Be a proud Marine at historic Parris Island Museum

Be inspired, thrilled and for ever humbled at the amazing Parris Island Museum near Beaufort, an 8,000 square feet ode to “The Few.The Proud. The Marines”.

Admission is free and the museum is open daily 10AM – 4:30PM except New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. More info (843) 228-2951 or the website.

In front of 1935 Japanese field gun at Parris Island museum

In front of 1935 Japanese field gun at Parris Island museum

You’ll get a pass at the gate by presenting a driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance (pre-registration is available online)

The pass also gives you access to the free Parris Island driving tour, a 15 mile loop, where you can explore memorable monuments like Iron Mike and Iwo Jima, the Bulldog Mascot Cemetery, the Leatherneck Square, where in the summer you can see recruits undergoing hand-to-hand combat training, the Douglas Visitor Center and the St. Helena History Trail.

Just for kids activities: Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.

Interesting artifacts and enemy captures

• Terrible homemade IEDs, simple yet deadly. The Iraqi “Pressure Plate” was used all over Iraq as a speed bump triggered bomb.

The “Viet Cong Booby Trap” made of a metal spike, a Coke can, wiring and grenade it was usually placed under rice paddies and wetlands. When you stepped on it the spike will penetrate the boot and foot; jerking the foot to get loose will detonate the bomb.

Parris Island Marines Museum

Viet Cong IED - The Boot and Foot Booby Trap

• Soviet designed Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) Sight equipped with night vision.

• A model of a T-72 Iraqi tank, dubbed “Dolly Paton” for the noticeable bulge on its turret from the extra armor added to better protect against direct hits.

• Japanese Occupation Flag – unlike other captured enemy flags inscribed with patriotic slogans, this one looks into the future with a Good Luck message to United States and Japan.

• 17th century sword was among the many weapons given up by Japanese troops in Seoul. The sword was designed by Yoshimichi of Yamato and despite having 18th century fittings it was used through 1945 battles.

• Lucky helmet that saved Paul Hatfield’s life during the Cape Gloucester assault in 1945.

• The humble all purpose towel, became an essential item during Vietnam War. Soldiers used it to dry themselves and their equipment, as pillow, bandage, shoulder cover and scarf.

Just for laughs…

• The Boot Camp cartoons tell a compelling, brutally honest, yet very funny story about the tough life on Parris Island: the food, hair styles, drill instructors, combat training even the mighty sand flea…nothing is spared!

Join the Marines for an exciting adventurous life!

Join the Marines for an exciting adventuruous life!

• Joyful and exciting 1920 Recruiting Poster

• Airmen Blood Chit, a cloth caring a message in English and Korean: “This is a crash-landed U.N. soldier. If you can lead him to the nearest U.N. troops we shall greatly appreciate it”.

• Dreaded MRE package, it came in 24 different meal varieties of about 1,250 calories. The MRE was heated by a flameless ration heater activated by water and meant to last for 3 years.

• Uniform for Pregnant Marines – For a long time being pregnant resulted in immediate involuntary discharge. After 1976 expecting women were allowed to remain in active duty and finally maternity uniforms were issued in 1980.

US Marines Traditions
The Uniform – Although the uniform changed shape, colors and material over the years there are some elements preserved to date:

The Blood Stripe, first used in 1798 now it commemorates the service of men at the Chapultepec battle.

The Quatrefoil, it originated in the 18th century when Marines used a cross-shaped rope on top of their covers to differentiate between friends and foes at rigging.

The Mameluke Sword, were first given as gifts by Turkish viceroy of Egypt during Barbary Wars. Long time ago, Mameluks, slave warriors who fought for Moslem overlords used this style of curbed swords. They eventually overthrew their masters and established their own Kingdoms.

The Leatherneck nickname started in 1785

The Leatherneck nickname started in 1785

The Leatherneck, the nickname stemmed from the leather collar used between 1785 and 1875 to help keep the Marines head erect. Today it is symbolized by the high collar on the dress blue uniform.

• The Hymn is the oldest official song of all armed services. The words date back to 19th century but its origin and author remain unknown. The music comes from the 1859 opera Genevieve de Brebart.

• The Semper Fidelis emblems built from scrap metal by Wheeler Hembert, a metal worker at the new bridge to Parris Island construction during WWII. They were mounted and stayed on the front gate from 1943 to 2001.

