Lando center to take visitors back in time

Granite stones list the names of men who gave their lives in the service of the nation, right, and Dr. John Gaston, known for keeping people healthy with doses of castor oil.
Granite stones list the names of men who gave their lives in the service of the nation, right, and Dr. John Gaston, known for keeping people healthy with doses of castor oil.

To those of you who might read this column and don't know about Lando, it is my gift to you. For it was in that remarkable place where an important part of South Carolina history was made and family names became legendary.

Some of those sons and daughters became well-known teachers and political leaders in the county. Some girls went to Winthrop and to colleges on down the line, and the boys heard about the school called Clemson and The Citadel, and they, with the help of their parents, traveled to those monuments of learning and prospered and made their hometown proud.

Those sons and daughters were taught to take pride in the place where they lived when a mill village was not a place generally honored by select society. It was a place where every child was a treasure, and everyone made a point of helping one another.

They, some still living today, in one grand voice will tell you they never knew they were poor. They only knew that if you worked and paid your bills and honored your religion, life would be good, and it was.

If the walls could talk and you could hear them, well known names would float across your audio system. You would be introduced to Ola Stroud, Cressie Dawkins, George Ferguson, the Hefners, the Blacks and the Bromes. You would be told stories about Benjamin and Frog Town. Your life would be made richer by tales from the spinning room to the weave room to the shop, or you could sit in on a conversation in the barbershop. When there came a day when financial need reared its ugly head, you could collect "loonies" that would carry you over financially until the whistle blew on Thursday and you got your envelope filled with the money for a week's work.

You would certainly hear about Fishing Creek and the beach at Lando. Oh, indeed, there are even stories about hairdos created at the town pump for 10 cents, and for that price you got a shampoo and a set if you brought your own bobby pins.

You could talk to John Coker and hear where each little house of the more than 300 stood and the names of the residents who filled those streets.

The Heaths were never late with payday. Their employees never thought about striking or complaining about what they were paid or their living conditions. Each family had a house and enough land for a garden. Some even had a cow, and they all could get water at the wells, placed in strategic locations for the residents of every street. We are remembering those times in the 1920s and '30s when some folks across this nation were starving.

They came here to this sweet land, where in this bewitching place called Lando, there was no wealth, but here they found safety and security. The water of Fishing Creek powered the mill, and the people had a home where the youngsters played marbles on the red clay and swam in the clear waters of that history-rich stream. Movies were shown in a room beneath the old store and the serial, which has been remembered by many, was the famous "Officer 440." It continued from one week to another and never lost its popularity. It did not matter that sound had not yet made its way to distant film markets. A gentleman, by the name of Luke Long, ran the projector and took up tickets.

They heard the whistle of the Dinky and knew the face of the moonshiner. It was a place filled with the goodness and the dreadfulness of all societies. This one was different, because here, however dire the circumstances in the outside world, Lando, in its beautiful natural setting, offered its residents a job, a home, schooling for their children and a fulfilling social life. The people themselves made it happen. There was a baseball team, a band that played at picnics and church revivals and a storyteller that fired the imagination of the younger set with ghost stories on a Saturday night in the yard next to the Methodist church. It was, in those years, to those people, that Lando became an almost Utopia.

Celebration starts at 10 a.m.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the doors of the newly developed Lando-Manetta Mills History Center will open. There will be all the things that a grand opening has: barbecue, music, museum tours, classic cars, tractors, games, auctions, book signings and a guest speaker and more. It will be a day where the history of this remarkable place will be displayed and talked about. It will be a time for the person who really knows little about this famous Mill Village to discover what a social and financial impact it made on the county, the state and the nation. It is a true Southern phenomenon and one that certainly should be honored and most of all remembered.

There will be a book, "Images of America, Lando," for sale. This 127-page book of photographs tells the story of the town the people and it history through pictures. It costs $20.

Do set aside Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., bring your children let them see the doctor's office, (Dr. John Newton Gaston Sr.), the barber shop, a typical mill house and learn about the things these folks did. It will be something that will long be remembered, and it will let them see another side of American life. To do this for the children of this century is a gift of immense proportions, for without you showing them, they will miss a piece of their national history.

Remember folks, it is no more, and it will never be again.

Bring your chairs, and we will sit beneath the old shade trees and reminisce with folks. If luck is around, you can talk with Polly Culp, a lady who remembers every day and every happening. She was born in Monroe, N.C., in 1922 and was carried as an infant to Lando, in her arms of her father, Brice Dawkins, son of Cressie.