Hard Lessons

Some history lessons are harder to learn than others.

Andy and I came face to face with a hard history lesson this summer.

About six miles outside of Camden, SC stands a memorial to the 77 victims of the 1923 Cleveland School fire. We visited the site when we traveled to Kershaw County. Neither of us spoke as we read the monument.

We walked to the model of the school– each in silent contemplation. This site is a somber and almost spiritual place. Young and old voices were stilled here and it just seemed wrong to break that silence.

Cleveland School–named for President Grover Cleveland– was a two story wooden structure with a stage on the second floor. The only exit from the second floor was a 30 inch wide wooden staircase that led from a cloakroom to the outside. There was no inside stairwell from the second floor to the first.

The stage was at the opposite end of the room from the stairwell. The door to the stairwell in the cloakroom opened inside. The school had no electricity but was lit by oil and kerosene lamps.

The school year was coming to a close on May 17. The community had gathered for the end of the year school play –Miss Topsy-Turvey. At least 200 –and some estimate over 300– people crowded into the second floor to see the performance.

A model of the school is part of the Memorial to the victims of the 1923 fire.

The stage was lit by kerosene lamps. One lamp, according to a source, was suspended by wire from the ceiling and was very close to the curtains.

One account says the lamp was hit during a scene change which weakened the wire. Others suspect that the heat from the lamp scorched the suspension wire. However it happened, the lamp fell with oil spilling across stage.

Spectators rushed to smother the flames with coats. For a moment it appeared the fire was out. Then the stage curtains burst into flames. People rushed toward the stairwell in a panic. Chairs toppled and people fell in the rush to escape. Several were trampled as others scrambled for the stairwell.

The stairwell door opened inside and survivors said that many were trapped behind the door as others ran to reach the stairs.

The stairwell collapsed and some inside jumped from the second floor windows. Some survived the leap, but with broken bones and other injuries. The Syracuse Herald of New York reported that the second floor collapsed soon after the stairway gave way and that the entire school was burned to the ground an hour after the fire started.

News of the fire spread around the nation quickly. From New York to Chicago, newspapers carried news of the tragedy. Initially, it was thought that 74 persons died. Later, the figure rose to 77. The remains that could not be identified were buried in a mass grave at Beulah United Methodist Church.

Of the 77 dead, 47 were children. The last survivor of the fire, Pearl Godwin Tiller, passed away in 2012. It was reported that every family in the community lost family members in the fire. A few years after the fire, The Dixon Brothers wrote a song about the tragedy called The Schoolhouse Fire.

The fire was one of the catalysts for laws mandating building fire codes and fire drills. After the fire, codes requiring doors to open outward and mandatory monthly fire drills were put in place by state governments. Much like the Silverstreet school bus/train tragedy, this history lesson is a hard lesson.

The Saluda Livestock Market Cafe

You can’t count on the option of fried fatback at many restaurants anymore. Fried fatback is always available at the Saluda Livestock Market’s cafe.

Andy and I knew we were in for a treat when we smelled the fried chicken. When we saw the fried fatback, we knew we were in southern food heaven at the Saluda Livestock Market Cafe. (Catered by Matthews Bar-B-Que, Saluda)

We had worked up an appetite walking catwalks over the livestock holding pens and then watching the first auction of the day. By the time the lunchtime break rolled around, we wasted no time heading to the cafe.

We stood in line to choose our meat and three The ladies who plated our choices called us “Honey” and “Darlin'” and made sure we picked up our cornbread and rolls. They brought us a pitcher of sweet tea and peach cobbler for dessert.

Go visit the Saluda Livestock Market on a Monday and try the cafe. You won’t be disappointed.

Where are we going? What are we taping? What are we writing?

Sometimes we don’t know where we are–not geographically–but in all other terms.

We get lost in the “where are we and what comes next” context. We juggle the locations, due dates and meetings and sometimes we drop the ball. Each month we try to keep in mind:

  • Where and when we will travel next.
  • Where and when we video the intro teaser.
  • When we prepare the research for the trip.
  • Which past trip are we writing about for the Newberry Magazine.
  • When will we work on photos for the magazine, web, Facebook and Instagram sites for current trip.
  • When will we audio tape the radio show for AM 1240 WKDK.
  • What teasers to use for the next trip after the radio show.

One month we were planning the trip to Fairfield, writing about the trip to Aiken, and traveling to Abbeville.

We get lost in the past, present, and future on Off the I.

In awe of Michael

IMG_2887Michael Tolbert is our “Off The I” technology guru.

He is our mentor, our guide and our friend. He is a gifted photographer, film maker, writer, website designer and teacher.

Michael is truly a Renaissance Man.

He is responsible for Off the I’s web presence and, in the process, introduced us to an entirely new vocabulary.

When Michael told us that he had been diagnosed with leukemia, we were shocked and heartbroken.

