As you drive from here to there, how many times have you turned around to visit an abandoned store? I do that a lot. Being in a hurry on the back roads just doesn’t happen for me. I take back roads to save my sanity in this crazed mad rush of a world.

Old Store 1
Solid as a rock.

Returning from a book event I passed the dignified old store you see here on Highway 25 near Ware Shoals. The stone supports begged me to turn around and I did. Those supports looked new and old at the same time. Stone ages well doesn’t it.

Stacked stone. Cormac McCarthy wrote that the oldest profession in the world is not prostitution. It’s stacking stones. I believe it. Stacked stones worked for primitive man, and for sure it worked for this old store, and there it stands, abandoned yet dignified.

I had to go back and photograph the old store. “Those stone supports look new,” I thought but Greenwood’s Norma Britt, told me they’ve been there as long as she can remember. Kudos to the men who built them. They combined beauty with function.

I resumed my drive toward Georgia but that old store stayed on my mind. I needed to see more old places, so just before hitting the state line I detoured onto SC Highway 7, veering right at a fork a short ways past Hickory Knob State Park. After passing a small gem of a church, I turned left onto Highway 81 and make my way to Willington and on to Mt. Carmel where I check on daffodils in front of a church this time of year. Seems someone always mows ’em and I’ve yet to photograph that abandoned church with butter-gold daffodils in the foreground.

Empty old bulding in Willington

Driving past Willington toward Georgia yet again, I saw an old building that looks like a jail. I turned around to photograph it. Brick, iron, stone, and wood, what a splendid combination. This old building retains its dignity too despite having a sheet of insulation scar its face.

Abandonment surrounds us but it isn’t always charming. I see many a deserted strip mall. I’m sure they’re wired for the Internet, but they’re ugly as Hell. Is the rush to worship God Efficiency responsible for this blight? Builders combine brick, wood, and steel to create monotony, and like bland mushrooms they pop up everywhere. And when one strip mall dies, another one shoots up nearby. God save us.

More efficient building techniques will arrive and in some unimaginative future a fellow will pass an ill-fated Circuit City or closed Walmart clone and go, “Wow! I’ve got to go back and photograph that.”

“Really, Tom?”

Well, I’m just being a smarty-pants. But yesteryears’ classic buildings? The ones that maintain their dignity? They pull on me hard. I’ll continue to turn around and visit old places because seeing them and their brethren grows less likely day by day. My advice? Slow down and visit the past before it truly is past.


Image Credit: the photos used in this story were taken by the author, © Tom Poland.

Tom Poland

Tom Poland, A Southern Writer – Tom Poland is the author of fourteen books, 550 columns, and more than 1,200 magazine features. A Southern writer, his work has appeared in magazines throughout the South. Among his recent books are Classic Carolina Road Trips From Columbia, Georgialina, A Southland, As We Knew It, Reflections of South Carolina, Vol. II, and South Carolina Country Roads. Swamp Gravy, Georgia’s Official Folk Life Drama, staged his play, Solid Ground.

He writes a weekly column for newspapers and journals in Georgia and South Carolina about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and changing culture and speaks to groups across South Carolina and Georgia. He’s the editor of Shrimp, Collards & Grits, a Lowcountry lifestyle magazine.
Governor McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon him October 26, 2018 for his impact upon South Carolina through his books and writing because “his work is exceptional to the state.”

Tom earned a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Media at the University of Georgia. He grew up in Lincolnton, Georgia. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina where he writes about Georgialina—his name for eastern Georgia and South Carolina.

Visit Tom's website at Email him at [email protected].