Return to Long Branch

Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church

Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church…

The name is long in our family lore. The church was established by my grandfather in 1911, as were many of the Pentecostal Holiness churches of this area. My father pastored the church for most of the 1960’s, and it is here that I have my earliest memories of church.

The church was small, and our large family made up a sizable bit of the congregation. My father preached and led the singing, and my mother played the piano after Mrs. Annabelle Brown left that position. It was just a tiny, unique country church, but its effect on us was indelible. The place is etched in our memories, and the myths and legends of Long Branch have grown over time, and have been embellished through retelling. So, today, nearly forty years since I last set foot in the church, I decided to see how close those myths were to today’s reality. Continue reading “Return to Long Branch”

Even More Echo Valley

By some strange coincidence Houston and Lynda were working on family photos when I posted my piece about Echo Valley.  The weird thing was, they were processing photos from 1968, and had just come to our great mountain adventure when we visited the park.  These photos were taken by my father. Last night they gave … Continue reading Even More Echo Valley

Memories of Echo Valley

Echo Valley from the Ridge

In the northern part of Greenville County the Middle Saluda River flows across a long flat valley. Where Highways 276 and 11 come together, and where the Saluda crosses this road, one finds the community of Cleveland, South Carolina. The valley now hosts a post office, convenience store, and a couple of other businesses, but at one time an exciting amusement park occupied this same spot.

It was the late 1960’s and I was seven or eight years old. Dad and Mom loaded five of us (my two oldest siblings were in college) into the Chrysler and we headed toward the Great Smokey Mountains. It was a fantastic trip up through the mountains of North Carolina, with stops at Pisgah National Forest, Maggie Valley, and eventually Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was the trip that we visited Echo Valley, a Western-styled theme park along the banks of the Saluda River in Cleveland, South Carolina.

Echo Valley Ticket

During this time Western theme parks were all the rage in North Carolina. There was Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, Frontierland in Cherokee, and Tweetsie Railroad in Boone. Most of these featured a Wild West town with regular shoot-outs and the endless conflicts between cowboys and Indians. There were also carnival rides and can-can dancers to round out the bill. Echo Valley followed this same pattern, and was developed to capture some of that Wild West market for Greenville audiences.

The late Melvin Jarrard was postmaster of the Cleveland post office and a local businessman. In his autobiography The Mountaineer of Cleveland, South Carolina, Jarrad describes how Harry Stuart brought the idea of Echo Valley to the area, and how that idea had originated with Ghost Town in the Sky. Continue reading “Memories of Echo Valley”

Hope School Dedication

Hope School

Saturday I attended the dedication of the Hope School Community Center located on Hope Station Road near Prosperity, SC. This historic school is one of the few survivors of nearly 500 Rosenwald schools constructed in South Carolina between 1917 and 1932. Hope School served grades 1-8 in the African-American community for 28 years, from 1926 – 1954.

In the early 1900’s Junius Rosenwald was president of Sears Roebuck, and was instrumental in the development of their famous catalog. Rosenwald became interested in the state of education in the rural south, and developed a set of plans for schools that could be ordered and build easily, similar to the house plans that had been available through the Sears catalog. Rosenwald also provided funding for for many of the schools, targeting his efforts toward African-American communities in the south.

Hope School

The Hope School was a two-room school built in 1925 on land donated by the Hope family. James H. Hope was state superintendent of schools from 1922-1946, and spearheaded many projects to reduce school funding disparities between wealthy and poor counties.

Continue reading “Hope School Dedication”

2009 Scottish Games at Furman

Piping Competition

This morning I loaded up the photo and recording gear and headed up to Furman for the 2009 Greenville Scottish Games. It was a great day to be outside – finally no rain, and not too terribly hot. I decided to check out the games, and see if I could get a bit more information on family history.

The crowds were gathering, but not too back. Shuttle buses were running from the parking areas, so I boarded one. I should have walked. The bus I was on circled the same route twice until it had enough people to head on up to the games proper. I was beginning to wonder if we were on some perverse infinite loop.

