Archive for November, 2008
When I was growing up, comedy was something distant. You saw it on Ed Sullivan, or The Tonight Show if you got to stay up that late. There were a lot of classic comedy bits I would hear from time to time on WIS. Bill Cosby's "Noah? Build me an ark..... Right!" was a favorite as was a Tim Conway prison-warden routine and Alan Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah". I know there were travelling comedians in the days of Vaudeville and burlesque, but all that was long gone by the 60s and the idea that you could go pay money and go see someone do comedy was kind of alien to me. That was TV stuff.
Then The Punch Line opened in Five Points in this odd little strip mall next to the old Sears building. I'm not now totally sure of it's location in the building, but I think it was in the space now occupied by PT's Caberet.
As always, I'm fuzzy on dates, but I believe The Punch Line started in the mid-80s. I'm pretty sure I was still an impecunious college or grad-student at the time, and then started working in Fayetteville, so in the event, I only ended up going to one show there. It was a total introduction to the format for me: Local guy, feature and finally headliner. I can't remember who I saw, but it was certainly the hardest I'd ever laughed (over an extended period) in my life!
I don't know what happened in the end. It seems to me that Five Points would be a natural for a comedy club, but The Punch Line folded, and the new venue The Comedy House set up shop in a distinctly non-entertainment-district, non-foot-traffic location off of St. Andrews Road (followed by a move to Decker Boulevard -- also a non-entertainment-district non-foot-traffic location). As far as I know, that's currently "it" for regular comedy venues in Columbia. Charleston seems to be a much more fertile area with The Have Nots in their own theater and regular events such as The Charleston Comedy Festival.
UPDATE 25 July 2010: OK, the old Punch Line building at 1101 Harden Street has been demolished. See the link for details.
I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and I'm sure you do as well.
Drive safely and take breaks to let the food settle!
I'm assuming that this location of Sears Roebuck will carry on through the holiday season. There doesn't seem to be any downside to that, and folks aren't going to hesitate buying from them since they know they can always do returns at Columbia Mall or Columbiana Center.
This store is something of an odd duck for Sears. It is the only Sears I've ever been in that has shopping carts and front check-out lanes. I know Sears bought K-Mart a while back, and this place felt to me like a Sears branded K-Mart. As far as I can recall, I only shopped there once, and ended up getting that retro-Atari (pong, battlezone, missle-command etc) box that was semi-popular a few years ago. Of course like a lot of re-released toys ("Cootie", "Candyland", "Lite-Brite") it wasn't as good as the original, and one of the controllers died the second time I used it.
Once the Sears goes, I think this plaza will pretty much be a "dead mall". It's already in really bad shape, and anyone with money is going to locate in the Wal-Mart strip across the road if they can.
Well, it was bound to happen, but now they're knocking down the "Cinderella" Howard Johnson's motel on Knox Abbot Drive. This place's claim to fame (aside from being Cayce's first "national" motel) was the whimsical Cinderella-inspired pumpkin carriage that sat in front of the lobby. This was a Cayce landmark, and the site, I gather, of innumerable high school prom pictures. In fact, in the end, I believe more people cared about what was going to happen to the carriage than cared about the motel going under, per-se. In the end, the carriage was saved and moved to City Hall, leaving the spiral staircases (which you can see in a couple of these shots) as the only touches of whimsy left in the buildings.
I'm titling this post with HoJo, since that's what everyone remembers, but in fact if I recall correctly, Howard Johnson pulled out years before the actual closure of the motel, leaving it as one of those anonymous low-budget national chains that exist only for reservations purposes.
I don't go down Knox Abbot that often, so I missed the start of demolition, and it appears that they have already taken down the lobby/office. I'm a bit concerned that the lot has been bought by CVS. To me that throws up a big question mark over the future of the CVS (the former Parkland Pharmacy) in Parkland Plaza -- The plaza really can't afford to lose that anchor...
UPDATE 31 March 2009: Added Yellow Pages ad from 1970 Southern Bell phonebook.
UPDATE 24 June 2009: The CVS built on the old HoJo site is now open:
Also added full street address and full hotel name.
I've mentioned in one of my other posts, my gradual disenchantment with Pizza Hut which over the years has, due to bad corporate choices, turned from a place I looked forward to going to into a place which provides a mediocre experience at best.
