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. 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.

Pedro South of the Border

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

South of the Border Lights

Andy Hunter of Denmark, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Motel guests frequently referred to the men as “Pedro,” a common Mexican name. 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.

South of the Border Aerial

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

South of the Border Sign

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

South of the Border

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

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.

Pedros Diner

SCIWAY, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Read the Dillon County article of SCIWAY News, October 2008 issue.

South of the Border Info

Address: 3346 Highway 301 North, Hamer, SC 29547

South of the Border Map

South of the Border – Add Info and More Photos

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5 Comments about South of the Border

AnthonyNo Gravatar says:
May 10th, 2012 at 2:47 am

Stopped there years ago when my grandparents took us to Florida in the late 60’s. Got to finally return there 2 years ago when my wife and I were on our way to Hilton Head. Not very clean, food not very good, and the gifts are a little tacky but it was a great nostalgic visit. Hope to stop there again in October.

DonnaNo Gravatar says:
February 26th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

This place is a history icon. My mother would stop there with me and my brother when we were growing up, then I took my girls while growing up, now my daughter takes her daughter there. This is a family tradition.

MartyNo Gravatar says:
February 11th, 2012 at 4:07 am

This place is awesome. I always looked forward to stopping there when I was a kid, and love its history as a grown up.

LynnNo Gravatar says:
December 27th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

I love going North & South on I95 looking for the signs. We tried counting them, but that didn’t work out too well. Does anybody know how many there are?

JoAnneNo Gravatar says:
March 6th, 2011 at 7:25 am

Loved to stop here when my late husband and I were trucking in the area!


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