• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

bftlifestyle

I like Southern Rock because it’s organic; a guy and a guitar, a chord
and a hand.

– Teddy Colleran, guitarist/vocalist for Snazzy Red

Snazzy Red, a Southern Rock band, is as classic as the music they
play. Originally established in the 1970s, the name was chosen as a
tribute honoring a good friend, Snazzy Red, who was killed in an
accident. In 1999, Teddy Colleran resurrected the band with his
brother, Tim, and good friends, Luis Gonzalez and Donnie Cook. Each
member brought a love of music and friendship to the ensemble, setting
the stage for success through their classic southern style,
entertaining audiences of all ages. Occasionally Teddy and Tim’s
nephew, Matthew Colleran, joins the group when they need to bring in
“the heavy guns” for a concert.

Playing a variety of musical styles, Snazzy Red emulates classic
rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and ZZ Top, adding a
touch of New Country flair. “The two music styles are like first
cousins,” Teddy shares. Southern Rock favorites such as Freebird,
Green Grass High Tides, Sweet Home Alabama, and other popular songs
headline their shows.

With a glint in his eye, Teddy Colleran, guitarist and vocalist
for the band, shared stories of his musical upbringing. Born and bred
in Beaufort, Teddy was raised amongst the salt marshes and warm
southern breezes of the Lowcountry with four older brothers in a
“totally musical family. My mother, Betty, was a classically trained
soprano, and all of my brothers played instruments.” Ironically, none
of the boys took music lessons; each was self-taught. At age thirteen,
Teddy picked up a guitar, started strumming, and has been playing ever
since. His only formal training was a high school music theory class
which “enhanced my music with the necessary mechanics to improve my
guitar playing.”

Teddy spoke nostalgically of childhood memories watching his
brothers’ bands play in the front yard of their Mossy Oaks home. His
father, an avid fisherman, fried fresh fish for neighbors and friends
who gathered to kick back and enjoy the camaraderie of coastal small
town life.

Electrician by day, Teddy is passionate about music, fishing and
family, as well as his hometown. “I love Beaufort. I wanted my chance
to start a band instead of just joining one with my brothers. I spoke
to my wife, Bonnie, about it and when I received the tax refund that
year I invested it in the necessary start-up equipment.” And thus
Snazzy Red’s revival was realized.

When asked about the venues where they appear, Teddy responded
with a smile, “we’ll play anywhere we can get in the door.” Snazzy Red
also plays for fund-raisers. “I enjoy playing benefits and using our
talents to help others. It’s very fulfilling.” Some of Teddy’s
favorite guitarists are Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as
Hughy Thomason and Billy Jones of the Outlaws. “I like Southern Rock
because it’s organic; a guy and a guitar, a chord and a hand.”

In addition to playing the electric guitar, Teddy also plays the
fiddle and the mandolin. For those aspiring to become musicians Teddy
suggests, “be yourself, play what you like, play whatever comes out of
you, and don’t change just because you’re not in sync with the trend.”

Tim Colleran, lead guitarist and vocals, was part of the original
Snazzy Red. “We had so many different bands over the years, it’s hard
to keep up with them all. One of the bands I was a part of played as a
front group for Stillwater known for their hit, Mindbender. They were
on the same record label as the Allman Brothers.”

Tim’s love of music echoed those of his brother Teddy, with a
musical heritage beginning with their mother and flourishing under the
influence of their eldest brother Tom, who “could play any instrument
that had a reed in it.” Brothers Terry and Tony Colleran are also
musically inclined having performed with different groups over the
years.

Tim went on to share, “We’re just a hometown band that loves
playing for the people. Music is medicine to me. Musicians are a
different breed. If you put one hundred people in a room the musicians
would come together real quick.”

Bass guitarist, Luis Gonzalez’ musical pursuits are rooted in
rock and roll beginning at the age of eight.  Chuckling, he confessed,
“I played in a rock and roll band when I was fourteen. My parents had
to come with me for barroom appearances because I wasn’t of age.” In
1971, Luis was thrilled to meet his mentor, Carlos Santana, who gifted
him with a treasured memento. “He gave me his album and signed it.”
Luis’ enthusiasm over the gesture is still apparent today.

It wasn’t long before Luis was drawn to the Latin and Salsa music
of his native Puerto Rico where he eventually learned to play the
conga, bongos and timbales. “When I came here (Beaufort) they called
me ‘Bongo Louie.’ I gave a little bit of rhythm to the music.”

When asked what he likes best about playing with Snazzy Red, Luis
declared, “The music is harder and not regular in its beat. I like the
challenge of changing and moderating the music.” Regarding his
training for bass guitar his response was priceless, showing his
musical drive and ingenuity. “I played guitar but the band I was in at
the time needed a bass guitarist so I took two strings off of an
electric guitar and adapted it.” Luis also plays the quarto, a Puerto
Rican style guitar. In 2000, Luis played with the Christie Owens Band
that opened for Toby Keith’s concert at MCRD, Parris Island.

Luis and Teddy met back in 1991 when each played in different
bands. A friendship quickly formed, and with the support of Tim and
Donnie, Snazzy Red was reborn. “Before we started playing for
audiences we rehearsed for eight months. We wanted to get it right
before stepping on stage.”

Donnie Cook is the drummer for Snazzy Red. Introduced to the
instrument as a young child, Donnie was watching a drummer on
television and said matter-of-factly to his mother, “I’m going to do
that.” True to his word, a few years later, at the age of eight, he
began lessons. Over the years, several teachers instructed Donnie
although much of his talent developed from trial and error in addition
to a great deal of practice.

Donnie appreciates all kinds of music styles, especially sixties
bands such as Led Zeppelin and Foghat, although his favorite is the
Beatles. In high school, Donnie was part of the marching band for a
brief period, as well as participating in the concert band and a few
garage bands. His genuine love of music echoes that of his fellow band
members in that he enjoys performing for audiences and loves the
instrument he plays. “It’s great when you love what you’re doing and
your music makes people feel good.” Like many musicians, Donnie dreams
of travelling with a famous band although performing with Snazzy Red
is gratification enough. “Playing with Snazzy Red is as involved as
I’ve ever been in the music business.”  For young people considering
taking up the drums, Donnie advises, “don’t get discouraged if it
seems like it takes forever to develop skills, be patient and keep
working at it.”

Matthew Colleran, son of the late Tom Colleran, is a quiet young
man who has been playing guitar for twenty years. “My mother’s brother
played the guitar. I kept playing around with it until finally one day
he stared teaching me how to play. I absorbed it like a sponge.”
Matthew enjoys a variety of music styles, although his true passion is
the Blues, drawing inspiration from such greats as Warren Haynes and
Stevie Ray.

Band members are well supported by the women in their lives;
Bonnie, Annabelle, Dee, Brenda, and Sandy. Whether helping behind the
scenes, listening to them play, or picking up the tambourine to jam
alongside the guys, these ladies encourage the bands’ musical
pursuits. Even Donnie’s mother, Ethel, comes out to support her son
and the band, dancing along to the music.

Like a harmonious chord, each member blends a natural love of
music, friendship, and a persistent drive to perfect their craft
leading to their distinctive sound and popularity. “Our audience
members are generally those of the generation who love Classic Rock
but we also have a younger crowd that likes us too. It’s a family
atmosphere. We play good music and entertain without cussing or doing
anything inappropriate. We engage the audience and have a good time.”
Snazzy Red is more than just a classic rock band; it’s the rhythmic
balance of small town ideals, dedication, music, family ties and the
strong bonds of friendship.

story by kim poovey   

 photography by susan deloach

It’s a story that seems made for the silver screen, and its stars, Ron and Rebecca Tucker, cast to stereotype.  Ron is the former Marine, a tall strapping man with a deep voice, a military bearing, and a big smile.  Rebecca has the looks and gentle warmth of the pretty girl next door.  And, together, they are making history in a classic American tale of self-reinvention.  This story is about more than the two of them, though, because it is also about the reinvention of a good idea for their adopted town, and is potentially the revitalization of a once-healthy industry for their state of South Carolina.

The story begins for Ron with his retirement in 1992 from the Marines. He formed a production company called Sandbar Productions, LLC. Ron thought to combine his two passions:  the Marine Corps and, as a long-time movie buff, film production.  When he was in the Marine Corps, he had been a Human Resources, Protocol and Public Relations specialist. All of these specialties would serve him well as he planned a new career. With knowledge that there was a program at Parris Island to videotape recruit graduations, Ron set out to find out all of the particulars, then set his plan in motion. The contract was coming up for bid.  The year was 1994 when he hired two recent graduates from the Savannah College of Art and Design as videographers, then wrote a short script for the required 15 minute demo tape.  A mini-documentary was the result.

His bid was not accepted (this is an American story, after all), but he did get the attention of Trident Productions, a company out of Charleston, whose bid was rejected also. They got together, compared demos, then devised a plan to combine all the “bells and whistles” that Trident could offer with the expert knowledge of Marine Corps training that Ron possessed. They called their joint venture Good-To-Go Video; they would specialize in documentaries about the Marine Corps.    Ron would be the Producer and Writer, and Trident would provide their sophisticated technical knowledge.  Ron says today that it was an inspired combination, “like the clashing of peanut butter and chocolate.”

