South of the Border – Hamer, South Carolina
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The famed South of the Border entertainment complex is located in the Dillon County town of Hamer, just off I-95 and a stone’s throw below the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. In 1949 businessman Alan Schafer had the idea of opening a beer stand just below the North Carolina border, giving the business its name. What sounds like a small-time operation actually was quite strategic: many of the counties over the North Carolina line did not participate in alcohol sales, making Schafer’s business a convenient location for residents from both states to grab a beer.
With so much business flooding the beer stand, Schafer expanded. Soon the humble beer joint became a destination for motorists looking to stretch their legs and add a little whimsy to roadtrips. The “Mexican” theme is said to have originated when Schafer went on a business trip to Mexico. According to the tale, while there he hired two Mexican men to come and work for the South of the Border Motel, which Schafer added in 1954.
Motel guests frequently referred to the men as “Pedro,” a common name in Mexico. From that point, the park had a mascot, Pedro, whose caricature image adorns billboards from Virginia to Georgia, hoping to lure travelers to its festival-quality rides, reptile lagoon, and a view from the 200-foot-tall sombrero tower.
The business has been accused of racism and being insensitive to Latinos due to its depictions of Pedro, and many have called for boycotts of the park. Yet the park’s prime location on I-95 still attracts people, either out of curiosity or the need to stop and refuel after a long drive. The park has seen few updates in its 65 years of operation, leaving people to wonder if its 1950s appearance is the result of intentional nostalgia or managerial oversight.
Regardless, South of the Border is a business that has survived despite the changing times. It has received much attention as a roadside attraction and was featured on the Travel Channel and in Time Magazine, which named it one of America’s Top 50 Roadside Attractions.
The complex is now a truck stop-amusement park hybrid, boasting 135 acres of attractions for travelers weary of counting the numerous abandoned motels that flank the interstate in either direction.
Read the Dillon County article of SCIWAY News, October 2008 issue.
South of the Border Info
Address: 3346 Highway 301 North, Hamer, SC 29547
GPS Coordinates: 34.498367,-79.309253
South of the Border Map
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