A Primer to Understanding Hartsville and How to Live Here
"You ain't from around here are ya?"
"Who are your people?"
"Wanna go up creek this weekend?"
If you've ever heard one of these phrases and been confused, you might not be from Hartsville. The native Hartsvillian is a strange beast: often seen wearing seersucker and camo at the same time, they know the twists and turns of Black Creek as well as the aisles and shelves of Walmart, wave at people without having any idea who they are, and, when asked where they're from, respond with Kelleytown, Clyde, Byrdtown, Ashland, Lydia, Antioch, Auburn, Cypress, Pine Ridge, Oates, or simply "The Country"—even though they probably all have the zip code 29550.
If you've ever had trouble understanding this town or its people, here's five ways to immerse yourself in the unique culture of Hartsvegas, SC:
1. Eat at Ruth's Drive In
You should go to Ruth's Drive In. A favorite place for playing hooky from Hartsville High for the last 50 years and serving an award-winning pimiento cheeseburger, this is a place you need to check out.
Another Ruth's concept that often confuses the uninitiated is The Hot.
Hartsvillian: "You like chili or gravy on your hots?"
Joey Brennan: "I don't want any chunky sauces on my hat, thank you."
Hartsvillian: "Man, you ain't from around here are you? You want lunch or not?"
The Hot is an open-face sandwich. Which is sort of an inside-out sandwhich that requires a fork to eat it. But it's still a sandwich around here. It's a piece of white bread topped with a fresh hand-pattied burger patty and your choice of American cheese, pimiento cheese, chili, brown gravy, grilled onions, or any combination thereof. That pile is then surrounded by a nest of Freedom Fries. Yes, that's what the fries are called on the menu. A "whole hot" is two piles of smothered bread and meat, while a "half-hot" is one. We recommend that the inexperienced start with a half-hot and work your way up to a whole over the course of a three-week period. Personal trainers are available.
In Hartsville, we like Ruth's hots so much we have birthday cakes made to look like them.
2. Jump Off The Platforms
One of the Hartsvillian's favorite pastimes is climbing trees and jumping out of them. So much so that Black Creek is littered with trees that have boards nailed to them to form climbing steps.
One should take great pause in jumping out of just any tree in Black Creek, though, as the depth varies wildly and there are tons of underwater stumps. While we still do not advocate jumping out of trees into the water, we can confirm the long history of Hartsvillians jumping out of the trees into the creek at The Platforms, a Black Creek landmark famous for tree-jumping for the better part of the last 100 years. Want to know where it is? We probably can't tell you for some liability reason, but you can ask any Hartsvillian. They might even take you up creek with them this weekend to show you.
A special thanks goes out to Twazzle Time Productions for letting us steal and publish their media assets without asking.
3. Don't Wear Nice Shoes at the Movies
Don't wear nice shoes to the movie theater in Hartsville. But don't complain about not being able to wear nice shoes to the movie theater in Hartsville. It's $2.50.
Hartsville has a charming 2-screen movie theater right in the middle of downtown. Tickets cost $2.50. Two dollars and fifty cents, people. Think about how cheap that is. It's, like, not even the cost of Twizzlers at a regular movie theater. It's cheap. And it's awesome. Embrace it.
Don't worry if the floors are sticky sometimes and the sound isn't exactly "immersive." The popcorn is still salty. What else do you need? Here's the current showtimes.
4. Go to Kalmia
Kalmia Gardens, aka "Kalmia," aka "The Gardens," is a truly special place. It's more than a garden and set of walking paths. The Gardens, a property of Coker College, was a plantation in the early 19th century. The land has been protected and preserved since at least 1935, when it opened as a public preserve and garden. The flora and fauna there are truly special, as is the land itself.
Next time you feel the itch to be outside, check out Kalmia. The city's bike path runs right through the Garden's entrance on W Carolina Ave. Each time you go, read one of the informational signs sprinkled around the property. The history, ecology, biology, and other -ory's and -ogy's of the land is rich. Also, see if you can find the artesian well located just off one of the main boardwalks. It just might be the cleanest, freshest, coldest water you'll ever have.
Real Hartsvillians hold the mantra of "take only pictures; leave only footprints" pretty seriously when it comes to Kalmia Gardens. To avoid their ire, we suggest practicing it yourself.
5. Eat at Yogi Bear Fried Chicken
I don't really know what to say here. Just go eat at Yogi. Seriously. Get a Boo Boo box and Instagram it. Tag HYP. Seriously.