The fledgling new company called its first effort The Making of a Marine. It was released in 1995. There were very few cable outlets producing documentaries at that time, and their production would become the first commercially available film about Marine Corps recruit training.  They had a niche market, self-distributing the film largely through the Marine Corps Exchange System and through small distributors, “mom & pop” shops, and museums around the world.  This first film was followed by other documentaries:  A Few Good Women shot on location at Parris Island; The Evening Parade, shot at the Marine Corps Barracks at 8th and I Streets in Washington, D.C.; The Sunset Parade, shot at the War Memorial in Arlington, VA; Fierce Pride in Country and Corps, shot in various locations around the country; and The Crucible:  Making Marines for the 21st Century, shot at Parris Island, South Carolina and at San Diego, California.  In 1999, Good to Go Video travelled to Vietnam to work on a documentary about the Battle for Hue City in 1968. It was also in that year that the contract at Parris Island would come open for bid again. This time the bid was accepted and for the next 14 years, until November 2013, more than 600 graduation ceremonies were produced.

In 2001, Rebecca took over the duties of Sales and Marketing for Good-To-Go Video. Armed with an engaging personality and genuine desire to be of help to the visiting Marine families at the Parris Island Visitors Center, she soon was being referred to as the “Parris Island Good-Will Ambassador.”

In 2004, Ron and Rebecca discussed expanding their filmmaking interests to include the rekindling of the once flourishing film industry in the Beaufort area. After all, this was akin to what they were already doing, so they felt they had the expertise to explore opportunities to get the movies back. Beaufort had served as the backdrop for over 20 major motion pictures, but none had been shot in the area since Rules of Engagement in 1999. Soon a plan was developed to approach the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce (BRFC) about establishing a Regional Film Commission. The Chamber Board of Directors agreed that the time was right to revisit filmmaking efforts as an economic stimulator. Ron would serve as the Chairman of a sixteen member board that was comprised of representatives from Beaufort, Hampton, Colleton and Jasper counties.  Also that year, Ron attended Film Commissioner training in Las Vegas that was sanctioned by the Association of Film Commissioners International. It was at this training that Ron got the idea of hosting a film festival to encourage filmmakers to visit the area.  The logic was simple.  Get the filmmakers here, then they’ll fall in love with the place and want to make a movie here.

The plan was set in motion and, under the guidance and financial auspices of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, the first Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF) was held in March 2007. About 500 people showed up to see what it was all about. Not knowing what to expect, the planners were pleased with the turnout.  In 2008 and 2009 the festival continued to grow, reaching about 2500 in attendance.

From the beginning, Ron was adamant that the scope be international, because this would attract the most attention and the most competition among filmmakers.  Beaufort, a town that cares about art and music, was clearly thirsty for this kind of artistic endeavor as well.

In 2009, the Chamber decided to refocus its efforts on supporting small businesses, and, to that end, to get out of the festival planning business.  Rather than a blow, this turned out to be a boon for BIFF.  With approved board recommendation, the authority and responsibilities of BIFF were transferred to Sandbar Productions.  Soon after, Ron and Rebecca realized that, to be successful, the festival was going to need to be operated as a nonprofit organization, so the Beaufort Film Society (BFS) was established as a 501(c)(3) organization, and assumed the responsibilities for the production of BIFF. The BFS is a member-driven organization and offers the community the opportunity to be a part of the effort to enliven, enrich and entertain through the art of filmmaking.

Their first year as an independent entity, they set the bar high with celebrity appearances by Academy Award nominee and best selling author Pat Conroy, as well as Blythe Danner and Michael O’Keefe, stars of the movie The Great Santini.  Not only did their presence attract audiences, it also attracted more budding filmmakers.  With names like these, the BIFF had to be taken seriously. Other celebrities appearing at BIFF have included actor Tom Berenger, Academy Award winning film editor Arthur Schmidt, Oscar nominee film editor Craig McKay, Oscar winning Sound Designer Eugene Gearty, Producer/Director Mike Tollin and Emmy winning character actor Powers Boothe.  In 2013 BIFF was named one of the Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World by MovieMaker Magazine.  Year nine offers to be possibly the best year yet, with Actress/Model Andie MacDowell to receive the inaugural Spirit & Pride of South Carolina Award and more filmmakers than ever before coming to experience the red carpet treatment at what many have called the fastest growing film festival in the southeast.

The ability to attract big stars and the up and coming filmmakers of tomorrow is not a full measure of the BIFF’s success, though.  The real secret is the involvement of the community, as both Ron and Rebecca are quick to point out.  This Festival has been taken to Beaufort’s heart and the100 plus volunteers who help each year are a major part of it. From the 500 attending the first festival to the nearly 8000 attending this small gem of a festival last year, there seems to be no limit to how much this major international event in a town of less than 13,000 can grow. With Ron and Rebecca Tucker at the helm, we best just grab the side rails and hang on for the ride.

 

Story by KATHERINE LANG

Photography by SUSAN DELOACH

“Leonardo Da Vinci is a role model of mine because he was the original Renaissance man who was both intuitive and technical, and became a successful painter, engineer, and performer. ” 

 

A man of extensive talents, and a Renaissance man himself, Christopher (known as Topher) Maraffi, hit the ground running when he came to Beaufort in August of 2014 to teach at USCB. Having grown up in Charlotte NC, Topher vacationed in Hilton Head as a child so when he heard that USCB was looking for an instructor in Digital Art and New Media, he already knew he loved this part of the country.

“My family vacationed in Hilton Head throughout my high school years, and several relatives were married there since then. After living all over the country in big cities, I wanted to be closer to the family I still have living in Rock Hill SC, so it was like coming home again to move back to this region.”

Educator, fine arts painter, author, animator, performer, mime, and dance teacher are just some of the metaphorical hats that Topher wears. As Assistant Professor of Media Arts at USCB, he has a vision and a game plan that is sure to set the University on fire. A digital animation instructor, one of his many goals is to introduce digital filmmaking as part of a new Media Arts track he is developing for the Studio Arts program. “When I came to interview with USCB last February, I was charmed by the Southern hospitality, and the relaxed small town atmosphere of historic Beaufort. I also saw how much potential there is for growth here; the Studio Arts department is small and the faculty and administrators are open to new ideas. During my visit, I was able to have lengthy talks about how a Media Arts curriculum would be the best thing for growing the program and for student career opportunities. It became apparent that I would have a greater impact here than at some of the other larger universities I interviewed with. So when they made me an offer, I jumped on it.

“My first semester I was able to teach a new 3D animation class, and this semester I am teaching a new video game design class, in addition to graphic design classes already in the curriculum. As a bonus, I’m also getting to teach outreach classes that feature painting, drawing and collage, so I get to return to my fine art roots a bit.” The beauty of studying 3D animation and video game design is, “The interactive entertainment industry is exploding, so teaching USCB students how to apply their art skills to popular media is going to give them many more job opportunities.”

When he came to Beaufort to interview for the position at USCB during the 2014 Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), Topher saw a good fit for the Media Arts at USCB. He and Ron Tucker have discussed the possibility of an intern program with Beaufort Film Society. “Part of my plan was to get myself and my students involved.” And get involved he did, he is this years BIFF judge for the animation film category. Topher also debuted on the USCB Center for the Arts (CFA) stage in Miracle in Bedford Falls this past December, playing the part of Mr. Carter, the bank examiner. “I was asked to fill in for the part, and I was hooked. The cast and crew were great; although mine wasn’t a big part, I had fun doing some pantomime and spoke my first acting lines since I was in drama back in high school. I plan to get more involved in future productions at CFA, both on and off the stage.”

Topher graduated from UNC in Charlotte in the mid-90’s with a Bachelors of Creative Arts degree in fine arts painting. In his last semester, he took a course in computer graphics and it opened his eyes to how he could use his fine arts skills in the real world. He started working for NBC Newschannel in Charlotte and transferred to CNBC in New York, then to NBC in Rockefeller Center. There, he worked on show titles and motion graphics, and got to do visual effects on the Woody Allen film Everyone Says I Love You, and the title animation for the movie First Wives Club. Freelance work followed along with becoming an adjunct teacher and certified 3-D Animation trainer at Parsons School of Design, School of Visual Arts, New York University and New York Institute of Technology.

After he stopped working in production, Topher continued teaching in New York until he moved to San Francisco, where he taught at Mesmer Animation Labs and the Academy of Art. From San Francisco, Topher moved to Winter Park Florida in 2000, where he was the Course Director of the technical animation classes at Full Sail University until 2007. “Full Sail was a very production oriented school like Savannah College of Art and Design. I taught upwards of 90 students in my character modeling and rigging classes, which were the most technically challenging classes in the 3D animation program. One of the things I like about USCB is how small our classes in the Studio Arts program are, so we can give our students more personal attention in class.” During that time, Topher also wrote three technical books: Softimage/XSI Character Animation f/x & Design, Maya Character Creation – Modeling and Animation Controls, and MEL Scripting a Character Rig in Maya. All three books were on Walt Disney Animation Studios suggested reading list.

In 2008, the University of California Santa Cruz beckoned to him and in June of 2010 he completed a Digital Arts and New Media MFA at UCSC and a Masters degree in Computer Science. “I went back to school to create a holistic balance between my artistic and technical interests, which culminated in my performatology research that combines dance, animation, and interactive media.” If you go to his website, www.chrismaraffi.com, you can watch clips of two performances, The Magic Mirror Game and The Avatar Dance, from his thesis, Mimesis and Mocap, which he describes as “ a cross-disciplinary performance study in creating expressive and improvisational interaction between human performers and 3D characters, using motion capture technology, in a shared performance space.” While working on his Computer Science degree at UCSC, he started teaching video game design to gifted high school students in their COSMOS summer school program. “I have been working with USCB instructor Joanna Angel to develop plans for a similar program here, so that we can start recruiting high school students in the region to come learn media arts at USCB.”

