My Mother Continued The Charleston Tea Party Walking Tour Until the Last Two Years of her Life While I do the Private Tour

I am sorry to say that I lost not only my best friend who loved me and understood my tastes like no other on earth, but my business partner, and my mother all in one person.  My mother died August 25, 2014.  She had been limiting her tours due to great pain in her feet, with that word she hated to say, bunions. When she got cancer in her throat, at least the bunion swelling went away.  She had surgery in May last year, long and complicated, but she never regained the ability to swallow again from the reconstruction flap surgery.

She enjoyed staying with my brother at Sullivan’s Island where her room looked out to the sea and at my home where she died after a perfect, golden day with us and friends.  She told me that night what a happy home and life we have here, how our home is always full of friends and laughter.  She knew she was leaving behind a lasting legacy, which SHE had set in motion by coming to America from England after marrying my Charlestonian father. He bought a sailing yacht in England, which they were going to sail across the ocean to Charleston. It is a romantic story with surprising twists and turns.  They were rescued at sea after a four day gale.  There were newspaper articles following them in the mid 1950s. I have had them framed with their pictures. They looked like movie stars;  Grace Kelly some say; Ingrid Bergman others; and still others say Katherine Hepburn.

Soon after my marriage in 1988 to Preston Hipp, with a husband coming home from work to a sink full of my tour’s teacups, asking where was supper, Mother came to the rescue.  She took over the afternoon tours. With her English accent, elegant apparel, and dramatic presentations of Charleston’s history, she had a devoted following, many of whom returned year after year and with friends.  This was her outlet, her stage, where she shone.  She was brilliant, reading and adding to her knowledge of history, and doing crossword puzzles with her feet propped up when not on a tour.

She used to have a catering business, a Labour of Love, for ten years, which is why the dainty morsel accompanying her tea hit the spot, a refreshing end to the two hour walking tour of the heart of the Old Walled City of Charles Towne, the first English colony South of Virginia. She cooked from scratch like the English.  I use her English family’s brass scales for measurements in English receipts and cookbooks.

I had sisters Kris and Connie on my private tour from the West Coast a few years ago.  They planned their trip well in advance, asking me what else to do in Charleston.  Since they were to be here for a week, I suggested they take my mother’s walking tour before to get a good foundation on early Charleston history before going on my private tour of individual homes and gardens.  They LOVED my mother’s tour and were already enthusiastic in the spirit of Charleston before coming on my tour, which i think they were not sure they were going to like as much as hers.  They BURST OUT LOUD interrupting me apologetically that I was another version on the theme of my mother, Marianne Breyer Wichmann.

Then at lunch and tea at my house, they got to meet my daughter, Olivia Breyer Hipp, now a college graduate who is considering a version of her mother and grandmother’s tour business, too.  She’d be a natural.  She is the ditto of my mother and me as well. The ladies got to know all three generations.  Olivia published a magazine for her senior project at beloved Ashley Hall called Locavore on all things local. Both sisters bought a copy saying this magazine represented the heart of Charleston and urged us to republish it. Call Olivia to ask her to republish it at 843-708-3875.  The other thing daughter Olivia is considering starting is a tearoom in historic Charleston!  Charleston is in need of one downtown! Tell her that her mother and grandmother told you to call!

Come see the heritage being passed down from generation to generation.  May the circle be unbroken, as seen in an architectural motif called the guilloche pattern i show in the home of the doctor who delivered me.  Once you see it, you will see it everywhere in Charleston. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “My Mother Continued The Charleston Tea Party Walking Tour Until the Last Two Years of her Life While I do the Private Tour

  1. Deborah Mickler

    Hi Laura,

    Many years ago (I believe you were still a Wichmann!) my good friend and I took your Charleston Tea Party Tour. I have always believed that it is the best tour offered in the city and have shared that belief with many others. Along with eight friends, I took the same tour on August 16th, this time hosted by your incredible mother, Marianne Wichmann, at 843-722-1779. We had a delightful time learning from her and just enjoying her fun, feisty, and very lovely personality. She gave me the “real story” about one of my own Carolina ancestors, and I have no doubt that she is correct. In many ways she reminded me of my Columbia/Orangeburg grandmother- strong-willed, intelligent, proud to be a South Carolinian.

    I am looking forward to treating myself to your private tour and, hopefully, your antiques shopping (or just browsing!) tour.

    Best Regards,

    Deborah Mickler
    Irmo, South Carolina

  2. Ruby Davis

    Laura, Your Charleston Tea Party Private Tour was incredible. Your vibrancy and first hand knowledge of your beloved Charleston allowed me to see your city through your eyes. What a blessing to the four of us. I went to Charleston with no real agenda other than your brochure Mary Ann picked up on an previous trip and had held onto for years. We all agreed that it sounded like an excellent opportunity to experience the real Charleston hospitality. You left us in awe of your city as well as your numerous talents. This experience will always be one of my fondest memories. I’m so thankful that we made the choice to be your guest on Monday. From my heart to yours…love and many thanks. Ruby Davis

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