Pointing the Way in Concrete

Aerial Beacon-002

Ghost towns, odd bits of masonry, abandoned towers, derelict schools, old cemeteries, old dirt roads – these are items that speak of a hidden history. These are the things you may pass many times daily and never give any thought. However, if they are brought to your attention, you never look at that area the same way. Just recently my Geocaching friend Larry Easler (aka HockeyHick) made me aware of a whole new genre of interesting historical remnants – Airway Beacon Markers.

Larry found one of these things fairly close to us and did the initial research and background history. He has since placed a geocache at the location as part of his “Hidden History” series of geocaches. On a cold morning after the recent snowfall, Tommy Thompson and I decided to check it out. Continue reading “Pointing the Way in Concrete”

Singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (sort of)

Mack Wilberg
Mack Wilberg
Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir


Once upon a time I was a choir director. Before getting caught up in all of this technology stuff I taught chorus to middle schoolers during the week, and directed music at a fairly large church on the weekends. It was what I trained to do as an undergrad, and I was having a blast doing it. As my career evolved, I needed weekends back, so I gave up choir directing. I continued singing with the Greenville Chorale, and that kept me musically active, but one of my retirement goals was to get back into choir directing.

It’s now been ten years since I’ve had a church choir. I did a brief interim at Fourth Presbyterian in 2005-06, but that’s hardly long enough to count. When I was a choir director I would regularly attend the Furman Church Music Conference, held on campus each January. I decided that a step toward my goal would be to attend the conference this year.

This year the clinician would be none other than Mack Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Wilberg had spoken at the conference before, twelve years ago in 2002 when he was the associate director. Oddly enough, that was the last conference I attended. The session titles for this year were the same as that 2002 conference, and I almost hesitated – but now I’m glad I attended. Continue reading “Singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (sort of)”

Chasing Aiken across Abbeville

Trinity Episcopal-004
Trinity Episcopal Church
Abbeville, SC

Fellow explorer and photographer Alan Russell has been working on family research. His great-great grandfather was none other than David Wyatt Aiken, a prominent figure in 19th century politics in South Carolina. Aiken served as an officer in the Confederate Army, and served five terms as a US Congressman.

Alan has been working with Aiken’s diary, and has been compiling a list of locations that Aiken mentions. This particular Saturday, Alan had a list of locations in and around the town of Abbeville, so we decided to check them out. Along the way we talked with some interesting folks, and even had a chat with the mayor of the town. Continue reading “Chasing Aiken across Abbeville”

Watching the Towers Fall

Scott Tower Implosion

A couple of weeks ago I got a text from my nephew, Chip, stating that a prominent Greenville Landmark was going to meet its demise. The Scott Towers on Augusta Road were to be imploded. I knew I had to be there.

The towers were built in 1972, and have been a prominent building on the skyline for as long as I can remember. Apart from that, I really don’t know much about them. As long as I’ve known about the towers, they have served as housing for elderly and disabled citizens, but I’m not sure if that’s the original intent of the building.

Scott Towers Implosion-1

When Scott Towers was constructed, The Bell Tower Mall was still an active shopping area. New office buildings were being constructed. It was a hot growth area, along with Pleasantburg Drive near McAlister Square, and the Wade Hampton Mall near Bob Jones University. These were the Woodruff Roads and Haywood Roads of their day. Perhaps it was a good idea to provide housing like this near a vibrant shopping area. Continue reading “Watching the Towers Fall”

A Mid-Week Athens Road Trip

Union Baptist Church with Texture
Old Union Baptist Church in Madison County

As mentioned in the previous post, my sister Glynda and I headed down to Athens, Ga to meet with our brother, Houston. We had lunch at the famous Weaver D’s Automatic for the People, but we also took some time for other adventures. Here are some of the other things we spotted along the way…

Shortly after crossing the SC-GA border in I-85, we hopped off the Interstate at Lavonia. This had always been just an exit ramp to me. I didn’t really know anything about the town associated with the name, so we decided to check it out. We found a quaint little town square lining a railroad, with a colorful depot now serving as a welcome center.

Lavonia Depot
Lavonia Depot Continue reading “A Mid-Week Athens Road Trip”

Automatic for the People

Weaver D's
Automatic for the People

Glynda had some business with my brother Houston, in Athens, so I offered to drive her down in exchange for a leisurely day taking photographs. Turned out to be a good road trip through Georgia, stopping at several interesting points and a couple of landmarks in the university town. The highlight, though, was a stop at Weaver D’s Automatic for the People, a culinary and rock and roll landmark in Athens.


