S.C Maritime Museum celebrates spring with second annual Burning of the Socks

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kimberly Duncan/For the Times
Bob Turner, right, who started the tradition of burning winter socks at the beginning of spring, was in Georgetown for a South Carolina Maritime Museum fundraiser over the weekend.

Spring showed up right on time on Sunday afternoon. Temperatures climbed into the 70s. In and around town, azaleas, tulip trees, daffodils and yellow Jessamine flaunted new bloom.
Between 4 and 7 p.m., more than 100 people milled about, indoors and on the riverfront deck, at the South Carolina Maritime Museum’s second annual Burning of the Socks.
For readers unfamiliar with the phrase, “burning of the socks” is a comparatively young coastal tradition dating to the mid-1980s.
At that time, in Annapolis, Md., Bob Turner — a tanned and gangly fellow even now — managed a boatyard in the “Sailing Capital of the World.”
While working on “other people’s boats” all winter, his socks collected sawdust, bottom paint, caulk, fiberglass resin — and all manner of other stuff one might find in and around a boatyard. He said his socks would stand up when he took them off at night.
As the story goes, one first day of spring, he took off his socks, dropped them in a paint tray and doused them with lighter fluid.
Then he lit a fire and kicked back with a beer to celebrate spring. The following year, he asked a few friends to join him, and a tradition was born.
There are now sock burnings in coastal towns all along the East Coast. In fact, coastal locals say “the aroma of burning socks heralds springtime.”
Sock burning organizations are taking root around the Great Lakes and on the West Coast. There is even a Sock Burning Association.
Fortuitously, Turner — the  “father of modern sock-burning” – was able to attend the S.C. Maritime Museum’s Sunday afternoon event. Before his mis-matched socks took flame, Ed Pietrowski of WPDE television read Georgetown’s personalized version of “Ode to the Sock Burners” — originally composed by Jefferson Holland.

Them Georgetown boys got an odd tradition
When the sun sinks to its Equinox position.
They build a little fire along the docks.
They doff their shoes and burn their winter socks.
Yes, they burn theirs at the Equinox.
You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not.
See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall,
And never took ‘em off to wash’em, not at all …
So they burn their socks at the Equinox
In a little ol’ fire burning nice and hot.
Some think incineration is the only solution,
‘Cause washin’ ‘em contributes to Sampit pollution.
Then through spring, summer and into fall,
They go around not wearin’ socks at all.
Just stinky bare feet stuck in old deck shoes,
Whether out on the water or sippin’ a brew.

As the sun set over the Sampit River, a happy crowd dawdled over an old-fashioned pig-picking, enjoyed museum exhibits, and stuck around for music by Henry’s Attic.
Georgetown’s Burning of the Socks is one of several annual efforts to raise money for the S.C. Maritime Museum. Learn more about the museum at www.scmaritimemuseum.org. Keep in mind the Museum references all of South Carolina’s maritime history — not just Georgetown.
Right now, a free special exhibit — 1905 Georgetown’s Golden Year — is on display. There is a gift shop too. And the museum is always looking for volunteers to help support their mission.

By Kimberly Duncan
For The Times

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