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SCIWAY News No. 56 – June 2008

Previous Issues of SCIWAY News

In This Issue

  1. A Nickel for Your Nickname
  2. June's Top Ten – Notable SC Websites
  3. South Carolina on My Mind – Listen at Last!
  4. SC Picture of the Month
  5. Upcoming SC Festivals & Events
  6. Pearl Fryar's Topiary Gardens: Yard of the Century

1. A Nickel for Your Nickname

Electric City ... Lettuce City ... Sparkle City ... Garden of the Gods. South Carolina cities and towns certainly have their share of unique monikers. Some are obscure, others historical, but all are sure to either make you smile or scratch your head. That's why – with your help – we are compiling a guide to city and town nicknames in South Carolina.

This follows in our quest to learn more about our history and culture through the names we give ourselves. We've covered the origins of the term Sandlapper, and we remembered our years as the Iodine State. Last summer, we also assembled the SC Place Name Pronunciations Guide, a guide that we couldn't have made without the amazing response we got from you – our readers.

Here are a few examples:
  • Electric City: Anderson acquired its nickname in the late 19th century, when it became the first city in the South to make use of long distance cables to carry electricity generated from hydroelectric power plants. In 1897, it boasted electric streetcars, street lamps, and the world's first electrically-powered cotton gin.

  • Lettuce City: Beaufort's relatively obscure nickname harkens back to the advent of truck farming in the area. Improved transportation beginning in the early 20th century allowed area farmers to sell their crops to distant markets. Lettuce was one of them and Beaufort was well known for it.

  • Sparkle City: Spartanburg's dazzling nickname draws its origin from a popular late 50s rockabilly group called "Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones." These four teenagers from nearby Cowpens made appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "American Bandstand" after their hit single Black Slacks made it to the Billboard charts in 1957.

  • Garden of the Gods: Walhalla's nickname stems from "Valhalla," a heaven for slain warriors in Norse mythology. Located in Oconee County and settled by German immigrants in 1850, Walhalla understandably must have seemed like a heavenly place to its new inhabitants.
This is a good start, but we need your help in creating a complete guide to SC city nicknames. Though we are from South Carolina, we still learn new things about our state every day. Email us at service@sciway.net with your favorite town nickname and any theory behind its origin. Of course, we'll do our best not to divulge these secrets to outsiders, lest we lose the satisfaction of confusing visitors with names they won't find in the guidebooks.

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2. June's Top Ten – Notable SC Websites

Charleston Bike Co-op - Community bicycle workshop provides knowledge and tools - promotes bikes as viable transportation - site no longer available

First Fridays - 29 Greenville art galleries open from 6-9 on the first Friday of each month to showcase local, regional, and national artists - the website lists participating galleries and their websites - site no longer available

HugerStreet.com - Places to go and things to do for couples, families, and singles in Columbia

One Laptop Per Child / South Carolina - Pilot project with a long-term goal of providing all elementary school children in SC with low-cost, child-friendly laptops for educational purposes

Safe Kids Upstate - Every day a South Carolina child dies due to an injury – learn how to keep your kids safe

Smart Business Recycling Program - Assists businesses in efforts to reduce waste and recycle

South Carolina Watermelon Board - All about watermelon harvests in our state, plus creative recipes! - site no longer exists

Sumter County Gallery of Art - Info on exhibits, art classes, and summer camps for children

Town of Turbeville - Includes a town scrapbook, helpful info for newcomers, and the "News, Views, and Howdy-Do's" newsletter

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3. South Carolina on My Mind – Listen at Last!

Can you name our state bird? State flower? State dance? If you said Carolina Wren, Yellow Jessamine, and the Shag, you're right of course. Now quick – hum a line of our state song ....

Well, that's a trick question. We actually have two state songs. But if you're hard-pressed to sing along to either, you're not alone.

For years readers have been asking us where they could hear these songs. Many people, like us, were simply curious; we also heard from teachers who hoped their students could learn one or both of them. One call even came from the Canadian government – they were preparing to host a South Carolina dignitary and wanted to play him the state song.

The lyrics to both state songs are on SCIway along with the tune to Carolina, adopted as our state song in 1911. It was written by the Poet Laureate of the Confederacy, Henry Timrod, and set to music by Miss Anne Curtis Burgess.

However, until recently we knew very little about South Carolina on My Mind, which became our second state song in 1984. (It's not uncommon for states to have multiple songs – Tennessee has five!)

So last month we set out to solve this problem. We found Hank Martin, who wrote the song and first sang it with Buzz Arledge a quarter of a century ago. They're both native South Carolinians, and beach music lovers may remember them as original members of "Second Nature," a band still popular today. These days Hank lives in Tennessee – still entertaining, and still looking for an excuse to come back to his home state. As luck would have it, he was set to visit SC just days after we contacted him!