• The Mascot – English bulldogs became popular as Marines mascots after BGen. Smedley Butler enlisted “Jiggs” at Quantico in Virginia in 1922. Marine Barracks in D.C. now name all their bulldogs “Chesty” in honor of the most decorated Marine, Lewis “Chesty” Puller. Many Marine units have their own bulldog.

“Mess with the Best, Die Like the Rest!”

Have a memorable and happy family vacation in Beaufort, South Carolina!


Vibrant, resilient and mysterious, St. Helena Church towers historic Beaufort almost 300 years later…

Recently I visited one of the most iconic churches in Beaufort and the Lowcountry, the St. Helena Episcopal Church. Thanks to our lovely guide the free tour was a pure delight (that’s quite a feat with my young and restless 5 years old!).

The superb St. Helena Church...South Carolina second oldest and most active churches

The superb St. Helena Church...South Carolina second oldest and most active churches

St. Helena church was established in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England, under the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.

Getting ready to celebrate 300 years of existence, the venerable St. Helena is the state second oldest church, and remarkably, one the fastest growing in the diocese.

St. Helena History and Interesting Facts (content courtesy of St. Helena Church website)

• Built in 1724 (construction delayed by the 1715 Yemassee War), St. Helena was made out of ships ballast bricks and then smoothed over with stucco, bolstering excellent proportions and fine interior decorations

• In 1734, Captain John Bull gave a silver Communion service in memory of his wife, who disappeared during the Yemassee Indian War.

The chalice, paten and tankard, engraved “The gift of Captain John Bull to the Parish of St. Helena” are still used today on special occasions.

The Baptismal Font, only original item left after Civil War

The Baptismal Font, only original item left after Civil War

• Thomas Heyward, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence, was St. Helena’s most noted parishioner during the Revolutionary period.

A wound inflicted at the battle of Port Royal in February 1779 left a scar, which marked him for the remainder of his life.

• During Civil War, Union forces occupied Beaufort in November 1861, the entire congregation fled and the church was converted to a hospital.

The church was stripped of its furnishings, balconies were decked over to make a second floor and slab gravestones from the graveyard were used as operating tables.

Bishop Thomas noted soon after the war was over “the church was a wreck of its former self and could not be used”. All that remained of the antebellum furnishings was the 1784 baptismal font.

The St. Helena Church graveyard and the legends…

The old cemetery, enclosed by a brick wall constructed around 1804, is entrenched in the local history.

• One of the earliest burials was Colonel John Barnwell (1671-1724), better known as “Tuscarora Jack,” a famous Indian fighter and a founder of Beaufort Town in 1711.

• Two British officers, killed in the battle of Port Royal at Gray’s Hill during the American Revolution in February 1779, are buried in the churchyard.

British Officers died during Revolutionary battle of Port Royal at Gray’s Hill

British Officers died during Revolutionary battle of Port Royal at Gray’s Hill

Recovered from a hasty grave on the battlefield, they were interred by an officer of the American forces, who read the funeral service from St. Helena’s altar prayer book:

“Soldiers and fellow citizens: We have now shown our enemies that we have not only the courage to face and best them in the field, but that we have the humanity to give their dead a decent and a Christian burial.”

• Two Confederate generals rest in peace in the old cemetery, Lieutenant General Richard Heron “Fightin’ Dick” Anderson and Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, Jr.

• Beware of John, legend has it he asked to be buried with a jug of milk (or was it wine?), a loaf of bread and an axe so when the time comes he can come out his tomb!…

A wicked story...

A wicked story...

How St. Helena Church changed over the years…

• The church has been enlarged 3 times, in 1769, 1817, and 1842. The northeast corner of the building and the original bricks in the outer walls have been retained over the years

The exquisite interior galleries

The exquisite interior galleries

• The 1817 west side extension was retained in 1842 while the rest was demolished. The present sidewalls were constructed at that time, and the foundations of the 1769 church were used to support the interior galleries.

• In 1874, a new roof was put on the church. Two years later a new organ replaced the one lost in the Civil War and the original cedar box pews were replaced with heart of pine benches.

Beautiful altar designed by USS New Hampshire sailors after Civil War

Beautiful altar designed by USS New Hampshire sailors after Civil War

• The current altar was given by the officers, and carved by the sailors, of the U.S.S. New Hampshire stationed in Port Royal Sound during the reconstruction.

A hurricane in 1896 destroyed the east end of the church. When the debris was cleared away, the altar remained intact. The building was subsequently rebuilt in its present form.

