Gotta Watch Out for those Southern Gentlemen!

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The south has a reputation for being genteel and “propuh” (southern accent style). Manners matter here – through I’m sure not as much as they did in the years gone past.

All that brings me to today’s photo and story. Very recently, I took some time off from work and we went on a mini-vacation to the southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. We’d never been there before but we met up with some friends from CA who where there on vacation, too.  We had a great time and I came away very impressed with the history of Charleston!  (I’ll have numerous posts of photos I took there so will save a lot of those stories for later posts.)

One of the things you see on many of the buildings that date back to the 1700’s, etc., are balconies outside of upper floor doors. Those balconies usually face the street. Many of those balconies are semi-circular in shape and are made out of metalwork. Now here’s where it gets interesting: in days gone by, there was, of course, no air conditioning and Charleston gets hot and humid in the summers. One of the things that the southern belles used to do was to come out on the balconies all dressed in their several layers of clothing with their hoop skirts. That’s why so many of the balconies are semi-circular.

But it gets even better. The floors of those semi-circular balconies are typically made of solid metal, not metal grate. Why, you say? Well, the ladies would come out on their balconies and the southern gentlemen would engage them in conversations from the street below. If the balcony flooring was made of metal grate construction, the “gentlemen” could peek up the ladies’ skirts!!! So, the solution was that the flooring of the balconies would be made of a solid construction to maintain the modesty of the young ladies. Bear in mind that this was in the day and age when seeing a woman’s ankle was supposed to lead to a marriage proposal!  How things have changed…

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Today’s photo gives you an idea what I’m describing…but these were fairly small balconies compared to some of them.  And there were a few..not many, but a few…that were made with metal grate for the floors. I suspect those were constructed more recently, but who knows?  Maybe that was where the scandalous ladies met their scandalous southern suitors!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1983, David Hendricks, a businessman traveling in Wisconsin, called police in Bloomington, Illinois, to request that they check on his house and family. According to Hendricks, no one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When the police and neighbors searched the home the next day, they found the mutilated bodies of Hendricks’ wife and three children, all of whom had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife.

Because there was very little sign of a struggle or forced entry, police thought the crime scene was suspicious. In addition, though the killings were brutal, the murder weapons had been cleaned and left neatly near the bodies. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks’ alibi—that he had left for Wisconsin just before midnight on November 4—appeared solid.

Nevertheless, with no other leads, police began to examine Hendricks’ story more closely. He claimed that he had taken his family out for a pizza at about 7:30 on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30. Hendricks left for his business trip several hours later.

But after studying the children’s bodies, medical examiners concluded that Hendrick’s story did not quite fit. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30—while Hendricks was still at home.

Police charged Hendricks with murdering his family, but they still lacked a concrete motive. The Hendricks family was devoutly religious, belonging to a puritan-like group called the Plymouth Brethren.Hendrick’s defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. Still, the jury found Hendricks guilty of four counts of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 21, 1988.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The bird pictured on the American silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter. From 1830 to 1836, people who worked at the United States Mint adopted him to use as model for the drawings. When he died after getting his wing injured in the coining press, they stuffed him. He is still on display in the lobby of the mint.

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