Hank Martin and Buzz Arledge

Hank's long musical career has taken him everywhere from Nashville to New York, where he recorded numerous national commercials. You may recognize some of them like "Nationwide is On Your Side" and "Reach Out and Touch Someone" (AT&T). Jingles became his bread and butter, but he was also interested in writing music. When contacted to write a song for a political campaign in SC, Hank was happy to oblige. Using his father-in-law's poem, A Carolina Love Song, as inspiration, he wrote a longing ballad about someone who has moved away but can't forget our state's "sunshine summertimes" or "beauty of the autumns."

But as often happens with political campaigns, this one sizzled out. Hank was left with a song and nowhere to sing it until the SC Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department asked him to record it. Hank turned to his long-time singing partner and friend Buzz Arledge to do a duet, and soon the song was all over the airwaves. The two were asked to perform at governor's conferences, Gamecock football games, and everywhere in between. The song fit its new role to a tee.

And so in 1984 our State Legislature passed a resolution making South Carolina on My Mind our second state song, declaring that it had "penetrated the hearts of countless numbers of Americans and ... as a direct result of their exposure to the song, many of them now have 'South Carolina on Their Mind.'" Hank and Buzz then found themselves performing for the General Assembly.

For whatever reason, this important song has suffered relative anonymity for the past two decades. It's been pretty much impossible to find ... until now! SCIway is proud to be able to reintroduce South Carolina on My Mind to our readers, or listeners as the case may be!

Hank and Linda Martin Editor's Note:
Our many thanks to Hank Martin, who graciously allowed us to provide a venue for his song to be heard. He still performs, often with his equally-talented wife Linda. They love traveling back to South Carolina and are available for festivals, sporting events, and church concerts. You can contact them by phone at 615-504-2830 or visit Hank's Facebook page. Buzz Arledge resides in Nashville as well, not far from Hank and Linda. They are still good friends.


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4. SC Picture of the Month

Smooth as a mirror, the waters of Charleston Harbor reflect the lights of the new Arthur Ravenel Bridge.

Arthur Ravenel Bridge at Night

Adding a touch of modernity to Charleston's historic skyline, the Arthur Ravenel Bridge is a favorite amongst locals and visitors alike. A bike and pedestrian walkway now connects the peninsula with Mount Pleasant and provides some amazing views of Charleston and its harbor. Marcus Reinkensmeyer was visiting from Scottsdale, Arizona when he took this shot. Thanks, Marcus!

Contribute your shot to the SC Picture Project or see our most recent photo submissions.

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5. Upcoming SC Festivals & Events

For a complete calendar of South Carolina festivals and events, visit https://www.sciway.net/calendar.html. Here are just a few of June and early July's highlights:

Sun Fun Festival - Myrtle Beach - air shows, parade, pageants, sporting events, kids' fair - June 5-9

Scottish Games & Highland Festival - Greenville - highland dancing, parade, Scottish athletic competitions, pipe bands, children's events - June 6-7

Mighty Moo Festival - Cowpens - honors crewmen who served aboard the USS Cowpens in WWII with music, food, rides, games, fireworks - June 11-14 - site no longer exists

Edisto Riverfest - Walterboro - canoeing, kayaking, workshops, food, artisans - June 14-15 - site no longer exists

Hampton County Watermelon Festival - Contests, music, parade, food, family fun - June 14-22

South Carolina Festival of Flowers - Greenwood - garden tours, music, children's activities - June 20-22

South Carolina Peach Festival - Gaffney - family fun fest, sporting events, parade - June 20-29

Island Heritage Festival - James Island - honoring the Gullah culture - June 27-29 - site no longer exists

Lexington County Peach Festival - Parade, pageants, recipe contests, car show - July 4

Patriot's Point 4th of July Celebration - Mount Pleasant - food, children's area, music, fireworks launched from USS Yorktown - page no longer exists

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6. Pearl Fryar's Topiary Gardens: Yard of the Century

A Cut Above – When Pearl Fryar moved to Bishopville in 1976, the three acres that surround his suburban ranch-style home consisted of nothing but flat, barren cornfields. In the early eighties, he began planting and pruning trees and shrubs. After two-and-a-half decades of near constant labor, he has transformed his yard into an internationally-known topiary garden that attracts 5,000 visitors a year. This month, SCIway traveled to Bishopville to meet Mr. Fryar, who talked to us for the better part of two hours and treated us to ice cold bottles of water and our very first ride on a cherry picker!
Madness lends itself to legend, and by now most of us have heard the story behind Pearl Fryar's wild, whimsical garden just outside Bishopville in Lee County. Mr. Fryar, they say, simply wanted to win "Yard of the Month."

