Recently, my granddaughter asked me to read to her a charming book titled, Amelia Bedelia. Amelia, the heroine of the story, works as a housekeeper and is a true literalist. When asked to dust the furniture by her employer, she lightly covers all the home's furnishings with a fine powder. The story is a funny glimpse into the use and meaning of words. To celebrate the last hooray of summer before work and school started in earnest, I headed to Charleston, South Carolina to experience some of America's best restaurants and get in some serious beach reading time. Also, it was the perfect time to begin the second "season" of my Pride of Place series. In my research of the area, I learned that the author of Amelia Bedelia, Margaret Cecile "Peggy' Parish, lived a short distance away from Charleston in Manning, South Carolina.
I headed out in the cool of the morning - or as cool as it gets down south in August - to explore Manning and see what insights I could glimpse of Peggy Parish through her birth town. I prefer to avoid the Interstate and take the back roads as I search for the hometowns of the authors on the Pride of Place Tour. The terrain between the beaches of Charleston and the low country of Manning is rich and lush. Bright green marshland is woven around and through Charleston and becomes pine and oak forest the further from the beach you drive. I take the back roads in hopes of finding small towns and crossroads with assorted craftsman selling birdhouses or other handmade crafts. On the way to Manning, I found acres and acres of pine tree farms, wind blown oak trees and fields of soy beans, dried sun flowers and corn stalks. The congestion of Northeast became an illusive memory as I became accustomed to roads canopied by oaks trees covered in Spanish moss.
Built circa 1906
My first stop in Manning was the public library. A statue of Amelia Bedelia stands in front of the library to honor and acknowledge Manning's native daughter, Peggy Parish. As has become my modus operandi, I dropped into the library to chat up the local librarian on town lore. The young volunteer working the desk was kind and suggested I walk next door to meet with the town historian. Archivist Nancy Cave and Glyn Oliver Bethune are the go-to people if you want to learn about Manning past and present. I was ushered into the old Manning library during lunchtime as we swapped stories about living down south. We had a dynamic and rich conversation about Peggy Parish, the Swamp Fox and the demographic changes in Manning.
One of the most interesting facts I learned talking to Ms. Cave was prior to the building of the Interstate Highway System, U.S. Route 301 was the main road used by New Yorkers to get to Florida. Manning and many other cities thrived as tourist made their way south to vacation in South Florida. Large homes on either side of the highway became Tourist Homes and lodged travelers for the night and then sent them on their way the next morning after breakfast. As Ms. Cave said, "We would call them Bed and Breakfasts today."
Manning as the county seat of Clarendon County pays homage to another South Carolina favorite, Francis Marion - aka The Swamp Fox - through a series of murals painted on the building throughout the town. Francis Marion earned his nickname due to his stealth and cunning during the Revolutionary War and the murals tell that story. It is a lovely walking tour that allows you to be outside and learn about South Carolina's part in the revolutionary war.
I continue to be amazed at the individual creative spark that exists in our towns and cities and Manning is no exception. Friday, I will blog on Peggy Parish and her work as an author. Chat later!
P.S. A heartfelt thank-you to Nancy L. Cave and Glyn Oliver Bethune of the Clarendon County Archives & History Center. I learned something new and met two really nice people -for me that is a perfect day.