The British may have successfully established South Carolina’s first permanent settlement in Charleston (then called Charles Town, Charlestown), but the accent has been lost on the state’s present-day people.
After being stranded on I-95 in the middle of nowhere, we were rescued by a one-handed man who was irritated because he had misplaced his prosthetic hand. He wanted no help from us with the gas can nor did we push to help with the sound of bullfrogs resonating from deep in the woods.
South Carolina's Marshall Tucker Band from Spartanburg, SC
The man delivered enough gas for us to reach the next town, which we thought meant turning immediately off at the next exit. However, we discovered that exit led to nowhere but more unnerving darkness, so we quickly got back on the interstate.
At last, we saw lights appearing out of the woods up ahead in a town called Santee, SC.
In the heart of Santee were many full-service gas stations and fast-food huddle houses. The largest service station was open 24-hours. It was called Smith’s with a convenience store packed with fruit preservatives, pralines and slices of homemade jelly and maple syrup cakes like grandmother used to make, pre-packaged sandwiches, chips, Starbucks coffee and Cajun boiled peanuts and fireworks.
The store clerk was a woman who absolutely loved her job and all the out of state people she got to meet on their way to Florida. She encouraged us (me in particular) to browse the hundreds of souvenirs that gave the store a country store appeal. Though I felt like I was in a horror film as I walked down the aisles looking at the items and reading all the signs and one fast-moving roach I stepped on and killed.
I was not shocked or offended by a dozen black Mammies surrounding me down one aisle at 4 a.m. in the morning, but I didn’t buy or want any of them to take home.
I remembered blond David with the Italian last name I dated back in San Francisco who worked as an executive at CitiBank when I worked as executive assistant for an Italian-American senior executive president of California Retail/Personal Banking at Bank of America. David was...well...good-very good...but in David’s spotless cold-kitchen above the cabinet were these same black-face Mammies modeled with that same horrid rag tied around their heads. I giggled remembering how I pretended not to see David’s mammies. I couldn’t really look at them then except now I was looking at them without shame and as cheerful art.