The Magazine of South Carolina

Homing In

What South Carolina Expatriates Miss Most


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Article by Maria Lindler-Steinke/Art by Hord Stubblefield

There's just something about South Carolina. Maybe it's the mustard-based barbecue sauce or the pecan pie or the boiled peanuts. Maybe it’s those "y’alls," "yes, ma’ams" and "Miss Betty Lous." Could it be the beautiful countryside or those die-hard southern traditions? Or maybe it’s that slower pace of life and the gentle, prideful people.

If you’re currently residing in South Carolina, you may be wondering, "What’s the big deal?" But for those of us sandlappers who’ve moved out of the state . . . it’s a very big deal.

We surveyed expatriates to inquire what makes South Carolina special. Their responses were candid, touching and often entertaining. Here’s what we found:


Top 10 Things People Miss Most About South Carolina

1) Family
2) Beach/ocean
3) Friends
4) Weather
5) Friendly people
6) Barbecue
7) Casual/relaxed lifestyle
8) Seafood
9) Southern accents
10) Mountains/lakes

And why do out-of-staters miss these things?

"They define my past and are a big part of the adult I became," said nurse Edna Earle Faust, formerly of Lancaster/Summerville, now residing in Canyon Lake, TX.

"I’m human . . . and southern," said at-home wife and mother Chris Sargent of Annapolis, MD, formerly of Beaufort. "The Deep South is my home; it permeates my DNA."

Elizabeth Hall, a homemaker in Gibbsboro, NJ, formerly of Spartanburg, misses—among other things—sweet tea, all-brick houses and "good old southern accents." "We’ve learned to appreciate our new experiences, but nowhere except South Carolina will ever feel like home to us."

Well, if South Carolina is so great, why do people move away? Most of our survey respondents left the state because of educational pursuits, marriage or career opportunities. They make sure they load up on South Carolina food, culture and people when they come home to visit.

Here are the "Top 10 Foods Expatriates Load Up On When They Visit SC":

1) Barbecue
2) Shrimp
3) Boiled peanuts
4) Peaches
5) Seafood
6) Grits
7) Pecans
8) Pecan pie
9) Mama’s southern cooking
10) Crab

Life is different in many ways for our survey respondents. Many now contend with excessive traffic, long, snowy winters and exorbitant costs of living. Some say they have become more open-minded and tolerant of others. Some have acquired a taste for country music, and some have learned a great deal about other cultures and religions. Many have changed because of their moves.

"I’ve learned to icefish, snowshoe, cross-country ski, run sled dogs and break horses," said writer Roger Pinckney of Pelican Rapids, MN, formerly of Beaufort.

One-time Columbians Carol and Ted Hoefer live in Crystal Lake, IL, and are employed as a realtor and stockbroker, respectively. The Hoefers describe themselves as "big hockey fans." They work much longer hours and entertain less.

"I can charge across five lanes of traffic to get to a left exit off of the Washington, DC, beltway without getting shot," said attorney-turned-homemaker Kimberley Mangum Welter of Sterling, VA, formerly of Pageland.

"I am different only in that I have learned to appreciate South Carolina more," said Patrick Lee, a law enforcement manager from Walhalla who currently resides in Corona, CA.

But no matter how different life is, something about South Carolina stays with you. Expatriates are sharing their South Carolina pride with their children. They are spending family vacations in the state and discussing South Carolina history. They are serving traditional South Carolina food and teaching their children how to prepare it.

"Many times my children, especially my youngest, and I will talk about friends and places we miss," said registered nurse Desiree Wyatt of Weathersfield, VT, formerly of Summerton. "Much to my husband’s surprise, our son (who was not even 6 years old when we moved) can still remember, with great clarity, names of people, where they lived, and can describe in detail areas around Clarendon and Sumter counties. He informed me last week that he intends to move back to South Carolina when he’s grown."

"I have one daughter and I plan to teach her how to make pecan pie . . . and how to shag, of course!" said Jocelyn Turner Ferber, an artist/cake decorator from Orangeburg/Columbia now living in Charlotte.

Edna Earle Faust told us about a recent visit to South Carolina. "We went to Lancaster in August for my 40th high school reunion and brought back some red dirt which I put in small decorative bottles for each of my four adult children. They were thrilled to have South Carolina soil to display in their homes."

