Archive for the ‘North Main Street’ tag
When I started Computer Science at USC, we submitted "jobs" to the central campus computer on punched cards. These cards had 80 colums and were created on a "keypunch" machine, which was a typewriter-like keyboard affixed to a rather imposing and noisy machine about the size of a large gas grill. The punch would print what you had typed across the top of the card, and punch out chads underneath each letter or number to create a digital representation of the symbol. This was a very mechanical process and with lots of paper chips flying around, the machines tended to jam with some regularity -- so much so that the computer lab operators kept special tools (hacksaw blades carved into curved hooks) to unjam them. Obviously, since you were actually punching holes in the card, there was no way to "undo" a mistaken keypress. Once you got your cards punched correctly (or what you thought was correctly) you took them to a "card reader" which was sort of a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a las-vegas card shuffling machine, and assuming it didn't jam as well, it sent them down a leased line to the Amdahl at CSD (it had been an IBM-370, but the rumor we heard was that the guy who authorized buying it got sent on an all expense paid vacation by IBM and so the State required it to be re-bid).
I am going somewhere with this, and I'm starting to get there now: When your "job" was processed, the output was printed at the computer lab on a band printer with green fanfold paper, and it was printed entirely in upper case (and usually with a fading ribbon). So here's what I'm driving at: The whole process was more difficult than using a typewriter and the output looked worse. The idea that using a computer would make writing easier or look better would have sounded pretty stupid to me in 1980.
That's why it was a real revelation to me when I got access to the PDP-11 minicomputer at the CSCI department and discovered a non-IBM environment called Unix (the spirtual ancestor of Linux). Apart from its many advantages as a platform for programming, the first commercial sales of the system (which had been developed for internal use by then monopoly AT&T) had been driven by its documentation tools, including the text processor troff. Not only did the system have tools that made formatting documents much easier than typing -- the department actually had a printer which would print both upper and lower case!
I was hooked, and even though troff is now considered obsolete, I use it to this day for any significant document I have to do unless I'm specifically told I must use Word. (Or as I put it: If troff won't do what I want -- I change what I want). Thus, when it came time to do my thesis, I knew I wasn't going to type it on a typewriter. By that time, I had a daisy-wheel printer (remember those?) at home and a stripped down PC version of troff that would do for proofing when I couldn't access the department mini. The only fly in the ointment (aside from actually writing the darn thing) was the fact that the University required that all theses be submitted on 50% rag paper.
First of all, I didn't even know what that meant. It certainly sounded weird. How would I even know such paper? As it turned out paper with a high rag (cotton) content lasts longer, or as Wikipedia puts it (not that I could look it up there then!):
Certain cotton fiber paper is known to last hundreds of years without appreciable fading, discoloration, or deterioration; so it is often used for important documents such as the archival copies of dissertations or theses. As a rule of thumb, for each percentage point of cotton fiber, a user may expect one year of resisting deterioration by use (the handling to which paper may be subjected). Legal document paper typically contains 25% cotton. Cotton paper will produce a better printout than copy paper because it is able to absorb ink better.
OK, that sounded good, except for the part where I wanted to feed my thesis through a daisy-wheel printer in fanfolded, sprocket-driven form. Was my box of fanfold paper 50% rag? It was not. Was any box of fanfold paper at Softek 50% rag? Nope. Was any box of fanfold paper at any office supply store in Columbia 50% rag? Apparently not.
Enter If It's Paper. What I was looking for certainly was paper, and the implication of their name was If it's paper, then we have it. So, to bring this in for a landing -- the one time I walked into If It's Paper, looking for something I had never heard of until a few days previously, and which apparently not only did not exist anywhere in Columbia, but did not even have anyone who understood what I was asking for anywhere in Columbia, they knew exactly what I wanted and had a shelf full of it. Mission accomplished.
Of course, now I would google it and probably find someplace online within a few seconds -- I don't know if that was a factor in closing the store, but I do know I was glad to have it then.
(Hat tip to commenter BethB)
UPDATE 10 March 2011 -- Open again!
UPDATE 28 June 2011: I've been meaning to get some better pix of the store now that it's open again. The State also ran a nice story about the place. In essence, International Paper decided it didn't really want to be in the retail business despite the store making money and closed it. A local investor and the store manager got together to buy the name from International and re-opened as an independant business.
I suspect the Pizza Hut was one of those brand-destroying kiosk type locations and probably no big loss, but I used to notice the sign when I lived in Aiken, and would travel I-20 west many weekends. I thought I was familar with most Columbia Pizza Huts and could never quite place where it was, as I was expecting a freestanding building.
I have to say that the enclosing "Travel Plaza" has seen better days and is confusing to get in and out of to boot. I had no idea until I took these pictures that the little I-20 industrial frontage strip is called "Plumbers Road". I wonder if it had a plumbing dispatch office on it and got named that during the great 9-1-1 sevice street naming binge of a few years back or it has always been that. There is also a Day's Inn a bit further down the street, and I expect they must work really hard to find "reasons to pick our location" on their marketing...
