Walking through Spartanburg, seeing the sights.

In the fall of '82 I returned to my old hometown for a visit.  While I'd bopped through on several occasions over the preceding 18 years, this time I decided to spend a couple of days and look up some people.  Groove on this:  I rented a room at the Travel Lodge on East Main. 



2002.  Looking south down Church from Main.



My friend Tommy was in Spartanburg at the time.  He'd been living on Irwin Ave. until a year or so before, but by the time I arrived back in town, he'd moved to another neighborhood not far from Reidville Rd.  Had dinner with him and his wife, and stayed up late -- at least 10 PM -- before returning to my room.

Next morning I began a walkabout.  A walkabout with a 35 mm Olympus OM10 primed for slides.  I started west on Main through the central part of town, taking pictures as I moseyed along. 

Downtown.  What can I say?  I used to write nasty letters to the late Lewis Grizzard each time he took the name of Sparkle City in vain, but the guy had a point.   Some real weirdness there, as Brother Dave Gardner mighta said.

Toward midmorning I stopped in at Pete's Restaurant.  On the Square, remember?  Pete was stuffed into one of his booths, and he was bigger than ever.  Okay, so was I.  Anyway, I'd never before had an adult conversation with the man, which was an experience.  He remembered Mother and Ray Star, a DJ we knew from the '50s.  

Pete's opinion of radio people was they spent a lot of time drinking coffee and not much time working.  A lot of restaurant types have the idea the rest of the world is lazy with nothing better to do than sit around drinking free coffee refills.  I think it was that free part that irked Pete.

Moving on down Main, I turned left on Spring.  The building that had housed the Spring Street grocery was there, but not the grocery.  Place had tires piled out front, which was real attractive.  Had to take a couple of pictures of that scene.

Further down, Southside Baptist over on South Church Street had finally become truly enormous, having acquired and cleared the adjacent properties all the way back to Spring.  On the other side of Spring Street, the deserted Georgian mansion that had stood unoccupied across from Southside Elementary was gone.  

The school building itself housed an arts center .  Besides the fact it was no longer a school, the place was much the same.  I do recall grass growing in places where it didn't when I was a boy.  

Hampton Ave. hadn't changed.  Not that I could tell.  The houses were still grand and seemed to be well cared for.  Such trees that street had.  Down at the corner of Hampton and Irwin was Mrs. Irwin's house, with Mrs. Irwin out front puttering around in her azaleas.  I swear, it's true.  For a moment it was like I was in a time warp.

Upper Irwin Ave. had changed a little, though not much.  What had been Mr. Aiken's house no longer had the tall cyclone fence around it -- the poor man had built that fence to protect himself from the Cockman brothers, a couple of bona fide juvenile delinquents.  On the other hand, the old stone hitching post across the street was where it had always been.

Walking on down I could see my old house at 544, and farther down was an old friend of mine's mom, sawing Z's on her front porch.  Bad influence that I was, she wasn't crazy about me as a kid, so I let the lady lie there in peace.  Besides, there weren't any rocks handy.



The old homestead.  There's always going to be a utility pole.



Below her house, time had caught up with the neighborhood and there were signs of serious decay.  

After fighting off an irate mockingbird, I rounded the corner and eye-balled the Abbey Apartments.  Dude!  War zone.  They were unoccupied, boarded up, and beaten up.  A lot of nice kids used to live in those apartments.

I walked up Morningside to Hampton Drive.  When I got there, at the top of the hill I saw Tommy's mother  waving.  She invited me in for a Coke -- seems she was expecting me, since Tommy had mentioned my plans for a walkabout.  Mom and Pop Barnett.  They looked the same as the last time I'd seen them so many years before. 




My friend lived here, in a duplex on Irwin.



After a while, I continued my walk.  This time down Hampton Dr., over to North Church using a shortcut that was still there.  The Community Cash had moved to a different location at the back of their parking lot, and Kraft's Drugs looked as though it were on the way out.  As for the Hubba-Hubba, it was already history -- just like the Community Cash and Kraft's would soon be.  

Where Jenkins Jr. High used to be was a vacant lot, and entire streets were missing, victims of urban renewal.

But the Schuyler Apartment Building, in all its post-war, concrete 12-floor glory, was still there.  The Schuyler was Ed McGrath's address, as it was Mr. and Mrs. Bray, who owned WJAN.  Lots of kind, decent people used to live in the Schuyler Bldg, and for all I know, they may still be there.

As for me, now I'm looking back, realizing yet another 18 years has passed.  These days I can no longer say I'm surprised.


Paul Childers

       May 2000   



My wife