Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mangum’s Army Navy

Spare me the comments about how I spend too much time thinking about the past. The older I get the more I choose to conjure a blissful childhood and come to think of it, there’s very little conjuring necessary. I had a blast.
Downtown Florence, S.C. … comprising about four blocks of Evans and Dargan street retail commerce during my upbringing…seemed to my dismay, gone forever. Every time I’d visit home over the last fifteen years I’d drive through what had become almost Detroit calibre urban decay. Ok, ok, there’s a bit of hyperbole here but not too much.
Let me put it this way. Those adults who can today still walk the few blocks of their downtown childhood retail purveyance are fortunate. My little downtown that provided my everything from birth till mid-elementary school when the mall was built seemed gone forever. I remember my mom taking me and my enemy (older sister) to The Children’s Shop (above) for our elementary school clothes. Other than requiring my skinny little ass to be present to assure that the clothes fit, my attendance was ignored. I had zero say in what was purchased and my school pants were always bought with enough extra inseam to require they be turned up with cuffs that were half-again as tall as my little spindly legs were long. God forbid I hit a third grader nano-growth spurt that would take me from looking like HervĂ© Villechaize to a lanky Kareem Abdul Alcindor with highwater pants. And if I so much as squeaked during the procurement process, my Tareyton 100s smoking mama would give me a shut up look that was freakin’ nuclear. 

But there seems to be hope. Not for my Tareyton 100s smoking mama but for Downtown Florence. I always speculated that nobody would risk investing the money or time to be a first-mover in a “let’s re-do downtown” strategy. But it’s slowly happening and I’m hopeful that the resurrection will be enduring. Do resurrections endure? Or is it more accurate to declare that once the resurrection is manifest, one defines the ongoing whatever as something else. Come to think of it, I hear routinely that if you “have a resurrection lasting more than four hours you should seek medical attention.” Well that settles it then. I hope the amidst renewal Downtown Florence will...sustain.
Oh, right, this story was supposed to be about Mangum’s Army-Navy on Dargan Street. Folks, here’s my late sixties-early seventies “Little Dusty (I never did hit that Kareem Abdul shit)  has five dollars to spend and wants to go to Mangum’s” as it stands today.
This is the place. The destination that I’ve referred to in previous stories where Vietnam era military surplus was strewn about in cardboard boxes for the picking. It was to me, simply nirvana. 
Mr.Mangum didn’t merchandise the martial surplus loot like Mel and Patricia Ziegler did in their first couple of Banana Republic stores. He simply put the boxes out on the floor and threw a delightfully low price on random ammo pouches, web belts, entrenching tools and helmet liners.
I remember one time when Mr. Mangum got in a gaggle of old nylon parachutes. Good God Man! When word tweeted through the neighborhood that Mangum's had parachutes, (Picture my little barefoot ass running across the front lawns of my ‘hood with a parachute behind me...that’s tweeting, 1968 style) every kid wrangled ten bucks and a ride to Mangum’s to get one. I think the rest of our summer was defined by those parachutes.
They mostly became tents and coverage for whatever but only after my best friend GRR tried to actually use his for what it was intended. I thought his rooftop jump-off over at JJF’s house would surely end in the confiscation of all our canopied nylon. Interestingly, the only consequence was GRR's broken leg. Oh, and Stinky Burgess, Roxanne’s brother, made a caftan from his parachute. He writes for the Village Voice today.
So my drive through Downtown Florence recently was kinda hopeful amidst moments of lost hope otherwise. And I’m sure at some point that the Mangum’s signage will come down. But I was glad to see it again and recall the surge of excitement that coursed through me as I pushed through those doors to see what the cardboard boxes next held for us.

Onward…Entrenched...Doing finance and transportation for LFG. And loving every minute of it.



Anonymous said...

I'd wished the same for downtown Camden, but I'm not optimistic. Aiken was successfully revived.

Claire M. Johnson said...

Now that the kids are grown we are trying to flee the suburbs (with the excellent schools). I want a local economy. When you drive a ton like I do, then the last thing you want to do is get into your car--yet, again!--because you need a carton of milk. If smaller towns want to revitalize, I would suggest that communities invest in their schools. THAT is the universal draw. Build a good school and they will come.

Anonymous said...

I just go blind given gorgeous building like those Max. Let's step up and invest in Historic Downtown Florence, baby.

