The Search for Bluffton’s Soul

By Johnboy Jones

“I just read a peer reviewed article, approved through blind review by the author’s sister, that you can tell the essence of a person’s soul through their last 3 Google searches.

Based on this new knowledge I have acquired, I invite you to share with me your last 3 Google searches, and I will tell you who you really are at your inner core”

This was a post on Facebook from my old college roommate. And ironically, the most popular search around the world is “facebook,” which is even funnier given that you could just as easily type into a URL bar. “google” and “youtube” are also popular and likewise amusing.

But this got me thinking  – What are people in Bluffton Googling? Is it mundane things like Walmart, Weather and Wordle? Or does Bluffton have a unique Soul?

As a side note, I tried mine finding that I had turned that part of Google off to which I responded to my college roommate “No Soul Found.”


Blufftonian’s Top Google Searches:

“How can I prove bike paths are polluting the May River?”

These folks obviously live in the Alljoy area where they have been fighting the installation of bike paths for over 20 years. (*I recently saw this again as a Facebook discussion  – but I remember it from way back ) And it’s good for water-quality that in that part of the river by the Calibogue Sound the tidal flush is so large (salinity kills bacteria) that the amount of pavement and dirty run-off isn’t as much of an issue as it is in the Buckwalter Area – which directs stormwater run-off into the headwaters via Stoney and Rose Dhu creeks.

Immediately after things started being developed on Buckwalter oysters in the headwaters became inedible. The people in Alljoy know this as most of them are “been heres” who just want to be left alone – and who could blame them? Certainly not me … but, I am also a bicycle interloper who rides everywhere there is no gate – which gets me the occasional dirty look despite the fact that over the past 35 years I have replaced 50% of my blood with cooking oil and grits. I guess the Alljoy folks will have to explain the real reason they don’t want bike paths.

The next most popular search is:

“Restaurants near me” —  This doesn’t make us unique until you look into the nature of local eats. When my daughter was little Nickle Pumpers was about the only thing in Bluffton. There was also the old Piggly Wiggly but not much else. We used to take Sunday Afternoon trips to the Savannah Mall and then go out to eat. Nowadays,  we have a ton of options – which is awesome. I sometimes call this era of Bluffton’s History – “Bluffton’s Schmaltyz Renaissance.” Things are pretty good right now – especially restaurants – but at the same time a way of life is definitely being lost. There just aren’t that many places that have grown as fast as Bluffton and it’s a shock to the culture – and I think we all know what the traffic is going to look like here in 5 years.

I remember volunteering with the Rotary Club at Mayfest making french fries in their food truck and seeing that the woman from Eggcentricity had a urinal strapped to the electrical pole on the corner … and the laminated 8.5″ x 11″ message in the urinal in bright blue and green lettering was “Yankee Drinking Fountain.” — And I had been here long enough to know that the proper response to something like this is “Bless your heart” although I like the NY version better. But it just goes to show, that even on the day Blufftonians should be rolling out the red carpet – there’s some bitterness there – even if they really aren’t sure why.

Which brings us to the all-revealing third in the series of top 3 Google searches that make up Bluffton’s soul …  “What is a Blufftonian?”

The existential search for Bluffton’s soul continues –  and will continue as long as our growth is exponential. We get new neighbors everyday, and I for one welcome them. Where I came from the weather sucked, but the schools were great and the graduation rate was 93%. The taxes were high, but you got something for your money. The Public Works Department did an awesome job and there was very little crime. The Police Department didn’t seem like it was in a  constant state of limbo like it does here. There were tons of parks and community pools and it was safe to ride your bike on the street. I guess Bluffton’s soul is now part Yankee. I don’t care if taxes go up as long as I finally get something substantial for my money.

And I think, like everywhere the soul of a place is found in the collective goodness of the community. That’s a little bit hard to find here sometimes but there are tons of great folks doing what they can to make Bluffton just a little bit better. And I for one, hope they succeed more in the future than they did in the past.

In The Beginning

In the beginning there was Sun City Hilton Head (located nowhere near Hilton Head Island). Sun City made of a lot of people very angry and was largely considered a bad idea. And in the later parts of the 1900’s Beaufort County had a lot of ideas – most of them bad. (sans the comp plan that the Town of Bluffton decimated, but that’s a story for another day).

And in that moment, where the Town of Bluffton made its revenue by way of an illegal speed-trap and kickbacks thereof from said “speeding tickets that never happened”, we devised a plan – a plan of men … and mice … and manifest destiny. Bluffton’s brain-trust called to action a new committee – the Development Agreement Negotiating Committee or DANC for short. This great new committee entrusted within itself the ability to negotiate agreements with developers as it tried to control the destiny of greater Bluffton. With these new magical powers and the spin-doctoring marketing-genius of folks who made pottery and punch cards they negotiated – and won a few, but mostly lost. The odds were not in their favor.

Bluffton’s best came to meetings with developers with reams of paper and plans – and models even. Developers sent guys who showed up with a pen – as the guys needed to entertain themselves twirling said pen (#TrueStory) as they pushed over the bumpkins not paying for things like roads and schools.

(*sidenote – paying for schools was the responsibility of the county so it didn’t seem to bother Bluffton folks too much that we didn’t plan well for the schools we would need,  and Beaufort County repaid the favor by building developments in the intended pathways of major thoroughfares – so we are still working thru those issues. (someday we’ll tell you the story of the crooked parkway – but we digress)

Back then South Carolina was on the very wrong end of many lists – income, maternal health, diabetes, education and so on – and since then we have moved up most of those lists at least a spot or 3. Hey, it’s South Carolina – Thank God for Mississippi.

Bluffton’s prospects were extremely bright – we just didn’t kinda get it as we set out to make … jobs – and to make sure the efffed up county didn’t efff things up before we could eff things up.

We swore we did it to save the May River – so that was one of the first things to go to fecal coli form.

And as we went we annexed everything we could,  and it looked for a minute like our manifest destiny might take us all the way to the Broad River … but, alas, May River Pollution turned public opinion against us – so we got stopped. Nothing like a good annexation – oh well.

We knew full well that commercial was profitable (Annex the Kroegar, Annex the Kroegar – that’s magic), rich neighborhoods weren’t too bad (let’s point the crooked parkway right at Hampton Hall) and crap-box cookie-cutter neighborhoods on 1/4 acre lots lost money – so we built lots of those. But, nice people live there – so all good. Welcome to Bluffton my good neghibors.

Today, Bluffton is all that it can be as we make ready to become like Nassau County Long Island – Home of lots of little overpriced house, some nice homes, beautiful nature kinda-destroyed and the impending all-encompassing crippling fear that sometime today I may have to take a left turn where there is no streetlight.

It could be worse.