I always appreciate a clever quip or a quick jab that’s delivered with just the appropriate amount of zing, but one that’s not hateful or cuts too close to the bone.
We all know that corporate America also has discovered how terrific our Lowcountry is and many of the big companies are fighting to gain footholds in the pluff mud to set up shop and get a piece of both local and tourist dollars.
While walking down King Street recently, I saw a sandwich sign strategically placed on the sidewalk outside a small coffee and pastry shop. I was probably about a half a block from Marion Square.
That part of King Street has been a downtown business highway for decades and is now even more competitive with its mixture of small businesses next door to giant chains competing for the foot traffic that ambles by storefronts every day.
Written in chalk on that sign was this admonition to those walking by. “You came all the way to Charleston just to drink coffee at a corporate, Seattle-based behemoth?”
Elsewhere on that sign were their own drink specials and pastry offerings. Gotta give it to ’em for making people think before they drink. Not sure if their latte, mocha, foofoo coffee was better than the big dog down the street, but their prices certainly were.
That brings me to other signals that times are a changing. At Berkeley High School in Moncks Corner, “The Home of the Stags,” a huge mural now decorates one end of the gymnasium. It was painted by Jeffrey Paige, a local artist. I love the catch phrase that’s boldly proclaimed above the stately stag’s head. It warns all opponents to “Fear the Deer.” Since the mural was finished, there have definitely been more victories than losses for the home teams in the Stags’ gym.
I actually prefer this pronouncement rather than the roadside signs that merely tell us where deer might be crossing. To begin with, I don’t think a deer stands at the edge of the woods to see if there’s a sign telling people he might cross the road in this area from time to time, do you?
One of the old great high school gyms that is no longer with us was at the old Bishop England High School campus at Calhoun and Coming streets. The College of Charleston library now occupies that location.
This old gym was unique because it was 3 or 4 feet below the spectators. It gave you the impression of being in a pit and their fans loved to skewer the opponents with good-natured rowdiness.
Jimmy Owens, now retired from his days as a high school and college referee, was a terrific BE tennis player but not as proficient on the basketball court. He remembers struggling with his free throws, especially his senior year. Time after time, the starting point guard would go to the line, cross himself, send the ball on its way only to see it miss, and miss, and miss.
Eventually, two of the school’s nuns called him aside one day as he was practicing his free throws during the lunch hour. “Jimmy,” they asked, “what are you doing at the free throw line?” He told the sisters he was crossing himself and saying a little prayer that he’d make the next one. They told him he should change his prayer because he was giving their cause some sketchy advertising.
So there you go ... signs and signals that sometimes connect and sometimes don’t.
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com