Looking back at friends, memories of 'old' Bluffton

July 26, 2011 

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When we moved to Bluffton in 1972 we found a small, sleepy little village -- like a place time had overlooked.

Grady Messex presided over his filling station at the corner of Calhoun and Bridge streets, where Eggs'n'tricities now sits. Mattie Belle Cantrell could be found most days in her office at Bluffton Telephone, now home to May River Montessori School. She kept a watchful eye on town comings and goings. Down the street, Morris and Hilda Robinowich, in the old Planters' Mercantile, dispensed all manner of items, including the much coveted Sunday New York Times. It was also the spot to get fresh pastries delivered weekly from Savannah.

Over on May River Road, George Scott was always ready to supply hungry shoppers with his fresh meat and friendly chats. Maybelle Scott was a force to reckon with at the market, and you quickly learned not to anger her. Maybelle, no relation to George, was a loyal friend and great help to Linda Castleberry, one of George's daughters. Maybelle spoke with a Gullah accent and could tell some wonderful, funny stories about Bluffton and the people she knew.

Mr. Hugh O'Quinn had a wonderful garden that he planted each year right beside his house. Steve Kiser now has his office in Mr. O'Quinn's house. Mr. O'Quinn had a great old tractor he used to plow with and would ride it to plow anyone's yard if they wanted. I had him come to our house for several years when I had my garden, and now when I think about it I realize how amazing that was. We lived in Buckingham at the time, and his journey to us on U.S. 278 must have been perilous, but he never said anything.

Mr. "Kiss" Beach lived on Lawrence Street, and he also had a beautiful vegetable garden and a spectacular flock of chickens. Every morning Mr. Kiss would let the chickens out to forage, and they would wander all up and down Calhoun Street -- but as evening approached they magically appeared back in their pen. Michael Hahn now owns Mr. Kiss' house.

Luke Peeples held court most days in front of his house on Calhoun Street. Luke was a composer and collector of Bluffton sounds and Gullah songs. He told me that when Dubose Heyward was writing "Porgy and Bess," he came by one day to chat about different sorts of dialect. Luke told me quite a bit about Bluffton in its heyday, some of which can't be repeated, lots I tucked away in my memory and a bit of which I think was embroidery on a tale.

Luke's father, Jessie, built my store building, which I now call The Store. I have many wonderful memories of the "old" Bluffton. There are many people I miss, many I never knew but wish I did. They all would be so amazed at the "new" Bluffton. I look forward to making new friends and memories. What are your favorite parts of your life here and do you miss any part of what was once here?

  • You can view a great exhibit at the Telfair Museum through Aug. 7: "Portraits to Pixels: Celebrating 125 Years of Collecting at the Telfair." The exhibit showcases 85 items from the museum's permanent collection, including many works not seen in decades. The Telfair is in downtown Savannah on Barnard Street. Details: 912-790-8800, www.telfair.org

  • This year marks the 70th birthday of Wonder Woman. Can you believe she looks so marvelous? I bet she didn't have a drop of Botox or a "stitch in time." I wonder if she ever gets undressed? I bet she would love to get in some Dr. Denton's and relax. I'm glad she has been on her toes this long with, seemingly, never a hair out of place.
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