I made it to the games and shelled out the rather pricey $15 for admission. This gained me entrance to a wonderland of Gaelic activity. In one field were the athletic competitions – caber toss, sheaf toss, and hammer throw. In another were the sheep dog trials. A tent was set up for dancing competitions, and pipers were competing on a hill near Cherrydale. There were vendors for food and Gailic stuff set up near the stadium, along with a large tent with a stage for bands. The main field was ringed with the clan tents, and each of the aforementioned competitions were featured on the main field at one point or another. Quite a lot to see. Continue reading “2009 Scottish Games at Furman”

Oconee Photo Safari


When I knew that Laura was going to be out of town this weekend, I contacted a couple of my Chorale/Furman friends to see if they would be interested in a photo safari. Ken Cothran took me up on the challenge, so early Saturday morning I picked him up at his place in Clemson and we headed out.

Our first stop was the town of Pendleton. Once the major city in the Upstate, the whole area is now on the Register of Historic Places. We walked around the little town square and took a few shots.

Red, White, and BluePendleton ArchitectureCannon BarrelKen shooting a cannon

Continue reading “Oconee Photo Safari”

Peak Experience

Peak Trestle

Conditions were ideal for a photo trek. I had a day of vacation I needed to use before the madness of summer system installations started up. Laura had left town for a conference, so I was on my own. And I had gotten new information about an interesting place to visit. My main target for the day would be the old railroad trestle that crosses the Broad River near Peak, SC.

Jay Hope had e-mailed me earlier in the week with a link to a story in The State newspaper about completion of the aforementioned bridge and opening of a new section of the Palmetto Trail. Jay’s family has been working to restore the nearby Hope School, which is one of the historic Rosenwald schools. The trail passes through Jay’s family land and close to the school, and he knew that I had an in the area, so he tries to keep me informed. I followed up on his suggestion, and after getting Laura off to the airport, headed south. Continue reading “Peak Experience”

Boulevard of (Broken) Dreams

Downtown from Wade Hampton
Evening view of downtown Greenville from Wade Hampton Boulevard

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of broken dreams
When the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk alone

Green Day – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

The joy you find here, you borrow,
You cannot keep it long, it seems.
But gigolo and gigolette
Still sing a song and dance along
The boulevard of broken dreams.

Nat King Cole – “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

Two shadows in the moonlight
Dance silently along the boulevard
Of dreams

Dada – “Boulevard of Dreams”

A boulevard isn’t just any old street. According to Wikipedia, it is a “wide, multi-lane arterial thoroughfare…often with an above-average quality of landscaping and scenery.” Naming a road a “boulevard” means that it should be something special, something to evoke poetry and song as noted above. Some cities are known by their more famous boulevards – the Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, Wilshire Boulevard, and Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, for example. Greenville has Wade Hampton Boulevard. Continue reading “Boulevard of (Broken) Dreams”

Family Haunts

Road to the Home Place

I have always enjoyed looking at the photos of Scott West (South Carolina’s Northern Kingdom). Scott and I seem to cover some of the same territory in Laurens County, and I’ve always admired his gutsy trespassing to get great shots of the interiors of old abandoned houses and interesting places.

Recently, Scott posted a couple of pictures of the old Poole Homestead in the Long Branch Community of Laurens County. I immediately recognized the place as being in one of the old photos my Dad has. After a couple of message exchanges it turns out that we do have some distant family connections (don’t ALL Southerners?) and that some of his family had attended Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness, where my father had pastored years ago.

That brings us to this Tuesday. My mother had taken a trip to visit her sisters in North Carolina, so my Dad was on his own for the week. Since I was on spring break, I decided to head down and hang out with him, and see if I could find this photo of the Poole Homestead. I did find it, and we decided to take a tour of some of the old family haunts throughout Newberry and Laurens Counties.

Continue reading “Family Haunts”