How All This Got Started

It probably started with this one:

When I moved to Santa Cruz, I wore t-shirts all the time, because I could. The weather was fine, my blood was hot, and my employers were happy that I even wore a shirt.

At Goodwill, the tees were very cheap and came with interesting things printed on them. Eventually I found some that I didn’t understand. “Hogskin TrucK Stop?” Who’d name a restaurant that?

The Internet told me. Hampton, Arkansas is the county seat of Calhoun County, Arkansas. Calhoun County is the definition of the word “backwoods:” small, lightly populated, with little going on. During the Great Depression hungry people from neighboring counties snuck over to Calhoun County to hunt hogs that roamed loose in the bottomlands, for food.

The hogs may have roamed loose, but they still belonged to people and had the ownership marks to prove it. After they killed a hog, then, the hungry hunters would skin it on the spot to remove the ID. They left the empty skins hanging on fences or tree limbs. .

So many hog skins were left hanging in the woods that Calhoun County became known as “Hogskin County.” I wouldn’t call it a name of pride; but it’s better to be known for something than nothing, I suppose. The annual “Hogskin Holidays Festival and Pork Cook-off” is Hampton’s major event.

And so there came to be the Hogskin Truck Stop. Over the years it seems to have morphed into “Granny’s Grill,” though I’m not completely sure of that. But if so, changing that name was a smart marketing move.

I’m a story guy. I love finding stories. And t-shirts were not only cool, but had stories to find. Not long after I found this shirt, I also found this tee for Harold’s Country Club — autographed by Harold himself.

Harold’s Country Club turned out to be an elderly service station out in rural South Carolina somewhere where dinner was served in the service bay two or three nights a week among the spare fanbelts and the tools and all. Afterward dinner, everyone would go out to the gas pump island and sing karaoke. You can’t make this stuff up.

And after that, more and more shirts, more and more research, and more and more stories. A t-shirt is like a postage stamp or poster that anyone can make, and then send out into world. If you make a good one, people will wear it and become the story. And when they tire of the t-shirt, the story comes to rest in a thrift store.

And here we are. I’m putting up the tees for you to see, and the stories for you to read. If you know better about some of these tees than I do, drop me a line because it’s just me and the Internet and what people tell me. That can be a lot, but I can always use more.

COVID-19 has stopped my thrift shop escapes: the thrift shops have reopened, but I’m not going back for a long time, if ever. That’s all right. I’ve got a lot of shirts to tell you about. Keep coming back, and check the updates page for new additions.

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