Sunrise Over Myrtle
By Bill Shepard
Dad was true to his promise. The pretty blue 1937 Plymouth was a beauty and it belonged to the Shepard’s, or would when the last payment was made. Dad bought the car from Davis and Clanton who operated a successful business on North Main in Darlington. Dad had said that when he bought a new car he would take us to Myrtle Beach! A trip to Myrtle Beach from Darlington was a once in a lifetime event and we looked forward to it happening. It wasn’t that it was all that far, but Dad didn’t feel that the old cars he had been able to own were up to the trip.
Dad wanted to wait until the governors were removed from the new car before making the trip. Governors were on the car to prevent it from being driven too fast before the care was broken in good. Seems like the car would not go faster than forty miles an hour until the governors were removed. Does anyone remember?
Dad had his new car and our trip to Myrtle Beach was a certainty. None of us knew what to expect. We had heard from some who had been there that to see the sunrise over the ocean was a beautiful thing to see. I tried to imagine that scene, but having never seen an ocean I did not know where to begin. Dad said we would be at Myrtle when the sun came up.
We were off to see the ocean, all nine of us! Dad had said we could invite a friend to go along. There were six of us, and three friends. Mama prepared a picnic lunch, enough for all nine. We wore our bathing suits underneath our clothing. We would not pull them off until we returned home!
We were off, nine people packed like sardines in a tin can! Travel was slow. There were no super highways. Just outside of the town of Conway we stopped at an artesian well and filled our water jugs. Dad had been told there was no place at the beach to get fresh water, just as there was no place to dress into our bathing suits!
We had been on the road for hours when we finally reached our destination. Dad found a place to park the car and we scrambled outside. Only one large and open pavilion was there and it was dark. Dad parked beside the only other car that was there. No one was inside.
We got out of the car and turned our ears to the sounds we were hearing. IT was still dark. The sounds from the waves dashing in the ocean were frightening, since not one of us had ever been near the ocean we didn’t know what to expect. Mom and Dad and the little ones, Jenny and the baby, remained in the car. The rest of us dared to venture closer to the water’s edge. Trying to imagine what all the noise of the crashing waves was about caused fear inside of me. The couple that had left the parked car to walk along the strand came upon us. I overheard the young man say to his partner, “The tide is coming in!”
Already fearful of the noise I was hearing, his words hit their target. I began running toward our car. It seemed I could feel the breath of that unseen monster reaching to swallow me! The others were close behind. We were all thinking the same thing- that the tide would come rushing in all at once.
Daybreak came and because it was cloudy, we were disappointed in the scene we had heard so much about. The clouds finally cleared away but the sun was already high up in the sky. We went swimming in the ocean and it was so much fun to ride the waves. Mama and Dad stayed in or near the car with the little ones. The sun shone heavily down upon us and in a few hours we were all blistered. No sunscreen in those days!
A long net stretched along the water several yards out into the ocean. We learned it was there to prevent jellyfish from coming into the swimming area.
Around noon we were told it was time for lunch and to begin our return trip home. There was a spigot near the pavilion where folks could rinse themselves. Of course, it was salt water! We showered ourselves then put our clothing on over our bathing suits. We loaded the car and Dad drove us to a shady spot under some trees and we had our picnic.
We made the return trip home as a miserable bunch. Salt in our hair, our bodies blistered from the hot sun, and sleepy and tired from it all – but with memories for a lifetime locked inside each of us!
As I write, memories of it all are playing in my mind. Of the nine that made the trip, only two remain, my sister and me. I visited Myrtle Beach a few times after that first visit, but none were as exciting as that first time. Beautiful memories!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673.