Downtown…

I essentially quit the flossip- gave it up never to write again.

Lately, I have been itching to just say “one more thing.”

Like… Have you eaten at Town Hall yet?  I have been twice, and loved it both times.  I wish I could tell you that I was adventurous and got two different entrees, but I had the Hangar Steak both times.  It was delicious both times!  The fries are good as well, but I am genetically predispositioned to hate truffle oil, so I had them leave that off.

We had the succotash as a side.  It was a great compliment to most entrees.  As an appetizer we ordered the deviled eggs.  They come WITH fried oysters so its like a bonus double whammy appetizer.  I can honestly say that my aunt makes the BEST deviled eggs around.  I can’t imagine a Carolina football game without them.  However, for the sake of the site I was willing to try someone else’s deviled eggs.

I am so glad that I did.  We had the beignets for dessert, and it was a great treat to share.  (I do not say that word like Harry Connick, Jr.)

I really like the atmosphere of Town Hall.  I honestly felt like I was out of town.  My mom told me she felt like I had taken her to New York City for the night.  There was a good crowd, I recommend reservations.  I had great service both times.

There is a slight woodsmoke smell so I asked to be seated away from the kitchen.  It’s not a big deal though and I am pretty smell sensitive.  You don’t smell like it when you leave, and that is an important test for me.

I am VERY excited about this new restaurant and all that is happening downtown.

(Hey- how did I do?  My blogging skills are a little rusty! Also, I couldn’t buy back theflossip.com… had to switch to .net.)

(Next time I will try to take pictures.)

(Oh!  It isn’t cheap, but it is worth it.)

 

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Mrs. Ruby Didn’t Come to Florence, Florence came to Mrs. Ruby

PLEASE DO NOT REPRINT OR FORWARD WITHOUT CREDIT

She sat across from me at the kitchen table, her eyes still bright, her mind still sharp.  The walker and pink pajamas during the day are the only indication that age is catching up with her.  She is a wisp of a woman, formidable still at half my size.  Looking at her, it is hard for me to believe that this tiny, elderly woman has sparked decades of rumors and half truths.
I begin by telling Mrs. Ruby that I am there because she is a Florence legend and people are interested in her.   She looks at me as if she is surprised. For a minute, I falter.  Do I tell her the rumors?  Do I ask her the unaskable questions?   I pause, unsure of my next step. Her son brings her a plate of lunch and places it in front of her.  The food is ignored as she begins to tell me the story that is her life.
Mrs. Ruby was born in Evergreen, outside of Florence.  She was the seventh child, born in the seventh month in 1923.  Her father did not like to stay in one place long, so they moved around a lot as she was growing up.  She mainly remembers her life after they moved to Darlington.  I listen without asking any of the questions on my list.  I quickly realize that she will tell her story in her own time.
Mrs.  Ruby was barely a teenager, a young woman coming of age during a time when money was tight and everyone worked hard for every penny.  She worked hard, her mother worked hard, everyone worked hard.   One of her most vivid memories was of a traveling Bible salesman that she met.  He was going around selling bibles to raise money for the seminary.  Every day he would pass by their house in Darlington, and she would invite him over to sit a spell.  They would sit together and chat on the loveseat outside.  Ruby felt like that young man was going to make an amazing preacher one day.  Later on, she was delighted when she started to hear that same young man was being well received across the South. His name was Billy Graham, and he left quite the impact on a young Ruby.  She talks about her faith freely and openly throughout the day.
It wasn’t long after meeting Billy Graham that her life changed forever. Her expression changes, and I see sadness when she tells me about the day her mother was injured.  Her mother was working in a field picking cotton and fell down. It wasn’t even a bad fall, but when she fell, a cotton stalk went through her mother’s eye.  Her mother spent a long time in the hospital, and came home an invalid and never walked again.  Her father died shortly thereafter from a stroke, effectively ending any source of support for Ruby or her mother.  Ruby grew up in an instant, transforming from the child to the mother and spent the next twenty years caring for her mother.

