‘Now and Then’ – or, rather, ‘Deja vu’
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my last offering, I mentioned that there was a very strong ‘Now and Then’
element about my recent visit to Charleston
in South Carolina.
‘Now’ is the pleasure of finding, in April 2019, a delightful city, and
realising that it is about to undergo a massive change in its fortunes as a
‘Then’ was travelling to Miami in Florida in 1978, when more or less the same
decades ago, you see, Florida was unknown to the majority of British
holidaymakers. But a UK tour operator named Harry Goodman planned to sell
inexpensive summer package deals to Miami (inexpensive because Americans,
sensibly, regard Florida as a winter destination). The mass holiday market was
about to invade the Sunshine State, and ‘culture clash’ doesn’t begin to
describe what happened.
British imagined Miami would be like Benidorm, only a bit bigger. They
thought it would be possible to stroll to the beach from the hotel. The
men reckoned they would have no trouble finding a decent pint of beer. The
ladies anticipated lots of inexpensive souvenir shops. All were convinced that
real America would be just like Hollywood America.
their part, the Floridians had no concept of what ‘mass market’ meant. They had
hitherto encountered a fairly small number of the middle and upper-class
clients of Thomas Cook or Swans Tours.
thought that installing ‘darts boards’ in bars and serving American beer at
room temperature (which, in Florida, in summer, can be very warm) would make
their visitors feel right at home. They also underestimated by a couple of
hundred percent the amount of cash that Brits would be spending daily on drinks
and meals. And how much alcohol they would consume.
we can look at Florida now and see how it panned out, especially after the mass
market moved inland to Orlando, following the arrival there of Mickey Mouse.
we now know far more about America as a holiday destination, and the Americans
know far more about us, I have the same premonition about Charleston in
particular and South Carolina in general. (Even to the extent that a rumour
reached me just before my visit that the Disney organisation was thinking of
locating a theme park there. When I mentioned this to a local tourism person,
the reply was “Charleston needs Mickey
Mouse like it needs a hole in the head”, and that Myrtle Beach might be a more
your eye along the eastern seaboard of the USA and it is obvious why British
Airways have chosen to open a direct service between Heathrow and Charleston. From
Washington DC right down to Florida there is no ‘holiday’ point of entry.
present two flights a week are certain to be increased as news of this ‘new’
holiday destination gets around. And you can bet your boots that, sniffing
success, the Scandinavian, German and French airlines will not be slow to jump
on the bandwagon.
airport authority has already spent a considerable sum installing a catering
facility that meets the standards set for international flights. You can see at a glance that much other work
is being done to expand and improve that airport.
is clearly necessary, as the sole, small, carousel in our arrival terminal could
barely cope with the luggage from a single Boeing 787 – the ‘Dreamliner’ which,
by coincidence, is built in their Charleston factory.
was also obvious that more than the available half a dozen immigration desks were
needed for the passengers from that single 787. How will the airport cope when three or
four trans-Atlantic flights arrive at more or less the same time?
local folk I quizzed were certain that airport improvements and expansion would
be sufficient, but I can’t help feeling, as happened forty years ago, that the
ultimate number of international arrivals has not yet been properly appreciated.
Now, I realise these ‘nuts and bolts’ facts may not be as interesting to you as the facts about Charleston and what it has to offer its visitors right now. But it is sometimes useful to ponder on the ‘now and then’ aspects of the holiday scene, as I have done here, because where we have come from is usually a good indication of where we are going.
I promise I shall tell you of the delights of Charleston, and to whet your
appetite will draw your attention to the rather magnificent ‘Pineapple’
fountain in Waterfront Park. It is just one manifestation of the pineapple
motif one encounters in the older part of the city – in particular along Rainbow
Row, a much-photographed group of pastel coloured houses off East Bay Street.
recent article about Charleston in one of our national newspapers explained that
this dates from the time when pineapples were a luxury, but the female writer –
either through ignorance or sensitivity – completely missed the real reason why
they were often displayed in the windows of housewives fortunate enough to have
been given one.
is a port. Sea captains returned home with gifts for their wives and those
gifts usually included a pineapple. Grateful wives would place the pineapple in
would tell their husbands it was to show the world how fortunate they were to
have such a generous spouse.
never told them it was a signal to warn their gentleman friends to keep away,
as hubby was home.
removal of the pineapple from the window was a signal that the coast was clear.
What happened then, I leave to your imagination.
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