To The Editor:
The headline article of the November 22, 2022 The Dillon Herald announced the formation of a Dillon Downtown Merchants Association, but, earlier than 1954, there existed a Merchants Executive Committee of the Dillon Chamber of Commerce. Among other civic and community organizations, John Ray Berry was the Chairman of that committee until his death on December 27, 1954. As I remember, there were numerous merchants along Main Street who proudly displayed their membership decals on the doors or windows of their businesses. Seeing these decals, patrons were assured that these member businesses upheld the standards set by the Merchants Association. I hope that this will be a major purpose of this revived association that promotes Dillon’s valued merchants. The mission statement of this newly formed group apparently proposes to meet the standards set over seventy years ago when Dillon was a thriving small town. The citizens back then worked hard to make Dillon a shopping center for miles around. Christmas was no exception; in fact, it was really exceptional!
On the night of November 23rd, I drove into Dillon to check out the “Spirit of Christmas” on display by the businesses lining Main Street. I discovered only eight with Christmas displays in their windows: Pope’s Furniture, Designs by Marlene, Sassy Southern Designs, “A Little Bit of This…,” Manifest Barbershop and Co., and Angie’s Florist (a potential Prize-Winner!). Located just off Main Street on MacArthur Avenue, Alexis Reid/Merle Norman and The Framer’s Market were holiday bright spots! These locally-owned businesses have captured the “magic” of Christmas on Main Street and deserve recognition from potential shoppers and from The City of Dillon. They have made genuine efforts to light up the season and reignite old memories for us who experienced a brighter Christmas in a small southern town. The City of Dillon’s colorful decorations and the beautiful tree at the Fountain Plaza provide a singular attraction for local shoppers and should lift the spirits of Amtrak passengers passing from north or south through our town—a surprising splash of color after traveling miles through the dark countryside! The wreaths are now mounted on the light poles, and the crews who mounted them are appreciated for their work. I noticed again that some wreaths are dimly lit, one or two are unlit, and several of them show the stress of having been packed and stacked in storage. I have wondered why all wreaths cannot be repaired and reshaped during the months when they are stored. One suggestion: The city might consider purchasing new street lamp decorations and relocate these older ones to avenues near the downtown district. (The town of Fairmont, N. C. decided to do that some years ago.)
Maybe I expect too much, but I remember nighttime trips to town in the weeks just before Christmas. In the distance, a child could see the “tunnel of colored light bulbs” strung above Main Street and stretching from the Methodist Church almost to the Sea Coast Railway Line and the yellow-brick railway station located on Main Street opposite the old Collins and Grimsley Purina Store (now The Feed and Farm Store). At a time when Christmas did not have to compete with Thanksgiving and even Halloween, most of the stores and businesses along Main Street created wonderful window displays for all to see at Christmas.
Dillon’s recently formed development organizations might benefit by visiting the smaller towns of Latta, Lake View, and Rowland, N.C. to see their decorations. Over the past decades, valued qualities have apparently diminished in some towns: optimistic foresight, creative planning, and community pride. I wish that I knew the cause and that I could discover a way to reverse the trend. I only hope that things will begin to change and that Christmas 2023 will be as bright as I remember it often was for me.
Gerald M. Berry
P. O. Box 52
Dillon, S. C. 29536