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Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Published Monday, February 02, 2009 11:00 AM
By Paul Zoeller
Summerville Journal Scene
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Ernie likes to ice skate, Kirsten loves to build, Bubba is into tattoos and Claude has a thing for trees. Four uniquely different people but they all have something in common... they are my neighbors.

Upon moving to Summerville, I wanted to get out and learn all I could about the area. I was in such a rush to see everything, I almost skipped over my own neighborhood. Of course that got me thinking, how often do we get to know the people around us? Some of the most interesting and inspiring stories are everywhere around us and only after getting to know these people did I realize I have some interesting neighbors.

Ernie Hulin loves ice skating and started when he was 5 years old.

Ernie Hulin keeps his house and yard immaculate, owns his own business and is always seen in a suit. He is soft spoken and keeps to himself so it is hard to believe he leads a second life when on the ice. Yet, everyone who has ever skated at the Carolina Ice Palace knows Ernie. He has been skating there since the palace opened about 10 years ago.

He glides and skips and spins across the ice with the grace of a figure skater. Everyone knows Ernie by name or can describe him, from the suit he wears to the silver briefcase he carries. It is common to see him at the rink multiple times a week, listening to his music from a cassette tape and dancing across the ice as if performing a choreographed routine.

A little known fact about Ernie: At the age of 7, he trained as a pairs skater and would have had a promising career if not for an injury. Still, after realizing he would never skate professionally, Ernie's love of skating kept him on the ice. Ice Skating, he says, is a form of therapy that helps him ease lower back pains, while immersing himself into a sport he loves.

Ernie glides across the ice at the Carolina Ice Palace.

The first time I saw Bubba Long, his little dog, Max, was dragging him down the street. It was funny to see this big guy have a small animal dictate his journey. After spending some time with Bubba, it didn't take long to realize he follows his own path.

Bubba Long with his dog Maximus or Max for short.

Usually he can be found at Ivory Tiger Tattoo applying ink. The inside of the business he co-owns is covered with the designs and an award-winning portfolio of his work sits on the counter. He has been a tattoo artist for about 19 years and worked hard to help legalize tattoo shops in the state.

He is passionate about his trade and feels his role is that of an artist, therapist and mind reader. He explained that some come into his shop with a design in mind or flip through books for ideas but they all have a reason for wanting a tattoo. It is Bubba's job to decipher their thoughts and give them what they want. The decision is important, obviously, since the art will stay with the customer forever.

When not walking Max, Bubba is creating art at Ivory Tiger Tattoo.

Kirsten Abrahamson is always busy. Between the school PTA, projects and running kids to lessons the only time she does stand still is in front of Summerville Elementary to pick Jack and Sylvie up everyday.

When Abrahamson, an architect, and her family moved into their new home some could say it was an eye sore in the historic downtown area. Undeterred, she drew up plans and redesigned the house inside and out tearing down walls and adding floors to transform it into her dream home.

Kirsten designed a bar complete with seating and Scrabble pieces embedded between the tiles.

She designed the house to keep its charm but added contemporary styling like a bar and seating area to entertain. A new floor was added to give the children their space and her husband, Henry, his own office. Kirsten wanted the house to be functional but retain a historic presence and be something she would be proud of.

Her work paid off. This past year her home was awarded the Preservation Award by the Summerville Preservation Society.

Abrahamson not only redesigned the facade but added a second floor.

Some would say Claude Burns is a tree hugger but he just wants to keep them around instead of watching developers knock them down in the name of progress. He has a good reason to protect the tree. Claude is the horticulturist for North Charleston, and has been working since the 90's to keep the city landscaped and the parks looking good.

Growing up, I had to keep up with a 5-acre yard but taking care of the third largest city in South Carolina? From parks to easements and all public property, Claude has his work cut out for himself. It is not just about keeping up with the area parks but planning new areas as the city grows.

Claude Burns knows plants; that is why he is the horticulturist for North Charleston.

Keeping up with a city that size can't be easy but Burns still finds the time to work on his own yard, calling it therapy. Not exactly bringing his work home with him but pretty darn close.

After maintaining his lawn as well as the city of North Charleston's many lawns, there is little time left for other hobbies. Some things are neglected, like his boat, that never sees the water.

Being the horticulturist for North Charleston is time consuming which means less time in the boat for Burns.

Interesting neighbors and when each was asked they really didn't have any idea who they lived near. Who could blame them? Everyone is busy and has very little time. I guess I am just a little nosy. I may never need ice skating advice or a tattoo but it is good I met my neighbors just in case.

Go introduce yourself and find out about the people in your neighborhood unless you are the interesting one then just let them come to you.

Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at

Comments (1)

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Your Neighborhood
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 7:30 PM

I really enjoyed the article about ice skater Ernie Hulin. I met Ernie at the Ice Palace when I moved to the Chas area & started ice skating at the Ice Palace, N. Chas, SC. Ernie has helped numerous children & adults improve their skating skills over the years.

Posted by: Mary

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