Summer 2009

Myrtle Beach, SC

25 June 2009

General Information

Local Map


Photographs and Commentary
Click on picture to enlarge

We decided that today is going to be the day we will do any extensive travel in this area. We went to one of our favorite cities, Charleston, SC. Even within Charleston, we decided to limit ourselves to the area of the Old City Market, an area bounded by Meeting Street, Market Street South, Bay Street and Market Street North. Susie was on a mission to convert some of our money into Sweetgrass baskets. These baskets made by mostly by Gullah women and are based on skills brought to America by African slaves. The skills are passed down through the generations. Susie started to acquire the baskets about five years ago during a trip to Charleston.

The trip to Charleston from Myrtle Beach is on Highway 17. We left the campground heading south and first had to pass through miles of stores selling beach ware... just like every other beach town we have ever driven through, except that there are more of them here. Eventually we left carnival atmosphere and get into some relatively empty road bounded by trees. The large town that we passed was Georgetown. This may be a nice town, but the part we drove through was pretty commercial and industrial. The largest plant in town is the International Paper mill. You can smell that mill from quite a distance. In the early days of our travels through this part of country, you could always tell when you were within a few miles of a paper mill by the odor. Technology and regulation has made major reductions in the discharge of the offending odors, but you can still tell you are near a mill. Leaving Georgetown behind we eventually got to the Francis Marion National Forest, named after the Swamp Fox, a guerilla leader during the Revolutionary War. The last time we drove through here, 19 years ago, they were still cleaning up from Hurricane Hugo and piles of dead trees lined the sides of the highway and the median. The storm killed a large percentage of the trees in the forest and you can see the new growth as you drive through. Just North of Charleston is Mount Pleasant, where many of the Sweetgrass basket makers live. Highway 17 through Mount Pleasant is called the "Sweetgrass Highway." When we came through here, about 25 years ago, there were dozens of stalls lining the highway where the basket makers sold their wares. Today we saw five.

The Old City Market is where you can find a concentration of basket makers selling their wares. This gives you a lot to choose from and competition that tends to keep the price down. The competition also allows you to do a little bargaining... something Susie is getting good at. The Old City Market consists of four open sided sheds filled with vendors selling, what I call "touristware,"... t-shirts, jewelry, miscellaneous crafts and, of course, Sweetgrass baskets. Susie walked from one stall containing baskets to the next comparing the quality and price. She had pretty much settled on her major purchase and started to bargain. The women selling the basket, a basket maker herself, was the daughter of the maker of the baskets Susie wanted to purchase. When they had settled on a price, the seller decided she better call her mother to confirm that the selling price was OK. The mother was apparently angry at her daughter so the daughter handed the phone to Susie. After some discussion, the mother refused to lower her asking price to that negotiated by Susie and her daughter so we walked away. A little while later Susie went back to the stall and agreed on a second price, higher than the original negotiated price but still significantly lower then the original asking price. When all was done, Susie asked the seller if she would tell her mother and she replied, "I won't tell her. I will give her the money she expects from the sale and just subtract if from something else."

After Susie got her quota of baskets, we decided to head back to Myrtle Beach and just relax for the rest of day.

Old City Market

Daughters of the Confederacy Museum

Daughters of the Confederacy Museum at the head of the Old City Market on Meeting Street

North Market Street

Exterior view of the Old City Market on North Market Street. In the background you can see the masts of one of the "Tall Ships" that are assembling here for the Fourth of July celebrations.

Carriage Ride

Mule ride passing the Old City Market

Market Interior

Old City Market interior

Former Epicopal Church

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer was deconsecrated in 1964. All religious symbols were removed from the stained glass and building in 1997 and the church became available for other uses.

Saloon and Winery

The other uses for the church were at least two bars and a winery. How ironic that a "Temple of Virtue" would become the home of "Demon Rum."

The Hunt for a Sweetgrass Basket

I have always teased Susie that watching her shop for something, be it a dress for a special occasion, a Storyteller doll or any other crafts, is like watching a hunter in search of his prey. The hunter stalks his prey, then narrows down the target animal and finally goes for the kill. As the pictures below show, Susie does the same. She stalks the prey choosing potential purchases, then she narrows down her choice and swoops down on the vendor to make the purchase. Of course unlike the hunt, Susie really goes for the kill by bargaining with the vendor to get the most out of him/her.

Sweetgrass basketvendors

Three of the many Sweetgrass basket vendors that tempted Susie

So many choices

So many choices!

Closing in on her baskets of choice

Closing in for the kill. Susie had picked out three baskets that she wanted to buy.

Finalizing the purchase

Finalizing the deal... well, almost. This picture was taken about the time the vendors mother refused to reduce her price and Susie walked out.

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