Charleston trip august 10, 2008



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Charleston TRIP

August 10, 2008



I went from Nashville to Chatanooga where my cousin Barbara Foster lives. When she got off work we decided to try to get to the far side of Atlanta, GA. We stoped in Augusta, GA, for the night. Got into Charleston, SC, on Tuesday, Aug. 12, and checked into the Albert Pickney Hotel. It is located near the center of town, so we could walk to most places. We were only one block from the city market which is about 3-4 blocks long and you can purchase almost anything from jewelry to junk. We saw a lot of women weaving the sweet grass baskets which are very expensive. Men used to make these baskets for use on the plantations and they later taught the women the trade. The baskets are very durable and can actually be washed. You see women weaving these baskets all over town sitting on the sidewalks.
When we were settled into our room we decided to have dinner. The counsere told us of a restaurant and said it was only about 20 minutes away and we could walk it easily. Well we started out and walked 9 blocks away, and I figured it must have been 1 mile there and 1 mile back. One good thing is we walked off the food we ate.
On Wednesday it was raining. We decided to go ahead and go on a tour and we could dry out when we got home. The tour bus picked us up in front of our hotel and took us to the visitors center where we toured Charleston. When we pulled out, the tour guide said, "I must be careful not to hit a tourist because they would fine me 500 dollars. Now you know how much you are worth to us." This man talked so fast I could hardly hear what he was saying. I thought maybe Doug and Debbie were right, maybe I do need a hearing aid. I tried to hear as much as I could. When we got off the bus Barbara said, "I don't know any more than I did before going on this tour. I can't hear that fast." I told her I was so glad, because I thought it was the age thing the reason I couldn't understand.
Charleston, unlike other towns in Georgia and South Carolina, is not a very friendly town. If you were not born in Charleston, you are an outsider. For instance, a prominent man in a government position married a woman from Charleston. When she died, she was buried in a little cemetery beside the church where others from Charleston are buried. When her husband died, he could not be buried beside her but was buried across the street. Later on someone dug up his remains and put them in the far corner of the cemetery across the street where his wife was. When the town people found out they had him transported back across the street. They say he crossed that street more times after he died than when he was alive.
You have to have money to live in Charleston. A lot of houses are worth millions, and houses that were about to fall down and needed a lot of work sold for $75,000 and up. Most of the houses did not face the street. The reason was they taxed them on the footage facing the street, thus the side of a house had less footage. They also taxed them for doors, so instead of putting doors on the second or third balconies they would put large windows. When they wanted to sit on the balcony they opened the window and stepped through. In front of the houses were court yards which they called Piezzarias. In most houses there was 1 door facing the street. If the door was opened you knew you could knock and are welcome. When it was very hot they would strip down to the necessary clothing to keep cool so if the door was closed you knew not to knock.
When the slaves were brought to the area, no one knew how to grow rice so the slaves started growing rice for their owners. Rice became the number one crop and made the plantation owners rich.
They say that the Spring of the year is Heaven, the Summer was Hell and the Fall was the hospital because so many people got sick with the fever from the waters around and also the rice fields. The life expectancy of a child was about 12 years old and an adult was about 32.
Most houses were built of wood that was very strong and had a substance that would keep bugs and flies away but it also had a substance that was very flamable. So the city ordinance told the owners to build their kitchens away from the main house, which meant that the slaves would have to prepare the food and then transport it to the main house. Along the way the slaves would smell the food and then they would taste it and by the time it arrived at the house most of it was gone. The owners told the slaves that when they left the kitchen they should start whistling. The slaves would roll cornbread into balls and put in their pockets and then start whistling while carrying the food. The owners knew that they could not eat the food while whistling. Well the neighborhood dogs caught on and would follow them. The slaves would take the corn bread balls from their pockets and throw to the dogs and yell "Hush puppy." And that's how hush puppies got their name. The lane that the slaves had to walk was called Whistlers Lane.

There was a pink house owned by a dentist. He had everything pink and when the grand children visited in the summer they sold pink lemonade on the street. He even wore pink ties. When asked why he liked pink so much he said, it reminds me of healthy gums.


