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Caffe Espresso, 1217 College Street: late 1990s   no comments

Posted at 10:50 pm in Uncategorized

Commenter Duane sends the first picture above of Caffe Espresso on College Street.

I remember going there several times, and like its successor Cool Beans it was in the foyer and upstairs of the old house at 1217, next to Nice & Natural. I guess I probably don't go to Cool Beans often enough to say for sure, but in retrospect, it seems to me that the biggest difference between the two operations was that Caffe Espresso had the upstairs windows open more often, as seen here. That, and WiFi..

(Thanks to Duane!)

Written by ted on December 3rd, 2010

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Nice 'N Natural, 1217 College Street: 29 October 2010   6 comments

Posted at 1:28 am in Uncategorized

Nice 'N Natural, located on College Street in between Main and Sumter Streets (and next to the former USC Burger King) shares an attractive old brick building with Cool Beans coffe shop. It's within easy walking distance from The Horseshoe, and in general, I have found parking in the area to be reasonably easy, at least in the evenings.

I mention evening, because I must admit that while I've been to Cool Beans numerous times over the years, I never made it to Nice 'N Natural. I was kind of vaguely aware it was there, but I was never in the area during its open hours, and had the tenuous impression from the name that it was a "healthy" place (ie: not something that would be high on my list). The Free Times brief description sort of re-inforces that impression, though "whole grain" attracts me more than "alfalfa sprouts".

I think I read in The State a week or so back that the owners reported that business fell off after 9-11 and never really recovered. If that be the case, then they've hung on for 10 bad years, which is certainly something to be proud of (and of course their 28 years is an extraordinary run for any restaurant).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ted on October 29th, 2010

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The Shuttlecocks, USC: 1980s   20 comments

Posted at 12:20 am in Uncategorized

The Shuttlecocks were a fleet of small school-bus type vehicles which circuited the USC campus from the late 1970s until sometime in the 1980s offering foot-weary students a theoretically faster, or at least drier alternative to hoofing it between classes.

Firstly, I have to admire the name. How often do you see such a perfect pun, and executed all the way through? You have to imagine that there was meeting after meeting where some facilities person would say Shuttlecock? That's too frivolous! How about Mass Student Transport Units? and yet the 'Shuttlecock' proponents held firm.

Secondly, I have to say that at least from my point of view, they were mostly useless. I guess I can see that if were parking at the Colosseum, or living in The Wade Hampton or Bates, then they might have been timesavers, but realistically, if you missed one, walking would still be your best option. In any case, living in The Towers, and with my fartherest out classes no farther than Gambrell Hall, I never took one in earnest. I did ride the circuit a few times as something to do, and I think I may have taken one as far as Capstone for a Five Points expedition. They were about what you would expect. The exteriors were not school-bus yellow, but otherwise they were standard cut-down school-buses. I think they would probably hold about 20 people, but I never saw one full.

I'm not sure when the Shuttlecock fleet was retired though I'm pretty sure they did not last into the 90s. I also don't know the reason for their discontinuation. Certainly gas and maintainence had to be expensive so I suspect it was cost. Or maybe the new President didn't like puns.

Written by ted on July 22nd, 2010

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Baker Bros American Deli, 601 Main Street Suite A: Spring 2010   10 comments

Posted at 11:31 pm in closing

According to this press release Baker Brothers American Deli came to South Carolina on 29 November 2007, with the opening of the Lexington store. That was to be the first of three stores in the Columbia market. I believe this store, beneath the upscale Adesso condos (themselves built on the site of the former mini-mall housing Pappy's and Robo's Video Arcade) was the second Columbia location. A google search suggests the third store was at 1730 Main Street, but I can't bring that one to mind without driving by.

At any rate, according to the franchaise map here all the South Carolina stores are now gone. The map is actually rather interesting in that persuing a Texas, Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky stragegy seems a bit unusual. Things could apparently be going better though, since apart from Texas (which is the home state and has 12 locations) each other state has only one. I never ate at Baker Bros. From the menu and web site, it seems sort of like another McAlister's Deli, a restaurant I never really warmed up to.

As mentioned by commenter Dave, the next business in this slot looks to be a yogurt operation called Yog Hut. My impression based on peering in the corner entrance is that Yog Hut will not be using the full Baker Bros space though.

UPDATE 21 May 2010: Commenter ChiefDanGeorge says the Yog Hut entrance is a different space, so I've added a picture of the Main Street doors. He also suggests that the Yog Hut opening is stalled.

UPDATE 8 July 2010 -- Well if it was stalled, it's unstalled and open now:

(Hat tip to commenter Mike)

UPDATE 28 June 2019: Add tags, map icon.