I believe this former Pizza Hut on Knox Abbot Drive in Cayce is, to date, the last Pizza Hut I have eaten at in Columbia. There was nothing particularly bad about it that put me off Columbia Pizza Huts, in fact the staff was quite friendly and attentive -- it's just that in my own stomping grounds, I generally have better options for pizza. This was, however, about 10pm on Christmas Eve 2002, a date and time when anything higher up the food chain than The Waffle House that's still open is pretty hard to find. I was en route from Augusta to Pawleys Island. I can't quite picture now how I ended up on Knox Abbot unless I was cutting down I-26 to get to I-77 and the Sumter Highway, still it was a welcome break.
I don't know when this store went under, and it seems a bit odd, since I can't think of another Pizza Hut on that side of town. At any rate, the tax place has now been there several years. Perhaps they can get you a deep-dish refund.
Gene's Pig & Chick, 831 Harden Street / 2330 North Main / 4510 Devine Street / 300 Blossom Street: 1980s (etc) 26 comments
This is one I've gotten several requests for, but about which I can really say very little -- hopefully some good comments will take up the slack here..
Gene's Pig & Chick was a Five Points landmark for a good part of my life. I'm not sure when the place was established, but it seemed to me that from the very earliest days that I can remember going to Sears on Harden Street, Gene's was there.
Unfortunately, from a point of view of actually having real memories of the place, I was a very picky eater when I was a kid, and I had decided very early in life that I didn't like chicken (I made a partial exception for Campbell's Chicken & Stars soup, though I still tended to pick the chicken pieces out of it) and that I didn't like barbecue. I'm not sure exactly when I made the barbecue "decision", since that wasn't something my mother (or anyone else in the family) made, but the chicken aversion survived a decade -plus campaign by my mother to force me to eat it. Ultimately, she gave up, and even when I was a kid, she knew better than to make one of our infrequent "eating out" trips into an unpleasant experience for both of us.
So the upshot of that is, that whether she would have wanted to stop at Gene's on a Five Points shopping trip or not, we never did.
Still the place was a constance presence, and while I don't remember quite when I found out that it was gone, I do remember being shocked and sad. The original building has long since been torn down, and the lot is now the site of a self-service Shell station, which I have also never been to.
UPDATE 14 March 2009: Added 1963 Yellow Pages Ad
UPDATE 17 June 1020 -- Becky Bailey sends in this photo of the old North Main location:
I'm also sending a funky shot of the former Gene's Pig and Chick on N. Main Street. Probably could have defined its orientation a little better. It's near the intersection of Confederate Avenue and N. Main Street, up the street from the former Doug Broom's, and directly across the street from the present It It's Paper. Looks kinda sad, now, but in its day, there was a rooftop studio and lots of action! Doug Broom's, of course was demolished 20 years ago, I'm guessing.
UPDATE 2 Sept 2010: Added the 1970 Yellow Pages ad.
Like Martin's Coffee House, Edisto Dairies first turned up in a comment thread, and seemed to have a number of people who fondly remember it, so I'm copying those comments here, and making a full-on Edisto post...
Grocery shopping has changed a lot in just my lifetime (I'm closing fast on 48..), but in the lifetime of someone like my father, it changed immensely. First of all, when he was growing up in the 1920s in Fernandina Beach Florida, how you went to the store was different. You probably walked most of the time. Sometimes you might take a horse cart. For one particular store, my grandfather would put a handcart on the local rails and you would see-saw there. You certainly didn't drive a car. When you got there, you would probably give your list to the grocer whose help would fetch your items to you. You certainly wouldn't go back into the stock yourself and pick things out. You might not even pay cash for anything, as the grocer would have an account for your family which you would periodically settle. And just to continue this digression in a seasonal mode -- if it were near Thanksgiving, you would go to the butcher, pick out a turkey, tie a string around its neck and walk it back to your house.
All that was if you actually went to the store. For a lot of things, you didn't have to. The ice-man would drive his cart to your house and replenish your ice-box, and the milk-man would come by in his wagon and leave full bottles on your doorstep and pick up your empties to clean and re-use.
Well, by and by the iceman cometh-ed not, but the milkman was a steady presence for over half of the 20th century, featuring in innumerable risque jokes and arriving at dawn or before day-in, day-out and year round. In Columbia, or at least my part of Richland County, the milkman was Edisto Dairies.