One of the concepts to which Topher refers is the word performatology:  “Computational aesthetic studies on artistic gesture data to formalize figure composition procedures that will enhance interactive media.” Or, as he explained it more simply, “All the rules and techniques of the visual and performing arts boil down to one thing… catching and holding people’s attention for long enough to send them a message. My performatology research uses computer science to try and understand how artists do that, so that we can formalize that process. One of the new classes we are currently developing is called Performative Media, where students will use video game technology to apply performatology research to live theater that we stage here at USCB. We hope to cross-list classes like this with the Computational Science department, so that we can bring art and science students together to collaborate on interactive media projects.”

Now, if all this genius bundled into one brain isn’t enough, let me assure you – there is more. In addition to teaching computer graphics, Topher has taught martial arts and social dance. He became interested in the martial arts at eight years old after watching the TV show Kung Fu in the 1970s. His mother took him to the local YMCA where he learned Kung Fu and Jeet Kune Do. He later was certified as an instructor of Filipino and Indonesian martial arts, and taught in New York and Orlando. He followed Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do philosophy of taking whatever style is useful and fusing them into your own personal style. Eventually, he explains, he gave up teaching martial arts and channeled his energy into dance. He says, “Social dancing works a lot of the same attributes as the martial arts, but you get hurt a lot less when practicing. And you get the added bonus of playing with the ladies, which is a big plus. I met my fiancée at a Swing dance where we later became teaching partners.” Topher and his fiancée, Gina Taramasso, have more in common than dance; they are also both graduates of Computer Science at UCSC, and love to ride bikes on Spanish Moss Trail.

In Florida, Topher got serious about dancing after taking a Lindy Hop dance class. “Lindy Hop is the original granddaddy of all other Swing dances, emerging from Harlem in the 1930s, and sometimes called Jitterbug. I started learning right at the end of the 1990s Swing revival that started with the Gap commercial that was popular at the time. In Orlando, we had world-class swing bands coming to City Jazz in Universal Studios every week.” He had studied theater arts as a child and in high school, and had enjoyed break dancing, pantomime, and juggling; all of which he has incorporated into performances since. He began teaching Lindy Hop and Argentine Tango in a downtown Orlando club, and later in the Santa Cruz Palomar Ballroom, although he is quick to point out, neither Lindy Hop nor Argentine Tango are ballroom dances, but instead are vernacular, or street, dances. “The ballroom versions of these dances are very different than the original versions, because they were simplified to make them easier to learn. But the street dances are quite complex, and take years to master. They have dedicated clubs and competitions all over the country that are completely separate from the ballroom circuit, just like Carolina Shag here in the Low Country.”

Topher applied the same effort to dance as he did to martial arts training, and eventually fused his two favorite dances Swing and Tango into Swango. With his sense of creativity running full speed ahead, Topher became a principal developer of the Swango fusion style of dance as well as a founder of the Orlando Blues dance fusion scene from 2003 – 2008. “When I was developing Swango back in

2003, fusion dancing was new. Now there are fusion events and competitions all over the country.” He and his former partner, Jessica Helmer, made a popular YouTube video – Swango Blues Fundamentals. And when Topher moved back to California, he and his former partner, Lynne Carol, taught Argentine Tango and Swango in downtown Santa Cruz and as well as making several videos.

Serious, studious, and with mathematical precision, Topher still teaches Swing, Argentine Tango, and Swango in the Revolution Ballroom here in Beaufort with studio owner, Marcia Mitchell. In addition to teaching dance, he’s also learning the Carolina Shag. “I recently joined the Carolina Shag Club, and when my fiancée Gina visits in February, I’m going to take her shagging.” Speaking of his fiancée, he gave us an exclusive that BIFF is not the only big event he will be attending the second week of February. “We plan on getting married in Beaufort on Valentines Day, which also happens to coincide with the BIFF awards ceremony this year. It’s going to be an exciting day!”

 

Story by MARY ELLEN THOMPSON Photography by JOHN WOLLWERTH

 

“I love the concept of introducing kids to filmmaking.”

 

 

Many children know their life’s ambition at an early age, but for Rob Lewis the answer would not be apparent until college. Born and raised in the sultry city of Charleston, South Carolina, Rob had no idea the scenery of his childhood would someday set the stage for his future career. However, one of the catalysts for his occupational pursuits would be the 1984 film, Amadeus directed by Milos Forman. “It was a great movie and got me interested in classical music as well as movies.”

His collegiate aspirations began at the College of Charleston where he would eventually earn his degree in the field of Communication. Although enjoying his studies, Rob still felt something was missing. Enrolling in a film class at Trident Technical College, also located in Charleston, his occupational role came into focus. Gaining most of his technical experience from classes at Trident Tech, his transition to film production was natural. “It was wonderful. I learned so much about animation, lighting, and

cinematography. You would swipe your student ID card and have access to all kinds of high tech equipment.” It was at this point Rob started making movies with friends. “We’d take a weekend and make a short movie. It was fun working with people who held similar interests.”  Guided by John Barnhardt, Rob’s abilities flourished. “He was my professional mentor. He shared techniques and helped me when I was starting in the field.”

Shortly after graduating from college, Rob was hired as a news photographer at WCIV-ABC Channel 4 News in Charleston. From there he would go on to work at ETV station WRET in Spartanburg before transferring to an affiliate station in Beaufort, SC. Returning to the coastal roots of his childhood, Rob’s twelve years’ of experience landed him the job of Broadcast Specialist/Producer/Director at The County Channel, Hargray channel 9.

The County Channel, a branch of Beaufort County Government, televises local government sessions providing access to those unable to attend in person. But the station offers more than just governmental meetings. “The County Channel provides TV programming worth watching, it’s educational and serves a purpose.” Broadcast Manager Scott Grooms is very supportive allowing the station to “extend its purpose to entertainment with a benefit.”

Rob’s love of nature would take the spotlight in his main project, Coastal Kingdom. “It’s a great opportunity to do what I love. I grew up watching Nature Scene with Rudy Mancke. I actually got to meet him when I was younger and he had a great impact on me. I always wanted to do a nature show.” When Rob presented the idea to The County Channel the response was favorable, planting the seed for success. “And it’s grown from there.”

Tony Mills and Dr. Chris Marsh, Naturalists for the Lowcountry Institute on Spring Island, partner with Rob in the production of the show. They provide support in obtaining grants, assisting with information, supplying equipment, and Tony hosts each episode. Rob takes part in all aspects of production such as editing, filming, and shooting. With fifteen episodes already created he looks forward to future productions. Although pleased with each one, his favorite was a recent segment, Backyard Wildlife. “I like it because it’s got lots of macro stuff like snails, snakes, butterflies, and other things that make nature work.” Coastal Kingdom airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM on channel 9 and has been syndicated, airing on ETV every Friday at 7:30 PM.  The show’s aim is not only entertainment but education as well. Clips from the show are available online, providing pertinent information for classroom Science lessons.

Rob’s introduction to Tony Mills was serendipitous. Years ago, Rob and his wife donated an aquarium to a school science teacher, Kathryn (now Tony’s wife). Tony helped Rob situate the aquarium in the classroom when they struck up a conversation about their personal ideas for a local nature program and thus Coastal Kingdom was born. “I admire Tony. He is an amazing naturalist with a wealth of knowledge, and a natural on camera.”

The abundant wildlife and ecological treasures of the Lowcountry allow the entire show to be filmed and produced locally. “All of the work is done here, from the Ace Basin to Savannah.” Thus far Coastal Kingdom has been nominated for two Emmys and has won several Telly awards.

But not everything behind the scenes goes as smoothly as the finished product appears. “I was filming a night episode of Coastal Kingdom with Tony. The segment was about snakes so we drove up and down a dirt road looking for them. Once a snake was spotted, the plan was for Tony to hop out of the truck, I would toss him the flashlight so he could illuminate the snake, and then I’d begin filming. It was all supposed to happen in one smooth motion. When a snake finally appeared, he jumped from the truck and I tossed the light, which hurled end over end. Unfortunately he didn’t catch it and it smacked him right in the face. We had to stop everything to tend to his bloody nose before resuming filming.”

Another production employing Rob’s talents is the web series, Night Skies Over Beaufort County. An Interstitial (small clips shown between programming in place of commercials), which can also be viewed online, the series presents sessions on all aspects of astronomy. Every detail was meticulously addressed, right down to the music. “I always remembered a tune that my band director in high school had composed. When I needed music for the series I contacted him and got permission to use it. It provided the perfect background music for the show.”

Each year, Rob takes part in the ‘48 Hour Film Project’ in Savannah. “You participate in groups and start by drawing a genre from a hat. Everyone gets the same elements to work with. We have forty-eight hours to write, film and edit. The first year we drew Fantasy and last year was Creature Feature. It’s hard work but a lot of fun.” The event inspired Rob to develop a similar formula for a kid’s summer camp hosted last summer by the Sea Island School for Arts and Academics. The weeklong camp began much like the 48 Hour Film Project. Students drew a genre from a hat and had a set of elements with which to work. They developed a script and filmed it. At the end of the week, the finished project was shared with fellow attendees and their families. “I love the concept of introducing kids to filmmaking. It’s wonderful when they put it all together and learn why we do things in a particular order. They don’t understand the reasons behind the methods or the order in which scenes are shot until they view the finished product and you see the ‘aha’ moment as it clicks with them.”

Sitting upon a shelf in Rob’s office is his favorite book Camera Man’s Journey; Julian Dimock’s South. The pictorial tome hosts an array of early twentieth century photographs taken at a time when photographic equipment was in its fledgling state. “I often look through the book for inspiration.” When asked about his favorite movies, he smiled and pointed to a series of movie posters on his office wall. “I enjoy movies directed by Wes Anderson, my favorite is Rushmore (1998). Another favorite of mine is There Will Be Blood directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (2007).”

