HISTORY:  South of the Border

S.C. Encyclopedia  |  Located just south of the North Carolina border near the South Carolina town of Hamer, South of the Border has long captured the attention of travelers on U.S. Highway 301 and Interstate 95. The beer distributor Alan Schafer (1915–2001) opened a one-room beer depot on the border in January 1950 to sell beer to dry Robeson County, North Carolina. Construction materials for the new business were delivered to “Schafer project: south of the border,” inspiring the name “South of the Border.”

South of the Border became a welcome first stop in South Carolina for Florida-bound travelers. The expansion of the beer depot to include a twenty-four-hour diner and the opening of the South of the Border Motel in 1954 capitalized on growing tourist business. Amusement-park-style attractions such as Pedro’s Plantation, a small zoo, and Confederateland were added, and shops including the Mexico Shop and Pedro’s Arsenal (a fireworks store) were opened. Embracing a Mexican theme, Schafer adorned buildings, menus, and advertisements with yellow sombreros and served Mexican-style food. He also created “Pedro,” a sombrero-clad cartoon spokesman who advertised South of the Border on billboards stretching from Virginia to Florida. Pedro drew business with puns such as “Pedro’s Weather Report: Chili Today—Hot Tamale.”

In 1964, North Carolina announced that Interstate 95 would cross the border and intersect with Highway 301 at South of the Border. Expansions aimed at attracting faster interstate traffic began. A ninety-seven-foot-tall neon sign in the shape of “Pedro” was constructed and was later joined by the twenty-two-story Sombrero Tower and the Pedroland amusement park. At Alan Schafer’s death in 2001, the South of the Border entertainment complex covered 350 acres and included five restaurants, fourteen stores, 300  motel rooms, a campground, an indoor miniature golf course, two fireworks outlets, and hundreds of larger-than-life statues.

— Excerpted from an entry by Laura E. Koser.  This entry hasn’t been updated since 2006.  To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

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