It was then that we saw Michael’s depth of courage and fortitude. He faced the leukemia diagnosis and subsequent treatment with a strength that was awe inspiring.

We know this because he invited us to follow his treatment on the web.   Michael chronicled his treatment on Facebook in Diagnosis: The Series .

We followed Michael’s journey online, via text messages and person to person.

Just last week he told us that he was now in remission. That news was the best news to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Thank you Michael. You taught us much more than how to build a web platform.


There was joy in Mudville

Muddy boots, muddy cooler and a muddy canoe equal a successful Tyger River trip.

Momma told me I could find every mud hole in the yard. She said that well over a half century ago. It is still true.

Andy and I found a whole lot of mud on our Tyger River trip. We had a whole lot of fun with that mud.

The trip was worth every mud stain and every “sinking up to our ankles in muck” moment. Our friend and guide Wayne had his own nickname for the mud along the river banks. We might get to that nickname later.

We slid in the mud coming down the bank to the put in point. We fell in the mud at a pit stop.  We brought mud into the canoe from the stop–enough to make mud pies. We stepped in some deep mud when we disembarked from the canoe.

It was a fine and wonderful day!

Unlike the town in Casey at Bat, there was great joy in our Tyger River Mudville.


Maps AND Ms. Google

My philosophy of life can be summed up in one word:  And. It’s all in my name, ANDy. I do not believe in Either/Or. Well, maybe that is a little harsh, a little Either/Orish. Let’s just say I try to avoid Either/Or situations.

Either/Or leads to disagreements, winners and losers, and war. All negative. And leads to compromise, winners and winners, and peace. All positive.

What does all of this have to do with Off the I? Maps And Ms. Google.

Susan is a gazetteer, which is another name for map lover. I am a Ms. Google fan. Mainly, because I am hopeless with maps.

On our OTI trips, Susan opened her Gazeteer and talked and pointed north and east with great authority. I nodded sagely, just like I did when my Daddy lectured me and when my math teacher explained algebra. Being a teacher, Susan tested me. I failed. Miserably.

Susan could have made fun of me, in an Either/Or kind of way. She didn’t, although she did roll her eyes and sigh a couple of times. None of us is perfect.

When we were forced to resort to Ms. Google, I cocked my head with a superior air and smiled at Susan smugly. Refer to the “None of us is perfect.” comment above. It could have gotten ugly from here, but I remembered And. And means you have to listen to the other side. Either/Or was looking good to me at this point. Keep remembering that “None of us…” line.

Susan is a good teacher. She patiently repeated. She cajoled. She praised the tiniest bit of improvement. One day it dawned on me that maps helped me “see” and remember the trip much better than Ms. Google. Please don’t tell her that I just bought a map for a personal trip I am taking.

Little by little, maps are becoming a beneficial friend to me. And, Susan still sometimes asks me to punch in our destination on Ms. Google and marvels at the backest of back roads we have discovered with her guidance.

And, that is why I believe in And! And friends.


Churchill, Roosevelt and Champagne

“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of Champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.”–British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Andy’s article about our trip to Aiken, SC came out today in the Newberry Magazine. I have been thinking about the conversation we had that day about Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.  Those two giant national leaders got along famously-unlike their contemporary counterparts.

Andy and I had appetizers at the famous Willcox Hotel in Aiken where both Roosevelt and Churchill stayed at different times. Roosevelt supposedly came to visit on the train on his way to Warm Springs. The train pulled up on the track behind the hotel and Secret Service agents carried him upstairs.

Lucy Mercer

Although there are stories about Roosevelt meeting with his good friend Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd who resided in Aiken, it should be noted that there is no written evidence of these clandestine meetings. 

Churchill visited South Carolina during WWII-touring Fort Jackson in June of 1942, meeting with FDR in Georgetown in 1944 at Bernard Baruch’s plantation.

At Roosevelt’s death in 1945, Churchill said the following:

“His love of his own country, his respect for its constitution, his power of gauging the tides and currents of its mobile public opinion, were always evident, but added to these were the beatings of that generous heart which was always stirred to anger and to action by spectacles of aggression and oppression by the strong against the weak.

Off the I in the South Carolina State Parks

The Off the I team LOVES South Carolina State Parks.

Andy and I have visited only a handful of our state’s 47 parks as the Off The I team and we hope to add even more as part of our Off the I tour.  Each of us has visited a number Edited Off the I.pptx-2of the parks individually and we both agree that our state park system is an often overlooked part of off the interstate South Carolina.

Check the State Park website state park website and discover the opportunities available for camping, fishing, canoeing and simply enjoying nature.

Andy and I began our Off the I trip last year with a visit to Kings’ Mountain State Park and have visited two parks in Oconee County this year.Edited Off the I.pptx

We hoped to visit Andrew Jackson State Park in Lancaster County and the Landsford Canal  State Park on the border of Lancaster and Chester County.  We ran out of daylight and postponed those visits.

We will return!

