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 Hervé 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.