Teaching the world to sing

Many readers picked up on the local connection between the final “Mad Men” episode and the author of the jingle for the 1971 song for Coca-Cola that taught “the world to sing in perfect harmony.” The song’s author, Bill Backer, now lives on a farm in Virginia and grew up in Charleston at Old Towne, which is now Charles Towne Landing. Several details were not included in the press about the connection. After returning to Charleston following the death of Mr. Backer in New York, “Ferdie” Backer met George Gershwin when he was visiting the Lowcountry in 1934 to work with DuBose Heyward on “Porgy and Bess.” The next year Bill’s mother, Ferdinanda Legare Backer, remarried Dr. Joseph I. Waring at St. James Goose Creek, where she rests beside her beloved “Dr. Joe” in the churchyard. The non-Don Draper Bill Backer was also exposed to the Lowcountry spirituals at home when his mother and step-father sang with the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals: Great ad men get inspiration from many sources.

Looking for the spittoon

            In a recent segment on Fox News’ “The Five,” co-host Dana Perino (featured in Out & About on page 28) popped the cork on an issue of federal regulation that’s leaving a stain here in the Holy City. Although an ancient art, winemaking still rewards innovation. As we have reported, vintner Jim “Bear” Dyke and Mira Winery are developing a process they call “aquaoir,” wherein bottled wine is submerged in Charleston Harbor to accelerate its maturation. However, it looks like their reward is a Melchizedek-sized bottle of government interference. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has recently announced that, according to the FDA, aquaoir wines may be deemed “adulterated” because of uncontrolled and unsanitary conditions in Charleston Harbor, making it sound like New York’s Love Canal. So if bottled, corked and sealed wine isn’t protected from vile effluvium in our fair harbor, why should we feel safe living next to, playing in and consuming seafood from it? In the meantime, the Rambler recommends closing your eyes and holding your breath if misted by salt spray while walking The Battery. On second thought … perhaps the feds should just stick a cork in it.

Guiding gracious architecture

            Your Rambler was in attendance at a recent meeting between a group of concerned citizens and some of the Holy City’s finest classical architects. As you might imagine, the proposed “Jasper Disaster” inspired the event — and none of the attendees intend to let whatever new proposals for the site be held to anything less than the strictest of standards. One phrase we heard — with examples provided — is “almost everything passes [the BAR] if it’s submitted three times.” Another issue was the failure of the Civic Design Center to ever become a clearinghouse of information on, and center for discussion about, building projects in the Holy City. With so many new proposed projects on the table — and with the change in leadership coming to City Hall — there has never been a more important time for citizens to ensure a steady hand on the Holy City’s architectural tiller.

Kiss my grits and other joys

            As Charleston looks ahead to Spoleto, it’s worth remembering that spring is festival time all across the Palmetto State. This month, don’t miss the World Grits Festival in St. George and the Colleton County Rice Festival in Walterboro. Of course, one of our personal favorites won’t take place until early May: The inimitable Hell Hole Swamp Festival. Visitors may enjoy the event’s “famous Beauty Pageants and children’s tobacco spitting contest.” Other highlights include the festival mascot (a formerly-seized still) and the Gator Trot or “Redneck Run” — a moniker that may provoke envy among some Ravenel Bridge Run officials.


Reprinting a favorite volume

It gives us great pleasure to advise that Evening Post Books has decided to offer a second printing of Rice & Ducks: The Surprising Convergence that Saved the Carolina Lowcountry by Virginia Christian Beach. Arriving just in time for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, this volume illuminates an understanding of Lowcountry culture in a most impactful manner. Rice & Ducks is based on a wealth of personal interviews, letters, family papers, plantation and game journals and other primary source materials. This book is an essential part of every conservationist’s library. All proceeds from the collector’s edition and all royalties from the hardcover edition will go toward protection and restoration of migratory bird habitat in the Carolina Lowcountry and northern breeding grounds — a fitting tribute to the legacy of the landowners and conservationists who are the subject of Rice & Ducks.

Star search?

            As locals watch the Sergeant Jasper Building begin its move toward rubble and rebirth, inquiring minds want to know if Charleston’s 2015 Christmas is in jeopardy. After all, smart money has it that Santa Claus has been navigating to the Holy City by the way of the star on the Jasper and may end up overshooting and ending up in Hollywood, finding their plentiful rural lights more welcoming.

Coyote ugly

            The Rambler recently observed that coyote ugly is taking on a new meaning — putting the species on the same level as Born Free’s lions. We understand the joke is that Sullivan’s Island is becoming a “coyote refuge.” Remember, the coyote is an invasive predator — they kill pets, wild game and will even attack humans in rare cases. South Carolina’s sportsmen pay the majority of the direct and indirect expense of maintaining our ecosystems and protecting endangered species and they believe the only good coyote is one at room temperature.

Frigate’s farewell

            An era ended this November as the Navy decommissioned the USS Ingraham. The fourth vessel named for Charlestonian Nathaniel Ingraham, she was commissioned in 1989 as our fleet’s final frigate. The debate about her replacement has been fiery; however, no matter the craft selected to fill the frigate’s role, the Rambler hopes that Ingraham’s name soon returns to the waves where it so belongs — on a fighting ship. For reasons why — and for a look at Ingraham’s Beaufain Street home — turn to “Closing Notes” on page 15.

Kaufmans: Stand up for Israel!

Our Stuart Kaufman recently spoke with his wife, Susan, about a question a friend posed: What is Hashem (G-d) telling us when he permits acts like the vicious murder by Arab terrorists of four rabbis while they were at prayer in a Jerusalem synagogue? Mrs. Kaufman responded: “I think Hashem is telling the Jewish people to wake up and fight for ourselves. When we Jews don’t fight to protect what Hashem has given us — our birthright, Hashem is silent; however, Hashem has been with us when we fought for our own survival. We will soon be celebrating the miracle of Hannukah, remembering how a small cruze of oil burned for eight days, marking the end of the battle against the Seleucids led by the Maccabees. More recently, the Jewish people have successfully battled overwhelming odds and won — think of the 1948 war, the Suez war in 1956, the 1967 war and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The Jewish people were united and Israel stood strong. I think Hashem is waiting for us to stand up and remember that His covenant with the Jewish people is a two-way street. If we want Him to remember His covenant with us, first we have to show Him that we remember our covenant with Him.”


Lowcountry fantasyland

One Lowcountry resident swore he must have been mistaken when he saw the “Cinderella carriage.” Though he was not in error, the carriage was not a storybook fantasy but somewhat of a short-lived affair. Our best sources confirm that the fairytale world has not completely captured Charleston for good, as the owners have withdrawn the Disney-like carriage — at least for now. The Rambler concurs with those blogging in social media about this out-of-place entity and hopes that this chapter in tourism fairytales will end permanently.

Mercury newspapers can be found at the following locations:


Buxton Books

Caviar & Bananas

The Meeting Street Inn (Rack)

Clair's Service Station, Folly Rd. (Rack)

Harris Teeter, Houston-Northcutt Blvd. (Rack)

Mt. Pleasant Library, Mathis Ferry Rd. (Rack)

Pitt St. Pharmacy

The Square Onion, I'On (Rack)