Saturday, August 23, 2008
Veronica and I were on our way to Charleston, SC. Driving South on I-95, there is an oasis in the middle of a desolate concrete highway. Some people call this place an institution. Others call it what is left from your daily constitution. It is a landmark of sorts. It is a place that is advertised in somewhat comical and colorful billboards. A place where someone using their perverted and warped sense of humor, commenced some of these roadway billboards as far as 175 miles in any direction, long before ever reaching this oasis. Along with these advertising billboards comes a parents worse nightmare...175 miles of "can we go there" and "are we there yet" coming from the youngsters at the top of their lungs. 175 miles of mind numbing and ear splitting squeals and verbal requests, that build up to a deafening crescendo as you inch closer to that magical destination....and we're not talking Disney World here. The requests bombard you like a boxer being worn down by an endless barrage of punches until he finally caves in and crumbles from the relentless onslaught onto the floor, just a shell of the person that he used to be. By the time you arrive, the kids have worked themselves up into a frothing frenzy. You all know that feeling....think back...you have been there before. This scenario is repeated hundreds, if not thousands, of times each and every day, much to the devious delight of the owners of this small piece of Americana. So what is this mecca of advertising genious or possibly madness? It is called....drumroll maestro......SOUTH OF THE BORDER. Yes that's right, I did actually say SOUTH OF THE BORDER. South of the Border is a roadside attraction that is in Dillon, SC. It is right near the South Carolina and North Carolins border. South of the Border was created by a man named Al Schafer, who founded a beer stand at the location in 1950 and steadily expanded it with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items. He had a great deal of success because of his location, which was immediately across the border from a dry North Carolina county, and grew his small business into what was, by local standards, an economic empire. South of the Border grew to over a square mile, required its own infrastructure, and at one time had its own fire and police departments. South of the Border is a hodgepodge of fireworks stores, hotel, restaurants, snack bars, gas station, numerous chatchkis stores, theme park, more numerous chatchkis stores, a drug store, a couple of antique stores, leather store, miniature golf and did I mention chatchkis stores...I would be remiss if I forgot to mention them...I think you get the idea. South of the Border has its own mascot, whose name is Pedro, an extravagant comically mustachioed mexican "bandito". Pedro himself adorns many of the advertising billboards along with many of his famous sayings. That Pedro is a wise old soul...who is way ahead of his time and has quite a flair for the written word. Some of his more famous sayings are... Pedro's Weather Forecast: Chili today, hot tamale, Pedro's fireworks! Does yours?, Keep America Green! Bring Money!, Chile Today, Hot Tamale!, Keep yelling, kids! (They'll stop.) and the famous line...personally one of my all time favorites...You Never Sausage a Place! You're Always a Wiener at Pedro's!. Like I said, Pedro has a flair with the written word.....you gotta love it. Makes one wonder what kind of mind altering mushrooms they were doing when they concocted such great advertising lines.... absolutely shear geniuses they were. Not to mention whoever got the job of painting all of those colorful roadway masterpieces. Neither the Geico gecco nor the cavemen can compete with the advertising that Pedro has. If you have never been fortunate enough to have spent any time at South of the Border, it is one of those things you must do before you die...put it on your bucket list. Until you get the pleasure of actually being there....here is a link to the "official" South of the Border web site... http://www.pedroland.com/index.htm
Here is a photo of a Hotel that is closed down and looks like it has been for years.