THE SOUL OF THE SOUTH

Damn. The famous travel writer Paul Theroux was in Orangeburg and I didn’t know. It wasn’t to speak or anything like that, who around here would go?  He was doing what he does, this time in his own country.  My husband has been talking the past couple of days about an article he is reading in Smithsonian Magazine. Flipping through the article backwards this morning with coffee and hummingbirds, it is so long. Finally reaching the first page, there was his name. Of course! Only a guy like Theroux could command that much space in Smithsonian.

This article was long overdue. Other than the famous interchange from some years back between Bill Cosby and a woman from North, SC (Noo-ath), in a remake of the old “You Bet Your Life” show, this part of my South is pretty invisible.

We have our roadside curiosities.  I love the little old now vacant restaurant on 301 that is crowned by a large coffee pot.  I have tried to buy it before.  No luck.  Through the windows Edward Hopper and men in fedoras can be imagined.

coffee pot

 

The UFO Welcome Center on the other side of Orangeburg is popular.

another ufo

Or the home of our Govette is in Orangeburg County, for what that counts as.  Some think she is the next Sarah Palin.

nikki

Theroux does talk about the Orangeburg Massacre, a locally famous event, which gets more to his “soul of the South” topic.  It was what was happening here when the rest of the country was focused on Kent State. In the article, a Mr. Johnson, the man who told Theroux about the Massacre, to whom Kent State was mentioned,  said “But you know those kids that died were white”.  “People here understand how it is to need help, to be neglected”.  So we do.

Finding some pictures from the event, it was pretty amazing, and pretty tame to have had three students killed.

all star bowling alley

 

Above is the bowling alley where it all started.  The building looks just the same now, but vacant.  It is in a part of town that boasts lots of vacancies, and has since I have been around here.  The alley is about six or eight blocks from SC State University (College then).  That was the destination of the march.  Back home after being rejected service in the bowling alley.

marchers oburg massacreLook at the marchers, how well dressed they are and marching in a line!  Kent State did not break out like this.  For two days peaceful demonstrations called for integration of the business so students could use it.  For sure, there was not another place where they could.  They were turned away by an owner who did not want to integrate, and the third day of demonstrations got dangerous.

the t and d oburg massacre

Here is the front page of the local paper for Feburary 9, the day after the violent night.  There is a building named after the three on the SC State University campus.

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THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND

And now some of us are 64?  Will you still need me, will you still feed me…

Where the hell did all the time go?  Have you listened to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lately?

1-grandview plaza

How appropriate that this center of our young lives was also on Route 66.  It adds to the romance.  We could, and did, walk here, but it was a long cement trek.  It was very near to our high school. The Grandview Cinema (which would materialize about where the little floating sign suspends above) did not open with the shopping center; it was built a little later.  There, we dated.  We shopped at Penney’s.  We stared into the mostly matte black windows of the Jet Lounge, and wondered what was going on in there.

The most evocative part of the picture above is what is surrounding Grandview Plaza: the pattern of houses.  They marched on for miles.  No one lived much differently than anyone else.

I begged my father’s new 1967 Le Sabre Convertible soon after I got my license for some unimportant task.  Took that car top-down to Grandview, parked it and strolled around Penney’s.  It wasn’t until looking for my keys on the way out that I realized they were left in the car.  With the top down.

dad's car

grandview plaza postcard

You can see the sign in this postcard in the lower left of the first image, across from the gas station.  Image is sure more important now.

Much more fun to take the bus, changing once at the exotic Ferguson Loop and go to Famous-Barr in the Northland Shopping Center in Ferguson.

northland

We’d save up our money, have lunch in the mezzanine between floors; there were drawings of women shoppers; angular, a mix between Audrey Hepburn and Barbie carrying hat boxes.  Later, during the British Invasion, there was a shop for juniors mimicking Carnaby  Street.  You just had to use the bus to get that kind of fashion interface!

glenns accident

Glenn had his first accident in the area just under the Kresge sign.  Years after this picture was taken, but we remember the Christmas candles on the roof.  And it was Santa in the helicopter.  This was probably the first year Northland did this.

northland 3

Northland was destroyed in 2005.

My now thirty year old son was maybe six when he realized that my youthful world was not actually black and white.  He was very perceptive.  In a way, the sixties WERE very black and white.