On non Off the I journeys, I adore the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at Greenwood State Park, the campsites and nature trail at Chester State Park and the lake walking course at Sesquicentennial State Park. IMG_2305
Dreher Island State Park is a little too busy for me; but is one of the most popular in the Midlands.

Edisto State Park is one of the most beautiful parks I have visited. I know little about the game, but the golf course at Hickory Knob is pretty and green.

Hamilton Branch State Park will offer you tranquility while Croft State Park offers riding trails.

Table Rock and Caesars Head State Park are the parks for some strenuous hiking. Parris Mountain offers great views.

Get out and visit the SC State Parks. It is more than worth your time. We will update our blog as we visit more of the parks.



Have duct tape. Will Travel.

On the coldest day of January, Andy and I drove the backroads to Greer, Dark Corners and Little Chicago.

We were bundled up in heavy coats, gloves and boots. We had our thermos of coffee, charged cell phones and a full tank of gas.  We were prepared!

Or so we thought.

Somewhere outside of Woodruff on SC 146, we  heard a strange sound from the front of the car. It rattled, squealed and crashed. Then, we smelled the burning rubber.

Andy pulled off on a side road that was little more than a one lane graveled driveway.  (Must have been a party road because there were dozens of empty PBR cans.)

Turns out the casing of Andy’s running lights had detached and was rubbing against her tire. Intrepid travelers that we are, we temporarily put it back in place. We were so proud.

Less than two miles later, our fix became unfixed.

Finally, we found a country store that had duct tape. All was well once we used the tape to hold the casing in place.

Moral: Always have duct tape in your trunk!





How does your Garden Grow Part II

So I am late posting Part II of my Andy designed and created garden.  Blame the rain.

Borrowing the words of Forrest Gump,  we have had  “. . . little bitty stinging’ rain, and big ol’ fat rain, rain that flew in sideways and sometimes rain that seemed to come straight from underneath.”

So when the backyard dries out, we’ll get back to the garden.



Andy came back to my rescue with more cuttings, an extra pair of gloves and more pots.   As we potted more cuttings, we discovered we had an invasion of ants. The bad ants-not the good ones.

Andy conquered this invading army with her own mixed spray recipe.

There are no more bad ants in my garden.

Thank you, Andy


How Does Your Garden Grow?

On a sunny day last winter Andy was inspired to create a garden in my forlorn back yard. We were working at my picnic table mapping out our next Off the I adventure.

Somewhere between planning the trip and finding a compatible calendar date, Andy said “I am going to help you fix your backyard.”

Andy said she would provide cuttings from her own gorgeous back yard. (I just love my Off The I friend.) She gave me a list of things to have on hand in the spring–potting soil, containers, hangers, etc.

Last week, Andy brought pots, a beautiful tile and dozens of plants she had cultivated over the winter.   She patiently taught me what each plant needed to survive. (Knowing I do not have my grandmother’s green thumb, she brought me plants that do well with a minimum of attention.)

After three weeks, my Andy designed garden flourishes!

Andy is a genius designer. Using an old chair, travel trailer steps and her own creativity, she builds the nucleus of a backyard garden. (All the plants are cuttings from her backyard as well as most of the pots and the tile at top right.)



In the Dark Corner of South Carolina

Many people who have heard of the Dark Corner in South Carolina think the name comes from the dark history of bootlegging.

There are those who say that the name came from the rugged environment and hard access to the area once it was opened by a treaty with the Cherokee. These folks say that the term Dark Corner was in use before 1832 when the term was first used in print.IMG_5391

SC Governor Perry said “the light of nullification” would not shine in the Dark Corner back in 1832 and the name Dark Corner made it into the newspapers.

The Squire of Dark Corner, Dean Campbell says that it was the nullification issue that gave the area its name. We buy his explanation.

We made our way off the I to Dark Corner on one of the coldest days of the year. At the end of that cold day, we celebrated with country sausage we bought off the I and gravy made with milk from a local creamery.

We should have bought some moonshine but did not know where to find the local still.

From the Mountain

Kings Mountain State Park in Blacksburg  South Carolina was our first “Off the I” unnameddestination. Either named for King George III or for a family of early settlers–historians disagree–the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780 was a significant victory for the patriots during the American Revolution.

Historians and grammarians disagree about Kings versus King’s Mountain. For an interesting discussion, check out

Since the state park is adjacent to the Kings Mountain National Military Park, we visited the national park as well.

Never let it be said that Andy and Susan do not respect the doctrine of the separation of powers central to our federal system of government.

Good looking Visitor’s Center and the film is worth your time. Short walk to the battlefield.

We also respect the unsung or under-sung heroes of history. In addition, we are always looking for a connection to our home county of Newberry. James Williams, NOT the Newberry dentist, fit both bills… Read below for the REVOLUTIONARY WAR James Williams. Williams did not have the time to record his exploits nor the PR firm to write them for him as did Marion and Sumter.