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Archive for the ‘Senate Street’ tag

PT's Cabaret, 1101 Harden Street: 1 May 2010   10 comments

Posted at 2:06 am in entertainment,nightclub

"What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room?"

Actually until the last year or so, I didn't even know there was a drag cabaret in Columbia. I think I had kind of a vague idea that a nightclub was in Punch Line location, but I figured in Five Points it was probably a college hangout.

The building is PT's was in never seemed to really thrive. It's at the way outside edge of Five Points, and aside from The Punch LIne, I can't recall ever stopping there. The address for PT's is Harden Street, but the building also fronts on an odd little section of Senate Street which is totally unconnected with the rest of Senate Street. (Come to think of it, the State House also cuts off Senate Street, so it actually has three discontiguous segments.)

The Free Times says the next tenant in the PT's space will be a burgers and milkshake operation, soooo..

"Right This Way, Your Table's Waiting.."

UPDATE 25 July 2010: OK, the PT's building at 1101 Harden Street has now been demolished. See the link for details.

Written by ted on May 9th, 2010

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The Punch Line, 1101 Harden Street: 1990s   12 comments

Posted at 4:25 pm in entertainment,historic,nightclub

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.

Written by ted on November 30th, 2008

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Columbia Museum of Art & Science, Bull Street & Senate Street: 1998   7 comments

Posted at 4:40 pm in attraction,historic

First of all, for me, it was the "Columbia Science Museum" with the "Art" part very much a secondary non-issue. Which is the opposite of the actual situation as in retrospect, the Science Museum was almost an afterthought in the combined enterprise.

There was a small lot behind Gibbes Planetarium where we would generally park, and take the brick walkway around the planetarium to the Science Museum front door. Right inside was the greeting desk which doubled as a gift kiosk. The only thing I can definitely recall being on sale there were Radiometers which were essentially light bulbs with solar-powered windmills inside. They also had various brochures and free premiums. The one I remember best, and which I am sure I still have an example of around somewhere was a small wallet card which had a table giving your weight on all the planets (and the sun).

If you walked past the greeting desk straight down the hall and steps all the way to the back door, you would come out in a small arboretum, no bigger than a couple of patios, planted with a variety of local plants, all described with placards. I think there was also a small pond, though I don't recall any fish.

If instead of going all the way to the back, you turned left, you would be in the main hall of the museum, which had a number of exibits, some semi-permanent, and some which changed from time to time. The semi-permanent exibits were a mad scientist's Jacob's Ladder, and a Foucault's Pendulum in a lucite cage which demonstrated something or other about the rotation of the earth. The jacob's ladder was my favorite, as it was "interactive" in the sense that it had a button you could push to turn it on. Watching the sparks climb the gap, and hearing the distinctive sizzle was something I found endlessly fascinating.

Off of the main hallway to the rear, was the museum's nature area where they had a bank of glass fronted cubicles with live examples of various South Carolina snakes, lizards and bugs. They also had a charmingly low-tech teaching device which had some sort of electrical wire, which if you toched it to the right answer to the wildlife question would illuminate a small bulb.

If at the front desk, you turned right, you would be in the small planetarium wing of the museum which housed the entrance to the planetarium, and a few other exhibits most of which changed from time to time. One which didn't change was the computer. I call it a computer, actually it was a piece of a computer, the "front panel" and some other parts if I recall correctly. Now the computer on which I'm typing this is much more powerful than the Science Museum computer, even if they had the whole thing there and running, but it's not nearly as impressive. The Science Museum computer was positively resplendent with cryptically labeled lights and toggle switches, and they let us flip any switch we wanted to! You know how in any old movie with a computer they always show the lights blinking on and off and a tape drive moving back and forth? They may not have had a tape drive (which were miserable to work with as I learned painfully later), but the lights and switches made up for it. In fact, I suspect on some level that my fascination with that partial computer combined with a number of other factors led me into programming..

If you walked down the main hall at the Science Museum past the nature room, you would come to the entrance to the Art Museum (or you could enter the main Art Museum door from the street). The Art Museum was basically the place your mother made you go after you had seen the Science Museum. It was set up in an old two story house with a fairly large one story addition on the back side. Since I didn't care much, my memory is pretty hazy, but I think they had a core collection with various exhibits on loan rotating in from time to time. I seem to remember that the bulk of the displays were in the rear, with the upstairs being reserved for especially uninteresting stuff like doll collections. Of course there were always a certain number of statues and paintings of naked ladies which were nice, but at which you could only glance briefly if with your mother. They always seemed to have some antique chairs, carefully roped off to keep them from being sat on, and enough nooks and crannies to do some running and hiding.

