South of the Border (attraction)

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South of the Border's large welcome sign

South of the Border is a rest stop and roadside attraction on Interstate 95 and US Highway 301/501 in Dillon, South Carolina, just south of Rowland, North Carolina. It is so named because it is just south of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. The rest area contains restaurants, gas stations, and a motel, and truck stop as well as a small amusement park, shopping and fireworks. Its mascot is Pedro, a politically incorrect caricature of a Mexican bandido.[1][2][3] South of the Border has long served as a rest stop for vacationers and tourists traveling from the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada to Florida and Myrtle Beach.


South of the Border was developed by Alan Schafer in 1950.[2] He had founded a beer stand at the location in 1949 and had chosen because of its location adjacent to Robeson County which was at one time, one of many dry North Carolina counties.[4] Business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items imported from Mexico.[2] He had a great deal of success turning South of the Border into a tourist mecca.[5] 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 Interstate 95 and the existing US 301 intersect at the site of the South of the Border complex.


Following the Second World War, branding became an increasingly important aspect of marketing products.[6] Mascots in particular added personality and inviting imagery, both important for tourist attractions. Initially, Schafer only employed sombreros and serapes to advertise South of the Border. [6] Schafer eventually created the mascot Pedro to add to the exotic element. Minstrel shows were still popular in Dillon County and at about the time Pedro was created, he embodies the way in which people exoticized Mexico or Mexicans while remaining intentionally campy.[7] Pedro is an exaggerated cartoon-like representation of a Mexican man, because he wears a sombrero, a poncho and a large mustache.[1][2][3] P. Nicole King described Pedro’s image as a “southern Jewish guy in brown face” that was perhaps made partially in Schafer's image.[8][2] Schafer has previously dismissed criticism that Pedro is an unfair characterization of Mexicans arguing it’s a light-hearted joke.[9] Today, all South of the Border employees regardless of race, creed or color are referred to as Pedro, confusing and erasing racial differences.[2][10]

Architectural styles and decor[edit]

The entire motif of South of the Border can be described as intentionally campy. 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.


A South of the Border billboard.

Among the billboards advertising South of the Border along Interstate 95 in South Carolina and North Carolina are:

  • 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 much 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?
  • Be a Deer! Bring some Doe (at South of the Border).

Notable people[edit]

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, originally from Dillon, worked for a summer as a poncho-wearing waiter at South of the Border to help pay his way throughout his enrollment at Harvard University.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

A parody can be seen in The Simpsons episode "Bart vs. Australia." Marge and Lisa visit a gift shop titled South O' the Equator Gift Shoppe. Pedro is featured in the window of the gift shop with a sign stating "Pedro Sez: Eet's High Koala-T!"

South of the Border is also featured at the beginning of episode 5 of the third season of the HBO series Eastbound & Down.

Part of the film Forces of Nature was filmed at South of the Border.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b King 2012, p. 96.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Reeves 2011, p. 47.
  3. ^ a b Greenberg 2008, p. 255.
  4. ^ South of the Border History.
  5. ^ a b Fayetteville Observer 2009.
  6. ^ a b King 2012, p. 90.
  7. ^ King 2012, pp. 87, 91.
  8. ^ King 2012, p. 91.
  9. ^ King 2012, p. 93, 94.
  10. ^ King 2012, p. 93.


  • King, P. Nicole (2012). Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South: The Politics of Aesthetics in South Carolina's Tourism Industry. Univiversity Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1617032516. 
  • Reeves, James (2011). The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir. New York: Norton and Company. 
  • Greenberg, Peter (2008). Don't Go There!: The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World. Rodale. 
  • "HISTORY South of the Border". 
  • "In College: Bernanke once had job at South of the Border". Fayetteville Observer. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 

External links[edit]

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