An ode to Nickelpumpers' chicken, a quintessential Bluffton treat

843-757-3855July 30, 2013 

Well, we Bluffton closet gourmands have nibbled on our last potato log and fried chicken finger at the four corners of Old Town. Those gastronomic goodies went bye-bye about eight months ago.

About 30 years ago several residents of Old Town got wind of a filling station called Nickelpumpers being proposed at the corners of S.C. 46 and Boundary Street. I never could understand why they were so upset since we already had several, one being Mr. Messex's station at Calhoun and Bridge streets. It was being built in an area that had two churches and not much else nearby, so it really wasn't a sore thumb so to speak.

The real piece de resistance at Nickelpumpers, though, was the fried food -- forget filling up your gas tank. The trick was not to be caught eating those divine offerings from their frying pit. The real giveaway as to having been inside the station was the aroma you gave off after a visit. A greasy fog always hung in the air that clung to your clothing for hours.

The first time I ever tried a potato log I bit into the crispy, hot crust on the outside and unearthed the most marvelous steaming, fluffy inside. The fried chicken was equally delicious, crunchy, hot, but tender inside. There was some unknown spice mixture the cook used. In fact, it became quite obvious the potato logs and chicken fingers were cooked in the same pot; they were also about the same size. These morsels were not for the faint of heart because they sort of sank to the bottom of one's stomach and spent some time with you. They were also known as a good hangover cure for some.

There was always a line most any time of day waiting for the latest batch to get done. The real trick when standing there was to make sure no one saw you. I never saw the ladies who fought against the filling station there, so they probably sent someone to fetch theirs. I feel pretty sure most everyone in town tasted these treats because many of our townsfolk had a certain perfume wafting about and it wasn't Chanel No. 5.

Now when you pop into Nickelpumpers for something you can rest assured no one will know where you have been.

  • The Clemson-Georgia Game opens the new football season Aug. 31 in Death Valley in the upcountry. It is hard to believe this summer has nipped by so quickly. August 31 seems like an early start for football. How can anyone possibly keep their eye on the ball in this heat? We'll see who the best men are in four weeks. The rivalry between these two teams is something else so the game should be exciting.

  • Aug. 4 is Jeff Fulgham Day in Bluffton. Jeff received a Purple Heart because of wounds he suffered in Afghanistan. We are proud of him and glad he calls Bluffton home. If you see him say hello.


    6 cups water

    2 cups strong tea

    2 cups Makers Mark bourbon

    1 cup sugar

    2 6-ounce cans frozen orange juice concentrate

    1 6-ounce container frozen lemonade

    Mix everything together and put in plastic container. Put in freezer until it is slushy, about an hour and half. Stir and serve in wine glasses. Before liquor was legally served on Sundays some restaurants would serve this in tea cups to patrons.

    Babbie Guscio is the social columnist for The Bluffton Packet. She can be reached at The Store on Calhoun Street.

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