• The present steeple was built in 1941, (the old one was removed for safety during Civil War). Designed by Simons and Lapham of Charleston, it stands 118 feet high, the only existing specification of the earlier steeple.

• The church was repaired and redecorated in 1959 following Hurricane Gracie, which ripped off half of the roof. Disaster struck again on Easter Sunday 1970, when a hailstorm broke 150 windowpanes on the south side of the church.

St. Helena Church organ

St. Helena Church organ

• Taylor and Boody organ builders of Staunton, Virginia, installed a tracker pipe organ in 1985. Patterned after 17th-century organs of northern Europe, this two manual organ has 19 stops and over 1,150 pipes housed in a beautifully crafted oak case.

• By 1998, the 286-year-old church was badly in need of restoration and repair. 19 months of hard work and $2.6 million later, the church reopened on Palm Sunday 2000.

With its Gregorian makeover edition St. Helena is now ready to celebrate its tricentennial in 2012. No need to wait that long, you are always welcome to visit this magnificent church year around from 9AM to 4:30PM.

Worship Services are on Sunday at 8AM, 10:15AM and 6 PM, Wednesday at 5PM and Thursday at 11AM.

St. Helena Church is located downtown Beaufort at 505 Church Street Check out the official website for sermons, tours, summer camps and ongoing events.

Welcome visitors!

Welcome visitors!

Open your heart and free your mind in spiritual Lowcountry region of South Carolina!

A heart felt return to Old Sheldon Church

On my second visit to Beaufort and the “Palmetto Phoenix Church” I discovered touching stories of love, passion, freedom and despair.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Old Sheldon Church view as you come in the yard

The heart-breaking loss of a child…

“I’ll weep no tears upon the grave
Where lies my darling out of sight
God has but taken what He gave
And made my child a Seraph bright
He early tastes the promised bliss
And shall I, Can I, weep for this”

Front view

Old Sheldon Church Ruins - front view

The rite of passage at St. Helena Episcopal Church in Beaufort…

In 1734, Captain John Bull (brother of William Bull who helped built Old Sheldon Church) gave a silver Communion service in memory of his first wife who dissapeared during the 1715 Yemassee masacre. The chalice, paten and tankard, engraved “The gift of Captain John Bull to the Parish of St. Helena” are still used today on special occasions.

Both John and his second wife Mary are burried in the Sheldon Church graveyard.

1771 Mary Bull tombstone

1771 tombstone of Mary Bull, John Bull's second wife

The Stono Rebellion… (excerpts from PBS article “Africans in America” and Beginningsfrom USC Press)

In September 1739 a group of African slaves led by an Angolan named Jemmy, seized weapons near the Stono River south of Charleston and began to march towards Florida shouting “Liberty!” They burned and plundered plantations, taverns, and shops killing about 20 whites before stoping to rest for the night at Edisto River.

Entrance to the extended parking lot across the road

Entrance to the extended parking lot across the road

The carriage of Lieutenant Governor William Bull crossed paths with the rebels. Bull ordered his driver to get him back to Charleston where he called out all available white militia. The militia and the rebels fought a pitched battle near Jacksonborough.

The better armed and trained militia defeated the slaves and roughly 40 whites and 60 blacks died in the melee.

The response to the rebellion proved swift and brutal. Travelers on the Old Post Road (present day US Hwy 17) would have seen the heads of the rebels placed on pikes up and down the route.

The loyal devotion…

As you rest your body and spirit under the lush oak trees remember Biz and Bill Campbell, who for over 75 years cared with deep love for these sacred grounds.

Romantic picnic at Old Sheldon Church

Romantic picnic at Old Sheldon Church

The church is located on Old Sheldon Road between Beaufort and Yemassee, about 2 miles from the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 21. A free public service is held each year on second Sunday after Easter. Call (843) 522-1712 to inquire about reserving the church yard for personal events or wedding celebrations.

Come as you are, leave as you wish!

A photo tour of Beaufort: history, art and incredible outdoors

Chartered in 1711, Beaufort is South Carolina’s second oldest town after Charleston and its best kept travel secret…not for long!

Here are some things worth shouting about this historic yet vibrant little town recently dubbed “the Newport of the South”:

  • Top 50 Waterfront Adventure Towns in the nation
  • The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America
  • The Kaleidoscope Film Festival (you remember The Patriots, Forrest Gump and Prince of Tides to name a few of the many films shot here)
  • The picturesque downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places, with more antebellum homes per block than any other American town.
  • Check this post for fun and free things to do with kids while in the area.