Gaz-Bah was on Wilson Boulevard (what North Main becomes as it gets near to I-20 and heads to Blythewood) right next to the long defunct Denny's restaurant, and was open until fairly recently. I'm not sure when it closed, but the branding is still up, and the gas pumps have yet to be taken out. I find it a little odd that they felt it necessary to board the store completely up, given that the aforementioned Denny's has survived in good shape for years with no apparent vandalism.
As I was taking these pictures, one of those erratic Fall flocks of birds was in the area, moving from the high, I-20 visible sign to the roof of the store to the roof of the pump carport and back again. You never realize how many there are until they all take wing at the same time in Hitchcockian fashion.
I'm not sure why an exit gas station off a high traffic Interstate would go under, but I will note that the exit from I-20 to Wilson is a bit odd in that you come out on the other side of the street than you expect, and would then have to make a left to get to Gaz-Bah, while there is a travel plaza directly in front of you that requires no turn.
This building, on North Main at the intersection with Sunset Drive, was obviously a fast-food joint of some kind, but I'm not sure which one. I believe at one time or another, a commenter said it was a Church's Chicken, but the street numbers don't match for that. If anyone can identify it, I will change the post title to reflect that.
Currently, it's a TitleMax/CheckMax which seems to be one of those chains favoring old fast-food locations. Interestingly, directly across the street is another "hermit crab" operation, a Family Dollar which moved into the old Eckerd's.
UPDATE 15 July 2010: OK, based on the comments (and confirmed by the 1998 phonebook), this place is identified as a Long John Silver's and I'm changing the post title accordingly.
Well, it appears the North Main Deli is no more. I never stopped there, and don't know a lot about the place, but from the sign on their door, it appears to be another casualty of the times. I believe the former Cici's Pizza from Decker is moving in next door, so I guess it's lose one, win one for this block of Main.
As a total aside, does anyone know if "North Main" is an official name? If you live on this section of Main Street, do you get your mail as "XXXX North Main Street", or just "XXXX Main Street"? I've seen it both ways, and I never know how to list the correct addresses in post titles and the alphabetical list.
(Hat tip to commenter Marsha.)
This old-style walk-up soft-serve parlor was in Bishopville, on the north side of town near the high school stadium. I would pass by it several times a year on the way to family events, and always meant to stop some time or other, but the way it always worked out is that I was not alone, running late, or both.
I first noticed that it seemed to be closed on my way to Thanksgiving 2008, and finally got around to taking some pictures in March of 2009. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I had no qualms about heading out on I-20 with a camera and some good music. According to their sign, the place had been there more than 50 years, which I have to say is a pretyt good run.
Going by this last month for Thanksgiving, I saw that now all the signage is down, and the building is just sitting there empty with no indication of what it was.
UPDATE: Looks like there's a Facebook Group..
UPDATE 23 December 2011 -- Well, as these 24 November 2011 (Thanksgiving) pix show, the building is gone now.
UPDATE 24 December 2011 -- Oops! Building is still there, but boarded up. The pix were of a lot with a gas station destroyed by Hugo, so I've taken them out. I'll try to get the real thing next time I'm over there. (Didn't have my camera ready today..)
I think I vaguely remember the Varsity Restaurant being open, but never ate there. It was apparently a fixture in Columbia for decades. The old building is in sad disrepair, and seems to have been remodelled several times, judging by this postcard shot at flikr.
The 1970 Yellow Pages ad pitches the pizza, so I guess they were trying to stay current in a changing world -- that certainly wouldn't have been on the menu in 1935. There is currently a Varsity D Jasz restaurnt nearby the old Varsity (at 1212 Sunset Drive, almost at the corner of North Main and Sunset), but I have no idea if its related to the old one at all. It appears to be a small lunch-counter type operation.
UPDATE 6 Feb 2013 -- It looks as though somebody started renovations on the old Varsity building, but didn't get too far before the city stopped them:
I've written about Denny's before, and about how I am not a big fan, though I confess I've had my share of 2AM suppers at various locations over the years after insane work schedules. I knew about the old Two Notch Denny's, the one that used to be on Airport Boulevard, and the Denny's "Diner" that is still on Harbison Boulevard, but I didn't know about this place at all.
Wilson Boulevard is what North Main Street is called after it gets close to crossing over I-20, and as it happened, I had some business in the area recently and noticed this closed restaurant as I was driving by. The shape of the sign suggested a Denny's, and sure enough a quick google verified that. I don't have a closing date, but it can't have been too many years ago. On the surface, the I-20 location, near to a truck stop, and with lots of parking seems like it could have supported a restaurant. I don't ever recall seeing a sign from the highway though. Perhaps they didn't advertise well enough, or perhaps people don't want to eat at Denny's unless they have to, and the interstate corridor through Columbia has a number of better alternatives.