Ruby was always beautiful, though more important than her beauty was her brain. She was savvy in the financial arena, realizing quickly that she needed property to have financial stability. She worked shifts at the Boston Café on North Dargan Street in Florence and saved her tips carefully. She bought her first piece of property at 16 years old, moving her mother to a small house in Florence. That first house cemented her future as a player in Florence County real estate. She would pay off a piece of property and then scour the newspaper for auction sales. Her first love was farming, and she bought as much farmland as she could. She would buy land with timber, immediately clear the timber and pay off the land.
When she was a young woman, she met a nice young man named Joe one afternoon at a gas station. She stopped to get gas and stayed to eat watermelon with the young, charming owner. It wasn’t long before they married and had three children. Their oldest son served in Vietnam and later died from probable effects of Agent Orange. As we talk it is obvious that his death is still a troubled spot in her memory and her brow puckers as she relives the pain of the death of a child. Her son Kenny and her daughter still live in Florence.
It didn’t take long for her to make a name for herself as a farmer and landowner. People would flock to her truck in the afternoon to buy her goods. She smiled as she recollected a day when she realized they were going to be short on butterbeans. Without missing a beat she hopped in her truck and drove to the farmers market in Columbia. She bought 50 bushels of butter beans and headed back to Florence. Her husband was visibly relieved when she pulled up, he didn’t think she would be back in time. “I had to pull over” she told him, “and take the lids off so that it looked like the butterbeans were picked here.” All 50 bushels were bought immediately with no one being the wiser.
Men would ask her opinion and advice on land transactions and business deals. She would loan money, interest free, if she felt the investment was sound and would help someone get ahead. She enjoyed recounting the loans she made. I was amazed at the joy she had joy in their success. No matter how successful the business venture was, Mrs. Ruby never felt they owed her anything more than a straight repayment of the loan.
Mrs. Ruby’s life changed again when her mother died. She was used to caring for her mother day in and day out, so much so that she would literally pick her mother up and carry her to church on Sunday. “I was strong” she tells me simply. I know she had to have been, because the consistency of her life has always revolved around work. Farming, selling vegetables, providing for her family are the stalwarts of her life. After her mother passed away, Ruby decided that she was going to buy a car. She custom ordered the infamous pink Cadillac as a present to herself. When she “talked to the people at Cadillac, they told me that they had to make two Cadillacs at one time”. The other Cadillac that came off the line with hers was bought by Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, Elvis’ Cadillac died about three months after he bought it. As we talk, I watch her family move in and out. They add a bit to the story here and there, prompt her memory when necessary. The kitchen table is a comfortable spot; the family is open and welcoming. There is love here, a lot of love, but there is sadness. There are unasked questions and they silently wonder if I am going to ask them. They have lived their entire lives and raised their families under a shadow of suspicion and wonder. They read comments on Facebook, and they live in a town that does not know the real Ruby and has never cared enough to find out.

The conversation moves on to the time that she bought what she calls the corner house. The corner house now sits at the intersection of Cashua and Second Loop. When she bought the house, it was at the dead end of Second Loop; the road ended at Mrs. Ruby’s. The house was on sale at auction, the previous owner had come upon hard times. She looks at me then and tells me that no one would bid on the house at the auction and she had to bid against herself in order to buy it. Her son Kenny asks her to explain why no one would bid on the house. Mrs. Ruby pauses as if she hates to tell me. “No one would buy it because ___________** lived there.” That is all she says, as if that answers all the questions. Another prompt from Kenny, “Why is that?” She gets a twinkle in her eye then, she tells me “OH!! Well, she had GIRLS there!” I can’t help but laugh with her, her laughter is contagious. I also can’t resist asking, “What KIND of girls?” “You KNOW”, she replies but still hesitates to say the word. She leans closer as whispering, “The previous owner had prostitutes living there.” I ask her then, “You mean that is what the house was when you bought it?” There is no hesitation in her voice now, “It sure was. No one else would touch it for that reason, but I loved the corner house and I got it for a deal.” Her son looks at me then and quips, “Got it for a deal then, but paid for it for the rest of her life.”
Kenny is right of course, there is no price to be put on what stories then followed. Ruby doesn’t seem bothered. She is a simple woman, who does what she believes in and believes in what she does. I don’t think the opinions of others are high on the list of things that Mrs. Ruby worries about. Perhaps, the words of Margaret Mitchell are true of Mrs. Ruby, “Until you lose your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.”
Mrs. Ruby tells me of the late night knocks on her door. The caller would inevitably wonder what happed to the prior owner, and Mrs. Ruby would tell them through the door “If you want her or her girls, you better head on to Bennettsville, because that is where they moved.” She looks at me earnestly then, “I couldn’t live it down that I wasn’t a madame.” Her gaze doesn’t break. The reality is that as with every urban legend, Mrs. Ruby’s has taken on a life of its own.
Rumors aside, Mrs. Ruby loves the corner house. Years ago, when the city of Florence told her that they were going to bring Second Loop through her living room, she worried she would lose the charm of the corner house. While stories abound that she was able to keep the house in the county because of her connections, the reality is that there was nothing she could do to stop the expansion of Second Loop Road. If the rumors and stories of Mrs. Ruby’s connections were true, the road would stop at her house today. Instead, the road came straight through her property and the corner house was moved to make room. Kenny sums the situation up when he says, the truth is “Mrs. Ruby didn’t come to Florence, Florence came to Mrs. Ruby.”
As the seventh child born in the seventh month, Mrs. Ruby has connections all over town, but they are almost all through blood, marriage, or real estate deals. She doesn’t see me as an opportunity to set the story straight, she is more amused that anyone is interested in her or her life. Simple and straightforward she tells me all of her life that she can remember, and what a life it has been. When I first sat down at the table with Mrs. Ruby, I was unsure of what to expect. She was an enigma to me, part human, part living legend, part urban myth. I left with a very real sense of a woman that worked hard all of her life, a mother, a wife, a daughter. She is an example of hard work, fortitude, and perseverance. Her family may have lived under a shadow of suspicion and curiosity, but they can be proud to call Mrs. Ruby their own.

