The Lake Murray-Irmo Women's Club was looking for a way to raise money to build a new library.
Their answer came in a 1974 WIS Radio broadcast. Gene McKay, a personality on the morning show, had his imagination piqued by a small, downtown Irmo hardware store named The Ancient Irmese General Store.
"What were these Ancient Irmese like?" pondered McKay. Probably short people -- a farming tribe who lived off okra!"
That October, a modest arts and crafts sale named the Okra Strut was held inside Seven Oaks Park. The Women's Club began the long-outstanding tradition of frying and selling okra.
It wasn't until the sixth Okra Strut that the event was moved outdoors to downtown Irmo. By December 1980, the slimy green veggie had given Irmo its first library on the corner of Harbison Blvd. and St. Andrews Road.
My family moved to downtown Irmo in the summer of 1967, Gene MCkay was the new on-air morning man on 560 WIS . he moved from the midwest,and the station was in Gardendale Estates off of Bush River road. he was intriuged by the strange name of IRMO and started mentioning the name of the town on air.
WIS was a very popular station then, of course there was no FM as we knew it later. The Irmo joke evolved into legends about the "Ancient Irmese" MCkay made up. In downtown Irmo,at the corner of Fork ave and Woodrow St was JT Leitners's general merchandise store. A true old fashioned "general " store that at one time even sold caskets in the rural community. in about 1973, Mr Leitner retired (he may have died) and an Attorney and Irmo resident named Prentiss Cox bought the old store. keepng with the Irmese joke he named it the "Ancient Irmese Grocery".
Early settlers to the area were actually Hessian mercenaries(from the German province of Hesse) whom the English had hired to fight the revoloution. They didn't all go back to Germany after the war,they settled in the back woods and farmed,hence all the local German names in the area. it even shares the same linguistic mistake with the "Pennsylvania Dutch" who were actually Deutsch(German) so really its the "Deutsch Fork" South carolina had very few Dutch settelers and almost none at that time. the IRMO in which I grew up is gone forever and I am always saddened and amazed when I return. But I loved it then.
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