Rob lives with his wife of six years, Beth, and their son, Benjamin, and have another child on the way. On the rare occasion when Rob is not trudging through the Lowcountry landscape in search of nature’s treasures or mentoring kids in film

production, he enjoys reading a favorite book, The Very Clumsy Clickbeetle by Eric Carle, to his son. Rob’s passion for filmmaking is evident in his work as well as his community involvement as he shares his film expertise with burgeoning film protégés. Without a doubt, Rob Lewis is a natural filmmaker whose cinematic talents will be an inspiration for generations to come.

For more information or to view episodes of Coastal Kingdom and Night Skies Over Beaufort, visit coastalkingdom.com or http://www.bcgov.net/County-Projects/night-skies/index.php

 

Story by Kim Poovey

Photography by PAUL NURNBERG

 

“If you do it, do it right. You gotta like what you’re doing.”

Dave Robles, USMC retired

 

Rippling waves caressing sparkling white sand, dolphins frolicking beneath the glow of a setting sun, Spanish moss billowing from ancient oaks; these scenes make the Lowcountry special as well as a haven for film production. The picturesque landscape not only attracts filmmakers but people from across the country, and around the world, especially military retirees.  After serving in the United States Marine Corps for thirty plus years, Dave Robles retired to Beaufort. On the other side of the Parris Island Bridge, not far from where his military career began, Dave greets customers of all ages who enter his shop, Der Teufelhund, German for Devil Dog. The name was given to the Marines during WWI by the Germans after the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 due to the ferocity of their fighting. Dealing in military uniforms and paraphernalia for twenty-one years, Dave not only has a rich military service but a dramatic side as well.

Growing up in the small town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, one of twelve siblings, Dave’s enlistment in the Marine Corps was purely happenstance. “It was a fluke. I was standing on the street corner with three of my friends, it’s what you did in New Jersey, when we noticed a sign for free coffee and donuts at the recruiting station. We walked the few blocks and went in. Each of my friends joined the Army, Navy, and Air Force, which left the Marine Corps for me.” Dave graduated from the Marine Corps Training Depot at Parris Island in 1958. From there, he served in the Cuban Crisis in 1962, followed by two tours in Vietnam. After retiring as a Sergeant Major in 1988, Dave was recalled, one of five people in the state of South Carolina, to serve in Desert Storm in 1991. Little did he know the real life drama he lived as a Marine would someday morph into on-screen and reenactment drama in his civilian life.

Engrossed in Marine Corps history, Dave began collecting vintage Marine uniforms and memorabilia. Forty years later he has amassed an extensive collection of vintage and antique artifacts, beginning with “an old model 37 barracks cap emblem.” His favorite piece in the collection is a circa 1900 dress blue uniform. “I used to fit into it but not now,” he chuckles. Much of the collection was obtained from military and collector shows around the country, although his preferred venue was the ‘The Great Western’ in California.

Years later his treasure trove of Marine Corps history would bring Hollywood and documentary directors to Dave’s door in search of vintage uniforms for on-screen footage. Pieces of his collection have been seen in such films as The General’s Daughter (1999) with John Travolta. “They needed hundreds of uniforms and boots.” Other movies utilizing items include, Forrest Gump (1994), GI Jane (1997) starring Demi Moore, and Rules of Engagement (2000).

However, the Hollywood connection did not end there. Dave was an extra in two locally filmed movies. The first of his cinematic experiences was the 1989 TV movie, Night Walk, starring Robert Urich and Leslie-Ann Downes filmed in downtown Beaufort. Dave also appeared as an extra in the major motion picture, Rules of Engagement, co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. When asked about his favorite aspect of working on-set, he responded with a broad smile, “the food.” Dave’s most recent encounter with film was an interview for an upcoming documentary commemorating the centennial celebration of the Marine Corps Training Depot at Parris Island.

Dave’s dramatic endeavors extend beyond the movie screen. “I participated in a play with the Beaufort Little Theater in the early 1990s when I was working on my degree in Anthropology at USCB. The professor said he would give an ‘A’ to anyone who took part in the theater production. Although I acted in the play I didn’t receive an ‘A’ which upset me. When I asked the professor why I didn’t get an ‘A’ he said he didn’t like my acting!”

Years ago, while working part-time at the Parris Island museum, Dave and three other gentlemen accepted an invitation to participate in a weekend of WWII reenacting in Reading, Pennsylvania.  The “Living History Detachment,” partially funded by the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society of which Dave was founding President, journeys north annually. “We participate in a weekend long event that transports us back in time to 1945.” Vintage and reproduction pieces are used to recreate an accurate portrayal and presentation. “It’s an amazing experience with period correct vehicles, bicycles, uniforms, camping equipment, weapons, music, food, even the soda cans are authentic. Last year there were 10,000 spectators with thousands of reenactors presenting one of the WWII battles.” Of course, Dave’s portrayal is that of a Marine.

“For anyone interested in joining the hobby you need to save your money. Period correct attire and equipment can be very expensive. If you do it, do it right. You gotta like what you’re doing. I enjoy meeting people, it’s all worth it.” Dave’s eyes sparkled as he described camping with the Pacific Theater group in 1945 style. “The battle is followed by the flag raising of Mt. Suribachi. It’s a moving experience.” Some of the young reenactors have been inspired to join the Marine Corps after speaking with Dave. “I encourage them and then I attend their graduations at Parris Island.”

Another avenue of historic reenacting is his portrayal of a Vietnam Marine for recruits on Parris Island as part of the Crucible training. The recitation enacts the various eras of USMC battle history. “It brings the pride of our history to life for the recruits and touches them deeply, bringing some to tears.”

When not working in his shop, or participating in film or reenacting activities, Dave enjoys reading the classics, such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Grapes of Wrath. His favorite film, not surprisingly, is the 1949 movie starring John Wayne, Sands of Iwo Jima. He reveres the acting talents of Robert Duvall and, in addition to military movies, enjoys suspense and detective genres.

Dave lives with his wife and their dog, a well-loved Australian Shepard mix. Of his seven children, his eldest daughter served in the Navy and his oldest grandson recently graduated from USMC boot camp in San Diego. Dave’s younger brother also served in the Marine Corps, attending boot camp at Parris Island when Dave was a Drill Instructor there. “He followed in my footsteps, I challenged him.”

Dave’s work ethic, ambition to learn new things, and community presence is evident.  “I would like more experience with film as I consider it a challenge.” He continues to serve the community by sharing displays and his love of military history with students at area schools.  Dave’s motto is a simple, but powerful sentiment, speaking to his strong sense of duty to country and community. “Semper Paratus, Semper Fidelis. Always ready, always faithful.”

Dave welcomes anyone interested in WWII reenacting to contact him at his shop, Der Teufelhund, at 843-521-9017 for more information.

 

Story by Kim Poovey

Photography by JOHN WOLLWERTH

 

 

Celebrities and filmmakers walking the red carpet surrounded by flashing cameras; awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor and Actress being presented to elated winners in a packed theater; gala parties with crowds mingling and enjoying scrumptious
food and champagne—is this Hollywood or Cannes?  Guess again—this is Beaufort!
Between Charleston and Savannah along South Carolina’s coast, the small town of Beaufort may seem like an unlikely venue for an international film festival, but Beaufort is fertile ground for cinema and the arts. Forrest Gump, The Big Chill, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and Forces of Nature are just a few of the many major motion pictures filmed in and around Beaufort in recent years. Since 2007, the Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), the brainchild and passion of founders Ron and Rebecca Tucker, has recognized aspiring filmmakers in all categories of cinematography.
This year, the 9th annual BIFF will be held February 11 – 15 at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort (USCB) Center for the Arts. Considered one of the fastest growing film festivals in the southeast, it was named one of the Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World in 2013 by MovieMaker Magazine. The 2015 festival will showcase 32 independent films and seven screenplays chosen from a field of international entries—coming from places as far-flung as Rome, London, Toronto, Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and as nearby as Savannah, Columbia, Greenville, Charleston and St. Helena Island.
Among this year’s selections are some films that will be South Carolina premiers. “We’ve had a film premier and win here, then go on to screen at the Cannes Film Festival!” exclaims Ron. The 32 films to be screened at this year’s festival represent diverse storylines; here’s just a sampling:
• The Lengths, a feature film — “… It’s a love triangle turned emotional horror story.”
• Cotton Road, a documentary —  “… Cotton Road follows the commodity of cotton from South Carolina farms to Chinese factories, to illuminate the work and processes in a global supply chain.”
• In an Ideal World, a documentary — “Follow three men over seven years inside a California prison as they struggle to survive and change, themselves as well as their brutal environment…”
• Grounded, an animation — “The story of a baby elephant who wants to jump like the other animals—the only problem is elephants are the only mammals who cannot (jump).”
Visit the Beaufort International Film Festival website (www.beaufortfilmfestival.com) to view the 2015 film screening schedule, read synopses of the films, and watch trailers for many of this year’s selections.

BIFF Festivities

An opening-night reception at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop on Wednesday, February 11 will welcome filmmakers who attend the 2015 festival. The event will be a great opportunity for festivalgoers to meet the featured filmmakers and to socialize, amidst the backdrop of a garden party in the Old South, complete with hanging moss, benches and rockers.
On Thursday, February 12, a wine and cheese reception will be held at 7 p.m. at the USCB Center for the Arts before a Screenwriters Workshop and Table Read begins at 7:30 p.m. Those who attend will hear local actors read selected passages from several screenplays featured at the film festival.
On Saturday, February 14, the final evening of the festival, a star-studded cocktail hour at the USCB Center for the Arts will precede the much anticipated awards ceremony. Guests will enjoy champagne and delicious food by local chef Debbi Covington, while mingling with filmmakers, celebrities, and stars including Andie MacDowell and Pat Conroy. If history repeats itself, you may even see Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler at the soiree!
This year, award categories include Features, Documentaries, Short Films, Student Films, Screenplays, Animation, and Audience Choice. And for the first time, an award will be presented for Best Comedy. “Seven comedies will be screened at this year’s festival and everyone—including Rebecca and I—will be waiting to learn which film wins the award. That’s because the Best Comedy will be determined by the votes of audience members who attend the comedy screenings,” says Ron. At the awards ceremony, winners also will be named for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director, and two special awards will be presented—the Spirit & Pride of South Carolina and Behind the Scenes awards.

