Traveling by car through the United States has allowed us to enjoy the sights and often the smells of the rural countryside. Mostly avoiding big highways and big cities, we are thrilled with farms, meadows, mountains and the vast amount of beautiful land in this country. The back roads have led us to many small towns, some abandoned but most with charming main streets and squares. They are fun to visit and it is refreshing to know that small town America still exists.
Although we did not find the stereotypical Main Street in Bishopville, SC, we did find some unique attractions. The small town with a population of 3,600 is located in the center of South Carolina. Surrounded by cotton and cornfields, we found the suburban neighborhood of Mr. Pearl Fryar. Pearl began working on his garden in the early 1980s. He was the first African-American in the town to be awarded the much-coveted Yard of the Month by the town garden club in 1985. He is a self-taught topiary artist who uses no pesticides or fertilizers and rarely waters his plants. An electric handsaw is what he uses to transform shrubs and trees into abstract shapes. The three acre property was a former cornfield. It is now a surreal wonderland of more than 300 hand planted shrubs and trees of junipers, hollies, cyprus, pine and oaks. There are also ‘junk art’ sculptures placed around the topiaries.The topiary garden joined with the The Garden Conservancy (a national nonprofit agency) in 2006 in an effort to preserve this exceptional space. Pearl’s inspirational message of tending your garden and tending your life is educational and enjoyable. The garden continues to thrive and bring joy to all who visit.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ A documentary about Pearl and his garden, A man named Pearl, was released in 2006.
Pearl Fryar is not the only claim to fame of this small town. Dalton Stevens, the Button King, also hails from this town. In order to distract himself from a bad case of insomnia, Dalton Stevens began sewing buttons on a suit. Ten months later there were over 16,000 buttons on his suit and the unusual hobby had begun. There is no information concerning a cure for insomnia, but if the Button King Museum is any indication, Dalton Stevens spent an amazing amount of time gluing and sewing buttons on all kinds of objects. His children constructed the building to house his collection in 2008. The collection includes a piano, a hearse, a toilet, the original suit, shoes and many more items. There are boxes of buttons on the floor and photos of celebrities he met on the walls. Whose got the buttons? The button king of course. Sadly, the button king passed away in 2016, the button displays live on for all to appreciate. Long live the King!
There is also a cotton museum in Bishopville, but we skipped that and opted for a bite to eat at Harry and Harry too! This is a real local haunt. Just about everyone who entered, excluding us, was greeted by their name. The atmosphere was friendly and fun and the food was ample and tasty.Bishopville, SC is a small town with a big creative streak.