Written by ted on May 20th, 2010

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Russell House Theater, USC (changes)   11 comments

Posted at 12:47 am in Uncategorized

Walking through The Russell House this fall, I was struck, looking at the Russell House Theater coming attractions, how much the place had changed in focus.

When I was at USC, from 1980 through 1985, the theater was mainly a classics house. Sunday through Thursday, they would play a different film every night, and I probably averaged three or four movies a week, and ones I probably never would have seen otherwise. In particular, I recall Lost Horizon, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Lolita, The Pound, Cinderella Liberty, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Double Indemnity, Farewell, My Lovely, The Magic Christian, Singin' In The Rain, Citizen Kane, The Philidelphia Story, Bringing Up Baby, Sahara, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Captain Blood, The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex, Kiss Me Deadly, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, The In-Laws, Stagecoach, Rio Bravo, The Quiet Man, The African Queen, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps, The Birds, The General, Intolerance, Wings, Advise & Consent, and The Best Years of Our Lives -- to name a few!

I was a bit disheartened that as far as I could see from looking at the lobby placards, the theater is apparently no longer functioning as an exposure to cinema, but more as a second run dollar theather. Granted anyone who wants can always rent or buy all the pictures I saw, but there's still something about sitting in a theater with a bunch of people and a good movie, or a fun movie, and there's something about serendipity -- sitting down to a movie you never heard of because it's just a buck, and it beats studying and finding against the odds that its something you'll remember for the rest of your life..

Written by ted on February 22nd, 2009

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USC Burger King, 1211 College Street: 1990s   15 comments

Posted at 10:11 pm in closing

I was rather surprised when I learned in the 90s, that all of the Burger King restaurants in Columbia were run by the same franchisee. I know Columbia is not a huge city, but it's not tiny, and I just assumed that a chain like Burger King would have a number of local franchisees. Of course, the only reason I know this at all is because the local franchisee had a complete falling out with the Burger King corporation itself during the 1990s. I don't remember the details now, and I'm sure there was a lot of finger pointing on both sides, but the upshot was that all the Burger King restaurants in Columbia ended up being shut down -- all of them, and for a long time. It was kind of an unprecedented situation in my experience.

It didn't matter much to me becase a) I was living out of town at the time, and b) I was increasingly disenchanted with fast food places at the time (this was before outfits like Moe's and Five Guys made fast food fun again) and especially with Burger King. Nonetheless, it was odd to drive past all the Burger Kings and see them stitting empty. This particular Burger King was on College Street between Main and Sumter Streets right by Cool Beans coffee shop. I had eaten there a number of times over the years, and they always seemed to do a good business with the college crowd.

Eventually, corporate found new franchisees for most of the BKs in Columbia, and made an event of the general re-opening, even getting South Carolina's "Blues Doctor", Drink Small to cut some celeberatory commercials. By then though, the University had already bought the USC BK, and it never reopened. The building has since been razed, and the land is now yet another offical USC parking lot.

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce!

UPDATE 22 March 2010: Added full street address to post title.

Written by ted on August 31st, 2008

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Sarge Frye Field, 1320 Heyward Street (USC Campus at Marion & Heyward Streets): 17 May 2008   11 comments

Posted at 2:05 am in Uncategorized

I didn't know Sarge Frye, though I'm sure I must have seen him out in his yard from time to time. He lived just around the corner from my sister's house, and she mentioned once that she had spoken with him back during the great Forest Acres Flood of the 90s when his property was partly under water. By all accounts, he was a very nice, and capable man and was greatly missed after his passing in 2003.

Of the baseball field which bears his name, Bob Spears of The State says:

Weldon B. “Sarge” Frye, the Michelangelo of groundskeepers, carved the field that eventually would bear his name from an unkempt patch of real estate in the mid-1950s.

The park near the corner of Marion and Heyward streets evolved and so did the Carolina baseball program.

From that humble beginning, the field lasted half a century before being retired this year. I'm afraid I would be fibbing if I claimed to have seen ball games there. Sports are not really my thing, and I don't think I've ever actually watched a baseball game (and have listened to very few since 8 April 1974). Still, the talk of closing the place caught my attention, so I thought I would check it out.

I was afraid that the field might be locked down, but as it turned out, showing up on a Friday afternoon after 5pm, in the summer when all the college kids are on break was a perfect way to have it entirely to myself. I haven't been able to find anything more definite about the future plans for the park than this 2006 story from The Daily Gamecock which says:

The current Sarge Frye Field will be demolished, and in its place will be the athletics offices, a possible hall of fame, academic support facility, sports medicine offices and a new volleyball competition facility.

