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As the Sign Says: 'Keep Yelling, Kids, They'll Stop'

  • Ted Landphair

Fireworks, purchased at Fort Pedro, are a big seller.

Fireworks, purchased at Fort Pedro, are a big seller.

After the billboard build-up, what choice do parents have?

If you say south of the border to an older American, he or she is likely to break into song: South of the border, down Mexico way, from a tune that cowboy singer Gene Autry made famous.

But these days, more people would recognize, South of the Border, down South Carolina way.

Beginning in far-off Virginia to the north, and Florida to the south, one sees gaudy, but clever, billboards along the highway. You see lots of Pedros inside the shopping complex, including this fellow, who looks like he has some Irish as well as Mexican heritage.

You see lots of Pedros inside the shopping complex, including this fellow, who looks like he has some Irish as well as Mexican heritage.

On them, a Mexican-looking character named Pedro piques your interest with messages such as, WHEN YOU'RE HOT, YOU'RE HOT! SOUTH OF THE BORDER.

As you approach the tiny town of Dillon in South Carolina, the yellow and red billboards come fast and furious. So many that you just about HAVE to stop and see what the fuss is about.

Turns out, South of the Border is a giant . . . not theme park, though there are a few rides like the Sombrero . . . but a gigantic, Mexican-theme shopping complex without a lot of Mexican music or Mexican merchandise. More than 60 years ago, this kitschy shopping oasis called, South of the Border, opened in South Carolina.

More than 60 years ago, this kitschy shopping oasis called, South of the Border, opened in South Carolina.

There's a restaurant, a 24-hour pharmacy called El Drug Store, a fireworks stand, and a miniature golf course called Golf of Mexico.

More than 60 years ago, an enterprising fellow named Alan Schafer went to Mexico, bought a lot of cheap merchandise, brought it home and set up sales stands at his motel and drive-in restaurant. He named this kitschy shopping oasis South of the Border.

There today, visitors load up on food and drink, trinkets like a seashell turtle wearing a sombrero, T-shirts and other souvenirs, and maybe a plastic flamingo lawn ornament.

And no matter the weather, they get the same forecast from Pedro: CHILI TODAY. HOT TAMALE.

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