Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South

Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South: The Politics of Aesthetics in South Carolina's Tourism Industry

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South
    Book Description:

    In 1949, Alan Schafer opened South of the Border, a beer stand located on bucolic farmland in Dillon County, South Carolina, near the border separating North and South Carolina. Even at its beginning, the stand catered to those interested in Mexican-themed kitsch--sombreros, toy pi-atas, vividly colored panchos, salsas. Within five years, the beer stand had grown into a restaurant, then a series of restaurants, and then a theme park, complete with gas stations, motels, a miniature golf course, and an adult-video shop. Flashy billboards--featuring South of the Border's stereotypical bandit Pedro--advertised the locale from 175 miles away.

    An hour south of Schafer's site lies the Grand Strand region--sixty miles of South Carolina beaches and various forms of recreation. Within this region, Atlantic Beach exists. From the 1940s onward, Atlantic Beach has been a primary tourist destination for middle-class African Americans, as it was one of the few recreational beaches open to them in the region. Since the 1990s, the beach has been home to the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, a motorcycle festival event that draws upward of 10,000 African Americans and other tourists annually.

    Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South studies both locales, separately and together, to illustrate how they serve as lens for viewing the historical, social, and aesthetic aspects embedded in a place's culture over time. In doing so, author Nicole King engages with concepts of the "Newer South," the contemporary era of southern culture which integrates Old South and New South history and ideas about issues such as race, taste, and regional authenticity. Tracing South Carolina's tourism industry through these locales, King analyzes the collision of southern identity and place with national, corporatized culture from the 1940s onward. Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South locates campy but historic tourist sites that serve as important texts for better understanding how culture moves and more inclusive notions of what it means to be southern today.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-252-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION Touriscapes in a Newer South
    (pp. 3-20)

    This is a story about two very different places that share deep connections. The original connection that brought me to these places—the South of the Border roadside attraction and the historically black town of Atlantic Beach, both in the state of South Carolina—was the appearance they both had of survival amidst decay. Their histories also concern the collision of identity and place in regional and national culture over the past century. The aesthetics of these tourist sites are tied to their respective social and political pasts.

    This book addresses the interplay between politics, aesthetics, and the power of...

  5. Chapter One “SMILING FACES, BEAUTIFUL PLACES” The Rise of Modern Tourism in South Carolina
    (pp. 21-42)

    Tourism is currently the number one industry in South Carolina, with a more than eighteen billion dollar annual economic impact.¹ South Carolina’s hospitality industry has greatly contributed to the ways in which the state is represented and understood by both visitors and residents alike. A recent tourism motto for South Carolina—“Smiling faces. Beautiful places.”—evokes both mythologized southern hospitality and the beautiful landscapes that have made tourism so popular in the South.² Both South of the Border and Atlantic Beach transgress the stereotypical boundaries of southern tourism—plantation homes, Civil War memorials, gardens, southern belles and cavaliers, mammies and...

  6. PLACE ONE South of the Border

    • Chapter Two BEHIND THE NEON SOMBRERO Alan Schafer’s South of the Border, 1949–2001
      (pp. 45-77)

      A neon sombrero rises in the darkness. The two-hundred-foot Sombrero Tower welcomes visitors; it is the first sign of South Carolina. Beneath the shadow of the world’s largest sombrero lies a fascinating story about the changing nature of space and identity in the US South. This story begins in the New South and veers back to the Old South as it journeys forward. Alan Schafer (1915–2001) wastheman behind the sombrero at South of the Border. On bucolic farmland in rural Dillon County, Schafer constructed a preliminary vision—a monument—of a Newer South.

      Expanding the often-simplistic dichotomy...

    • Chapter Three “CAMP WEETH PEDRO” Politics and Aesthetics Reshape the Borders of Taste at SOB
      (pp. 78-110)

      Over a decade ago, when I first began researching South of the Border, I asked my mother if she ever took me there when I was a kid. It is just an hour from my hometown of Conway, South Carolina, and I wondered if my fascination with the place had roots in childhood memories. She replied with a resolute, “No. I never would have taken you there as a child. That place is tacky. Locals don’t go there.” She then added derisively, “Except for you.” In general, my mother and I have very different tastes.

      Before I even knew who...

  7. PLACE TWo Atlantic Beach

    • Chapter Four SOUTH CAROLINA’S BLACK PEARL Unity and Desegregation’s Diaspora at Atlantic Beach, 1934–2009
      (pp. 113-149)

      Like the Sombrero Tower that rises in the distance as travelers approach South of the Border, towers loom in the distance outside the borders of Atlantic Beach, South Carolina. These towers embody the power of the booming tourism industry along the Grand Strand. The shadows of the high-rise resorts evoke a degree of trepidation in many of the town’s residents and business owners—especially those who remember the golden era when Atlantic Beach wasthespot for black leisure culture along the South Carolina coast. Atlantic Beach business owner Thaxton Dixon discussed the high-rises that bookend the town: “I told...

    • Chapter Five NEON MOTORCYCLES BY THE SEA The Atlantic Beach Bikefest Controversy Refashions the Grand Strand
      (pp. 150-180)

      While the Atlantic Beach Bikefest has yet to restore the Black Pearl’s past luster, it does constitute a lively event whereby the town’s past overlaps with the complexities of today’s black motorcycle subcultures. The motorcycle festival has garnered the town both positive and negative publicity. The few available histories of Atlantic Beach often conclude the town’s story with a reference to the motorcycle festival; however, the festival is the beginning of a new story connected to the town’s past. The founding of the Atlantic Beach Bikefest adds another layer to the town’s history.¹ The motorcycle festival offers hope for the...

  8. CONCLUSION Preserving the Past, Developing the Future
    (pp. 181-186)

    Both Alan Schafer’s declaration that “we checked only the color of their money, not their skins,” and Leroy Upperman’s claim that the Atlantic Beach Company developed the black beach “not out of altruism, but as a business venture,” demonstrate the role of entrepreneurship in social change. Schafer’s attention to the “color of money” attempted to make his profitable tourist empire a place of social equality. This logic often excludes those without money from the expressive realm of consumer culture and tourism. However, many Americans view a vacation, no matter how meager, as a right of citizenship and a way of...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 187-238)
    (pp. 239-250)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 251-255)