Saturday, July 11, 2009

Visit to Lincolnton, North Carolina

Yesterday, I enjoyed an unexpected visit to Lincolnton, North Carolina. The closest town of any size to Iron Station here. Not to take anything away, now, from Pumpkin City, or Boger City, or any other nearby “cities.” But Lincolnton is, in fact, bigger.

The borrowed connection to the internet here on Vesuvius Furnace Road stopped working yesterday. So I went in search of a WiFi cloud.

Map picture

Lincolnton is the county seat of Lincoln County. Named not after Abraham Lincoln, as you might expect, but after a considerably earlier, and less controversial [at least here] Lincoln. Benjamin Lincoln. A general during the Revolutionary War.

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Digital image  I first made a bee-line to the Lincolnton public library on Main Street. Not far from Lincolnton’s famous rear-facing courthouse. More on that interesting building in a later post.

Digital image  This Library is named after Lincoln County famous son, Charles R. Jonas, an important member of the U.S. Congress during the 1950s and 1960s. Jonas is memorialized with a small display inside, and this plaque at the front entrance.

Unfortunately the County library system here has yet to offer patrons a WiFi cloud. Budget seems to be very tight.

A kind patron heard my plea, though, and directed me down Route 73 a ways to Morgan’s Dairy Bar. Near Lincolnton’s huge Lowe’s Home Center.

Digital image  Talk about unexpected good fortune! Not only does Morgan’s offer free five-bar WiFi service. They also serve some of the tastiest ice cream I’ve eaten in a long time.

The sort of fresh ice cream taste only found in a product that’s locally made. Reluctantly, out of a sense of obligation, doncha know, I ordered a large vanilla sundae with chocolate topping. This is the sort of ice cream store where even plain vanilla is delicious! Ah, the sacrifices we bloggers make to publish our materials …..

After posting the last blog entry, checking a few dozen e-mails, downloading the Japanese political news, and finishing the “large” vanilla sundae, which was roughly the size of Mt. Rainier, I left Morgan’ Dairy Bar. Walking out past the 30-some flavors of ice cream displayed in the long glass case with hardly a glance! Fully intending to drive straight back to Iron Station.

Digital image  Well! Talk about double temptation. Can you imagine what I found right next door to Morgan’s Dairy Bar? The Lincolnton Bookstop. A bookstore devoted mainly to used paperbacks. That accepts trade-ins!

Digital image  After looking at the logo in the window, and seeing the shelves, I had to go inside. I mean! How often does one come across such a store? Anywhere? Let alone, unexpectedly in Lincolnton, North Carolina.

The owners opened this store less than a week ago, and have big plans for it. Their stock of books, train displays, and overall layout was so interesting that I hope to devote a whole blog entry to it in the near future. During my next trip to Iron Station.

In the meantime, just let me note that I counted ninety-seven [that’s 97!] volumes of Louis L’Amour paperbacks in their Western section. More than I’ve seen anywhere. Library or bookstore. Bookstores like this are especially important to younger and retired readers. Those of us with limited budgets to feed our reading habits. So, thanks for a great store. Hope to see you again soon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Scenes from Iron Station, North Carolina

Friday the 10th already here in Iron Station. Hardly seems possible. This change of pace, and change of scenery, while visiting with Dad, has made the time go far too quickly.

Thanks to all for the notes on the last Iron Station post. Yes, it’s a delightful place to live, and to visit. These posts hardly do it justice. Much more here to see and enjoy than I can describe.

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The Coon A couple of you expressed concern over the fate of the raccoon in the previous post, and asked for another photo. Well, here he is in all his glory! A fairly young specimen, most unhappy with his fate at the moment.

No need to worry about him, though. Not long after this photo was taken, his capturer took him to another animal-loving neighbor, who drove him a few miles into the country. To a less populated area, for release into the woods. He’ll be safer there. And it’s unlikely he’ll ever again venture into any wire contraption, no matter how tempting the bait.

Turtle1 Raccoons, of course, aren’t the only interesting wild life here in Iron Station. On a walk during an earlier visit I came across this beautiful little turtle preparing to cross the road.

Well! That might have been reasonable behavior in the time of this turtle’s grandparents or great-grandparents. But now, the smooth and curvy blacktop of Vesuvius Furnace Road tempts drivers to excessive speeds. No need to worry about the dust! Speeds far beyond that at which they’d be likely to notice such a small turtle in their path.

Turtle2 So, following Tamia Nelson’s admonition, I picked this turtle up carefully and deposited him on the other side of the road, in the general direction he seemed to be traveling.

On the way back, after a half-hour or so, I found the turtle exactly where I had placed him. Head and all four feet tucked securely under his shell. Awaiting further indignities, I guess. He had disappeared, though, several hours later when I went back to check.

Digital image  Not all animals here in Iron Station are wild, of course. The photo above shows how to “walk” your dog if you’ve reached the age at which you’re a little unsteady on your pins. Well, and if your dog is smart enough to maintain tension on the leash while moving along.