The houses facing the water were beautiful. When the Civil War was being fought they would invite guests to sit on the balconies and watch the fireworks of Johnson Island firing at Fort Sumpter.
In the center of the Boulevards, Oleander flowers, commonly known as widows tea grew. If anyone drank the tea from this plant they would have a heart attack and would die immediately. There was a boarding house on this street and when the farmers came to town to sell their rice or whatever they grew, they would stay there. The neighbors noticed that so many men would go in but they never saw anyone coming out. They went to the police. It was later discovered that the owners would feed the men and then give them tea. They died. The police went to the boarding house and found bodies buried in the back yard and arrested the couple and sentenced them to hang. The husband was hung first. The wife thought that if she could get someone to marry her they might not hang her. So while on the platform she propositioned several men but there were no takers. She yelled to the crowd, "Does anyone have a message for the devil because I'm dining with him tonight." At that time she jumped and hung herself. The moral to this story is don't drink tea in Charleston. Joking aside. There is a tea plantation on one of the islands that you can visit.
We came to a 4-way stop and on one corner was a post office, on the other was a federal building and the other was a local government building and on the other side was a big church. The guide said, "Here you can mail a letter, pay your taxes, get married and get a divorce without leaving the area."
We passed a museum with a large metal tube in front. This was a replica of the first submarine named the Hunley. It ran on manpower. It took 5 men to turn wheels and had a tube to allow air but the tube was too small. The first men died when when they tried it out. The second group died also and so did the third group. They said when the Hunley was pulled from the water, the men were still at their post. They thought that they must have died from lack of air.
We caught a trolly that took us to the waterfront to have lunch. When we finished it was still raining a little and we started walking to our hotel. We walked through the city market to stay dry.
We decided to get the car and drive around ourselves. We visited Nathaniel Russell House that was built in the 1800's. There were three floors and after Mr. Russell died their two daughters and 17 grandchildren lived there. Mr Russell was a very wealthy man and married a lady from a wealthy family. She decided to start growing Indigo to transport all over the world. After planting and failing several times, she finally discovered how to grow them and the first year sold 2 lbs of indigo. She saved the seeds and shared with other plantation owners and indigo became one of the best trades in South Carolina along with rice. The house furniture was reproductions from the time period. The attic was very hot and at the end of Winter they would remove all the bedding and store in the attic. The heat would kill all the bugs in the bedding and they would put them back on the beds in the Fall.
We also drove past rainbow row. All the houses were painted different colors.
Thursday was a beautiful day. We decided to tour The Magnolia plantation. We went through the gardens, which took about 2 hours. It was beautiful, well worth seeing.
In the afternoon we went on a Gullah tour. I had heard of the Gullah people and their low country cooking but I didn't know what to expect. As we were waiting for the tour I told Barbara I bet we were the only whites on the bus and we were. It was really more interesting than the one we took before. Saw some of the things we had seen on the first.
Went to the old slave market where the slaves were sold Saw the first black church. One church would not accept anyone darker than a brown paper bag and another one would not accept anyone lighter than a paper bag.

There are 5 large islands around Charleston, and the Gullah people lived there after their freedom from slavery. The Gullah language was found when the African slaves arrived and could not speak the language of Charleston. So they formed their own language. If the words are said slowly you can make out the meaning sometimes.


Our guide was a singer in a men's chorus. And his voice was great. He sang from the Opera of Porgy & Bess. He performed the voice of the crab man, the strawberry lady and Porgy & Bess while driving. Very entertaining. Saw the grave where Porgy was buried. We went to Angel Tree State Part where the largest oak tree grew. The tree is over 1400 years old and is 25.5 feet in circumference. It looks like a monster with arms. Some the branches were lying on the ground. Biggest tree I have ever seen. Our tour ended at the visitors center.
We went back to the hotel. Barbara wanted to have dinner at the old Wentworth Mansion. They had turned it into a hotel and the dining and kitchen was in the old stable that had been renovated. The stalls were made of mahogony wood with small tables around. When we entered we realized it was a very up-scaled. They seated us and we had two waiters. One to take our order and one to deliver the food. We had looked at the menu at our hotel and the menu at the restaurant was not like the one we had seen . They said they had changed 2 months earlier. Everything was lobster, scrimp, or crab which we didn't eat. Yellow tail tuna was the only thing we could order. They asked how we wanted it cooked. Barbara turned to me and ask and I said "Well done". That was the wrong answer. So Barbara said we would like it very warm, that was the right answer. They brought us one roll and placed on our plate. Then the waiter brought a small demitassie cup and said "compliments from the chef, lobster bisque." When they asked how we enjoyed it we had to explain we didn't eat lobster. They then brought another cup of green liquid and said it was cold cucumber/melon bisque. It was slimmy but very tasty. Barbara looked at me and said "I sure will be interested in how you discribe this in your journal." We got so tickled and could not stop laughing. I wanted to tell her it looked like pond skum to me, like the green swamp skum we had seen at the plantation earlier, but I was afraid we couldn't stop laughing. They brought our hush puppies on an over sized plate. There were three the size of a quarter on each plate with about one half teaspoon of chutney on each side. Then our meal was served over rice with peanut sauce, three pieced the size of a saltine. It too was very good, but the bill wasn't. They had charged 7 dollars to divide our meal. I won't say how much the meal cost but it wasn't cheap. We paid and left still hungry. We decided to go to another restaurant and ordered an appitizer of fried green tomatoes. Yummy. They didn't charge to separate the food.
All things must come to an end so we left Friday after breakfast at the hotel and drove to Chattanooga. I put my suitcase in my car and left for Nashville. A total of 9 hours on the road that day. So thankful we had a safe trip and a wonderful time.
Wanda
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