Dexter Weaver, a Georgia Native, moved to Baltimore early in life, where his classmates gave him the nickname “Weaver D 43”, from his high school football jersey number. Weaver D found himself in a variety of retail and fast food settings. Through these endeavors Weaver crafted his catch phrase, “Automatic for the People,” to indicate efficiency, caring and quality. A co-worker suggested that if he ever went into business for himself, that should become his motto.

Fate eventually brought him back to Athens, where he used his business and culinary sense to establish a catering business in the late 70’s, early 80s. His business flourished, and he made a name for himself catering events for frat houses and other university events. In 1986 the old Riverside Cafe closed down, opening an opportunity for Weaver D. He leased the building and opened his soul food restaurant.

Weaver D's

Because he had catered so many university events, the place was immediately popular with students as a restaurant where they could get good home-cooked food. One of the patrons was none other than Michael Stipe of REM. In 1992 Stipe approached Weaver about using his catchphrase for the title of an upcoming Album, and Weaver agreed. Released in 1992, Automatic for the People was the eighth album by REM, and received a Grammy nomination. The album has the hits “Man in the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts.” It was also used as the title for a Sarah Connor Chronicles TV episode. Continue reading “Automatic for the People”

Sacred Spaces along the Cooper River

Taveau Church with Texture
Taveau Church

So far the day had gone quite well. We had an excellent breakfast in Moncks Corner. We had discovered some old plantation ruins and a cursed tree and survived to tell the tale. However, time was running out on our adventure. We had been cheating the weather that was flooding the rest of the state, and the radar was looking pretty bleak.


It was time to initiate some serious gris gris to ward off the curse of the Robintation Tree. We started with our own LCU version of communion – bratwurst and sauerkraut served with home brewed beer for lunch. Instead of the banks of a river, this time we had a true tailgate lunch in the parking lot of the Childsbury Heritage Preserve parking area.

LCU at Bonneau Ferry-224
image Continue reading “Sacred Spaces along the Cooper River”

Plantation Ruins and a Cursed Tree

Comingtee Plantation Ruins with Texture
Comingtee Plantation House Ruins

This is Part Two of a three-part post…

After our marvelous breakfast at Howard’s in Moncks Corner, our group of adventurers from Lowcountry Unfiltered set forth for more exploration. Our target was the Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area, which has only recently been opened to the public. Weather was rolling in quickly, and severe thunderstorms were already hitting the upstate. We had a finite window of opportunity.

Bonneau Ferry WMA encompasses 10,700 acres of pine savannahs, bottomland hardwoods, wildlife openings, wetlands and reservoirs along the banks of the Cooper River and East Branch of the Cooper. The eponymous ferry is actually on the southern part of the WMA, along the banks of the East Branch. Our target was the western portion of the tract, along the banks of the main branch of the river. We would start at Strawberry Chapel and explore the area around Comingtee Plantation.

Bonneau Ferrry WMA Mills Atlas
Bonneau Ferrry WMA from Robert Mills 1825 Atlas

Continue reading “Plantation Ruins and a Cursed Tree”

Breakfast in Monck’s Corner


This is Part One of a three part post…

It was a second Saturday, and time for another Lowcountry Unfiltered outing, the first of 2014. Traditionally this has been our “Swamp Stomp” outing, dating back to when we trod through Congaree National Park in flood conditions looking for Championship Trees. We had several options, but decided upon a biking/hiking trek to Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area.

Originally, I had planned to head down Friday and do some more photography and exploration in Berkeley County. However, the weather was not cooperating. The forecast was for a front to come through, with severe thunderstorms tracking across the coastal areas.


I decided not to drive down on Friday, but did head out early Saturday. When I awoke the sky was lit up with lightening. I was beginning to question the wisdom of this trek. I already had my bike loaded up, so I went ahead and loaded my cameras and rain gear into the car and headed south.

Even on the road I was second-guessing my decision. Strong lightening strikes hit close to the car, almost blindingly so. Rain poured down. As I headed south the rain let up little by little, and on the other side of Columbia the sun even started to peek through for brief moments. Home would be drenched, but we might be OK. Continue reading “Breakfast in Monck’s Corner”