millions to clean up.  The port has filled since the mill closed and $66 million is needed to dredge it.  The town, population 9500, can afford neither.
South Strand News photo

A compromise of sorts has come to the table whereby Liberty Steel would buy the mill itself but property not directly occupied by the mill would be rezoned non-industrial, perhaps at a later time to be sold and developed as a greenway or whatever.  Liberty Steel has promised to hire Georgetown residents first and to be a better neighbor to the town than the last owners.  Their lawyers accepted the rezoning plan, a first reading was held and passed with two more readings to go.  
With new mayor Barber in office in January, I had hoped this compromise is what the future of Georgetown would look like.  However, two days after the election Barber changed his tune and voted against the rezoning plan.  

When the union heard of the possibility of the mill reopening they commissioned and paid the artist of a faded old mural on one side of a mill building to repaint it. 

I just hope that's not the only thing to come of the plans to revitalize Georgetown.
*The second photo from the top is from the South Strand News.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

'We Shall Overcome Someday'

I finished a good book last night, a novel based on the history of a real cigar factory and the women who worked there.  It's The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston by Michelle Moore.  
Here's a brief description of the book:

"The Cigar Factory tells the story of two entwined families in the storied port city of Charleston, South Carolina, during the World Wars. Moore’s novel follows the parallel lives of family matriarchs working on segregated floors of the massive Charleston cigar factory, where white and black workers remain divided and misinformed about the duties and treatment received by each other."
This is what the cigar factory looks like today.  It has been recently renovated into condos and shops, a restaurant and a wedding venue.

It was built in 1882 as a cotton mill and became a cigar factory in 1903, operated by The American Tobacco Company.

The factory employed 1400 people  who produced 5-cent Certified Cremos and 10-cent Roi-Tans, America's biggest selling cigars. 

Sixty percent of the workers were women who first hand-rolled each cigar and later made them on a mechanized assembly line that moved ever faster as the owners bullied the workers and sought to make more and more profits.

Ammonia produced in processing along with the dust and odor of the chemicals in the tobacco made the workers smell awful and they were often shunned in shops and trolleys as the odor never left them.  They also suffered and died young from the tobacco dust and ammonia they breathed.

Workers were segregated on different floors by race, and by the jobs they did.  Black men did heavy labor and white men worked as higher paid managers, foremen, and machine oilers.  Black women worked in the basement as tobacco leaf stemmers, white women upstairs as rollers, finishers, packagers, and inspectors. 

They entered the building by seperate doors, had seperate restrooms and eating areas.  

"Cassie McGonegal and her niece Brigid work upstairs in the factory, rolling cigars by hand. Meliah Amey Ravenel works in the basement, where she stems the tobacco. While both white and black workers suffer in the harsh working conditions of the factory and both endure the sexual harassment of the foremen, segregation keeps them from recognizing their common plight until the Tobacco Workers Strike of 1945. Through the experience of a brutal picket line, two women come to realize how much they stand to gain by joining forces, creating a powerful moment in labor history that gives rise to the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."


One of the families lives in a tenement in Bodans Alley which still exists and has been renovated into small homes that cost millions.

Adgers Wharf, where the Mosquito Fleet went out from the early 1800s until 1989 plays a big part in the book.  Black fishermen whose wives and daughters worked at the cigar factory went out daily in small wooden sailboats to supply the nearby Charleston Market and their families with fish, oysters, etc.  You can just see the water where the docks were on the end of this street where the women walked on their way to and from work.

I think this book would make an awesome movie.  I hope someone does it!

Now I'm off to search for an interview with the author, who interviewed some of her own relatives who worked at The Cigar Factory for the book. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Back in the Sunshine State

Mom is making good progress from walker to cane but she still needs help with many things so I'm back on duty for awhile.  The Writer returned home to work today as he is in the process of publishing a book.  Hopefully he will remember to come back to pick me up.  Sometimes he gets holed up in his office and is oblivious to the world for days, so you never know!  
First on the agenda was to get Mom a new washer and dryer and put it in a more convenient location (as in, no stairs).  
Nothing is ever simple but we thought this company had the right stuff for an installation job that involves crawling under the house.  A sense of humor should help.  

Speaking of a sense of humor, I'm not sure if this is a distress call or a leftover Halloween trick.  Hopefully the latter.  

Have you heard about the painted rocks people leave here and there with instructions on the back to either keep and enjoy the rock or rehide it?   A website address is on the back where you are supposed to leave a photo and info about where you found the rock so the originator can see where his rock has traveled.  I found this one on Pawleys Island SC beach and Bob was happy to pose for the photo which we then posted.  It turns out that a class of school children in Tennessee had painted rocks and placed them and I don't know what other stops it made on its way to our beach but it was fun to find it.

We debated about where to rehide it and yesterday decided on Wabasso Beach near my Mom's place.  We will be checking it's progress on the website and see who finds it and where it goes next. 

