Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hemingway, SC - When Cotton Was King

There are things about the American South, things born of inequality and contrast, pain and poverty, ugliness and decay, that I only knew from words, not from my heart.

I want you to see the two South Carolinas, two American Souths, that I am getting to know
and the juxtaposition that is both stunning and moving. 

The very, very rich.  The very, very poor.   

On the one hand the slow and elegant beauty of the plantations, the huge houses of the merchants in Georgetown, built in the 1700s and still owned and kept immaculately 
by the wealthiest citizens.  
On the other hand, lives of extreme poverty and ugliness.

I've never been immersed in the contrast between Black and White that exists here.  
Traveling a few blocks in town or a few miles out into rural areas, you plunge down the social scale and drop back 75 years in time.   

* * *
Just up Hwy 51, Hemingway was built in the early 1900s when cotton was king and there were plenty of jobs for Black farmers.  When the boll weevil appeared on the scene in 1921, tobacco tried to take cotton's place, along with a few small textile industries that flourished for a while and provided some jobs to former farm workers.   Now even those jobs have gone to Mexico and Vietnam and China and there are only 500 people left in Hemingway, most of them African-Americans.
Hemingway stands like hundreds of small towns in the rural South 
with the same fate, in a time warp, its citizens living as they always have, without jobs, 
while the world has passed them by.


The small travel trailer behind the abandoned dairy truck is someone's home.  
Trailers are the most common form of housing in the rural areas and many of them are ancient and collapsing, with the ubiquitous blue tarps for roofs.
Families have lived here for generations, from slave times. At Emancipation, freed slaves were deeded a piece of land to farm.  Now farming is gone and the land has filled up with the trailers of four or five generations of their descendants.  Called "heirs property," today each piece is owned jointly by every single descendant of the original owner, whether they live there, pay taxes, or have never set foot on it.  
Listed as one of the main industries in Hemingway, in the center of town, 
is Don's Car Crushing.  

Lots of junked construction equipment and in the foreground, a dentist chair


 A hearse awaits its turn in the crusher amidst piles of crushed materials, a chute that takes the parts to large containers on the right, to be loaded on ships or railroad cars and recycled.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The March Garden and Wild Pigs

We have been working hard on restoring our back garden to its former glory.  It's still a bit overgrown and tangled but we have made progress. 
This is Lolly, the loblolly pine from which we had the tree company remove dangling branches after Hurricane Matthew.  It is surrounded by a ground cover that had escaped and tried to take over the backyard.  I spent two days pulling it out of the lawn and shaping it back into a tidy circle, and three more days scratching sand gnat bites.

Behind Lolly is a woods with a border of azaleas, Chinese fringe, an old crepe Myrtle we couldn't tell if dead or alive, camellias, killer vines, and goodness knows what else. Unidentified things keep surprising us and bursting into bloom. 


On the east side is our new vegetable garden and a gift from our neighbor, a fig tree.  

We mentioned we were looking to buy one and a few days later, Malcolm came to the door with his shovel and Phineas the Fig and said, "Where do you want it?"  Really, how many people have a spare fig tree laying around?

We have hit the neighborly jackpot when we landed in this neighborhood!

Behind the fence is the vegetable-garden-in-progress.  The peas are doing nicely.



I'm showing you these photos now because we are supposed to have a killer freeze tomorrow night, 25F after days of temps in the high 70s and even 80s.   Bye-bye flowers.  


Yesterday we were zipping down the highway south through the Francis Marion National Forest and I spotted something I've never seen before: a litter of wild pig babies rooting in the grass alongside the forest, 8 feet from the road!  I think there were five.
o They looked just like this guy except a little younger and had their snouts buried in the new grass eating breakfast. 

The adults are mean and scary and popular to hunt at fancy hunt clubs down here.

The Writer was once in a Jeep when a herd of wild boars began attacking the vehicle.  We sped on by, not taking any chances that Mama would appear and take a dislike to white Toyotas with a photographer hanging out the window!  (This photo is from the State DNR website.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sullivan's Island - Charleston Lighthouse

Sullivan's Island is a barrier island north of Charleston that has retained its historic beach homes, its charm, and its old life-saving station.  The Charleston Lighthouse, the last major lighthouse built in the United States, was added in 1962.

From the beach its light shines 
27 miles out to sea.


The triangular structure is built of steel girders to withstand 125 mph winds and is 162.5 feet tall.
Inside there is an elevator, but the light at the top must be reached by 35 feet of vertical ladder.  

Can you imagine the view from those windows at the top?

Originally the lighthouse was painted in red-orange and white.  
Sullivan Island residents weren't pleased with the colors at all 
and it was repainted black and white.  

The US Life-Saving Service was a government agency that took over from private local efforts to save lives in the storms that battered ships up and down the eastern seaboard.  There are several historic buildings on Sullivan's Island from those times.


The Boathouse, 1895, contained two 20-foot rowboats which a six-man crew would take out into the surf. It was a dangerous job and there were three deaths over the years at the Sullivan's Island Station.


Crew Quarters, 1895
Hurricane shelter for lighthouse keeper and other personnel.

The US Lifesaving Stations became the US Coastguard in 1915.

This photo has nothing to do with lifesaving on the sea.  It is a unique home on the beach on Sullivan's Island.  We thought it look like a spaceship had landed and set up housekeeping!

PS. The Writer found an interesting article on this house.  It's hurrican-proof, able to withstand winds up to 500 mph!
To see the beautiful inside and read the complete story, here is a link:


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cosmic Dogs on Memory Lane

We had some business to attend to in Charleston yesterday.  Ever since we had been house-hunting and driving up and down Hwy17 to Georgetown, The Writer has been lobbying for lunch at Jack's Cosmic Dogs. Yesterday was the day to stop.

Brightly painted missiles, Grandma's wringer washer to mark the handicapped parking spot ...  and look at that old Airstream trailer!  They sing a Siren's song to cars whizzing by on the highway up the coast.

I remember putting a nickel in the slot and riding in a little car like this in front of the grocery store.  
I think the airplane might have come from a carnival ride.


Pull out your own RC Cola, or Grape or Orange Nehi from an old Coca Cola cooler, the kind that use to be inside every gas station.  You put your dime in a slot and a mechanism released one bottle, which you slid along a track to remove it.  Opener on the side and the top fell into an old oil box on the cement floor.  My first soda was a Grape Nehi and I remember well that glorious ice cold taste and how the bubbles went up your nose.  


I haven't seen these for years (and good riddance!), an old cigarette machine.


The Writer had a little pedal car 
similar to this.

Since we were in Charleston, we decided to join a protest march taking place at noon outside our senator's office there.  He is one of those who declined to show up for a Town Hall meeting for constituents last week.  He represents businesses, not the voters, so I guess he didn't need our input.  
Anyway, about 100 nice people showed up, the police kept an eye on us so our feet didn't slip off the public sidewalk onto the grass, and there were some very creative signs.


 I never thought I would be a protestor at my age!  

The sign on the left kind of sums up my feelings 
and we did get honks, waves, 
and people yelling thanks 
so I think it is a good thing to do.