Digital image  Dad’s new dog, Dixie [they’ve all been named Dixie for as long as I can remember], certainly is smart enough to keep the leash tight, and enjoys the trips immensely. As you see in the photo above, he also seems to enjoy music. As dad plays a tune on his ever-present harmonica.

Now, a few skeptics have speculated that Dixie begs to go for walks in order to get away from that harmonica music. But that seems most unlikely!

Lincoln Co Hist Centr Next post, if there’s time and a solid internet connection, I hope to consider the 18th and 19th century iron industry that gave this area its name. The photo above is of the Lincoln County Cultural Center and Museum of History. A fascinating place to visit, with abundant information on the history of iron manufacture in this region.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Iron Station, North Carolina

The past week or so I’ve been able to spend time with my dad while his wife and my wife are off on a cruise. Both of them enjoying a well-deserved vacation away from us! While the two of us enjoy not having to endure that cruise!

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Iron Station Map Some years ago my father and his wife decided to sell their house OverHome to move South. To the Carolinas. They didn’t make it to South Carolina, settling instead in a small North Carolina town with the intriguing name of “Iron Station.” Just two hours from us in Columbia.

“Iron Station”? Hmmm. That name alone excites the curiosity of historically-minded visitors. Add to that a road named for “Vesuvius Furnace.”

Road Sign For years I’ve wondered about those names. And about the history of 18th and 19th century iron manufacture in this part of the Carolinas. Well, it’s interesting! More on that topic in a later post.

House and Mobile Studio But Iron Station, North Carolina, is more than just a place with a catchy name. It’s a community of delightful neighbors and beautiful scenery. Where people have lived for a very long time.

Raccoon Visitor An area that continues to adapt to its changing environment. Combining traditional values with more modern conveniences. Now, where else would a neighbor be likely to wheel up late one morning in a golf cart to show you the raccoon his wife had just collected in her have-a-heart trap!

Less than two decades ago, the aforementioned Vesuvius Furnace Road was just a dirt track. Well maintained, to be sure. But undeniably dirt. The sort of road on which thoughtful neighbors drive by slowly to minimize the dust.

Curving RoadToday, as you see in the photo above, Vesuvius Furnace Road boasts a solid macadam surface, with a yellow solid double line. Even white guidelines on each side.

Field Barn Yet, walk another three minutes to enjoy the view across this beautiful field, with its curving access road, and the roof of a new barn just visible in the distance. A sight to warm the heart of any country boy.

Dead Tree Another five minutes along the road brings this long dead tree into view. It’s been dead for quite some time. But it still stands.

Old Building Walk closer to see that it survives to safeguard a small crumbling building, with its rusting and torn tin roof. What stories the walls of that building might tell!

Next time we’ll look into the 18th and 19th century iron manufacturing that gave this area its name.

Monday, July 6, 2009

South Carolina’s Richland County Public Library, Part II

Click here for first post in this series.

Last post we began a tour of a remarkable public library, right here in Columbia, South Carolina.

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Front Entrance Today, we’ll consider briefly the diverse clientele this Library serves.

Richland County Public Library (RCPL) doesn’t claim to be a “research library.” Columbia has one of those just a few blocks away at the University of South Carolina. But it’s certainly possible to do all but the most specialized research here.

Micro Readers RCPL maintains an extensive microfilm archive of hundreds of U.S. newspapers and magazines, and an army of the complicated reading machines necessary to access them. Not long after the new building opened, while researching the effectiveness of international propaganda efforts on U.S. print media, I was amazed at the depth of their coverage in this area. And – a first for me – their mechanical readers nearly all worked!

Guide to Per Lit Hard-copy periodicals are available too, as well as the specialized indexes necessary to access them efficiently. All of this is expensive!

But don’t go away with the impression that RCPL short-changes the traditional role of such public libraries.

StacksGen Like any library worth its salt, aisle after aisle of books on steel shelves monopolize much of the space on each floor.

NewCardFile With terminals offering access to an efficient, user-friendly electronic card catalog available here and there on all four floors. In fact, it’s now possible to punch into RCPL’s card catalog from home via the Internet. Those of you raised with such convenience probably take all this for granted. But it wasn’t always so!

Mystery Stacks Now, the most important literary categories, such as mysteries and westerns, have their own sections in this library. Which certainly saves the inquiring reader time and energy.

Periodicals Even popular periodic literature, or magazines, are not forgotten here. Confirming that this library allocates its resources to a broad spectrum of tastes and interests. As a publicly funded institution of this sort should!

Children's Library Entrance The Children’s Library requires special mention. It’s far more elaborate than the usual “Kid’s Section,” or “nook,” we find in most county-sponsored libraries.

It really is a world of its own, occupying most of the lower floor of the building. Separate, but comfortably accessible by escalator and elevator.