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Things I want to tell you…

So many things I want to tell you, but I’m retired!

Just Kidding! I’m MOSTLY retired.

I’ve done so much since my last post, so I will try to only tell you about recent interesting outings.

1. The Library (the restaurant) on Dargan Street: Y’all. I pink puffy heart love this place. I could go there every night. However, I need for you to take me and pay for my meal. I get something different every time I go and it makes me happy. I also want to roll in the chair from one side of the building to the other, but I think they may find that strange.

2. Jacks Place: An oldie but goody. I won’t lie. I quit going there for a while because I wasn’t thrilled. I went back a few times lately and HELLO! Great service and the best burger and fries I have had in a while.

3. Hotel Florence rooftop suite: Why can’t I live there? I have been to a handful of parties hosted in this suite with the porch on the roof and its wonderful. I haven’t ever seen any other rooms there, but if this one is an indicator, it is a huge bonus for Flo-town.

4. Addies Baby: We have our own “go paint and drink wine or have a kids birthday or your own birthday or just paint” place. Winter Moore is an absolute doll. I never call people “doll”, but she is one. She is funny and just enough sarcastic, and can teach you how to paint. Once. For a day. I wouldn’t try it without her guidance.

5. Tubbs on Second Loop: Great seafood place and you don’t have to drive to the Inlet and back. Is that how you grew up? Calling it “The Inlet” and not Murrells Inlet? I can’t tell you how many times we have driven down there for dinner and then come right back. Now you only have to scoot over to Second Loop.

6. Cibo: I love Stephanos so I really love Stephanos lite. It gets crowded, so go early or late. They also have a window where you can pick up food you called ahead about. (Starfire does too actually!)

Where have you eaten lately? What are the best restaurants in Florence? Did you know I always spell restaurant wrong?

Flossip Featuring reviews, to-do’s, and the not quite news in Florence, SC.

 

Slowing things down…

I never thought I would talk about semi-retirement at the ripe old age of somewhere under 40 and over 30, but I am. On this website at least. My actual job that pays the bills takes up a lot of time. My free time to explore is more limited now than it was in the past. I can’t update the calendar and post all of the events that I get emailed about.

So, I am taking a step back. A breather, a refresher, a bit of a time to rest. Hopefully, I will be inspired to write about the events that I do go to. (We all know I can’t quit twitter.)

I started the idea of the Flossip on May 3, 2006. I can not believe it has been SEVEN years. In that seven years, I have truly seen Florence grow in ways I did not believe possible. I am proud of our elected officials as well as the people that have really stepped up and opened hotels and moved restaurants. I am eternally thankful to Palmetto First Federal Credit Union for their sponsorship! I have gotten to know the people there, and they are so kind and classy. I would not hesitate to take all of my banking needs to them. They work really hard for their credit union members as well as the greater community in Florence. They support civic and social endeavors. I am very proud to have worked with them.

I had grand ideas when I started this website and now we have a website doing just what I dreamed of– Florence Unlocked. I’m better at personal entries on my thoughts and ideas about specific events and events that I am really passionate about. You should take a minute and look through the archives. Posts from when Bentons first moved to where the Peddler now is, a post from the first Heart Ball I went to, a post about Cafe Florentine(!), and just generally encouraging people to get out of the house and try new things! (Look on the bottom of the left sidebar for archives.)

I will most certainly be posting about the Pecan Festival and the Fair. Those are two of my favorite things– and I started attending because I write this website.

I love Florence. I love living here. There are some negatives to living here too– but Florence has a heart. There are people that care and are truly trying to make it better. I’ll still be around documenting it, but just at a more leisurely pace.

(Don’t worry– the website remains. The Rumors, Closings and Openings conversation will remain open, but my updates may be later.)

Flossip Featuring reviews, to-do’s, and the not quite news in Florence, SC.

Chamber Music this Sunday

Paolo Gualdi

Danijela Zezelj-Gualdi
If you haven’t met or heard the Zezelj-Gualdi Duo, you’re in for a treat as the husband and wife duo kicks off the Chamber Music Concerts season this Sunday.

