SENECA, S.C. -- It's safe to assume that Seneca, S.C. has changed a lot since John Edwards was born there in 1953. Surely back then Route 123 wasn't cluttered with strip malls and restaurants and sporting goods stores like it is today.
But take a quick ride minutes away to Sirrine Street and you might suspect that hardly much as changed at all. The narrow road winds through the quiet mill village that's become so famous in the former senator's stump speeches in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond. Stop at the number 20: it's a small, old, boarded up structure sitting on top of a hill overlooking so many others like it. Its salmon pink color makes it stand out from the neighbors.
This is the home where Wallace and Bobbie Edwards, after borrowing $50 to release him from the hospital, brought baby John back for the first few years of his life. And Senator Edwards returned there today with his parents to remind reporters of his humble beginnings in the South.
"This is a big part of who I am and what I believe," he said as he stood in the home's side yard, the two proud parents standing behind him.
It was a nostalgic homecoming for Sen. Edwards, who was greeted just minutes earlier at an opening for a local Democratic Party office by 200 area residents who had no qualms addressing the hometown hero as "John" instead of "Senator."
"My grandmother lived right up the street here," he explained, pointing down the hill, "and I used to spend a lot of time at my grandmother's house who took care of us sometimes when my mother and father were at work."
He went on talk about his grandfather, whom he instinctively referred to as "Pa," and how he limped (Pa was paralyzed in one side of his body in his previous career as a professional boxer) to that same mill where Wallace worked every day.
"Sometimes," interjected the elder Mr. Edwards, "people with a pickup truck would offer him a ride and he'd get on the back of the pickup and ride home."
The image of Edwards and his parents talking to reporters in front of the boarded-up home was a testament to how far they've come since those early days. Wallace was dressed sharply in a buttoned-down shirt with a green sweater and corduroy jacket. The former senator wore a fitted blue shirt with grey slacks and a long dark overcoat. And Bobbie kept warm in a turtleneck sweater etched with the Ralph Lauren logo.
But those humble old roots are still very much evident.
"My wife and I both used to hang diapers out on a clothesline here," said Wallace. "We still use a clothesline. It's a good way to dry clothes."