Toy Collection Display Children of all ages are made comfortable here with tables, chairs, and benches of various size. Each sized seating section surrounded by books and displays designed to appeal to that particular age group.

At first glance the Children’s Library looks simple. Just a nice big reading and listening place for Little People. Wander around for a while, though, and you’ll begin to appreciate its complexity.

KidsBooks Here’s a clip from the Children’s Library website home page that illustrates the care taken to appeal specifically to various ages. Such differentiation is essential if children are to appreciate, rather than endure, the library. Five-year-olds have little interest in books designed for twelve-year-olds. While twelve-year-olds find nothing of interest in books designed for “little kids.”

RCPL’s Children’s Library has taken the same care with the programs they offer, such as story telling, films, and games. Everything designed to minimize whiney complaints of “Daddy, I’m bored! When can we go home?” I can’t imagine that’s heard much around here!

Our Richland County Public Library also has recognized the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. No easy task. I mentioned the on-line card catalog. Or what we used to call a card catalog. It’s very user-friendly, even from home. Must be, since it received nearly 2 million hits in 2008 alone.

AV Room Seating In addition, RCPL offers tens of thousands of DVDs, CDs, tapes, on-line books, and electronic databases. The photo above is of the seating arrangement in the audio-visual room on the main floor.

Sign1431 We’ve become fanatical borrowers of early television programs on DVDs. Programs we can play right on our home television set.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Richland County Public Library is that all of this has been accomplished on an annual budget of less than $30 million a year. $26,162,574, to be exact, in 2008. Public money well spent, in my view.

So, when you visit Columbia, South Carolina, and happen to drive by an incredibly beautiful modern building on Assembly Street, a few blocks north of the Capital, find a nearby parking space and look around inside. I promise that your time will be well spent.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

South Carolina’s Richland County Public Library, Part I

Not all Mobile Studio Travels require much traveling. Columbia is South Carolina’s state capital. That status alone assures hundreds of interesting government-related sites right here. We’ll tour a few in future posts. The State House and its grounds, for example, are well worth a visit.

Today, though, we’ll focus on a county project. Specifically, the Main Branch of the Richland County Public Library.

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Front View These days most county governments throughout the United States support a public library system. They vary considerably in the services they offer, and in the grandeur of their architecture. Fortunately, many now provide internet access, free for the asking. Great for anyone who travels with a laptop!

Now, I’m a certified Library Nut. Have been since childhood, when we moved from the country into town, and a local library replaced hills and woods as the place of choice for exploration.

So, you can imagine my excitement when Richland County opened its new 242,000 square foot main library building to the public in mid-February, 1993.

This has developed into a major library under the leadership of recently retired director, C. David Warren. And it’s been recognized as such! In 2001 it received the Library Journal’s national “Library of the Year” award. No small accomplishment for a county library system in a state celebrated for its modest government budgets. You can read all about it by clicking here.

Library of Year Award Today, the overall system maintains over 1 million books, subscribes to nearly a thousand hard-copy periodicals, and subscribes to 155 newspapers. And that’s just the traditional “hard” copies!

In addition, and more important each year, are electronic offerings. Every imaginable on-line, internet, DVD/CD resource imaginable. All for free! More on the diversity of the library’s holdings and programs in a subsequent post.

Parking Lot EntranceBut this remarkable building alone makes a visit worthwhile. It’s a modern structure that, for once, doesn’t appear to be striving for attention and acceptance. Like some outrageous infuriate-your-daddy teen-age haircut.

This building is inviting, comfortable, and – well – just nice to visit. The photo above is of the rear entrance. The one closest to the parking lot. I mean! How many public buildings have rear entrances as attractive as that!

Through the rear entrance, the visitor walks along the long corridor pictured below. The building’s dramatic glass skin and supporting structure are on the left. The tops of a row of huge broad-leafed, intensely green, tropical trees are at eye-level on the right. Above which are stacked the concrete edges of the third and fourth floors. It’s quite a sight.

Corridor This incredible building was designed by the noted Houston architect, Eugene Aubrey. A great architect, to be sure. But he also must have known a thing or two about libraries. His building invites, and somehow encourages the visitor to stay a while.

And people do! 3,000 a day, on average. A broad spectrum of society. Even including those who have no other place to go. At least, nowhere as attractively furnished, and as well heated in the winter and cooled in the summer.

A highly professional, but unobtrusive, security staff makes sure that everyone has the space they need. And that they all are comfortable. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. could take a lesson here.

Once through the inevitable electronic theft-prevention gates at the front, all four floors of the building are connected by elegant up-and-down sets of escalators.

Stairway Even the escalators are works of art. And that didn’t just happen!

Central Escalators Basement to RoofThe view from the first floor up to the skylight in the ceiling while standing beside the escalators is spectacular. Again, dramatic without appearing strained or contrived.

In the next post I’ll describe how the Library meets the needs of its diverse clientele with different sections and programs. So, stay tuned!

Click here for next post in this series.