I can recall being interested in a particular show at the Art Museum only twice. Once they had part of the King Tut treasures as a visiting exhibit, something that drew huge crowds, and another time when I was in high school, they had a hologram exhibit which became a class field trip for most of the city schools (and was a rare good use of the upstairs space). Apparently it was a bit premature to call holograms an art form however, as they have kind of fallen by the wayside as a true "artistic medium".

Apparently the Art Museum had been feeling cramped for quite a while, and with the closing of most of the Main Street retail district, a lot of prime real estate became available downtown. In 1998, the Art side of the museum moved to Main Street, and the Science Museum and planetarium were simply closed with the buildings eventually being used by the USC Campus Police. There's probably an old warehouse somewhere in Columbia with a box labeled "computer parts" holding the marvelous space-aged Science Museum computer front panel..

UPDATE 21 June 2011: Added two pictures [at top] of the Science Museum from an old Chamber of Commerce promotional book. First kids queueing by the planetarium and then kids learning about nature in the back garden.

Written by ted on February 29th, 2008

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Gibbes Planetarium, Senate Street & Bull Street: 1998   30 comments

Gibbes Planetarium was part of the old Art & Science Museum at Senate & Bull. I'll do a post on the museum at some point, but the Planetarium was, in my mind, its own entity. The Planetarium was a small round brick structure with a domed roof, and from the outside looked tiny, but on the inside was quite spacious (I believe it seated 55). One of the zombie web-sites mentioning the Planetarium says it was established in 1959. I don't remember that far back of course, but we started going in the mid 1960s when it still had the original equipment. You would walk in through a short hall from the Science Museum, and there would be two rows of bench seating wrapped around the room with this black, very boxy looking contraption on a pedastal in the middle. In the 1970s or 1980s they did a major upgrade, and the black boxy projector was replaced with an almost medical-imaging looking projector full of lenses and servo motors, all controlled from a space-age console that looked to me like it belonged on the bridge of The Enterprise. Not only did the new projector whir and piroutte, it showed a vastly more numerous field of stars, and had a number of built-in special effects.

The Planetarium was open on the weekends, and that generally was when we would go. If we had cousins staying over, it was practically mandatory. They ran a number of different shows during the year. They would almost always have some sort of "identify the local constellations" show, and they would have special topic shows on black-holes, supernovas and space exploration. Part of the equipment upgrade in addition to the new star projector was the installation of remote-controlled slide projectors all around the rim of the roof, so they could script elaborate shows with non-star images projected on the different sectors of the ceiling. During the Christmas season they usually had a show speculating on what astral phenomena could have been interpreted as the "Star of Bethlehem", and during later years they did several shows dramatizing classic science fiction stories. I remember in particular, their production of Asimov's "Nightfall", about a planet lit by a number of different suns which had never experienced darkness until one fateful day..

The experience of sitting in the Planetarium as the lights went down was always special. Whoever the presenter was always had a very smooth voice, and as the stars came out, and he spoke, I was always struck by an almost physical wave of sleepiness though it passed quickly.

When the Art Museum moved into bigger digs on Main Street in 1998, they dropped the "Science" part of their mission. I had hoped that the Gibbes Planetarium might carry on on its own, but it was not to be, and now the building houses part of the USC Campus Police, and the Planetarium is apprently used as a simple auditorium. I don't know what happened to all the equipment, it's not like you can use a planetarium projector for anything else -- I hope it found a good home.

UPDATE 18 October 2009: Well, I am sorry to report this, but I went by the Planetarium on 9 October 2009 during business hours, hoping to get permission to take some pictures inside. The front desk folks of the Campus Police were very friendly, but told me that the old Planetarium space was not in fact in use by them, as I had assumed, but was closed off with no access, and that they thought the interior was falling apart. Although it has only been 11 years since the space was in use, I suppose this is possible if there are leaks or mold or whatnot. I find this quite sad.

On the plus side, I have added 11 more high-res shots of the exterior.

UPDATE 21 June 2011: Added picture [at top] of kids queueing outside the planetarium from an old Chamber of Commerce promotional book.

Written by ted on February 22nd, 2008

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