South of the Border (attraction)

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South of the Border's large neon welcome sign

South of the Border is a rest stop and roadside attraction on Interstate 95 and US Highway 301/501 between Dillon, South Carolina and Rowland, North Carolina. It is so named because it is just south of the border between the U.S. states of North Carolina and South Carolina. The rest area features not only restaurants, gas stations and a motel, but also a small amusement park, shopping (including, formerly, adult entertainment at the "Dirty Old Man Shop"), and, famously, fireworks. Its mascot is Pedro, a Mexican bandido.

Historic background[edit]

South of the Border was developed by Alan Schafer (1914 – July 19, 2001),[1] who founded a beer stand at the location in 1949.[2] The location was chosen as a convenient location for selling beer as it was located just over state (South of the North Carolina border) and county lines to a dry "alcohol prohibited" county adjacent to the north. Business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items. He had a great deal of success turning South of the Border into a "tourist mecca"[3][dead link] because of his location, which was immediately across the border from Robeson County which was at one time, one of many dry North Carolina counties. He grew his small business into what was, by local standards, an economic empire. South of the Border grew to over a square mile, required its own infrastructure, and had its own fire and police departments. Assisting in this growth was the fact that the new (at the time) Interstate 95 and the existing US 301 criss-cross at the site of the South of the Border complex. Schafer became reclusive, building a large compound of interconnected houses outside the Dillon city limits. At South of the Border, he kept secret apartments hidden in the backs of restaurants and shops.[citation needed]

South of the Border serves as a rest stop for vacationers and tourists traveling to and from Florida. US 501 is also the main route to Myrtle Beach which makes South of the Border a welcome rest stop for people traveling to and from that area. The revenues generated from the higher than average numbers of patrons allowed South of the Border to grow and expand into the Mexican themed kitsch location it is today.

Notable features and people[edit]

Part of the film Forces of Nature was filmed at South of the Border. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, originally from nearby Dillon, South Carolina, worked for a summer as a poncho-wearing waiter at South of the Border to help pay his way through Harvard.[3] South of the Border also hosted the bar/night club 'Pedro's' from 1985-1998.

Architectural styles and decor[edit]

The entire motif of South of the Border can be described as intentionally campy[citation needed]. Adobe style ornament is applied over inexpensive concrete block structures and combined with neon signage in Mid-century Modern (Googie architecture) or Roadside high-camp style. Most of the architectural styles of South of the Border are of the "Decorated Shed" type (Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown)[citation needed] however some aspects are "ducks" i.e.: designed as stand-alone advertisements for actual attractions—particularly the trademark giant, sombrero-clad neon figure which functions as the park's motel front signage and the illuminated sombrero-shaped tower which is visible for miles from the Carolina countryside.


The 165 foot (66 m) tall Sombrero Tower, built in the 1970s, is one of its attractions.

Among the billboards advertising South of the Border along Interstate 95 (SC) / Interstate 95 (NC) are the following:

Fill Yo' Trunque Weeth Pedro's Junque! Back up, amigo, you missed it! (just after the exit on I-95)
Pedro's Weather Forecast: Chili today, hot tamale! Keep America Green! Bring Money!
You Never Sausage a Place! (You're Always a Wiener at Pedro's!) Keep yelling, kids! (They'll stop.)
Sommtheeng Deeferent Honeymoon Suites: Heir Conditioned
Fort Pedro, Fireworks Capital of the US Etymologically Correck!
Howdy, Pardner! Top Banana!
Pedro's fireworks! Does yours? Too moch Tequila (Billboard appears upside down)
South of the Border Your sheep are all counted at South of the Border. (has a rotating wheel with sheep painted on it)
Caliente! Smash Hit! (junked car attached to sign)
I-95's best kept secret?

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°29′52″N 79°18′35″W / 34.49778°N 79.30972°W / 34.49778; -79.30972