When thinking about South Carolina's military history, what wars come to mind? Of course the Civil War and the Revolutionary War are at the top of the list.
But what about the Cold War?
In March 1958, the state was briefly at the epicenter of the struggle between capitalism and communism when a bomb was dropped on a farm in Mars Bluff. Shortly after 4 p.m. that day, the town near Florence county became a war zone as a U.S. Air Force plane accidentally dropped a three-ton nuclear bomb on the Gregg family's land.
On Thursday, ETV will debut a documentary, "Incident at Mars Bluff," about the event as part of the network's "Carolina Stories" series. The 30-minute film explores the toll on the family that miraculously escaped death.
The bomb wasn't armed, so there wasn't an atomic explosion. But the impact was enough to destroy the family's home.
"It didn't hit it directly. It was about 100 yards away," Matt Burrows, the film's producer and director, said about the impact. "The power of the blast went through the house, and kind of imploded the house.
"It destroyed everything."
Here's how the story goes: Helen Gregg, then 6 years old, had been playing with her then-9-year-old sister, Frances, and their then-9-year-old cousin Ella Davies in a playhouse in the yard. The three fatefully decided to play elsewhere.
Seconds later, the bomb hit, ripping a crater in the ground 50 feet wide and 35 feet deep. The playhouse was pulverized. Nobody was killed, and Davies only required 33 stitches and an overnight stay in the hospital.
The composition of ground that day, wet and muddy, cushioned the fall of the bomb, making it drop deeper into the ground.
"I think some fate stepped in," Burrows said. "They got hurt. They just didn't get killed."
After the military investigation, the family enjoyed a brief period of celebrity. In April 1958, they appeared on the CBS game show "I've Got a Secret." "Incident at Mars Bluff" contains footage of the episode.
"Their secret was their house was hit by an atomic bomb," Burrows said. "Of course, nobody guessed it. I don't think anybody's seen that footage in 50 years."
But the euphoria wore off when the Greggs began tussling with the U.S. Air Force over compensation. The family hasn't spoken much about the incident in the past 50 years. Burrows said this is the first time interviews with family members will be broadcast.
"They were reluctant to talk about it in the past. You can imagine it wasn't a good experience," said Burrows, who said the documentary doesn't seek social justice. "They had trouble seeing eye to eye with the Air Force on amount of damages.
"I don't think they feel real good about the outcome."
"Incident at Mars Bluff" will air at 9 p.m. Thursday on WRLK-35, cable channel 11.
The documentary will also be screened at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Nickelodeon Theatre, 937 Main St. "Displaced: The Unexpected Fallout from the Cold War," produced by ETV's "Southern Lens" series, will also be screened. The film is about the neighborhoods outside of Aiken that were razed to make room for the Savannah River Site. Tickets cost $15.
Marina Lomazov is a Steinway Artist. Now her husband, Joseph Rackers, is, too.
In June, Lomazov was surprised by a group of friends with a gift: a refurbished 1976 Steinway M, a medium grand piano. If you don't know, Steinway is like the Michael Jordan of pianos: the greatest ever.
The prestigious piano-making company, Steinway & Sons, will now provide a piano of her choice at every concert she performs - for the rest of her career. The same now goes for Rackers, who was recently named a Steinway Artist.
"It's a list that includes many great musicians," Rackers said. "And I'm honored to be on this list."
The elite group of pianists includes Bruce Hornsby, Diana Krall, Ahmad Jamal, Sheryl Crow and Van Cliburn.
Rackers, who helped plan the surprise presentation to Lomazov at the conclusion of this year's Southeastern Piano Festival, thought he had a year to complete the program's requirements, which include performing regularly, demonstrating a mastery of the piano and being recognized by peers and critics.
"I just suddenly heard from them," he said. "I guess the process happened a lot quicker."
Lomazov and Rackers are one of a handful of husband-and-wife Steinway Artist teams in the world.
OTHER ARTS EVENTS
"Evolution: 21st Century Songbook" will be a performance at the Columbia Museum of Art at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Kevin Bush and Tom Beard will perform songs in the "Ansel Adams: Masterworks" exhibition gallery. Bush and Beard, who will be backed by bassist Terry Trentham and percussionist Charles Williams, will interpret songs by Jimi Hendrix, Suzanne Vega, Leonard Cohen and Stevie Wonder, among others. The museum is at Main and Hampton streets. $8 to $10; (803) 799-2810 or www.columbiamuseum.org
USC's University Chorus will present its fall concert, "Life, Loss and Love," at 7:30 p.m. Friday at St. Andrews Baptist Church. The repertoire will include Bach, Brahms and Lauridsen, among others. The chorus is directed Joseph Modica, a recently appointed assistant professor of music education. The church is at 230 Bush River Road. Free; (803) 777-5369
The Campus Orchestra of USC will have its fall concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the School of Music recital hall. The orchestra, directed by Neil Casey, will perform Bach's "Mein Jesu" (transcribed by Leopold Stokowski); Rutter's "Suite for Strings" in four movements; "Adagio" by Tomaso Albinoni; and Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A-major. The recital hall is at 813 Assembly St. Free; (803) 777-4280
The Sterling Chamber Players will perform a concert at 8 p.m. Friday. The program will feature "Trio Pathetique," a piece for clarinet, bassoon and piano by Glinka, and the Brahms G major violin sonata featuring South Carolina Philharmonic concertmaster Eric Chu.
The seating is cabaret style. The concerts will be at 300 Senate St., at Canal and Senate streets in the Vista. $5 to $15; (803) 252-2001 or www.sterlingchamberplayers.org
The Columbia Museum of Art Museum Shop will hold its annual Holiday Artisans' Fair and Sale noon to 3 today. There will be 20 artists participating, offering handcrafted items such as jewelry, mosaic stones, glass and woven scarves. The museum is at Main and Hampton streets.
- Otis R. Taylor Jr.