Let's goooo! Look at this one: MAXWAY, is this destiny or what?

Max, you're so influential they're copying your stuff at Neimans. Did I spell that right, or is it Niemans. Just thinka the gubmint funds available for historic district restoration. High time you put out your own label for production and sales. One minute you're bloggging about a personally-designed advent calendar blazer, next minute it's available all across the globe. Mr. Greenjeans boat shoes? bam, done.

Should I get another glass of wine and explain how practical this idea is?


Gail, in northern California said...

Oh,'re a kick. Just the kind of gal Max needs right now.

By the way, I'm in. Where should I send my dollah?

Anonymous said...

Drive thru once or twice a year. Then over to bustling downtown Hartsville and by the NE(?)corner of Coker College to check if there's still a Citroen DS parked across the street. May take the River Road to Kingsburg on the way to K-Mart Sur Mer Nord in a friend's little red roadster in a couple of weeks. (Camden's Las Vegas compared to downtown Flo.) Ta'er

ADG said...

Ta'er...damn. You've reduced your comments to once every three years. Or are my stories that much less provocative? I worked at Coker College briefly and lived another block from where said Citroen DS sits. I hope the little red roadster makes it all the way to Norf Mertile without breaking down in Kingsburg. Stop by the rehab hospital on the opposite end of Dargan Street from Mangums and see my mama. Try to get her to eat a bite of that hospital food-shite or better yet, stop and get her a Bojangles sumpin sumpin till I can get back down there. bam. jamgood bam.

ADG said...

Claire...the schools have been average at best in Florence for years. The middle to upper middle class folks just dealt with it and sent their kids to public schools. I'm a product of them. My little brother went to the Episcopal private school and then there are the white-flight little slapdash private "academies" from the 60's that still exist. Then there was a small strata of ultra wealthy who would send their kids to Oldfields or Woodberry Forest but those were few.

Flo and Gail...I might move back there when LFG gets in college. 100k will buy a 1920's/30's bungalow with bones that are over the top with re-do Maximatious potentchah.

AnonCamden...haven't been over to Camden in years. But I suspect that Camden's lost what most of these little S.C. hamlets are now missing...the old farm-to-town economy. Florence has some light manufacturing...Honda plant, pharmaceuticals (the plant there, which might be dormant right now, was originally built by my old company, Roche, thanks to me), FMC and McLeods hospital system.

CeceliaMc said...

Me too! Oh, me too!

CeceliaMc said...

I long for stores where you knew the owners and generally everyone who worked there.

Where they made you sit down and have a cold drink and gossip for awhile.

I grew very adept at ear-hustling as a young girl when shopping with my grandmother.

She, the store owner and employees, as well as any other customers around, would wait till I was in the dressing room before they really got down to discussing the sins of various town folk.

The NSA has nothing on these late great intelligence gatherers...

ADG said...

CMac...the clothing store that I worked at was around the corner from Mangums. The owner new the clothing sizes of almost every customer who shopped there. Wives would call and ask about a birthday/anniversary present and the owner would pick it, wrap it, charge it to their house account and I'd walk it to the street when the wife would pull up and toot the horn out front. Kinda like online shopping I reckon. Only different.

CeceliaMc said...

I have a vivid picture of you doing that!

Anonymous said...

Were it not for our mutual anonymity, I'd. Ta'er.

ADG said...

Ta'er...Tintin and I's got you figgered out so it ain't anonymous no more. So let me used to sell goods to Mangum for the "other side of their store" ... the Soul Train fashion themed section?

Anonymous said...

Youse guys are the Benedict Cumberbatches of the DC-NYC shuttle. Uncanny deducement! If that's the word for which one seeks? As with Invictus, one's hubristically flown too close. Perchance our paths may cross in Boykin, or Bat Cave. Without further adieu, Le Pomme retreats unto the sheltering shawdows beyond yon red clay tree-line of Jimbeau Dickey's Aintree County. Farewell fratres...
Ta'er, of that ilk. (via 8G telepathy)

Anonymous said...

Duh, uh, I-C-A-R-U-S jg

ADG said...

Taytay T' ain't no hubris involved and trust me. We ain't got no clue who perches 'neath your cloaked identity thang. We figger a garmento of some ilk but that's the end of it. Trailer park.


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