Dear South Carolina,

Hey!  I miss you.  Momma says you’ve actually had a winter this year.  We always said, “Seasons?  What are those?” I guess the change has been nice.

We’re settling in to the new place.  Destro wants to climb on top of my head because the oven makes noises he’s not used to.  Hopefully, he’ll get over that or I’ll have to find a sling big enough for a 60 lb dog and strap him to my back.

I wanted to tell you that I saw your new book.  It’s gorgeous.  You look great!  Historic Photos of South Carolina.  Wow.  So, maybe it dates you, but I’m just saying.  Your Lowcountry, your Sandhills, your Piedmont – all your sides look good .  Doug Bostick tells your stories through photographs dating from 1860-1970.  I’ve  never seen some of these pictures.  The photographers range from the professional to a child playing with a camera.  I think choosing Mr. Bostick to tell your story was a good idea.  His arrangement of the photos and captions are well thought-out; although, I did notice that he is from James Island and an awful lot of the pictures are of the Charleston area.  No matter.  I love Charleston and The Holy City sure does have a history.   Oh, just thinking about it makes me want shrimp and grits and sweet cornbread.

I love looking at the old cars and clothes.  Women’s hairstyles and men’s high-waisted pants.  The storefronts and slow city streets.  There was so much land!  So much yard and unpaved, grassy lots.  Horse-drawn carriages and trolley cars.  Bare feet and rickety houses.  Dusty everything.  It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come.  And wasn’t it hot?  I mean, hot South Carolina hot in the summer.  Living with no air conditioning, and for those not on the coast, little to no breeze.  No sir.  Your living looks like it was hard.

I wonder how it feels to air some of your dirty laundry.  All out in the public.  Your archive isn’t flattering or particularly sordid.  It just is. You had to be honest.  You have a history of being stubborn, resolute in your convictions, often controversial and some might even say a little backward.  I imagine it is hard to visually capture your attitude, but this compilation shows a good try.  Pictures document some of your bleakest moments: cities ravaged by war, hurricanes, an earthquake, fires and people enslaved and living in the poorest conditions.  Beautiful plantation homes and grounds coexist with the darkness and awfulness of slavery. It’s a stark juxtaposition.  But there are also pictures that show your resolve, your willingness to try again, to rebuild.  Can you believe that church in Bennettsville?  It burned down the night of the first service and it took them four years to restore it.  That is commitment.

Your politics, social strata, your industry and your landscapes are all represented here.  It’s not a complete story, but for a coffee table book it’s a good start.  I’ll be getting out my magnifying glass to go through the book again.  I’m pretty sure that’s my great-grandfather walking down the streets of Columbia.  Did you see him?  Or my grandmother working in the mills.  She’s there – somewhere.

So, thanks.  And if you keep your sunny disposition this spring, maybe I’ll come for a visit.  But not too sunny, please.  And by the way, are you preparing for football season yet?  Never too early for a Clemson joke.



Historic Photos of South Carolina
Douglas Bostick

ISBN: 9781596525559

Turner Publishing Company 2010

part of the Historic Photos series

hardcover, 206 pages, 200 reproduced black and white photographs

archives used:

The Library of Congress

Santee Cooper

The South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina