Aiken, South Carolina in the eighties was nothing like the busy little town it is today. Aside from the three square block of historic downtown, there was little more than scrubby fields and acres of horse farms. Whiskey Road traveled from the dying north side of town to the somewhat more bustling south side. Along this avenue one saw the southern belle the town once was, with staggered brick walls enclosing manors and draping live oaks.
Drive just a few miles, though, and there was a feeling of land untouched by the 20th century. One could imagine a Cherokee brave running along a footpath or a pioneer family maneuvering their wagon down rutted, red clay roads.
We stayed with Jim’s family in New Ellenton, a smudge on the map that boasted nothing more than being home to the Savannah River site — a nuclear facility that employed many of the scattered families in the area. To the best of my recollection, many of the families were poor and the entire town was strange to my citified eyes. I pledged that once we left, I would never return to this state that seemed so hopeless.
Mama always did say to never say never.
Next: The Wedding