Shore Leave in South Carolina
June 12, 1999
Thursday June 10, 1999
We started our trip to the South. The weather was great and the traffic on I-81 was surprisingly light. As is our custom, we stopped for lunch in Staunton, Virginia for the world-class grilled pimento cheese sandwiches at the Berkeley Restaurant. Words cannot express how good these are... Their cocoanut cream pie is also very noteworthy.
After this very refreshing interlude, we continued on our way. We made our way down I-77 to our destination for the day: Mount Airy, North Carolina, the birthplace of Andy Griffith and the "model" for the fictional city of Mayberry.
We also found out that Eng and Chang Bunker, the famous Siamese Twins of the P.T. Barnum Circus raised their (joint...) families in Mount Airy. Also, Mount Airy is the "Toaster Capital of the World" and has the "World's Lagrest Open-face Granite Quarry." Did you really want to know all that?
Even though the Andy Griffith Show has been off the air for more than 20 years (well, there are those reruns...), the Mayberry business is still strong in Mount Airy. To our dismay, much like its fictional counterpart, the place rolls up the sidewalks at about 7:00 pm. We had a rather nice time walking around and managed to find a Sonic Dive-In (with car service) for dinner.
The First Demo at Riptide
Carin, Greg and Carole Berghers
Friday June 11, 1999
We began our day with breakfast at the Snappy Lunch, mentioned frequently on the TV program. The biscuits and gravy were very good and the price --- even in an OBVIOUS tourist trap was very good.
We found several good thrift stores and came back with several interesting items -- ties, shirts, and another Replogle Starlight Globe.
From there, it was off to Charlotte for lunch and a check of the Swing Scene there. We were very fortunate to meet Lou, the manager of Swing 1000 (1000 Central Avenue , 343-4443) He is operating a very high class club in a building converted from an art-deco laundry. It has a stage, large dance floor and quite a few elegant banquettes. The dance floor is sprung maple and is about 60' by 15 feet. Very nice. Swing 1000 is completely devoted to Swing --- there are events five nights a week, closed Sunday and Monday. Lou tells us that East Coast is the predominate style. The house band is Swing Central.
At Charlotte, we got on I-85 and headed west. We stopped for a moment in Cowpens, SC, home of the Revolutionary War battle. We were a week shy of the "Mighty Moo Festival" when veterans from the USS Cowpens (a WWII aircraft carrier of the Lexington class, named after battles like Yorktown and Saratoga...) would gather. The big thing in Cowpens seems to be antiques and Hot Dogs. We noted that several establishments were having a "Hot Dog War" --- Mike's was selling them 5 for $2.89, while another place had 5 for $2.75, etc. etc.
We also stopped in Gaffney, SC. If you have driven on I-95, you may have seen the water tower painted like a gigantic peach. We stopped and enjoyed a glass of peach cider, which I highly reccommend.
We finally reached our destination: Greer, SC, a small town that lies midway between Greenville and Spartanburg. The town is in the process of being reborn --- vacant commercial spaces are being converted into restaurants, boutiques, coffeeshops, etc. We liked this place very much, especially the Starlight Ballroom which had been very lovingly created out of the town department store by Al and Mary, who are ballroom dancers. The foor is first rate and the space is very charming. Best of all, Al owns the local Carrier distributorship. If anyone is going to own a ballroom, its SHOULD be an air-conditioning expert.
When we checked in to our hotel, we found messages from Paul Hoke, our host, indicating that our presence was requested at TWO demos that evening. So, we changed and met the Greenville gang at a place called Gourmet Pizza --- we might have been walking ito the Amphora, because it seems that dancers and food seem to go together.
We did our first demo at Riptide, a big barn-like club in a shopping center. I was quite unused to the amount of security -- I even had to let them search our dance suitcase. They had a nice dance floor and our performance was very well received --- we even picked up a few more candidates for our workshop.
The next demo was at a hip-hop/disco place called Emerald City that had even more security. This was one of those places with several levels of "VIP" ambience. Two ladies got out of a Rolls Royce while we were being "processed" and I overheard one of the security guys use his headset to advise someone to "Chill their Dom Perignon." I had to get special dispensation from one of the guards to wear my hat (the ubiquitous "hat rule"). This place had a metal detector, and the guards thoroughly inspected the suitcase.
Swing dancers should count themselves lucky that this type of foolishness is not a part of OUR scene. The demo went very well, although the floor was so sticky from beer that it was hard to dance. We were pleased that a little bit of life was injected into the place and we attracted quite a crowd of interested people. Numerous people offered to buy us drinks and seemed puzzled when we told them that swing dancers don't, as a rule, drink.
At the Krispy Kreme
Get 'em When they are Hot!
It was well past midnight when we finished. We didn't even have to ask about the Krispy Kreme --- this landmark was well-known to our Greenville friends. As luck would have it, we got there just as the "Hot Doughnuts" sign went on.
