Once known as Singleton’s Crossroads, Bishopville, you should know, sits between Camden and Florence, South Carolina. When you enter this region, you drive past and through cotton fields. The land here, flat and framed by wide horizons, was sea bottom once, and when I drive here I imagine sharks, dolphins, and whales cruising alongside me. Well, that’s what imagination will do sometimes. Make you a tad crazy. Of course, I see instead tractors, horses, cattle, and old tobacco barns, ashen ghosts of themselves. The sky seems bigger here, something folks from Montana would appreciate. Blue and spacious, it floods this flatland with a light that’s different, paler, but altogether the effect is one of pastoral beauty. Thank Heavens, we’ve yet to pave over the world entire.
An author-friend and I drove into this pleasant setting on a balmy April afternoon. For (fellow C-I contributing columnist) Tammy Davis, it was a return to her hometown. For me, it was a return to a town I drive through on my way to Hartsville and North Carolina. For both of us, it was a chance to meet people and talk about books, and sign more than a few books at this beautiful library.
Tammy and I mingled with folks at the Bishopville Public Library. The hometown girl has a book out, Chin Up, Buttercup, a collection of essays on the power of faith, perseverance, and a positive attitude. The local folks showed up big for the hometown girl, and we all had a splendid time, surrounded as we were by books and fabulous refreshments.
Bishopville, you should know also, now takes its name from Jacques Bishop. At the corner of Main and Council streets, you will find the public library, once a furniture store. Tammy and I signed books there and I talked about “a place called obscurity,” the back roads of South Carolina. The people were wonderful and the setting was unique, a library unlike most others, and I see a lot of libraries.
Within the red brick interior of this one-time furniture store you’ll find track lighting, floral arrangements, and colorful comfy seats. Banks of flatscreen computers sit beneath lights that cast reflections onto the polished floor. And books. Lots of books. Up near the front, where Tammy and I sat is a sight that fits nicely with that furniture store past, an old card catalog turned into what else, a piece of furniture. Nearby is a flat screen computer. The old and new, peacefully co-existing.
As for old things, well, the Lee County Public Library goes back to 1901. Back then, it was a small building next to the opera house “down on Main Street,” as Bob Seger sang. Too small to be a barbershop, the little library struggled and moved many times. Throughout the years, however, the people of Lee County worked hard to advance their library, and today in its own words it’s grown “from humble beginnings as a tiny library society to become an asset to the Lee County community as a host and participant in diverse neighborhood events and cultural happenings.” Indeed it has.
Well, the furniture store is no more but there’s furniture here waiting for you and me. That library over in Bishopville is a warm, cozy place, a place perfect for book lovers, and a welcoming place for those who write books. We’ll be back. You can be sure of that. In fact, whenever I pass through the town once known as Singleton’s Crossroads, I’ll stop and say hello to Dawn Ellen, Deana Rollins, and others in this library that feels more like a well-appointed studio. I know I’ll see others like Gloria Lewis who are eager to turn more than a few pages.
Books, readers, libraries, and writers -- it gets no better and that’s what you’ll find down on Main in Bishopville.