I was sent to South Carolina for work only to be quite a bit surprised at what I learned – South Carolina is a very strange place:
- there is a very weird attachment to the confederacy,
- the civil war is described as a war between the “Federalists” and the confederates,
- locals told me the Columbia area is known as the “armpit of the south” due to how humid and hot it gets,
- the magnolia trees are incredible – some fully in bloom and 30ft tall, and,
- the poverty is very apparent, pervasive and manifests itself in subtle ways,
- it appears as though there is a very bimodal distribution of wealth.
We spent a bit of time driving around the countryside and seeing a confederate paraphernalia wasn’t uncommon. What was strange was seeing Sons of the Confederacy #842 implying there are at least 841 other Sons of the Confederacy establishments. I had never heard of the Sons of the Confederacy so I learned what Sons of Confederacy stood for and promoted which, unfortunately, didn’t clear much up for me. America loves winners. It’s in our blood. Yet, there’s a group of people who cling to the past glorifying a bunch of losers who lost fighting trying to defend their horrific and awful values and morals. We lived on a east coast and we’ve traveled around the east coast quite a bit so we read a lot of roadside historical markers and visited other historical sites but South Carolina is the first place I can recall reading about the “Federalists”. I think this is a purpose obfuscated to change the narrative to States Rights fighting a supreme federal government instead of the Union, preserving the union, fighting against a bunch of renegades who want to enslave people. It’s sad.
It was a bit warm and humid driving around South Carolina but I told we weren’t close to experiencing the worst of the weather. I felt quite fortunate the weather was a nice (?) as it was because it already felt like I was wearing a hot shower.
Everything was neon green, just lush, but the 30ft Southern Magnolia trees were a shock. The flowers the size of a small dinner plate and the trees were covered with the flowers. Lots of other plants were in bloom but the Southern Magnolia stole the day – by far. We have magnolias here in Minnesota but nothing 30ft tall!
Rural South Carolina is a bipolar arrangement of abject poverty and well off communities. It wasn’t uncommon to see well-off gated communities near run down clusters of homes. The typical big box stores could be seen in the outskirts of reasonably large communities but the dowtowns were almost always boarded shut or vacant. It was depressing.
I noticed another strange manifestation of the poverty and bifurcated socioeconomic classes when it came to picking restaurants based on Google Reviews. Low cost quick serve restaurants, like Little Ceasers, could easily get 4.2+ stars with hundreds of reviews while high-end steakhouses would score in the 3 star range with hundreds of reviews. Now, while I don’t much for meat anymore, I do remember how a high-end steak tastes and I’m confident all the steak I’ve ever had is better than all the Little Ceasers I’ve ever had, no contest. We visited a steakhouse with 3.8 stars and my colleague had a very large steak so I asked him if the steak was better than all the Little Ceasers he’s ever had, after a chuckle he said, “well, yeah, it’s steak”. The only reasonable theory I have as to why this situation exists is because there’s a bimodal distribution of wealth so different groups go to different restaurants with little overlap: lower socioeconomic classes go to Little Ceasers and well-off folks go to steakhouses.
Socioeconomic divides are everywhere in America, South Carolina isn’t unique. What is unique is how the divide plays out and the apparent valley between the poor and well-to-do.
So, in general, South Carolina is a weird place.
Enjoy the photos –