The Charleston that I remember

I spent more time in Charleston than under the Atlantic Ocean, so this observation is more than a limited periscope view. This historic town is well preserved, classic as Gone With the Wind.  Fort Sumter faces the Battery Park, but in the heart is the Market Place, where the only surviving building  is about human exchange.

Now a museum, it is the slave auction gallery where the black slaves were auctioned  fresh from the port more than hundred years ago.  It is estimated that over a third of African slaves came through the port of Charleston.

The main street is King Street, where the City Library provided good reading; mostly the sports pages about Roman Gabriel.  The street parallels Meeting street and both run to North, toward the Charleston Navy Shipyard. I drove down it many times, crossing the railroad track, near Calhoun Street where the racist Dylann Rowe shot the church goers. The rail crosses King and Meeting street. The great divide, the proverbial saying “born in the wrong side of the tracks.”  North of the line was the dodgy slum were the black community lived.  Farther north, the Navy Liberty town, Reynold street, drunk sailors would strolled every night from bars and taverns catering to the Navy Main gate.  I was there when racial segregation manifested into the anti-miscegenation laws. Filipino sailors could not marry whites, or even shack up with one. Live together in a trailer and you will get a visit from the vice squad. I found it interesting that some Filipinos would go to North Carolina to marry their white girls, since they had different  anti-miscegenation law for Filipinos after WWII. It might be the loophole that the father of Roman Gabriel found.  He married an Irish girl and settled in Wilmington, NC where Roman grew up and became All-American.

The H.L. Hunley was a Confederate submarine that played a minor role in the US Civil War, but she demonstrated the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare.  She was sunk in Charleston harbor where she remains.  After I left the submarine force, Hunley was salvaged. It is now on display on the north of Charleston not as Confederate triumph, but She was the first combat to sink a warship that change naval warfare.  As segregation law changes, for some the culture might remain. I was surprised when I met an African American.  When he told me that he graduated from Citadel, I immediately asked if he was the first black cadet. The Lilly-white military school in Charleston was the West Point of the South.  I remember the Cadets; they were all white; I hate it most for they had the great advantage in pursuing the southern lass 😉

Charleston is city of Rivers, it fuels the economy around it.  Southern politics learned after reconstruction to send the same representative to bring home porky bacon. Mindel Rivers became one of the most powerful men in Washington.   He was re-elected multiple times, eventually gaining the chairman of the Armed Forces appropriation. Nuclear submarine flotilla turned the city into a military-industrial complex.  The Southern Democrat Party that once controlled  the house now had their fortunes reversed.  Mindel Rivers had the makings of the perpetual drunken sailor, friend of the military, but an ardent segregationist of his time.

2 Responses to “The Charleston that I remember”

  1. 1 David Orolfo June 28, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Ms Enriquez, thank you very much for the fine piece on Charleston. I have fond memories of that city and those of other cities in the Eastern Seaboard.

    I retired from the US Coast Guard and quite naturally most of the Eastern Seaboard Lifeboat Station are manned by homeboys including the Eastern shore of Virginia.

    Say Hi! To your Dad.

    David C. Orolfo

  2. 2 Nestor Enriquez October 26, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    I met many Pinoy CG in Charleston especially around Reynolds and River Street

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