I've forgotten the milkman's name, though I knew it well at the time, but the Edisto truck would come off of Trenholm road and make its way onto my street and I knew that if I got up early enough, and ran down to the corner, the milkman would let me steer the truck from the corner to our house. The truck was something like a UPS truck, with the "doors" always open on both sides. The floor was corrugated metal with a very spartan seat for the driver. My mother would make sure I had on shoes before sending me off, as there were apt to be glass fragments on the floor of the truck. I would hop in from the "passenger's" side and take the wheel and the milkman would ease the truck into gear and off we would go.
Edisto's milk came in standard bottles. I think some dairies had long-neck ones, but Edisto's were short neck, and were sealed with flat, waxed paper caps. I'm unsure now what actually held the caps to the bottles -- perhaps they were put on while the milk was warm with pasturization and vacuum-sealed as it cooled. The caps were actually in some demand for school projects. I remember in particular at Satchel-Ford Elementary we had a "counting man" which was a flat wooden figure of a man who had no fingers. and we would somehow attach milk-bottle caps to his hands for various counting exercises.
I don't know much about Edisto the company. From the name, I assume it was a collection of farms along the Edisto river, but I could certainly be wrong. As a commenter notes, they advertised that their milk was "Golden Guernsey" milk, and aside from their milk-routes and, according to commenter Lew, a milk plant on Superior Drive, they also had several ice-cream stores in town. The one I recall was in Trenholm Plaza in the far corner, next to Trenholm road. The place has, I think, always been some kind of ice-cream store since then, and currently houses Hooligan's, a nice place to take kids for ice-cream and a sandwich. (Though that wing of the plaza is to be torn down soon). They also had several huge advertising displays in town. The one I remember most was on Beltline Boulevard, and was a huge animated stream of pouring milk flowing from a big carton into a big mug. (I suppose the milk stream was some sort of painted revolving spiral..
The government at both state and federal levels has always intervened in the dairy market. I think it was primarily the state governments until the New Deal -- as a child, one of my father's family tasks was to take the coloring agent that came with each purchase of margarine, break the capsule, and spread it on all the sticks of margarine to make them yellow since so as to protect dairy interests it was illegal to sell yellow margarine in Florida. After that, there was a web of regional price support rules, and it was illegal to sell milk more cheaply than the agreed local price. I think that started to change in the 60s and 70s, and the milk market became more national. I don't know if that had an effect on Edisto, but I suspect it may have. At any rate sometime in that timeframe, they were bought out by Coburg dairies.
The rise of supermarkets had already been reshaping the grocery market for decades, and with their ample refrigeration cases and centralized locations, at some point it no longer made sense for dairies to deliver to indivudal homes, or for families to want them to. I may be wrong, but I don't think Edisto/Coburg home delivery lasted much if at all past the turn of the 70s (actually potato chip delivery lasted a lot longer!), and today milk is a complete commodity, like sugar. You buy "whole", "2 percent", "skim", or "nonfat" and never notice whose name is on the top of the carton and if the cows are anything beyond "cow" (ie: Jersey, Guernsey etc), they keep it to themselves. Not to mention that the whole insurance industry would descend like a horde of locusts on any company letting an 8 year old "steer" one of their trucks.
UPDATE 11 October 2011: Added a photo above of an old Edisto sign currently on display at the new Mast General Store on Main Street.
Lum's was a small chain of hot-dog restaruants. I say small, because I only knew of two stores -- I suppose it could have been huge somewhere else in the country, but as far as I know, in South Carolina there were only this store on Greene Street (now Andy's Deli) and a store in Myrtle Beach by the Family Kingdom amusement park (the home of the "Swamp Fox" coaster).
I don't know why it is, perhaps because hot-dogs just seem such a casual food, but hot-dog restaurants don't seem to make it big. I know Sandy's is locally beloved, but those are small stores with no table service, and I believe the same is true for the only other famous hot-dog outfit I can think of: Nathan's. If I recall correctly, Lum's did have menus and table service. It's been so long ago that I was there that I'm on very shaky ground here, but I believe their big claim to fame was hot-dogs cooked in beer. I'm sure we wouldn't have been allowed to have such a thing. I have an even vaguer memory that perhaps I had a "cheese-dog" there, a hotdog covered with melted cheese. I also think that perhaps the hot dogs were plumper and less firm than I now prefer -- I enjoy the consistency of an Oscar-Meyer dog myself (cooked on a fork over a stove eye is fine if a grill isn't available).
Whether because folks just don't associate hot-dogs with a real "restaurant" or for Lum's specific reasons, both the stores I was familair with closed long ago -- I don't believe either made it out of the 1970s: Guess they coudn't cut the mustard...