Paolo Gualdi is a piano professor at Francis Marion University. (He also created the South Carolina Chamber Music Festival at FMU’s Performing Arts Center.) Danijela Zezelj-Gualdi is a professor at UNC-Wilmington and will be performing on violin http://www.dzgviolin.com/ . Simply put, it’ll be breathtaking.
It’s quite amazing Florence is drawing in such talent.

The duo will perform a violin and piano recital at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Art Trail Gallery at 185 W. Evans St. in downtown Florence.

Tickets are $10 and you can purchase them at the door.

After the performance, there is a wine reception with the musicians.

They will be performing:

Schubert: Sonatina in A minor, D. 385

Vasks: “Distant Light” – Concerto for Violin (1997)

Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen (Gipsy Airs), Op. 20

Flossip Featuring reviews, to-do’s, and the not quite news in Florence, SC.


Palmetto First Federal Credit Union


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The Grotto celebrates One Year Today!

In celebration of their being open for one year, the Grotto has two for one wine tastings tonight. They have a lovely Rose’ (a new favorite of mine) from Languedoc, a big oaky Chardonnay from Edna Valley, a crisp Italian white named Lugana and a Sauvignon Blanc from Washington State. They also have Torri Mor Pinot from Oregon, a beautiful Spanish red from Sierra Salinas (Another favorite of mine!) and a 2003 Nero d’Avola from Sicily.

There will be a nice selection of artisan cheeses and salami as well.

On September 27 at 7 p.m. Chuck Bender will be playing live.

Cheers!

Flossip Featuring reviews, to-do’s, and the not quite news in Florence, SC.


Palmetto First Federal Credit Union


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Les Miserables at Florence Little Theatre

I have not had my usual time to write reviews, but I could not let the opportunity pass to give a shout out to the completely sold out Florence Little Theatre Production of “Les Miserables.” I have seen the traveling production, and was very nervous about this show coming to Florence. Would we do it justice? Could we– the small city of Florence, SC– pull off this big show?

After seeing the show on opening night, the answer is a resounding “YES.” Florence Little Theatre staff and volunteers can do anything they set their mind to do. How could I even question this? The runtime is about three hours, but I can truly say that even ADHD Flossip never once felt tired or wanted to leave.

Julia Saverance masterfully directs an all star cast to new heights with this performance. Roger Kirby traveled from Lake City to audition as Jean Valjean and is a welcome visitor to the FLT stage. He manages to truly embody his character and evokes emotion from start to finish. If you look at the end, he has a single tear running down his cheek as he sings his goodbye.

A newcomer to Florence Little Theatre is Timothy Kelly as Javert. Kelly has been driving to Florence from Conway for months- truly committed to this role. He never breaks character, and my favorite part is when he and Valjean have a dueling duet. Javert is such a complex character to understand, and Kelly allows us to see how he is motivated and what drives him.

The list continues with Blake Graham (Marius) and Cole Davis (Enjolras). They help the audience to feel and understand their youthful passion. You will laugh and cry with them and for them as the play unfolds. I am not going to lie to all of you, when Happy Pendegraft (the Bishop) sings, I get a little weak in my knees. I am a sucker for a deep voice!

The female roles (all the “Lovely Ladies”) in this show are superbly cast. Arlene Boyd, an FLT veteran, is a beautiful and talented Fantine. Her dedication to this role included chopping her long hair off so that she would actually have short hair for the part! Bree Boyce (our own Ms. South Carolina!) does a lovely job as Eponine. I had tears in my eyes when… oops… can’t spoil the show! Anna Lyles joined the cast as Cosette. Her voice is absolutely beautiful– it is amazing the notes that she is able to hit. Little Cosette is played by Abby Greenwood, and I could listen to her sweet voice for hours. She does a superb job as Little Cossette and Amelia Whitehead is delightful as Little Eponine. RJ Lee is heartbreakingly good as Gavroche. There are so many members of the chorus that stand out in my mind, I can not highlight them all and it would be unfair to pick one or two. I can tell you that the culmination of their voices is an uplifting experience in and of itself.

Last but not least… the slimy, the dirty, the hysterical…Thernardiers. Played by Rebecca Thompson and Glen Gourley, they provide comic relief that will have you falling out of your chair. They both took these roles and absolutely ran away with them! (If you know Rebecca, you will not recognize her if you do not know her character.)

Every single member of the chorus helps add something special and important to the show. There are both FLT veterans as well as newcomers in the chorus. Hearing them sing in unison is breathtaking. This production would not be what it is without scores of volunteers. The lighting, crew, props,costumers, orchestra, actors… these people are donating 30 hours and more of their time week in and week out to bring this show to Florence. Florence Little Theatre is the first community theatre in South Carolina to show the production. When you see someone involved in the show– thank them for their time and efforts.
(The News Journal article has a more complete cast list.)