I grew up in North Charleston, the blue collar backbone of the Carolina Lowcountry, A place of ship yards, air bases, and factories of every size,type and shape. Where the stench of the paper mill fills the air with it's sickly sweet odor and the locals describe it as the "smell of money". Everyone knows Charleston with its historic homes, and history, but North Charleston is the hired help, the manservant to its well bred sibling, a job its done quietly, suffering in silence since its inception.
In North Charleston like every other town big and small across the south when World War II came, men lined up to defend what they loved. Many of these soldiers like my father faked their birth certificates to get into the army early. At 15 he was inducted into the army and served in the last days of the war. They never got to be kids, manhood came quick and violently. After 1945 those who returned wanted to restart what was left of their lives.The GI bill seemed a natural place to start, problem was many,most hadn't graduated from high school and now returning from war they entered the work force. The only solution was night school at North Charleston, Then "Cooper River" High.
|Old Garco Plant--Picture by Donnie Smith photography|
Story go's that the allegiance they felt was, like in war to their friends and team mates not so much to the school and soon they began calling themselves the Garco Gators, even though the Cooper River mascot was a blue devil. They would gather at one of the many bars on Montague Ave. in the old village and have a few beers before game time and come back at HALF TIME, but boy they could play. Soon friends, family and fans picked up on the Garco Gator designation as the team won more and more games, Soon the stands would resound with the call of GAAAATTTOORRRR! HOOOOOOOooooo! after each touchdown or defensive stop. The Team won State, once again finding a watering hole at halftime, then they stole the other teams bus and drove home from Columbia. I graduated with the last Blue Devil class in 1979, the school changed its mascot to cougars after several high schools were combined. North Charleston is a basketball school now but on nights when the gym is rockin you can still hear the old war cry.
So for all the Garco Gators, or whatever name they go by in your hometown I proudly carry on their tradition. Jack Kerouac said
"Better to be anonymous on earth than a star in heaven". If that's the case then black starless nights must be Gods way of recognizing all the unknown working people of this world who have made us what we are. Take That Pat Conroy.