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Tricentennial Songs, Columbia & Everywhere in South Carolina: 1970   182 comments

Posted at 11:50 pm in commentary

How can I convey just how much of a *BIG*DEAL* the Tricentennial was for us in 1970? Well, let's just say that it was a much bigger event in our lives than the Bicentennial was in 1976. (And if you don't know what the Bicentennial was, you're a whippersnapper, and there's no helping you). If you were in Third Grade in 1970, as I was, along with the rest of my classmates at Satchel Ford Elementary in Mrs. Anderson's homeroom, the Tricentennial was a good part of your year.

Not only did we learn South Carolina history tidbits in school all year, but there were constant references on TV, and futuristic geodesic dome museums built downtown (Senate Street?) with all kind of historic artifacts. It was such a big deal that we were all mad when the Weekly Reader did a story on California's Bicentennial and didn't mention our Tricentennial at all.

But the biggest thing about the Tricentennial at school and even at family gatherings with cousins was the Tricentennial songs. We knew all of them by heart, and sang them constantly that year.

The songs were all composed by music teacher Nelle McMaster Sprott (with some lyrics borrowed with permission from the State's Poet Laureate, Archibald Rutledge) and seem to have been discovered by the Tricentennial Commission almost by accident. If it was an accident, it was a happy one, and an album of the songs was pressed by the Tricentennial Commission and sent to all the state's public schools (and was available for home purchase, along with sheet music for all the songs). I can hardly overstate how ubiquitous and well-loved this album was in 1970. You can quibble about a few lyric choices like "come and feel the pain" in Carolina Sunshine (though the intent is clear), but I think the album still stands up very well today.

For some reason though, the album and songs were orphaned after the Tricentennial. I suppose the Tricentennial Commission disbanded, and that might be the reason, but for whatever cause, the album was never re-issued even on LP much less as remastered for CD. That means what I am able to present here was recorded from a 39 year old LP in all its scratchy glory, but when you set the Way-Bac Machine to 1970 and put yourselves in the shoes of those third graders again, can you honestly say you don't agree with:

We are good Sandlappers,
Yes we're good Sandlappers.
And we're mighty proud to say --
That we live,
Yes we live,
In the very finest state of the USA

I know I can't.

[NOTE: I have replaced the full versions of the songs above with 30 second clips. I have heard from Mrs. Sprott's granddaughter that she is working on a web-site dedicated to her grandmother. When it's up, I will link it here!]

UPDATE 9 November 2012: Here's some interesting information on the Charleston, Columbia & Greenville Tricentennial buildings.

UPDATE 18 February 2020: I have been remiss in not noting the November 2017 passing of Mrs. Sprott. She certainly brought music and joy into the lives of many people. Here is her obiturary.

Also, as I said above, I had replaced the full versions of the Tricentennial songs with thirty second clips at the request of Mrs. Sprott's granddaughter. That made sense in the days before everything had been uploaded to youtube, but currently the songs are already widely available, so I think it no longer makes sense to not have them here. Thus, I am embedding each song, from youtube (where they were uploaded by someone else, not me) below:

We Are Good Sandlappers:

Come With Me:

Sunny Yellow Jessamine:

Indian Ghosts:

Country Things:

Carolina Sunshine:

A Carolina Wren:

We Belonged To The Land:

Something To Sing About:

Stand Tall For South Carolina:

The Whole Album:

Written by ted on April 30th, 2008

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