Saturday, April 4, 2015

Walterboro, South Carolina

The sun is slowly peering through the cumulous clowds.  The streets are eerily quite as I walk down Bells Highway on my way to Dunkin' Donuts.  There is no StarBucks in town, the nearest Starbucks is in Summerville about thirty minutes to the east.  Dunkin' Donuts is an adequate substitute, the coffee is good and there is an excellent selection of dunuts.  I'm the only customer at 6am on a Saturday morning, I have the place to myself as I write this blog.

Walterboro, South Carolina is one of those places you find on your way to Florida or your return trip to the North East.  To most it is a place to catch a bite to eat at the Waffle House, Taco Bell or get some barbecue at Dukes.  It is a place to get a good night sleep at the Super 8, the Holiday Inn Express, the Econo Lodge or the Ramada Inn.  To others it's a place they call home.

Founded in 1783, the court house and jail was completed in 1821.  The town took off when a railroad line was completed from Charleston to Columbia with a stop in Walterboro.  In 1942 the Walterboro airbase changed from civilian hands to the Army.  The base provided advanced air combat training to fighter and bomber groups.  The famed Tuskegee airmen trained at this base.  It was also prisoner of war camp for captured German and Italian soldiers.  In October of 1945 the base was returned to civilian control.

I discovered this airport on my way back from Charleston.  It is located off of highway 17, about two miles from downtown Walterboro.  There is a marker with historical information about the airbase and the Tuskegee airmen.  It was eerily quite, all I could hear was a slight wind rustling from the trees and the sound of traffic from the distant highway.  I could imagine what this base would sound like during WW II, the fighters and bombers landing and taking off would be deafening.  The hustle of the flight crews preparing planes for flights, the officers, the enlisted, it must had been a very special time for this sleepy town.  This was during a very difficult time in American history, Walterboro, like most southern towns had Jim Crow Laws which were enforced to much of the dismay of the Tuskegee crews.  Eventually a race riot between the black officers and the white officers closed the base for good.

The population is 5,398; 50% is white and 48.3% is black, the rest is Hispanic, Asian and American Indian.  Before the advent of the Europeans, this was the Cherokee Nations land.  It was a peaceful land  with unlimited resources.  Today Walterboro is void the tensions of past race relations, the people are proud of their town, people get along with each other.

There is something special about Walterboro, it is almost timeless.  The downtown has not changed in a hundred years, there are numerous churches, antiques shops, post office, barber shop, diner and other places.  The charm of the city is impeccable.  For filmmakers who are looking for a place that is different from Savanah or Atlanta.  Different from Charleston.
Mobile or New Orleans, Walterboro is an untapped jewel of the South.  The next time you find yourself on Interstate 95, looking for  a place to rest your head for the night or grab a meal, stop in Walterboro, maybe you might find yourself entranced by this town.  Maybe you just might want to make this place your home.  Maybe you might find this an awesome place to do your next film. 

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