Spirit & Pride of South Carolina Award

“We are thrilled and honored to announce that movie and television star, model and native South Carolinian Andie MacDowell will be the first recipient of the newly established Spirit & Pride of South Carolina Award at the 9th annual Beaufort International Film Festival,” beams Ron. Ms. MacDowell, originally from Gaffney, S.C., will receive the award from internationally recognized best-selling author and Beaufort resident Pat Conroy. This new award recognizes a person who is native to, or who is a current resident of South Carolina and whose career achievements in the industries of film, television or music reflect positively on themselves and the state of South Carolina. Among Ms. MacDowell’s film credits are: Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Short Cuts, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Ground Hog Day.

Behind the Scenes Award

This year’s Behind the Scenes Award in Location Management will be presented to Steve Rhea, a native of Charleston, S.C. who earned a B.A. in History and a Master of Media Arts degree from the University of South Carolina. His career as a location professional spans four decades and includes more than two-dozen feature films and television movies, along with hundreds of national and international commercials and photo shoots. “Steve Rhea is best known as a feature location scout and manager whose artistic vision and intimate knowledge of the historic locales of Charleston have earned him international accolades. His lasting legacy, though, could well be his contributions to establishing a dynamic film industry in South Carolina and helping to make the state a film production center with an international reputation for excellence. He’s worked to achieve this by drawing attention to South Carolina’s talented crew base and emerging vendors, while actively recruiting and producing commercials, music videos, documentaries and catalogs,” says Ron.

A Winning Formula

The success of BIFF is not due to glitz and glamor. Ron attributes the popularity and growth of the festival to its reputation among the filmmaking community and fans.
“Filmmakers and movie fans tell us they really like the format of our festival because all of the films are screened under one roof at the USCB Center for the Arts—not at several venues like many other festivals,” Ron says. “That gives filmmakers and audiences the opportunity to see every film being presented at the festival—there’s no conflict among the various screenings. Being in one place also allows filmmakers to network with each other
and audiences, and to see their competitors’ films.”
“Our film festival offers other advantages that the filmmakers and audiences appreciate. For instance, we begin screenings of films exactly when the printed schedule says they will begin and after each screening, the filmmaker is allotted 15 minutes to interact with the audience during a question and answer session,” explains Ron.
While the number of films submitted for consideration each year has remained fairly constant at between 130 and 200, Ron says due to the growing popularity of the festival, the quality of films submitted has continually gotten higher. At the Beaufort International Film Festival, you’ll experience a diverse array of well made, thought provoking, and entertaining films and you’ll meet some filmmakers that you might not have heard about yet—but you will be hearing about them in the years to come!

2015 Beaufort International Film Festival Schedule of Events

• Wednesday, February 11: Filmmakers Opening Night Reception, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop.
• Thursday, February 12: Film screenings take place between 9 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., when the last film will begin. Wine and Cheese Reception at the USCB Center for the Arts at 7 p.m., followed by a Screenwriters Workshop and Table Read at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, February 13: Film screenings begin at 9 a.m., with the final film starting at 9 p.m.
• Saturday, February 14: Film screenings begin at 9 a.m., with the final film starting at 2:10 p.m. Awards Ceremony Cocktail Hour at 7 p.m. at USCB Center for the Arts  (Champagne included; catered by Debbi Covington). Awards Presentation at 8 p.m. Film Festival Tickets and Beaufort Film Society Membership

You have several choices to purchase your 2015 film festival tickets (all event passes, day passes, and single film tickets, as well as special event tickets):

• Online at the BIFF website (www.beaufortfilmfestival.com)
• At Beaufort Film Society’s office located at 308 Charles St., Beaufort, S.C.,
• At the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, 713 Craven St., Beaufort, S.C.
• At the door

Joining the Beaufort Film Society (www.beaufortfilmsociety.org) has several benefits—you’ll be supporting the Beaufort International Film Festival, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; you’ll receive discounts on your film festival tickets; and you’ll enjoy discounted ticket prices to movies at the Plaza Stadium Theater in Beaufort.

 

Story by CAROL LAUVRAY

“Let your deeds be your adornment.”

– Victoria Smalls

Amid the whispering leaves of ancient oaks and billowing Spanish moss, an elegant woman with dark eyes and graceful stature strolls across the sacred grounds of Penn Center. Victoria Smalls, Director of History, Art and Culture is deeply rooted in the historic site. Born on St. Helena Island in 1970 to Elting B. and Laura Markovich Smalls, the first interracial couple on the island, Victoria lived a life of felicity and bliss in the midst of the Gullah culture. It would be years before her connection to Penn Center would come full circle.

Her father, a towering 6’6” charismatic man with a deep bass voice, met her mother during a Bahai conference at Penn Center in the 1960s. The Bahai Faith is a world religion that believes all religions, races, and people come from one God. Having graduated from Penn School in 1943, her father was a well-respected, beloved member of the Gullah community. Her mother, Laura, was a homemaker from Michigan who loved to paint with pastels. Due to the illegality of interracial marriages in South Carolina at the time, the couple married in Michigan. The newly blended family consisted of Laura’s four children and Elting’s six children, and would eventually grow to 18 children. Settling on St. Helena Island in the Tom Fripp community, Victoria’s upbringing was wrapped in layers of love like an old quilt. Despite the racial blending of the family, in an era where such unions were not overtly accepted, the Gullah community welcomed them with open arms.

Victoria’s exposure to the Gullah language from island residents and St. Helena Elementary school resulted in bilingualism. However, she soon sought to extinguish her vernacular when laughed at by some children while shopping in Beaufort. Her efforts to curtail her linguistic differences resulted in a stutter and a more subdued nature in an effort to hide her impediment.

But the wisdom of a respected Gullah community member, Mr. Gregory, a.k.a. ‘Buzzy,’ would ameliorate the situation. Immediately recognizing her problem, he offered young Victoria guidance. “You know you can get rid of that.” Continuing with sensitivity and compassion, “Think about what you will say before you say it. Sing your words.” Instantly she understood, and in less than a year, her speech was corrected.

Victoria attended South Carolina State University and University of South Carolina-Beaufort with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. As an artist, she painted and worked at The Red Piano Too art gallery with Mary Mack and hoped one day to own an art gallery featuring Gullah artisans. Nevertheless, fate would intervene. One afternoon as Victoria volunteered at Penn Center, she stood on the historic grounds glancing around and simply said, “Penn Center needs me.” Not long after she became Director of History, Art and Culture. “It was as if those who had gone before me heard my words. The words were so powerful it brought me to where I am.” She was finally home.

An American treasure, Penn School/Center was established more than 150 years ago to educate newly freed African Americans. Its rich history has very distinctive doctrines such as spirituality, strong character development, and learning a trade in order to compete on a national level. The school’s combination of academic advancement with the development of an industrial trade was very successful. The third component for self-sufficiency was land ownership, a philosophy many on the island embraced.

Victoria’s three children continue the Gullah legacy. Her eldest son, Christopher, a recent graduate of Winthrop College with a degree in Fine Arts, is a talented artist like his mother and grandmother before him. Her second son, Julian, a gifted student and talented football player, was “too rare and too beautiful for this world to keep.” Nine-year-old daughter, Layla, is vivacious and artistic, having already sold a piece of her art to an NFL player in Florida. Layla embodies all the love, compassion, and energy of her ancestry and will no doubt carry on family traditions.

Victoria shared fond memories of growing up on a farm in the Tom Fripp community. Whether playing with her siblings in the fields, picking blackberries for homemade cobbler, or fishing with her father in the ‘bateau,’ her childhood was charmed. “We harvested snap beans, peanuts, yams, watermelon, greens, tomatoes, cucumber, and lettuce. Mom blended warm bacon grease and crumpled bacon with lemon and poured it over salad. The greens would wilt ever so slightly from the heat and it was delicious.” With a glint in her eyes, she continued, “we shucked corn, ate half the blackberries we gathered before they made it to the cobbler, climbed trees to get pears for preserves, and had dirt fights in freshly plowed fields.”

In addition to the daily joys of growing up on St. Helena Island, Victoria also cherished many holiday traditions celebrated in the Gullah community. Although her family was of the Bahai Faith they participated in many festivities such as the annual Christmas tree lighting held at the Green, now known as MLK Park. Each year residents gathered to welcome the Christmas season with the lighting of the tree. Victoria and her family would pile into their green station wagon and drive to the park. Victoria watched intently as they approached hoping to catch a glimpse of the glowing lights even though the tree had yet to be lit. Attendees gathered about the tree singing Christmas carols and then as if by magic, the lights flickered on.

Another special event was the Mystery Play, a live Nativity scene, held annually at Penn Center since its inception in 1862. On the third Sunday of December, locals gathered to attend the Holy drama. Over the years members of Victoria’s family, from her father to her siblings to her son, have participated.

The Watch Night celebration commemorated the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Beginning at 11:00 pm on December 31st, the service welcomed in the New Year with prayers, the singing of spirituals and the recitation of the Emancipation Proclamation honoring those who struggled and perished for freedom. Although initially held on the Penn Center campus, Watch Night services are now hosted at local churches to better accommodate attendees.