    I’ll let the photos do the talking. Have a wonderful vacation in Beaufort South Carolina!

    Unforgetable fun at Hunting Island State Park beach: climb the Lighthouse, spot loggerhead turtles, catch a crab or hike along the lagoon (photo essay)

    Planning for a family vacation or just a weekend getaway at the beach? Then look no further than Hunting Island State Park. There are affordable camping sites and cabins on the premises (although these go very quickly better to call 3-4 months ahead of time to secure a spot) and you’re about 20 minutes from beautiful Beaufort and historic Port Royal and little over an hour from Charleston. There is plenty of lodging, restaurants and entertaining activities in the area.

    On the Hunting Island you can enjoy smooth white sands and fairly calm waters surrounded by lush vegetation and palm trees providing natural shade. The park offers one of the best spots to run kites, which you can rent right at the beach. Or you can just set back and watch the festival of colors dancing in the sky, as I did with my 4 years old.

    Hunting Island Beach serenity

    The Lighthouse is just few yards away. $2 and 167 steps later you get to enjoy breath-taking panoramic views of the island, the ocean and the marshes. You can hike the nature trail around the tidal lagoon or the incredible one mile boardwalk over the peaceful marshes. This is your best shot for wildlife encounters, especially with migratory birds. The trail starts hundreds yards away from the park entrance.

    Of course the main island attraction is the chance to spot Loggerhead Turtles. South Carolina boasts the second largest population of sea turtles. Hunting Island State Park along with Edisto State Park delight visitors each year with the rare opportunity to see them nesting and hatching at their shores. From May till November there is none-stop action. Never disturb a mother’s nest or carry flashlights during hatching. Best thing is to do is to go on a guided tour – call the Nature Center at (843) 838-7437 for more info.

    The beach has plenty of parking, picnic tables and shelters. There are two restroom facilities both equipped with showers. Admission fee to the park is $4 for adults and $2 for seniors. Children under 16 get in for free.

    Enjoy your time at the Hunting Island beach!

    Free and fun things to do and great places to see with kids in Beaufort

    There is plenty of fun and free things do with your kids while visiting historic and picturesque Beaufort.

    For starter there are 2 playgrounds The new playground in Beaufortone on the Waterfront Park and one off of Pigeon Landing (located left off Boundary Street and opposite waterfront area). This playground opened just 2 years ago, has brand new facilities (restrooms, picnic tables, water fountains, and stations) and excellent age appropriate equipment. There is something for everyone from babies to older kids and even large swings for adults (parents need to have some fun too). 🙂 It’s twice as large as the playground at Waterfront Park, a lot less crowded and dogs are allowed in the park as longs as they are on leash. A great thing with this playground is the large oak trees that provide shade throughout the day.
    One extra perk is the chance to see fighter jets flying by every now and then which seems quite popular with boys. While in the area you can drive to the end of Pigeon Landing to reach the boat docking and boardwalk. It’s very peaceful and the view of the marshes and Beaufort river is incredible.

    The playground at the Waterfront Park is better known and quite popular with tourists. Location, location, location! Just caught a shark Main attraction for kids is watching fishermen showing their skills on the dock in front of the playground. When I visited with my daughter 2 weeks ago we saw a guy catching 3 baby-sharks in less than an hour! All the children were mesmerized. Another kid-popular activity is balancing over the raised boardwalks weaving through the park. In case you get hungry there are several restaurants and cafes only few yards away.

    Ice Cream Parlor and Tin Men
    After all the jumping and hopping at the playground you should take the kids to the Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor. It’s located downtown in Old Bay Marketplace (across the clock). Besides delicious and reasonably priced ice-cream you can get very good and hearty lunch: made-to-order yummy hot-dogs (8 styles to choose from at $3 each), and a variety of gourmet sandwiches, salads and soups. Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor Most lunch items are around $6. They also carry a kids menu with the usual suspects for around $2. I had the Old Bay Dog (with sauerkraut), a cheese toast sandwich and one ice-cream all for about $8.

    Who knew that window shopping can be fun for little ones? Where it is…at least in Beaufort…it wasn’t voted one of America’s Best Small Arts Town for nothing! On our way to the Vernier House museum (2 blocks down from the ice-cream parlor) my 4 years old daughter stopped many times to admire the art on display and point out whatever raised her interests. She loved the wine bottle holders made of tin representing all sorts of funny characters. She definitely liked this better than all the museums we’ve visited that day.

