I felt like I had been cooped up for far too long. Two weekends in a row I never left the house and I was starting to get cabin fever. I posted the following on Facebook:
I think today I’m going to toss a banjo, camera, and metal detector in the car and just see where I wind up.
Sometimes you just have to do that. One of my friends suggested creating a random right-left-straight generator. I may have to create an application for that sometime, but this time I just hopped in the car and took off.
My route first took me to the town of Piedmont. I drove through briefly, hoping to stop by their local museum. Sadly, it was closed, so I kept going. From there I drove through Anderson, then up to Pendleton with a stop for lunch, then continuing on west. I had podcasts on and it was good to be out and about, even if I wasn’t really stopping anywhere. Eventually I wound up on the main street of Westminster. There I spotted a museum that was open and I decided to check it out.
The W. L. England General Store Museum is part of the Oconee County Museum. It features old store merchandise found in a typical store from the early 20th Century.
The store was founded by William Lucius “Luke” England in 1908. The original store building was two blocks down the street, but the contents were moved to this building when the museum opened. W. L. England operated the store until his death in 1948.
W. J. “Dub” England took over operation of the store and kept it open until the 1980’s. At that time he took some of the old unsold merchandise and displayed it as a museum until he passed away at the age of 90 in 2005. The contents were sold to a non-profit and moved to its current location, which is now operated by the Oconee County Museum.
When I arrived I was greeted by a very helpful docent. Sadly, I didn’t get her name, but she was a wealth of information about the store. As with so many general stores from this time period, it carried a little of everything. The store reminded me very much of the Lenoire Store in Horatio, SC, except that one was still an operating merchant.
A couple of things caught my attention. There were shelves of old pharmaceuticals. Many of these bore the name of Moon’s Drug Store, which is still in operation on Main Street in Westminster. Some of them were common over-the-counter remedies.
What fascinated me were the ingredients. Most contained alcohol of some sort. Many contained herbs that I’ve seen in holistic healing places. Some contained outright poison.
The back of the store had a display of the general history of the area, but it also had one item that really caught my attention. This was a Toro Flymo 19 gas powered lawn mower.
There were no wheels on this lawnmower. Rather, the spinning blade provided lift for the mower, much like a hovercraft. It looks like this was developed in the mid 1960s. I found ads for this “new” product in a couple of newspapers.
I couldn’t find any ads for this in local newspapers, though. I did find a Youtube video of one in operation.
Obviously there is no height adjustment for this thing. You get what you get. Oddly enough, Toro still makes these, now marketed for golf course maintenance as the HoverPro series. Supposedly the hover mower won’t mar greens and fairways the way wheeled mowers do.
I was still having a delightful conversation with the docent when another unmasked couple wandered in. The husband said that it was OK because he had just gotten over COVID and was immune, so he couldn’t spread it. I decided to leave rather abruptly, but I felt sorry for the docent and wished we could have wrapped up our conversation more tidily. Oh well.
I made my way back home cutting through the countryside and listening to more podcasts. This was a cool discovery, but it wasn’t the only thing I saw on my trek. In Anderson County just off of the Old Williamston Road I came across an old school that had somehow escaped my inventory. Like so many of these old schools, the Hammond School now serves as a community center.
I found an Anderson Intelligencer article from 1914 that describes the new school. It states that, “The plans for the building were drawn by experts at Clemson College.” These “experts” included Dr. Rudolph E. Lee, who founded Clemson’s School of Architecture and for whom Lee Hall is named. The Clemson Plans were used for schools across the state, predating the Rosenwald schools.
One thing that stood out for me from this article was that it boasted of having running water.
I found many other local news articles about the school announcing plays, community meetings, new teachers, the starting and ending of the school year, and all of the other sorts of things that might take place in a typical rural school of the time. I was just glad to see that this one seemed to be maintained in such excellent condition.
In addition to the Hammond School in Anderson County, I stopped by the old Westminster School while I was in that town. This school wasn’t in as good a condition.
It was a good day out and about rambling. This is my favorite time of year to do these exploration trips, and I’m hoping to get in some more of them over the next several weeks.