Other customs included Christmas caroling and the giving of gifts wrapped in cloth.  “Miss Gracie Reddecks used to give gifts of preserves or walnuts wrapped in cloth, a Gullah tradition. The fabric wrapping could then be used in a quilt or other sewing project.”

Gullah festivities were not limited to the Christmas season. Victoria has fond memories of Labor Day celebrations at The Green/MLK Park. Akin to a community fair, many congregated to sell produce, canned goods and hand-made items as well as participating in games and competitions such as checkers, ring toss, horseshoes and the greased pole climb. For years she watched boys endeavor to scale the slick surface to obtain the cash prize at the top. With her tomboyish nature, Victoria would not be overlooked. One year she entered the competition, winning the five-dollar prize, proudly beating all of the boys. Penn Center now hosts the annual event which includes a fish fry, music and traditional games. Sadly, the greased pole competition is no longer offered.

Working at Penn Center allows Victoria access to many historic documents and journals including one with signatures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young during the Civil Rights Movement. On the next page of the same journal she discovered signatures of those attending a Bahai conference in the late 1960s. One signature of great importance caught her attention, ‘Laura Markovich and her children.’ The inception of Victoria’s existence appeared in print before her very eyes. A photo of her father in his Penn School basketball uniform hangs in the museum providing her “with a wonderful sense of place.”

Victoria’s passion for Penn Center and the Gullah culture is evident. “No formal education could prepare me to be at Penn Center but my cultural upbringing and love of Gullah art and traditions did. The food, working the farm, fishing in the creek, getting hit in the head with a casting net, climbing pear trees, and picking blackberries; all these things prepared me to be in this place at this time. Penn Center was my playground. “

Victoria’s dream is for the Gullah language and customs to be taught in schools and universities around the world and that the words “I am Gullah Geechee” bring an enormous sense of pride. When asked what she loves most about her job, the reply was straightforward, “I get to share my love of the culture and my inner ‘Gullah Girl’ with the rest of the world.” Victoria’s passion for her island, community and family is unmistakable assuring that the Gullah legacy will live on.

Story by KIM POOVEY

Photography by PAUL NURNBERG

 

When the Gullah Kinfolk get together to practice, it’s a family reunion, a prayer meeting, a celebration, and a very serious commitment to their art, all at once. They arrive after a full day’s work, after dinner, and after dark.  At 7:30 on Monday nights, they travel out Route 21 to gather at New Covenant Fellowship Ministries, just off Shanklin Road.  One member comes from Savannah; another from Point South.  They are there to prepare for their annual Christmas show with their Director, Anita Prather, or as you may know her, Aunt Pearlie Sue.

This really is a family reunion, for many of the group are related to each other, and those who aren’t related by blood might as well be, because their bonds are strong and long-standing. Some are cousins: Larry Singleton’s grandmother was Anita Prather’s grandmother’s sister, for instance. Rehearsal is not only serious business, but it is also a time to catch up with each other’s news and watch each other’s children grow up.   For the youngest children, like Jakai, aged five, it is a time to play, until admonished to be still, which amazingly seems to work.  In time, Jakai, like others who grew up as children of the Gullah Kinfolk,  will become a full-fledged member of the flock.

And it really is a prayer meeting, because these singers pair their commitment to the presentation of their Gullah heritage with their faith in God and a desire to praise him, and the songs they sing reflect that.  Most have learned to sing in church choirs, and the level of talent and professionalism is very high.  At a recent practice, tenor Larry Singleton was fighting bronchitis, yet when he began to sing a cappella, no one who didn’t know him would have been able to tell. That night, as at other practices, they would rehearse until ten p.m. or later.  It was apparent that a second wind was provided by the joy of being together, doing what they do so well.  Here, they tell you about themselves and what it means to them to be part of the Gullah Kinfolk:

Anita Prather, Lead Singer, Director, & Scriptwriter

Anita Joyce Singleton Prather  is well-known for her storytelling gifts in the legendary persona of Aunt Pearlie Sue.  She is the Director of Broadway Back in Da’ Woods Productions, which produce both the Gullah Kinfolk musical, “Gullah Christmas Wish: Freedom Comin’,” Christmas, and she also wrote the script.  She says about their work that it is “a ministry of love for God, family, history, and friends.  When we come together we have a time of sharing, laughter, and praises to God for this wonderful heritage that emerged out of the horrors of slavery to this beautiful Gullah culture.”

Inda M. Walker, Soprano & Anita’s Assistant

As Anita Prather’s personal assistant, Inda M. Walker is her right-hand-woman, and she has been involved with the Gullah Kinfolk for many years, but only recently has she allowed her own light to shine in the forefront, by joining the singers as a soprano. The youngest of 14 children of a preacher, Inda is a tireless worker and is, she says, “very passionate about the mission and ministry of Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree and has worked for the Beaufort County School District for 28 years.

Errol Adams Roach, Tenor & Music Director, and Minister Joan Roach, Alto

Errol Roach, the Musical Director and alto singer for the Gullah Kinfolk, is also Pastor of the Covenant of Faith Christian Fellowship in Savannah, Georgia, and travels from there to rehearse with the Gullah Kinfolk and use his musical talents as part of his ministry, along with his wife, Joan, who also sings with the Gullah Kinfolk, and ministers at their church in Savannah.  Errol says he is  speaking for both of them when he states, “We are delivered from our past to serve God in the present.”

Scott Allen Gibbs, Tenor & Assistant Artistic Director

Scott Allen Gibbs, as the Assistant Artistic Director of the Gullah Kinfolk,  cousin of Aunt Pearlie Sue,  A graduate of South Carolina State University, Scott is a vocalist, musician and director, and has directed many fashion shows, pageants, musicals and plays.  His dedication to the Gullah Kinfolk fits with his philosophy of life.  He says, “Always believe and trust in Jesus Christ, because he will always direct your path.”

Granville Jerome Bates, Bass & Percussionist

Granville Bates grew up with Anita Prather and loves playing conga and bongo drums, which he does with the Gullah Kinfolk as well as singing bass.  He says he enjoys playing with the group because “I get a feeling of what my ancestors lived through for us to enjoy a feeling of freedom.”  In addition to school ties with Anita, Jerome is Inda’s cousin and his wife, Bessie also sings with the Gullah Kinfolk.

Raul Bradley, Tenor

Raul Bradley has been with the Gullah Kinfolk since 2006.  He says that he enjoys performing with the Gullah Kinfolk because it keeps him connected to his past and to his grandparents who spoke Gullah, [by] singing all those songs that he heard growing up in the Midlands of South Carolina.

Faith Cook-Brown, Alto

Faith Cook-Brown remembers well the day she met Anita Prather.  It was her first day in Lady’s Island Middle School and her first day in the low country, where she had moved from Chicago, Illinois.  Anita immediately addressed her as Miss Chicago, and Faith says she didn’t think she was going to like her.  But a mutual passion for helping others, serving God, and presenting the Gullah culture has made them long-term friends and colleagues.

Gloria Jackson, Soprano

Gloria Jackson, the fifth of eleven children in Burton, South Carolina, grew up with a strong sense of responsibility to her family, church, and community.  Although she is a retired elementary school teacher, she still works with children, she works as a County Election Worker to encourage others to vote, and, most of all, she says, “My greatest love and joy come from ministering for the Lord through song and laughter.  I always try to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

Dr. JacQueline E. Lawton, Soprano

JacQui Richardson-Lawton moved to Beaufort from the upstate when she was eight years old.  A product of the Beaufort school system, JacQui has been singing with the Gullah Kinfolk since Connie Singleton-Murphy brought her on in the 1990s, despite a fifteen year period when she was living and working in Atlanta.  JacQui has both a Master’s and a Doctorate in education, and currently teaches as an English and Language Arts teacher at Robert Smalls International Academy.  She puts particular value on her own success as a beacon for her students.

Monica L. Jones-Licorish, Contralto

Monica Jone-Licorish was born in Charleston, S.C., and raised in Boston, Massachusetts.  She is a charter member of the Gullah Kinfolk, and says, “I love this group because it allows everyone to sing in a natural voice tone, which blends so beautifully.”

Tariq Kinloch, Percussionist

Tariq Kinloch is a Computer Science major at South Carolina State University and a drummer for Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk.  Like Granville Bates, Tariq loves playing the conga drums.

Joan B. Linyard, Alto

Joan Linyard, a Beaufort native, has been an alto with the Gullah Kinfolk since 2010, when Anita Prather helped her realize that she could sing!  She worked for Beaufort County Council for over 16 years, retiring as as Office Manager.  Now she works as a Literacy Intervention Teacher with first through third grade students, and says she is passionate about teaching.  She is also passionate about her position in the Gullah Kinfolk family, where she sings along with her daughter, Leontae’ Veliz.  “Ever since I became part of this family,” Joan says,”a song comes to mind: ‘Come over here to stay, Lord, ‘till I die’.”

Leontae’ Marie Veliz, Soprano

Leontae Marie Veliz considers herself the “true baby” of the Gullah Kinfolks, and she has been singing since she was a little girl in church.  She sang in two church choirs, joined her middle and high school choirs, and sang alongside American Idol 2013 winner Candace Glover in a group called Youthful Praiz.  She says that singing is her passion, but God and family come first, which is why she fell in love with the Gullah Kinfolk, with whom she has been singing for about eight years

Connie Singleton Murphy, Alto

Connie Singleton Murphy, Anita Prather’s baby sister, is proof that talent runs in families.  She has been using her gifts for singing, songwriting, performing, and teaching for over 33 years in schools, churches, and the community.  About being a part of the Gullah Kinfolk, Connie notes that it “…allows me to partake in this creative musical history book as the culture comes alive!”