If that is still the plan, they don't seem to be any hurry to "turn the lights out". It's been more than a month since the final game, but the grass is still cut, and the area still seems kept up.

The sun was at a very awkward angle for many of these shots, so if you see my fingers in the frame, I was attempting to shade the lens a bit, and since the closing-cam isn't SLR, I can't really tell from the viewfinder if they're out of the way or not sometimes.

Oh, and that final game? Let the record show it was the Gamecocks over Tennessee 10-8!

UPDATE 24 July 2010 -- Here are some pictures taken about a year later (13 March 2010):

UPDATE 20 July 2010: Here's a video from The State of the demolition of Sarge Frye Field today.

UPDATE 1 June 2011 -- Here's some pix of demolition work at Sarge Frye and The Roost on 25 July 2010:

UPDATE 10 January 2012: More construction pictures, these from 16 July 2011:

Written by ted on June 28th, 2008

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The Towers, Corner of Main & Blossom: September 2006   111 comments

Posted at 10:22 pm in closing

[ Welcome LinkedIn visitors. If you enjoy this USC rememberance, you may also like Bell Camp, The Russell House Theater glory days, The Golden Spur, The Shuttlecocks, and The Wade Hampton Hotel -- Ted ]

If this post works out, it will be the most pictures I've had for a single closing, and the most intermixed the text and pictures have been. We'll see how it goes.

Also, I've been looking at my web statistics, and it seems to me that most people aren't clicking on the pictures to get the full-sized versions, so I'll just mention it explicitly: If you click on the pictures, you get bigger versions (usually).

So what can I say about The Towers? Well, I've heard many people call them the armpit of USC, and I've heard other people suggest that if USC were a dog that needed its temperature taken, The Towers were where the thermometer would be inserted. None of that is wrong. Still, I spent a good chunk of time there, and when I heard they were all going to be torn down, I'll admit I was sorry.

Somehow, even after I knew the end was near, I never got around to taking many pictures of the outside of the towers. In fact, this one is about it. I was eating at Moes, when I remembered I wanted to take some shots, but all I had in the car was a crummy disposable camera, so the focus is pretty bad, and I didn't bother to get an unobstructed shot for some reason:

I read in The State that there was going to be a Towers farewell reception, and that in avance of that, the Housing department would be offering farewell tours:

Bid Towers a fond farewell

Former students who once lived in the Towers, or honeycombs residence halls at the University of South Carolina may visit campus for a farewell reception and tour of the halls on Aug. 25.

Originally a complex of six buildings built in 1958 and 1965, the Towers will be replaced with a residence hall and academic center for South Carolina Honors College students.

The buildings will be demolished in September.

The Aug. 25 event is free and will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the lobby of Towers.

Leading up to the farewell event, USCs housing staff also will give tours of the Towers on weekdays from 9-11 a.m. and on Saturdays from 2-4 p.m. Tours are by appointment only.

Because interest in the event and the tours is expected to be high, the university is asking people who plan to attend the Aug. 25 event or to schedule a tour to notify housing staff online at www.housing.sc.edu.

I signed up for a "by appointment only" tour on 24 Aug, and as I turned out to be the only person there, was able to see exactly what I wanted to. Douglas was my Tower so I did a tour of my old floor.

Here is the elevator lobby for Douglas. The elevator in a men's dorm led a rough life. Half the time it was broken, and the other half, it was strewn with pizza boxes and reeked of vomit. There was very little notion of dorm security in 1980, so if the elevator were broken, you could just take the stairs, which opened unsecured to the plaza outside.

Here is my room, Douglas 618. Since it was directly in front of the elevator, it later became an RA room. The peep-hole is a later addition. And yes, I did unscrew the number-plate and now have it at home:

When you first come into a Towers room, you immediately see the "honey-comb" veil blocks which form the wall to the "patio" which is entered from two sliding glass doors. (In practice, these were "barely sliding" glass doors):

After that, you notice the two cots, one along each wall. These appear to have been upgraded from the models which "graced" the buildings when I was there. The arrangement is a bit different as well -- we had study carrels against the back wall of the rooms, and the carrels also acted as de-facto headboards for the cots:

If you walked out onto the "patio", you had a grand view -- of the towers opposite you (assuming you got close enough to the veil blocks to look through them anyway). If you click the picture for the high-res version, you will observe that the Tower opposite almost looks like it has a pattern in its veil blocks which might make letters. That's possible. Often things were spelled out by putting soft-drink cans (shiny-end out) into the veil blocks recesses in patterns. It wouldn't surprise me if after years you ended up with coke stains almost making ghost letters:

