by Charles Gulick
Doin' the Charleston
Title: THE CHARLESTON
En Route Coordinates:
Aircraft: N13385, E19457
Tower: N13365.889, E19459.717
That's our runway, that little one tucked way over in the corner. Runway 18--although it isn't documented and doesn't show up on the charts--is a runway all the same, and it's at Charleston Executive Airport, Charleston, South Carolina. Our landing there will put us in reach of the city where the Civil War began, and where Porgie and Bess lived, too, and more.
It was the explosion of a confederate shell on the parade ground of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 that started the war. The fort--actually a giant raft of stone and brick, and now a national monument--is in Charleston Harbor, which you can see out your left-side and rear windows.
Charleston is also the birthplace of the play Porgie and Bess, by DuBose Heyward, later turned into the famous opera by that author and George and Ira Gershwin. The name Porgy was derived from the fish peddlers Heyward heard chanting "Porgiee!" along Catfish Row, known in Charleston as Cabbage Row. It was there that Harlem dope peddler Sportin' Life's "happy dust" led to murder, lust, and temptation, and where the soulful story of love, loss and the crippled Porgy's forlorn love unfolded.
More recently, Charleston was the birthplace of the magnificent theme song of the civil rights movement, We Shall Overcome, based on a hymn Charleston's blacks found in a white Baptist hymnal and sang during a 1946 food and tobacco workers' strike.
Elevation at Charleston Executive is about 20 feet.