Wesley Benjamin Singleton Murphy, 15

Son of Connie and Darryl, he was 11 days old when he joined the group. He is a tenth grader at Wheel Branch Early College High School. He’s a member of the national honor society, a cross country track star, and he enjoys playing basketball, tennis, and soccer. He is an Usher at New Covenant Fellowship Mnistries of Beaufort.

Darryl T. Murphy, Bass

Darryl Murphy is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., but his parents are natives of North and South Carolina, and he has lived in the low country for eighteen years.  Darryl, who is married to Connie Singleton Murphy, has a Master’s degree in Public Policy/Public Administration from SUNY @ Buffalo, is a past curator of the York W. Bailey Museum at Penn Center, and conducts seminars on rice, cotton, and indigo cultivation.  He is presently the President of the Burton-Dale-Beaufort Branch of the NAACP, and is an account manager with a senior chartered financial planning company.

Larry “Peanut” Singleton, Tenor

Anita Prather teases Cousin Larry that she changed his diapers when he was such a little baby that they called him “Peanut.”  In addition to being a fine tenor, Larry loves to cook and bake, and has been in the food service industry for 29 years working at the Westin Resort.  Larry grew up singing in the church, and is a founding member of the Gullah Kinfolk, in addition to working with the Rosemary Baptist Church Choir and other choirs in the Point South area of South Carolina.  “What I like about this group is touching people’s souls and making them smile by singing,” Larry says.

Clayso Wrice, Bass Tenor

A retired educator, Clayso is an event planner, decorator, and Bass tenor for the Gullah Kinfolk.

Traquan Riley, Age 15, Dancer

He is in tenth grade at Battery Creek High School, and a percussion member of the band, and plays percussion at his church as well. He has been with the group since he was 18 months old.Traquan says, “Being in this group means a lot to me.  As an African Dancer, I have to express my feelings through dance and motion.  I believe that my dancing gives the people of the world a good sense of what my ancestors were about.  I enjoy my family and friends I participate with in the Gullah Kinfolk and I hope my children and the future generations coming behind me are able to continue this group on into eternity.

Lydasia Love’ Lampkin Prather, 

Age 14

Aunt Pearlie Sue’s oldest grandaughter, has been with the group since birth. She sings on the praise team at New Covenant Fellowship Mnistries of Beaufort. She is a freshman at Battery Cree high school, plays on the girls varisty basketball team, and is a honor student. “I enjoy being a part of this group because I can experience my culture and when time comes I will know all the right moves and teach my future children about their culture.

Jakai Alston,  Age 5

Aunt Pearlie Sue’s grandaughter

Jakai is a young lady of few words – on paper, that is.  In person, she has lots to say, which can be summed up as,“Here I am, world!.” She has the exuberance and assurance that are natural in a young child who has a large family that loves her, and makes sure she knows it.

Jeremy Marcus Alston, Jr. 6

Aunt Pearlie Sue’s grandson kindergarten at beaufort elementary, Part of the youth ministry at New Covenant Fellowship Mnistries of Beaufort.

Sedeek Rhamair Nathaniel PratherAge 10, Aunt Pearlie Sue’s oldest grandson. Percussionist, plays the drum at New Covenant Fellowship Mnistries of Beaufort. He is a fifth grader at Beaufort Elementary, an honor roll student and a member of the Parris Island Young Marines Organization, and an avid tennis player. “I enjoy being in this because I get to play the drums.”

Bessie Glover Bates

A Native of St. Helena Island of SC, graduate of beaufort high school, child care provider, gospel singer, singing since a little girl in choirs. wife of glaviille jerome bates, Sings on the praise team of New Life Deliverance.

Romeater Anderson,

Head Gullah Chef for Aunt Pearlie Sue and Singleton Catering

She has been in the food service for over 50 years, and specializes in Gullah soul food.

Lt. Chahn Chess

Stationed  in Beaufort, Originally from Alabama. He joined the group in March of 2014.

 

When Aunt Pearlie Sue and the Gullah Kinfolk perform, they make you feel like part of that loving family.  Their joy in singing together is palpable and infectious, and they take you in – you are no longer a stranger.   It doesn’t matter whether or not you can carry a tune; you will find yourself singing with them – in spirit, if not in fact.  And you will be fed, quite literally, because they serve you with food as well as song. You will feel fine.

“Gullah Christmas Wish:  Freedom Comin’,”

December 5, 2014, 7:00 pm, USCB

Will include a traditional Gullah Christmas Feast.

 

The heart and soul of the symbology of Christmas is the tree. Giant trees with festive decorations stand sentinel across the nation – the U.S Capitol Christmas tree and the National Christmas tree in Washington DC, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City, and the tallest of all – the tree at Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho which stands over 161 feet. There is just no doubt that the Christmas tree is the centerpiece of the Christmas holiday.

For those who have cut down their own tree, the connection is palpable – pride, ownership and satisfaction. The time spent walking through the fields to find “just the right one” is a contemplative pleasure with the anticipation of all that is yet to come during the holiday season. Finding that special tree that speaks to you, one that is the right height, the right shape, and has the kind of branches that will cheerfully support the decorations you choose, is a treasure hunt in and of itself. That tree is the first gift you give yourself, and your family, for Christmas.

Native Beaufortonians, Milledge Morris, and his wife, Janet Mark, are in the enviable position of being able to provide that joyful experience for people, either year after year, or for their very first time. So much thought goes into holidays, all the planning, shopping, decorating; it only makes good sense to start at the beginning – with the tree. When you arrive at The Family Tree Christmas Tree Farm on Ladys Island, you will probably look around at all the trees and think to yourself “This is a cinch, they all look alike, I can pick one out in just a few minutes as soon as I decide on the height.” Guess again. You will circle each and every tree two or three times, you’ll find one that looks perfect until you find one scraggly branch, or one side that is a bit flatter than another, you will fall in love with tree after tree and begin to understand that they all have their own sort of personality. Choices include Virginia Pine, Leyland Cypress, Eastern Red Cedar, Carolina Sapphire, and Blue Ice in the field. If you simply have to have Fraser Fir, which doesn’t grow in South Carolina, there is a selection of those as well, which are precut and come from the mountains of North Carolina.

An outdoorsman by nature, when Milledge grew up in Beaufort he spent time at various island fish camps, learned to hunt and fish, and to appreciate the water as well as the land. At the back of the tree farm is his “boat graveyard,” if you wander back there you will see his collection of boats scattered about; boats that were given to him, boats that found their way there for one reason or another, or as he might tell you – boats that his wife wouldn’t let him keep in the yard at home.

Milledge’s affection for boats and the water began at an early age. When he was ten, his father, known as “Humble Buck” and mother Martha, purchased a lot on Lucy Creek. “Every morning before school we hopped in a ‘49 woody station wagon and drove out to the lot on Ladys Island where we would cut down trees so we could build a dock to the creek.”

As well as his siblings, David, Robert, and Martha Lynn (Webb), Milledge worked at “Humble Bucks” Esso station. “I worked a the gas station after school if it wasn’t football season.” His years on the football field earned him a mention in Pat Conroy’s book, Prince of Tides. “I asked Pat to mention me in one of his books and because my name is so unusual, I was one of the few that didn’t get x’d out by the editors because they didn’t think it was a real name!”

After graduation from Beaufort High, he and Pat went to the Citadel. “We plotted together about how to get out of the Citadel; after two years I transferred to Carolina.” (It is rumored that while at the University of South Carolina, Milledge was known as one of the Wild Men of Sigma Nu.) He studied pre-oceanography, graduated, and went into Navy OCS where he was on destroyer type ships, did two tours off of Vietnam, and spent his last six months doing exercises in the North Atlantic.

After the Navy, Milledge went to Hilton Head and worked for a couple of years on a charter fishing boat before he took a marketing position with Sea Pines. Having decided that he would rather work for himself than someone else, Milledge went back to school at Clemson and studied building construction. When he graduated it was during the recession of 1976 and Alaska seemed like a good option. “My father had always wanted to go to Alaska but he could never get there because he had a family to take care of. I thought I’d do some construction work there, but after three or four months I went fishing for crab and salmon; that’s where the money was so I did that full time until 1980.”

How did Milledge get into the Christmas tree business? “I had a friend in Alaska who was in the tree farming business in Alabama, so that was how I learned about it. Then this land became available; I started this farm in January of 1981 and was selling trees four years later, but it can take up to nine years for a tree to be ready to sell.

“Except for the year 1981 when I got a real job in Beaufort, and found out that working nine to five didn’t work out for me, Janet and I traveled back and forth to Alaska where I continued to fish for salmon, with one king crab season tucked in there, until 2012.”

Most of us have seen one of those television shows like the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, and heard the statistics that fishing in Alaska is the deadliest occupation in the United States. When asked about that, Milledge responded “I realized that the chances of dying were about 1 in 100 a year.” Why, is it because of the ropes and the weight of the traps, and the ice on the decks? Milledge explains, “The dangerous part was when the ships sank. Now, there are different fishing regulations. Then, the fishermen went out  in bad weather even when they should’t have, because that was when the season was and it might be short – no fisherman was going to stay home and miss a catch because of bad weather, someone else would go on out there and get his share. One winter we’d rented an apartment and hadn’t even had a chance to meet our neighbors yet when the season opened on January first; I went fishing that day and the next door neighbor went fishing, but he never came back.

“For awhile it worked out that salmon fishing in the summer, and the tree farm in the winter, worked out well but Janet and I had to make a decision to stay in Alaska with all the risks involved, or be in Beaufort with our families; we chose Beaufort.”

Now, one of Milledge’s greatest joys is having all his family close at hand. “I am so blessed, I have two families, mine and Janet’s, and they are all in Beaufort so we can get together and do things on a regular basis.” For the time being, Milledge seems to be content stay put and work around the house, on the boat, and tree farm. However, he laughs and adds the disclaimer, “Never say never! This tree farm is the culmination of all the hard work I ever learned.”