I haven't shared any photos of Mason for awhile so in case you wonder what he has been up to, here's Mason with an inflatable Spider-Man he got for his birthday.  That's what happens when Grandpa chooses the present!

Now Nana, on the other hand ....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Charleston Halloween

Charleston is a place with so much history and we love to explore the old streets and alleys, not the famous ones that attract all the tourist mobs but little out-of-the-way ones like these.  Here's a street, Adgers Wharf, paved with rocks from Europe that came over as ballast in the ships.  

It's quiet now, but in the 1700s when Charles Town was a walled city, the wall, along with fortifications holding cannons, ran along to the right.  For the next couple centuries fishermen came in from the sea  at Adgers Wharf and carried the fish up this street to be sold at the markets, door to door, or right on the street.  

Off the streets are the alleys that housed the poor tenement dwellers; today the same tenements are million dollar renovated town houses.

And off the alleys are the public walkways leading to the doors of more homes.  Many are named and many decorate for holidays like

One of the barrier islands off Charleston, Sullivan's Island, is one of those lovely old neighborhoods, too.  There are two houses there you can always count on for some holiday spirit.

Hope you weren't eating lunch while reading this!  


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The GHOST of Alice Flagg

South Carolina has its share of ghost stories 
and this is a good time of year to tell one of them. 
The tale begins in 1838 with a sweet and comely  Southern belle from a wealthy planter family, Miss Alice Flagg, her mother, and her brother charged with her care when their father died.  There are several versions, but they all agree on a few basic facts. Young Alice fell in love with a lumberman -- a LUMBERman-- much beneath her station in life according to her mother and brother.  The more they expressed  their disapproval, the more fond young Alice became of her young man. 

Eventually they agreed secretly to marry and to plight his troth, the lumberman gave Alice a gold ring.

As one would imagine, big brother and mother were not happy when they found out and forbade Alice to wear the ring, insisting she return it.  Alice dutifully removed it from her finger but wore it secretly on a ribbon next to her heart.
Mother and brother concurred that drastic measures were necessary to keep the lumberman out of the Flagg family and hustled 15-year old Alice (with her beloved's ring next to her heart) off to boarding school in Charleston.  

Alice was bereft without her beau and did not take to life in Charleston, as gay and fashionable as it was.  In fact, in just months she withered away to nearly nothing and died of a broken heart (though her doctor-brother diagnosed it as plain old malaria, which was quite likely as living on a South Carolina plantation practically guaranteed a malaria mosquito would bite you sooner or later).  

When brother Dr. Allard Flagg discovered the ring on his dead sister's body he ripped it off in a rage and flung it into the creek at their Murrells Inlet home.  Alice was buried nearby in a Methodist church graveyard in an unmarked grave.

Enter the ghost, the ghost of Alice Flagg.  

Who walks near her home at night, moaning and keening and searching the creek for her ring.

For some reason the rest of Alice's family is buried elsewhere, in All Saints Epicopal  churchyard with all the other worthy Flagg ancestors.  Amongst their graves is a plain stone set flat into the ground with the single word "Alice" on it.  
By church records, no one is buried there but some say 
another Alice Flagg lies under the stone, 
the Alice mentioned on the stone to the right, who, with her family, was swept away by a wave Magnolia Beach in the hurricane of 1893.  

Our Alice Flagg's people are buried just a few feet away, under the old oaks draped elegantly with Spanish moss.  For some reason, perhaps to torment them through eternity, our Alice's ghost has followed them from her resting place and makes regular appearances (although ghosts are firmly deterred by a sign outside the wall).  People, also discouraged from entering at night by a sign and locked gate, make their way in as well.  They leave plastic rings, shells, flowers, coins and bills, circle the stone a prescribed number of times on the well-worn path around it, and encourage Alice's ghost to appear.  Some are successful and see a wispy figure in white passing here and there among the trees.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Vizcaya Wedding

We have been in Miami for five days for the wedding of The Writer's son, held in a mansion-turned-art-museum, Vizcaya, on Biscayne Bay. It was built by James Deering, of International Harvestor fame.  

Deering, never married, had the Italianate house and gardens constructed between 1917 and 1922 as a place to entertain his friends.  Guests were expected to approach by yachts from the water so the bay side is the front of the house.  The wedding reception dinner and dance were held on the two levels of terrace just beyond the concrete boat.  

Part of the 1,000 acre estate is 
natural tropical jungle.

The formal gardens and sculptures 
were  lovely.  

At the end  
is the garden house (below) and reflecting pond where the ceremony took place.

Follow the rose petals up the stone stairs

Married and ready to party!

Some of the beautiful interior design and details 

🌹. 🌹. 🌹

In keeping with the wedding theme, I saw this this morning and thought it would be fun
 to put here.  I'll start.  

We met in the teachers' workroom after The Writer (aka The Actor) did a show for an assembly at my school.  He was attempting to repair a stage light.  Our first date was on a tennis court and I think I'd rather be married there than the teachers' workroom which always smelled of stale coffee and donuts!

How about you?