The folks in Greenville have this to say about the photo: "After we put on a show at Riptide and Emerald City we went my partner's favorite late night hang out, the Krispy Kreme." (l. to r.: Greg, Carin, Paul, Linsey, Carole, and Greg; Frank is getting another large tray of dougnuts)
Some of the crowd
61 in All
Saturday June 12, 1999
We arrived at the Starlight Ballroom to find out that one of the main air-handlers had failed. Normally, this would have been a disaster, but as we were unloading our equipent, Al showed up with a crew and fixed the problem. All ballrooms should be owned by Air Conditioning experts.
We had 61 people, which posed quite a task. There was a broad age range and everyone came prepared to learn Lindy Hop. We were impressed with the attitude and interest of our students. Although it took some considerable effort, by the end of the day, we had everyone doing credible Swingouts and Charleston along with a number of other moves integrated into a small "survival" routine. We actually worked from 10:00 am until 5:30 pm and everyone stayed for the whole show. We were very satisfied with the results.
The folks in Greenville have this to say about the photo: "Hey Frank ya want to teach us Shim Sham again? Only this time all 150 of us won't get on the floor at the same time."
Sandy Rominger from Florida with Bob Marlow from Winston-Salem, NC.
Zoot from El Pachuco, shoes from dancestore.com!
We want to thank everyone who came --- especially the folks who came from Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Bob Marlow equipped himself for the event by buying shoes from dancestore.com and a zoot suit from El Pachuco. Our special thanks to Elliott and Meredith from Asheville who have invited us to give another workshop there in October. What a great crowd!
However, we didn't have time to rest on our laurels, because a radio station had caught our demo the night before and wanted us to do a demo at the North Carolina State Barbecue festival. So, we got the group together and drove to Tryon, NC, about 35 miles north and did the demo. We were rewarded with a large sampling of the championship barbecue cookery. It was worth the drive.
This is "Q-Ball" who also plays sax in the band
We only had an hour to get ready for the dance, so we had to beat a quick retreat back to the hotel, shower and change into WWII uniforms for the evening's USO dance. When we got there, I was stunned to see our Marine friends, John Gillmer and Fred Satkowiak who had driven all the way from Camp Lejeune for the event. THANKS JOHN AND FRED!!!
Paul Hoke says: "John and Fred --- thanks for driving 360 miles for the workshop. By the way there is also a Greenville, NC. which is not such a drive. Ha Ha"
Greg learned the difference between wool and cotton uniforms... Jenny, the Betty Page look-alike was really neat --- She came to the dance with a nice guy named Nathan and both of them had a well-turned out classic rockabilly look.
Lo and behold:
The Pat Thornburg Big Band was very very good and could play anywhere in DC or New York. Pat plays quite the trumpet and the band's book includes a LOT of hot swing tunes.
Pat has this to say: "Alice Cooper gets a Big Band!"
Heather Bellville with John Gillmer
The event had a lot of fun events. First was the "Romeo and Juliet" contest --- folks were assigned a dance card and the goal was to have as many dance partners as possible. There was also a costume contest.
When the first band break came around, we announced that we were going to teach Shim Sham. I was stunned when all 160 people got up on the dance floor! We had a crisis of visibility and I had to use every trick in the book like shifting rows, moving into the crowd, etc, etc. to accomplish this.
The dance went on until the posted closing time. However, I discovered a novel Greenville tradition --- the band plays until people go home! We need some of that in DC! We finally left at about 1:30. We were not quite exhausted, so we hit the Krispy Kreme for some badly needed sugar and carbohydrates. Personally, I think that the coffee at the Krispy Kreme is much better than the coffee at Starbucks.
At Caesar's Head
Sunday June 11, 1999
We rose early in order to attend a "farewell breakfast" --- we were stunned when a BIG group of our new friends showed up --- we took up a BIG table in the back room of the local Denny's. We had a great time, talking about dancing, promoting Swing and our next Greenville workshop in August.
my partner began the trip with a desire to go swimming in a "mountain lake". Our friends made a great suggestion and we started on our way up Route 26 to Brevard, SC. On the way, we passed Caesar's Head State Park which features massive exposed limestone cliffs. We really enjoyed the view. If the view at the dance was this good, people could have located Paul any time they needed him... (an "In" joke...)
Carole Berghers at Sliding Rock
The water was COLD... Some of those Krispy Kremes are showing...
When we arrived in Brevard, we had brunch at the Brevard Inn, a very, very nice bed and breakfast. The specialty was fresh local mountain trout, almodine and it was spectacular. After lunch we drove about ten miles down the road to
Pisgah National Forest. The big attraction is Sliding Rock --- there is an exposed face of granite that slopes at about 20 degrees. A swift-flowing mountain stream runs over the rock. One sits on the rock and slides about 100 feet into an ice cold pool of water at the end. It was a hot day and we found this very refreshing.
From Brevard, we made our way onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and wound our way through the natural beauty for the rest of the afternoon. We exited at Boone, NC and travelled north to catch I-81. Due to our meandering, we didn't get home until 3:00 am, but all-in-all, it was very worthwhile.
Thanks to Paul, Greg, Q-Ball