Having been in this business for 33 years, Milledge knows these trees like family; he spends days tending to them, planting, watching them, trimming and shaping to give them that conical look. As far as tradition goes, that’s an important aspect because, according to some sources, the character of the evergreen tree is evocative of the God who created it. Never losing its green color is representative of eternal life, the shape is a triangle pointing up to the heavens, and the three sides are to remind us of the Holy Trinity.

Getting and keeping trees in this shape isn’t as easy as it might seem. One of the biggest problems, surprisingly enough, is the native deer. Milledge says that “Five to ten percent of the trees are destroyed by deer rubbing their antlers on them. However,” he says characteristically, “I hit just as many trees with the lawnmower.” The deer prefer the Leland Cypress and can break off the middle branches on the smaller trees. “Preventive measures I’ve used include changing the scent in the field by putting down hair, moth balls, soap, and fertilizer. They only work for a short time.” The occasional solution, he notes, is that sometimes children will see those trees and are reminded of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree and want one for their bedroom.

Just like Charlie Brown might have thought in his search for the true meaning of Christmas, maybe, in a world where traditions are slipping out from under us in a myriad of texting and tweeting and forgotten social graces, selecting and cutting down your own tree may just the right way to start the season. Be sure to take Milledge’s simple piece of advice: “If you can find a tree that looks good from any one angle – buy it!”

Story by MARY ELLEN THOMPSON • Photography by JOHN WOLLWERTH

As the sunlight sparkles off the river waters of Beaufort, adding to the beauty of the lowcountry, so do the luminous tones of diversity add sparkle to its community life.  One bright ray is Beaufort’s Jewish community, which has been a significant part of the history of Beaufort since before the 17th century , and continues to flourish today through Beth Israel Synagogue, where Jewish families have been gathering since 1908.

Ritual Director of Beth Israel congregation, Regina Carmel says, “People have the view that being Jewish in the south is difficult but they could not be more wrong. Here in Beaufort the Jews are, and always have been, an integral part of the community. We are respected within the community, and we are involved in all Houses of Worship activities. The Jewish community has thrived here.”

Beth Israel History

Beth Israel Synagogue (the name means House of Israel) was chartered and incorporated in 1905 and completed, much of it by congregants, in 1908.The graceful and charming historic building embodies within its structure the unique history of Beaufort. It was designed by an African American architect, unusual for that era; the windows were repurposed from an African American church that was being torn down at the time. Look through the original wavy glass and you will basically see the same view of historic downtown Beaufort the original congregants would have seen in 1908. A cupboard that holds the prayer books is made from packing crates from the original Lipsitz  Department Store; look inside and you can still see the name Lipsitz stenciled on the wood. The building is filled with irreplaceable heirlooms that are cherished by the congregation.

Regina Carmel says, “Many of the Synagogue founders came here from Lithuania in the late nineteenth century, as part of the mass immigration of that era, fleeing European persecution.  Most were merchants who lived above their shops on Bay Street. Beth Israel was specifically situated nearby so they could walk to Sabbath and holy day services, a requirement for the then Orthodox congregation.” (The synagogue became a Conservative congregation  in 1949).“In 1910 the congregation bought a tract of land on Bladen Street, for a cemetery that is still in use today, “ says Regina Carmel.” The Synagogue hosts school field trips and is part of a number of Historic Houses of Worship tours. It also hosts many Jewish visitors to Beaufort. Last January, it became part of the National Historic Register.

History of Chanukah

Chanukah , or Hanukkah,  is not in the Bible, but is found in the Book of Maccabees, in the Apocrypha, or Septuagint, a group of writings from the time of the Greeks, after the Bible canon had been completed. It is called the Festival of Lights and occurs on the 25th of Kislev, the 9th month of the Jewish calendar, at the darkest time of the year. While Christmas is fixed on December 25th each year, Chanukah’s dates differ. The holidays often overlap but they otherwise differ in purpose and origin.

Chanukah celebrates two miracles, one of which is history, the other of which is legend. The first miracle is the second century victory of a small, greatly outnumbered army of Jews, known as the Maccabees, over their Assyrian conquerors, descendants of Alexander the Great. The seven-year war was for the right of the Jews to practice their religion, culture, and traditions in their homeland. The conquerors’ attempts to eradicate Judaism by force had failed.

The second of the miracles occurred after the Jewish military victory and is known as the Miracle of the Oil.  Regina Carmel says, “ When the Maccabees liberated the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, their first desire was to relight the Temple menorah, the eternal light, and to place it so that all around the hills and valleys of Jerusalem, the Jews would see it and know the Maccabean Revolt had been won and along with it, their freedom. However, the Temple had been desecrated by the Assyrians and only one day’s holy oil could be found. The Temple was hurriedly reconsecrated and miraculously, enough holy oil was found to keep the menorah burning for eight days. The reconsecration of the Temple was called Chanukat HaBayit; Dedication of the House.”

Chanukah Traditions

This year Chanukah will be from December 16th through December 24th and is it is celebrated by lighting the menorah, or Chanukiah, enjoying traditional foods, playing dreidel games and exchanging small gifts.

Menorahs can be fashioned in any shape or form, as long as there are places for nine candles (eight for every day of Chanukah and one to hold the candle that lights the others.) In Beth Israel’s Social Hall,  there is a charming display of all kinds of menorahs, from antiques to one that includes the Statue of Liberty. On each of the eight days of Chanukah, a candle is lit at nightfall , continuing every night so that by the eighth night,  the entire chanukiah/menorah is ablaze with candle light.

A  dreidel is a four sided top customarily used to play games throughout the holiday. On each of the four sides is a Hebrew letter; together they form the acronym of the phrase Nes gadol hayah sham,  which translates to “A great miracle happened there.” Israeli children change the wording of the dreidel to: A Great Miracle Happened HERE. Depending on what letter shows atop the dreidel when it stops, loot is won or lost. In Roman times, the game was used as a ruse to enable Jews to gather and study, a crime punishable by death. Roman soldiers would be heard coming down the street in their armor. Religious study materials were hurriedly hidden and, upon entry, the soldier would find a group of Jews innocently gambling over a dreidel game. In such ways, Torah, or Jewish laws, customs, and history were committed to memory and passed on from generation to generation.

Traditional foods of Chanukah reflect the miracle of the oil, and are different for the various regions of origin of Diaspora Jews. Those whose heritage is Eastern European, or Ashkenazim, enjoy  latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil. Mediterranean Jews, or Sephardim,  who can be from France, Italy, Greece, and Israel among other countries, eat jelly donuts, also fried in oil. Foods with cheese are also served as a nod to the Apocryphal Book of Judith, in which the Jewish heroine beheads the Assyrian Governor General of Judea, Holofernes. According to the story, she enticed him with cheese, making him very thirsty. Then, she gave him many glasses of wine to quench that thirst, lulling the general to sleep. At that point, she decapitated him, thereby saving her people.

Gifts

“In America, because we all live together, side by side, the gift giving comes from the Christmas holiday. But traditionally the gifts were small”, says Regina Carmel. “My mom, now 96 and a refugee of Hitler’s Germany, used to tell us that in her childhood home, it was customary to give the eleven children peanuts and other small goodies for Chanukah. Chanukah is not the ‘Jewish Christmas’. Although both holidays come at the same time of year, Chanukah celebrates freedom, the victory of the few over the many, and the right to worship as Jews.”

Beth Israel Tradition

A hall was added on to the Beth Israel Sanctuary in 1956 to accommodate social functions. Lined with photos, it is a relaxed and welcoming room that continues to serve as gathering spot, including an annual Chanukah party.

Regina Carmel says, “First, we bless the holiday by lighting colorful candles on the individual menorahs each of us brings. By the light of those candles, we are led by our cantorial soloist, BenZion Bronshtein and his guitar in singing Chanukah songs. Then, we enjoy a buffet of traditional potato latkes, baked by our men’s group, as well as a feast of other specialties prepared by members. We share our annual Chanukah program with local members of an international Jewish women’s group, Hadassah, whose members come from the entire Low Country area. This is one holiday on the Jewish calendar which is pure celebration and we look forward to it from year to year.”

Regina Carmel

Regina Carmel was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in a traditional Jewish household. Her parents were German Holocaust survivors, immigrants who became proud American citizens. She says, “My parents loved the United States, and were very grateful to the country that saved their lives.” At the age of 17, Regina went to Israel with a group of youngsters for a year to live and work on a kibbutz. The group hiked the entire country, which laid the groundwork for a lifelong affiliation to Israel. Later, her daughter, Jordana, repeated that experience.  Regina says, “Israel is a very important part of my life, and I am still very close to friends I made there in that year.” After fifty plus years teaching Jewish Studies in the Washington, DC metro area, she relocated to Beaufort five years ago and soon became active in the Jewish community and Beth Israel Synagogue.

She says, “In homage to those slain in the Holocaust, in honor of my family, I have lived my life as a Jewish Studies educator, passing our heritage on to coming generations. That is my revenge against those who would destroy us.” Having recently celebrated her mother’s 96th birthday, it is fair to say she comes from a line of strong and determined Jewish women.

 Open Door

Beth Israel Synagogue welcomes all visitors. BenZion Bronshtein leads musical Sabbath Services in Hebrew and English every Friday night at 7 PM, Saturday mornings, at 10 AM. Holiday services are as announced.

Beth Israel Synagogue 

www.bethisrael-beaufort.com

bethisraelbeaufort@gmail.com

401 Scott Street, 

Beaufort, SC. 29902

843-524-4076

 

Story by CINDY REID

Photography by SUSAN DELOACH