Carl White: Door knobs, history and roads seldom taken
Life in the Carolinas
So there I sat on a wooden bench outside of Winkler’s Bakery in Old Salem, the gentle rays of sun calming the chill of a 47-degree January afternoon. I had visited this historic destination many times. However, this day was especially meaningful because it was 250 years ago, on Jan. 6, 1776, that after 13 years of planning, the first tree was cut down. A new community was being established.
It’s no secret that I love visiting historic places. The reason is because it’s comfortable; I feel a connection to the past that seems to validate who I am as a person and who we are as a civilization. I am profoundly inspired by the efforts and vision of those who were great pioneers.
Imagine: the Moravians spent 13 years planning a new community that would be built in the middle of a forest without roads and no other existing buildings. And they had to accomplish this without electricity, power saws or anything with an engine. It required good planning, hard work and a purpose-driven vision. It was about building a community that would last.
The Moravian design is recognized as one of the earliest planned communities in the nation. Old Salem is a place with a significant early American history. What makes this even more fascinating is the fact that so much of that history has been preserved and is now presented for everyone to enjoy and learn from.
Each time I visit Old Salem I like to find something new to learn about, and on this visit my focus was on door knobs. This came about while I was enjoying my relaxing bench time at Winkler’s Bakery. I noticed as people approached the door that some of them were confused about how to get in. One person looked at me and asked, “Do you have any idea how to get in?” Another wiggled the knob and asked, “How does this thing work?”
I understood the confusion because it’s a very old brass door knob in a T shape and it’s not at all common today. I did lend assistance to a few people but I also realized that the smell of fresh baked bread provided enough motivation for most people to figure out how to get in. As it turns out, Old Salem has several types of door knobs and handles, and I have set out to photograph them and learn about their history. This gives me yet another reason to come back to this special place.
I was recently having a delightful Italian dinner with a friend and, as is often the case, I was asked about my travels and recommendations about places to visit. I shared a few of my more recent discoveries in South Carolina. He asked, regarding one of the towns, “Are you serious? That place only has large box stores and fast food places.”
I asked if he had ever been to their historic district. He said no, so I told him about the many places of interest that I had discovered as well as a few great local places to eat. He responded with two important statements: “I’m really sorry I’ve missed that and I’ll not miss it next time I am in that area.”
We often get too busy to follow the signs to history, and in doing so we miss out on the comfort and inspiration of some of the world’s most incredible people: our ancestors. This problem is an easy fix.
Carl White is executive producer and host of “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas,” which can be seen on WJZY Fox 46 Sundays at 10 a.m. You can email him at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.