I found that someone who had the room after I did was a bit of an artist. Here are two pretty good chalk drawings done on the 618 patio (and by "pretty good", I mean "a lot better than I could do"):

Here's something we definitely didn't have in the 1980s, an RJ-45 ethernet network jack. It's hard to imagine now, but ethernet was at that point an almost experimental technology, and wiring a building for ethernet meant stringing yellow 3/4" cable everywhere. You actually had to cut the cable into two segments to install a new tranceiver (unless you used "vampire" taps). What we had was a black, rotary dial telephone in each room, and that was it. And forget cable! If your room faced the right way, you might be able to pick up WIS. WLTX or WOLO were pretty iffy (though if you were on the west side of Douglas, you could pick up Channel 6 out of Augusta sometimes). One factor in the demise of the Towers was that Gen-Xers & Gen-Yers just wouldn't put up with the kind of stuff we thought was normal (and we walked barefoot through the snow to grammar school, uphill both ways!).

Here's another amenity we didn't have in the 80s: Any kind of thermostat, or as this appears to be at least some sort of fan control for the heat and AC. I suppose there was a thermostat somewhere in the building when I was there, but as far as I could tell, the climate control worked by running the heat full-blast, all the time during the winter, and running the AC full-blast all the time in the spring and fall. What this meant in practice was that our only mechanism for temperature control was the patio doors. On the coldest days, you had to leave them half open to the outside so the furnace wouldn't bake you out of the room. I suspect orbiting satellites could pick up the temperature increase around the towers as every room vented its excess heat that way.

Here's the view from the patio towards the door. These were two student rooms, and each of us had an open closet with a chest-of-drawers:

As you might imagine, the bathrooms in the Towers were every bit as palatial as the rest of the dorm. Here is a sink, and the plumbing access panel which was just as rusty, and paint-chipped in the 80s as it is in this picture.

Here is a whole row of sinks. There was another row on the opposite side of the bathroom, and when the dorm was occupied, each had a mirror above it:

Here is one of the showers in the communal shower stall. (I brought a screw-driver with me, and stole one of the knobs). You can't see it in this picture, but the shower stall was set off from the rest of the bathroom by an entrance with a raised tile "curb" so that the shower water didn't run into the rest of the bathroom. At some point before I got there, several of the residents figured out an interesting property of the shower room. It was tiled from floor to ceiling, and the doorway was ony four feet or so wide. They procured, from somewere, a sheet of plywood five feet or so tall, and more than wide enough to block the shower entranceway. They plugged the drain in the shower floor, put the plywood across the entrance and turned on the water. The water started to rise, and gradually the water pressure glued the plywood across the doorway in an almost watertight fashion: Presto! Instant indoor swimming pool! I had thought this was probably just a Towers legend, but I later learned that it did indeed happen. Of course, being college students, and male, no one thought about the weight of the water and the strength of the floor. Luckily, it held:

I said "communal shower" above, and in the 80s it was. It appears that sometime later, in an attempt to spare just awoken eyes from truly scary sights, they installed private stalls:

Here is the Towers Farewell Reception on 25 Aug 2006. Note the Towers T-shirts being sold and worn:

Here is the historical information on Douglas:

And here is the historical information on Snowden (which was supposed to be pronounced "Snau-den", though it was universally pronounced like the frozen precipitation) and the girls' dorms, Baker and Burney, which were torn down well in advance of the rest of The Towers:

'Cocky', or 'Big Spur' or whatever he is called nowadays was there for the festivities:

There was a raffle as well as an auction and they had audience volunteers do some of the announcements.

And finally: THE END. (Click to play video):

So there you have it. Yes, it was the armpit of USC, but darn it, it was the armpit I lived in, and eyesores that they were, I do miss The Towers.

UPDATE 13 October 2009: Here is a postcard view of The Towers, and the text from the back. I really should put it at the top of the post, but that would mess up the flow of the post as I wrote it.


MODERN DORMITORIES, UNIV. OF S. C.
COLUMBIA, S.C.

Designed by the architect of the U. S. Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair, Edward P. Stone. Built in 1958 each unit houses 250 students. Outside grill reduces air conditioning by 1/3 and shades four foot balcony that juts from each room

UPDATE 15 Jan 2011 -- Commenter Paul sends these to links to pictures taken at the 2006 Towers Reunion:

Set 1

Set 2

UPDATE 23 September 2023: Here are some good stories from The Towwers.

Also updating tags and adding a map icon.

Written by ted on March 14th, 2008

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