Fryar regularly spreads this rumor himself, but dig a little deeper, and you may find yourself asking, "Why?" Turns out that when Fryar, his wife Metra, and their son Patrick first came to Bishopville back in the early eighties, they tried to buy a house in an all-white neighborhood but soon found they weren't welcome. Black folks, they were told, "don't keep up their yards."

Pearl Fryar Fishbone Topiary Pearl Fryar with His Love and Unity Sculpture Pearl Fryar and His Pothead

A quarter-century later, it's pretty clear that's not the case. Since that time, Fryar has won "Yard of the Month" three times – a feat considering the piece of property he eventually bought lies outside of the town's limits and isn't technically even eligible. He's also been awarded a Medal of Honor in Art from Winthrop University and serves as artist-in-residence at Coker University, where he teaches classes.

If that weren't enough, he's also a hot commodity on the lecture circuit, traveling near and far to speak and demonstrate his unorthodox techniques. His topiaries have sold as installations of "living sculpture" to museums for as much as 35 grand apiece. He's a fixture on television shows including HGTV and PBS's Victory Gardens. Perhaps most impressive of all, his garden was recently selected by the Garden Conservancy as one of the four most important gardens in the Southeast. As such, they hope to help preserve it long after Fryar himself is gone. (South Carolina's Brookgreen Gardens is another of the four gardens selected.)

But don't stop there. Dig deeper still and you'll learn that Fryar was born a sharecropper's son in rural Clinton, North Carolina. Growing up he learned from his parents that the way to survive in this world was to become "invisible." Fryar, who was active in sit-ins and protests during the Civil Rights movement, often wrote home to his mother and said, "Mama. I got nothing to do with this." His hero was and remains Jackie Robinson. Though Fryar never played much baseball, he watched as Robinson broke into a previously all-white world. Robinson, he says, laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement and made things possible for Fryar's other hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After serving in Korea, Fryar followed his grade school sweetheart to New York. They married, and he soon found work as a troubleshooter at a canning plant. Eventually they were transferred to Atlanta, and when an opportunity to move to Bishopville arose, Fryar took it to be closer to his family.

Despite years of service to his company, Fryar was never promoted to plant manager. When the New York Times interviewed Fryar in 2005, they asked him if this was "because he was black." Fryar chose his words carefully, explaining that the situation in the South "had not changed that much." His wife Metra answered more directly: "Yes."

Whatever the reason, Fryar's frustration was real. Mrs. Fryar explains that one day Fryar went out into the front yard and cut up their holly. Thinking back, she says, "I thought he had lost it."

Maybe he had. From then on, Fryar found himself working ten-hour shifts at the plant, then coming home to set up ladders and spotlights so he could work all night and into the morning on his "Dr. Seuss meets Salvador Dali" designs. The local electric company eventually set up a street light in his backyard to help him out. Today the lamp is festooned in a thirty-foot teepee of creeping juniper – easily one of the loveliest luminaries in all of SC.

Down but not out, Fryar had discovered a new way to excel and receive recognition. He retired three years ago and now prunes full-time. Fryar says his garden is "finished" now, meaning he no longer adds new plants. The maintenance is constant, of course, and he is quick to point out that topiaries aren't a good hobby for someone who wants to hunt, fish, or really, do just about anything else.

At 68, Fryar finally has a little help around the yard. With support from the Garden Conservancy and the newly-formed Friends of Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden, he's been able to hire a man part-time. That doesn't mean he's taking it easy – far from it in fact. Fryar seems to be busier than ever these days, but he's never too busy to greet his guests. In all he welcomes about 5,000 visitors to his yard each year – at no charge – and it seems important to him to make sure people understand what he calls his "message."

Mr. Fryar should rest assured: That message is hard to miss. From the "junk art" metal ornaments he welds with his neighbor and emboldens with words like love, unity, and faith to the giant four-foot letters he's cut into his sod to spell "Peace, Love, and Goodwill," it is plain to see there's a higher purpose operating here.

In short, Fryar seeks to inspire. He is a man who has risen above disappointment and ordinary constraints – constraints of society, constraints of nature, and constraints of art. His garden grows tall and proud with plants that have no business surviving summers in the South. He uses no fertilizers or pesticides and waters very little. He has no formal training in what is traditionally considered a formal art. His only lesson was a three-minute demonstration from a nurseryman in Camden two-and-a-half decades ago. Then again, as Fryar is fond of saying, "Not knowing ahead of time that something is supposed to be impossible often makes it possible to achieve."

And the result? Well, these days Pearl Fryar is hardly invisible. Still, somehow we think his parents would not only be pleased but also incredibly proud.
Want to learn more about the man and his art? Check out SCIWAY's Guide to the Pearl Fryar Topiary Gardens to find pictures, stories, videos, and more. Also stay tuned for A Man Named Pearl, the feature-length documentary being released nationwide this summer. Most importantly, go visit the gardens yourself. You won't be sorry – they're worth the trip!
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