The South Carolina State Hospital
By William Buchheit
Arcadia Publishing, $23.99
Release Date: January 13, 2020
South Carolina State Hospital's iconic Bull Street campus has been the stuff of legend for decades, not just in Columbia but across the state. Journalist William Buchheit's book, The South Carolina State Hospital: Stories from Bull Street, tells the tales of this infamous facility, from the touching to the heartbreaking.
Opened in 1821 as the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, the hospital operated until the mid-1990s. It fed, housed and treated patients incapable of caring for themselves, with the population swelling to over 6,500 at times (despite an operating budget that ranked almost last in the nation for large public hospitals).
Buchheit details the history of the hospital through interviews with those who worked on the campus. From nurses to social workers to activity therapists to pastors, everyone who was employed by the facility has fascinating stories to tell. Buchheit even interviews a former patient who credits her time spent at the hospital as helping her find a sense of stability and purpose.
Despite the often dark picture painted around Bull Street, one of captivity and chaos, Buchheit's collected vignettes shed light on life inside. The common theme of the stories is that despite suffering from mental illnesses, the patients were no less human. This conversation and message are as relevant today as they were during the hospital's operation.
Riverside Blues: A Gullah Tale
By Tracy S. Bailey
CLASS Publishing Division, $14.95
Release Date: 2019
Riverside Blues: A Gullah Tale, tells the story of Mabeline, a young woman growing up in the small community of Johnsonville, South Carolina in the 1950s and ’60s.
Born to an unwed mother and a father who is mostly absent and sometimes abusive, the events of one night change the course of Mabeline's life forever. Despite her difficult circumstances and being “absent of all God's favor,” Mabeline works to make the most of her life. Finding great solace in both the powerful force of the river and her love of reading, she embarks on a journey of self discovery. Along the way she learns about sacrifice, the love of family and, perhaps most importantly, the healing power of forgiveness.
With Riverside Blues, Bailey weaves the tale of a life that is both tragic and triumphant. Making the story even more powerful is how true it rings for many people living in our community in the not-so-distant past. If you are a local or a fan of historical fiction, this is definitely a novel to add to your to be read stack.
Riverside Blues is available for purchase at Art Works (visit classatpawleys.com), Litchfield Books and The Original Hammock Shop.