South Carolinians are certainly passionate about their roots. It doesn’t seem to matter how far they’ve traveled or how long they’ve been gone. South Carolina is home.

"I’m a dyed-in-the-wool sandlapper," said Patricia Arant Newman, a retired teacher from Pageland who now resides in Tryon, NC.

Retired Registered Nurse Pauline "Polly" Taylor Reitz of St. Louis, MO, formerly of Lexington, said, "Although I have lived in Missouri longer than South Carolina, my roots are there and so is my heart—and always will be."

"My life has been blessed with a wonderful family and lingering memories of South Carolina," said Hedy Culbertson Bedont, a homemaker in Cheyenne, WY, formerly of Laurens/Madden Station. "I do love Wyoming with its spacious land, beautiful sunsets, cool summers, the mountains, clear blue skies and its history. However, my front door is graced with a wreath of bolls of cotton and my Christmas tree always, as its last decoration, displays a small flag of the Palmetto State. Also, my front door has an old-fashioned door bell that is rung by hand—an antique from my ‘homeplace’ at Madden Station."

Joe Ann Collins Dickson is a real estate broker who lives in Greensboro, NC (formerly of Seneca, Denmark, Chester, Clover and Columbia). "Last year," she shared, "my beloved middle son David made a sentimental journey home to visit me in Greensboro, my mom and his aunt in Chester and Clover and then went to Huntington Beach, where he collapsed and died of cardiomyopathy. The coroner said people with this have a strong urge to go home—and so he did."

Perhaps Jay Dowd of Bennettsville, now vice president for Institutional Advancement at Methodist College in Fayetteville, NC, sums it up best. "The citizens of South Carolina are the wealthiest on earth in regard to life’s simplest pleasures: food, fun and fellowship. To me, South Carolina is like a magnet . . . that attracts an individual’s heritage and heart. Once you leave her, you cannot help but to be drawn back. I was not just born a South Carolinian. I was blessed to be born a South Carolinian."

Oh, the irony. As a teen-ager and young adult, I couldn't get out of South Carolina fast enough. I couldn’t wait to spread my wings, to live in bigger and better places. To do bigger and better things than little old South Carolina could offer.

My first stop after college was Atlanta. Yep, it was bigger. And it sure seemed better—especially since it was there that I found my true love. Only one problem: He’s a Yankee to the core, born and bred in New Jersey. This wasn’t an issue for me, but my family feared the worst: that I someday would move "up there." Their worst nightmare came true when, in July 1990, I packed my bags and moved to northern New Jersey.

I lived in Franklin Lakes, then Sparta, Califon, Jersey City and Weehawken. We bought a house four years ago in Sparta and we've been here ever since. I've lived on the banks of the Hudson River in a high-rise apartment building overlooking the incredible New York City skyline. I’ve lived in Hunterdon County where the deer outnumber people and wild turkeys roam the countryside. And I’ve lived in Sparta, in Lake Mohawk, a quaint Bavarian community nestled in the northern New Jersey mountains.

Through it all, I’ve come to realize that little old South Carolina has a lot to offer. And South Carolina is so much more than its beautiful topography. It’s the beautiful people that make it so special. That southern charm and graciousness. And oh, the hospitality.

I love where I’m living now—maybe because I ended up exactly where I began (only with northern accents). Sparta is my hometown, 20 years ago. There are miles of open land, cows, farms and lakes. It’s the perfect place to raise a family, an "everybody knows your name" kind of place.

But no matter where I go or how long I’ve been gone, South Carolina is in me and always on my mind. My visits home are never long enough or frequent enough.

That’s why I’ve learned to bake cold oven pound cake and pecan pie like my grandmothers. I’m teaching my daughter to say "Yes, ma’am" and "No, ma’am." I’m trying hard to hold on to what’s left of my southern accent. And with the help of my dear Mama, I’ve converted my husband, who now savors the flavor of mustard-based barbecue sauce!

I appreciate South Carolina now more than ever. I know what I’m missing. I won’t forget. And South Carolina will always, always be home.

Maria Lindler-Steinke is a Lexington native living in northern New Jersey with her husband, 3-year-old daughter and infant son. She misses wrap-around porches and southern gentlemen calling her "Darlin." Maria gets a kick out of purchasing peaches grown in McBee, SC, from her local grocer.


* Maurice's Gourmet Barbecue

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