UPDATE 20 April 2010: Added full street address to post title, and corrected spelling of "Greene" Street.
UPDATE 9 June 2010: Changed post title from "Lum's Hotdogs" to "Lum's Restaurant" as that was how they listed in the 1970 Yellow Pages.
I don't think I ever ate at The Winner's Circle, unless I was quite young. My father knew the family who ran the place, and I believe he ate lunch there from time to time. My understanding is that it was a "general" restaurant with Greek influences, and for many years was a USC area landmark (it was right across the street from the Law School).
At some point when I was living out of town, the place closed. I was disappointed because, like many places listed here, I had always figured that I had plenty of time to get around to trying it. I am unsure whether the current tenant, FEDEX/Kinkos, is using the old restaurant building, or whether they knocked everything down to build their operation. Unlike The Winner's Circle, I actually have gotten around to visiting the Kinko's. I'm not sure if this is still the case, but at one time they were open quite late, later than the other Kinko's in town, and they also had for-hire scanners, which I used several times before getting one of my own.
UPDATE 20 March 2010: Added full street address to post title.
Rockafellas' was a bar and live music venue on Devine street at the site which is currently Jake's bar. The club opened on 4 September 1984, while I was still in grad school. I wasn't plugged in to the local rock scene, and wasn't a bar-hopper, so the news, if I heard it at all, made little impression on me. As far as I was concerned, Columbia's live venues were The Township, where I had seen Count Basie, Dave Brubeck and B.B. King, and The Colosseum, where I had seen The Beach Boys, Foreigner, Roger Whittaker, "Grover, Magaret & Zas-zu-zas", and Slam Stewart, and The Russell House Ballroom where I had seen The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Carolyn Mass, and George Thoroughgood & The Destroyers (I missed The Police).
I guess I gradually became aware of the place through listings in The Free Times. That was hit-or-miss, but luckily I was reading them in the late 80s at the right time and ended up at Rocakafellas' the first time to see The Swimming Pool Qs. As I've written before, they were one of my favorite 80s bands, and should have been huge. Unfortunately due to the fickleness of fame (and a lame record label), they weren't. I believe that at the time, they were touring to support their last major label record, World War 2.5. This was in the period when vocalist Anne Richmond Boston was on haitus from the group, which was a bit of a disappointment, but they still put on an excellent show. At the same time, the event reminded me why I didn't really visit small venues that often -- even as young as I was then, I disliked being on my feet for a whole show, and when I got home, all my clothes smelled of smoke. I had to throw everything into the washer and jump in the shower, and still I was congested the next day (and deaf, of course). Still it was a good time.
My memory is a bit hazy about the next time I was there. It could have been for the Qs again, as I've seen them many times over the years, but I believe those were at other venues. If it wasn't the next time, it was surely the last time I was there when I saw Dick Dale.
Dick Dale was (and, I suppose, is) The King of the Surf Guitar. Back in his heyday of the early 1960s, he inspired legends that he melted guitar picks during shows, and that Fender used him to test amps since he blew out so many. His guitar playing was rapid-fire and reverb-drenched. Probably his biggest song was "Miserlou". As instrumental rock declined, he fell out of favor and off of the charts until the movie Back to the Beach teamed him with Stevie Ray Vaugn on the soundtrack and sparked something of a renaissance for him. Anyway, this would have been I guess in the mid-90s when I saw him at Rockafellas', and he just blew the joint away. It was an amazing show, marred only a bit by his occasional populist rants (he had a column in some rock magazine at the time -- I picked up one, and still couldn't quite figure out where he was coming from..).
By that time, I was living in Fayetteville & Aiken, so I may have missed some other good shows there, but those are the two I recall with certainty, and they were both very good. I was still living out of town when the place closed. Here's how The State tells the story:
Rockafellas’ always managed to keep the glasses full, the amps plugged in and the stage lights on — until the landlord posted an eviction notice Jan. 15, 1998.
The Five Points rock club had many close calls during its 14 years in business, but that night, it closed for good. The announcement didn’t come from the owners, staff or the newspaper; it was made by a member of the band Zen Tricksters, who found the eviction notice shortly after midnight and announced it to the crowd.
In the early morning hours, the Rockafellas’ crew removed the sound system and memorabilia.
“BYE” was left on the club’s marquee.
UPDATE 15 Aug 2009: Added images of Rockafella's matchbooks found by commenter Melanie.