This morning I was feeling much, much better than I had the past couple of days, so I decided to head down to Owings for their Pioneer Days. I had gone last year and really enjoyed myself, and really didn’t want to miss this year’s event. It was enjoyable again this year, but this year I noticed something very distressing. More on that later.
I left Greenville early so that I could get there before the parade started. As I was driving down the Interstate it looked like a wall of clouds hovering over the Gray Court exit. Under this cloud the humidity skyrocketed. Unfortunately, hot and humid was the way it was going to be.
I found a good spot to park fairly close and began gathering my gear. Last year I regretted only having one camera. I only had my cell phone to record a quick video of the singing. This year I was armed to the teeth – Nikon D50 with two lenses, monopod, and external flash, Nikon S50 for backup, Sony Handycam for video, Sansa Clip running constantly for audio, and my Marantz field recorder to capture the singing. I wasn’t going to let anything slip past. Fortunately, all this stuff is fairly light. With the exception of the big Nikon, it all fit into a hip pack.
It looked like everything was set up similarly to last year. A collection of Ford A Models was parked in the Methodist Church parking lot. A quilt display was hanging from the rails of the church, and antique tractors were parked across the street. Historic displays were set up in an open area across from the town’s main buildings. A flatbed trailer served as a stage at the back of the old Bryson and Stoddard Store.
I wandered into the Owings Music Hall just as the shape note singers were getting set up. They wanted to get started early, even before the parade started. The group started with a hymn then a prayer. I stayed to listen a bit, then headed back out to wait for the parade.
The Owings parade is unique in that you get a chance to see it twice – once while the participants are walking up the road to the starting point, then again during the actual parade. The progression was very much like last year’s, including the antique cars and tractors, folks in costume, and various military reenactors.
After the parade I headed back to the music hall and listened to the singing. With my cold I didn’t feel much like singing, so I just listened, shot some photos, and recorded both audio and video. It was tempting, though, and I found myself humming along with familiar songs.
Below are two songs I recorded during the singing…
Poor Wayfaring Stranger
I’ve also got a short video clip that I’ll upload to YouTube when I get a chance.
I stepped next door to the Historical Society Museum. As with last year, I was fascinated by the amount of material collected, and especially the amount of which I have personal knowledge. I would have loved to have spent hours just reading through the newspaper clips, books, and other bits of ephemera in the collection. I really wish the Historical Society had the time and resources to digitize this material before it deteriorates beyond use.
Since this was the only air conditioned building, the crowds were starting to gather. I took a turn through the displays, then headed on out so that others could come in.
Back outside a country trio had started up on the flatbed stage. I listened for a minute, then headed into the newest section to be opened. There was a display of antique hats from a milliner in the area, and a carriage house with other antiques.
A bluegrass group had replaced the country trio, so I paused once again, then headed to the historical displays. There were weavers and spinners, various animal handlers, Colonial, and Confederate displays.
This is where things started to get distressing. Last year I had noticed the very large representation by Confederate groups. Last year’s groups were more numerous, but this year they seemed to dominate the displays as well.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that if you’re going to have a historical display you need to include the Confederacy and their reenactors. I think that legitimately includes displays of the Confederate Battle Flag as well as other regalia from that time period. However, I think these groups definitely crossed the line.
There were children wearing name-tag-sized stickers with the battle flag on top and with the phrase “I support Confederate History Month” on the bottom. The Sons of Confederacy had a booth set up where one could purchased just about any type of Rebel Flag merchandise imaginable. There was yet another group set up near the street with books for sale, including such lovely titles as “Lincoln Exposed” and “War Crimes Against the South.”
It was at that point that the monochromatic nature of this event really took hold. I only saw one person of color the entire time I was there. The history of this area is rich in African American heritage as well, and that was certainly missing. I had to wonder what would happen if opposing viewpoints were permitted. What if someone set up a booth with books such as “A History of Civil Rights” or “Lynchings of the South” or “Terrorism of the KKK?” I’m afraid even more lynchings would occur.
In fairness to the Historical Society, the materials in the museums try to take a balanced approach. The milliner highlighted in the hat museum is African American, and many of the newspaper clippings in the museum also feature African Americans. However, with groups such as the Sons of Confederacy in such prominence outside, it’s no wonder that anyone other than whites would not feel comfortable here.
Between my cold and my disgust at people who still think we’re fighting the Civil War, I figured it was time to go. I didn’t use all of my gear as effectively as I might have liked. Had I really been up to it, I should have used the Marantz recorder to get some interviews from the participants. I did leave the little Sansa recorder running the entire time, but I didn’t get enough good audio to create an audio journey as I had at the Jockey Lot. Even so, I took nearly 300 photographs, but only uploaded 74 of those to Flickr. Here is the entire set as a slide show…