    Beaufort Must See Museums: Vernier House and the Arsenal
    The Vernier House museum – headquarters for the Union troupes during the Civil War – is the only historic house in Beaufort open to public on a regular basis: Monday to Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Marquis de Lafayette visited the house in 1825.

    Beaufort Arsenal Museum The Arsenal, located at 713 Craven St., is one of the most significant historical sites in Beaufort. It was completed in 1798 to create a militia and to build a laboratory for making explosives. Currently is home to the Beaufort museum. Made out of brick and tabby and featuring a Gothic design with crenellated parapets the Arsenal has a very distinctive architecture. Hours of operations are 10 AM to 5 PM. The museum is officially closed on Wednesday and Sunday. However, I went there on a Tuesday and it was closed, so better to call ahead just to make sure: (843)-525-7077. Admission for adults and children over 6 is $3.

    Scenic boat tour over Beaufort River
    This is a great outdoor attraction the whole family can enjoy.
    It’s very relaxing and you get up-close and personal to the beautiful Lowcountry marshes and Sea Islands wildlife. There are two boat tour opportunities: one from Beaufort Marina (located at the end of the waterfront park) and one from Port Royal Landing marina, operated by River Safari. If you go to Port Royal read this post to learn about all the fun things you can do there.

    More family attractions around Beaufort:

    The Lighthouse at the Hunting Island State Park, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins and Graveyard. On St. Helena Island: visit Penn Center and Bailey Museum and the Chapel of Ease (beware of Land’s End light and ghost sighting!)

    • Go to fun-packed super family friendly Hilton Head island where kids rule!

    • Drive down to Savannah and visit the amazing Fort Pulaski a Civil War landmark that changed military warfare for ever. You get to see live cannon and musket firing, learn about the Immortal 600 prisoners and the Waving Girl legend. Kids can become Junior Rangers.

    Happy family vacation in Beaufort South Carolina!

    Things to see on St. Helena island near Beaufort: Penn Center and Chapel of Ease (possible the Land’s End ghost!)

    Penn Center, an African-American cultural center and a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1862 as the first school in the South for the education of freed slaves. Along with the Bailey museum it is a testimony of the Gullah People’s rich culture and history. The permanent exhibit showcases some of the oldest photographs of African-Americans, the original 1863 school bell and many artifacts related to the life on Sea Island. Martin Luther King Jr. use to retreat here during the 1960s.

    Free historic sites to visit on St Helena Island Beaufort SC

    Penn Center School main building

    The Penn Center is located on St. Helena island, only 15 minutes drive from Beaufort, historic Port Royal and beautiful Hunting Island State Park. The Bailey museum is open Monday to Saturday from 11 AM to 4 PM and the admission fee is $4 for adults and $2 for children and seniors. For more information on current educational programs and a calendar of events visit the Penn Center website.

    Site of the annual Gullah festival

    Penn Center historic site in the heart of Gullah country

    If you want to experience first hand the mystical Gullah art and food come to the Gullah Festival that will be held at the Waterfront Park in Beaufort May 23-25. Admission for the entire weekend is $20. For more info visit

    Nearby Penn Center on Land’s End road is the Chapel of Ease. This tiny church, a perfect examply of tabby construction, was built in 1748 for the convenience of plantation owners too far away to attend service in Beaufort.

    Fine example of prerevolutionary church made of primarily of tabby.

    Take a close look at the graveyard and the mysterious mausoleum creeping in the back. This is the sight of the inexplicable Land’s End Light. “…The light rises up in the air like a bouncing ball of fire. It lingers long enough to squelch any idea it was just your imagination or a hallucination.”

    Chapel of Ease Mausoleum on St. Helena Island

    Some say a mysterious light appears here

    Over the years many local residents and prominent business people claim to have seen the light. Even researchers from Duke University came to study the phenomenon in the 70s.

    Most people believe the light has to do with the spirit of a soldier stationed at Fort Fremont, which was built to defend Port Royal from Spanish attacks.

    Funny thing is not one shot was ever fired from the fort! Now the fort ruins are on a private property and inaccessible to the public.

    Read more about the Land’s End mystery from Terrence Zepke’s book “Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Check out some famous Lowcountry Ghosts on my previous post.

    If you like seeing old South Carolina churches then you must visit the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, a truly inspirational historical site around Beaufort.