Going down south
So, got yer feet up, have ya? This is the Charleston, South, Myrtle Beach, Halloween blog, Part 1. It’s a little bit history, little bit people-watching, little bit crazy celebrations.
Visit to South Carolina
You know, I have two very conflicting views of the South. One that is romantic, and one that is not so romantic.
This journey was about finding out what today’s South is like. In addition to wanting to observe the fabulous architecture, the amazing swamps, and the rich history, I also wished to confront that very history alongside learning about race issues and politics during my visit, and to get an idea of how that history played out.
I learned a lot – interspersed with A LOT of fun, of course 😉
(And, yes, the USA DOES have history, so you cheeky Brits who, when I posted that I was getting an American history lesson in South Carolina, commented ‘That won’t take long then…”, can think again, because American history is complex, frustrating and incredible, all in one go.)
1. Sweetgrass baskets. I had not heard of, nor seen, sweetgrass baskets before flying in to Myrtle Beach and driving the route down to Charleston. There were several stalls on the roadside where sweetgrass baskets were being handmade. I wondered what they were all about, since it was pretty obvious that there must be a long tradition behind them.
Sweetgrass basket making has been a part of the community in and around the Charleston area for over 400 years, apparently. The baskets are made from Natural Palmetto, Long Pine Needles, Bulrush and Sweetgrass.
The tradition of the basket making was brought to the area by slaves who came from West Africa. Our basket making process is a traditional art form which has been passed from generation to generation. Today, it is one of the oldest art forms of African origin in the United States.
2. Suck Bang Blow. Ah, the name of this restaurant tickled my bones. That’s for real?! Yes, it surely is.
The restaurant is nestled along Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, about 10 miles south of South Myrtle Beach. The Original Suck Bang Blow opened its doors in 1996, and gained (these are their words, not mine) ‘a reputation for smokin’ burnouts, hot girls, great music and, of course, the fact that you could ride through the front doors, right up to the bar, and order a cold one! It was and still is a favorite among rally-goers and locals alike.’
Oh I see, it’s a biker bar that you can drive into! How cool.
3. Boone Hall Plantation. So, after seeing this biker bar we headed out for some more real kind of culture and lo, here is Boone Hall Plantation. It’s a pretty impressive sight from the main highway.
Boone Hall Plantation was founded in 1681 when Englishman Major John Boone came to Charleston and established a lucrative plantation and ‘gracious home’ on the banks of Wampacheone Creek. The family and descendants of Major Boone were influential in the history of South Carolina, the colonies and the nation. The McRae family, who live there now, opened it up to the public in 1956.
This weekend they were holding a Fall Festival and Fright Night in the grounds. It looked pretty darn awesome, if running from zombies is your thing…..
4. Rhett Butler Drive. There is one, in Charleston – and we spotted it! Hoorah, how exciting!
5. The Aitken-Rhett House. This amazingly well preserved home in Charleston was built around 1820. The whole house feels very real and not chilling – moreover, friendly and welcoming. Ah, to have danced at a ball in this house!
Prior to the Civil War, the Aiken-Rhett House was maintained by a population of highly skilled enslaved African-Americans who worked to sustain the Aikens’ high standards for elegant living and entertaining (and yes, it was pretty ostentatious and grandiose, as was the way at that time).
Occupations of the slaves within the household included carriage drivers, cooks, footmen, gardeners, laundresses, nursemaids, and seamstresses. A post Civil War document reveals the names of 14 slaves that lived at the Aiken-Rhett House and attended the family: Tom and Ann Greggs, and their son, Henry; Dorcas and Sambo Richardson and their children, Charles, Rachel, Victoria, Elizabeth, and Julia; Charles Jackson, Anthony Barnwell, and two carpenters, Will and Jacob. Many of these individuals remained in Charleston following Emancipation, and Jacob Gaillard and Henry Greggs lived and worked at the Aiken-Rhett House until their deaths in 1896 and 1908.
The back lot of the Aiken-Rhett House is where the slaves worked and lived. The site is unique because the Aiken-Rhett House retains both original outbuildings. One is the kitchen and laundry and the other a carriage and stable house, above which are found sleeping quarters.
It is hard to walk around slave accommodation. We were advised that the slaves under the jurisdiction of the Aitken-Rhett family had significantly better living and working conditions that many other slaves during that time. Still…
William Aitken actually seemed like a pretty decent bloke, all said and done. I learned even more about the Civil War and its impact from this visit. If you’re heading to Charleston, I recommend it.
5. Hungryneck Boulevard. I love American roadsigns and names. They’re just so different from ones in the UK. My favourite this trip was Hungryneck Boulevard. Genius.
Part 2 of the blog….coming up: Charleston, swamps, plantations and Halloween! 🙂
Here are some pics to keep you going.