Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cotton-Pickin' Time

It's nearing the end of November and most of South Carolina's 250,000 acres of cotton have been picked.  On a drive through cotton country, these long modules of picked cotton lie, waiting for the heavy equipment to load them and take them to the gin.  The longest modules in the field weigh 20,000 lbs, the shortest 5000 lbs.

Pre-Civil War times                               

and 20 years ago, before modules were
compacted in the field
One of the oldest producers of US cotton, South Carolina, after two years of crops decimated by rain, expects to break the state record.  Alas, poor Texas and Georgia farmers' fields, hit by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, look like this:
Texas Farm Bureau Photo 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gobble, Gobble

We are heading south to gobble down Thanksgiving dinner with family.  We cooked it yesterday and it's in the trunk, ready to heat and serve. 
Whether or not it's Thanksgiving Day today where you live, I hope you can take a special moment to spend in gratitude for your blessings and treasuring those you love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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 off.  

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 ....