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Bless Pete, Myrtle Beach sure has changed

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Remember when?

By W.B. Evans

In my mind, I could already hear the waves and feel the breeze.
Despite gasoline rationing, no new tires in sight, and a shortage of hot dogs and hamburgers on Meatless Tuesday, we still traveled down to Myrtle Beach.

I was excited on the ride down and Mama was tryin’ her best to temper my mood.

“Son, things are going to be different down there this time,” she said. “With the war, there will be beach patrols watching for Nazi submarines instead of swimmers who go out too far.”

As usual, she was right. The few strands of scattered-about barbed wire along the Grand Strand were gentle reminders that an enemy could be offshore.

The Army Air Corps had started a bombing and gunnery range to train soldiers, but it was quieter.

There were a lot of more fellas in uniform instead of Bermuda shorts. Every once and a while, you’d see one of ‘em walking on the beach with his sweetie.

Loud nighttime porch parties on two-story guest houses decked out with lighted lanterns were now forbidden.

Shucks, folks couldn’t even light their Luckies on the beach because the enemy could spot the glow from miles away.

The seaside breeze was still there, but you couldn’t enjoy it very much.

We were missing the Civil Defense blackout test and I reckon Fred Vaughn will have to do without my help this time.

Blackouts were going on everywhere including the beach. Bless Pete, you couldn’t outrun ’em. Our room was hotter than blue blazes because black curtains covered every window and glass door. It wasn’t very much of a getaway to get our minds off the war.

At least I could make a beeline to the beach early in the morning as fishermen docked boats with nets brimming with a feast from Davy Jones’ locker.

Before the day was up, dinner tables all along the shore, including ours, were laden with fresh golden brown fish.

We spent most of the afternoons browsing in the little shops along the main drag. Everybody was walking, too. I saw more tans and blistered shoulders than cars.

As usual, the beach vendors were eager to sell us something unique.
Why, this one fella even had some genuine honest-to-goodness spyglass telescopes mounted on tripods, along with a spiel that grabbed my attention.

“Son, for two bits, you can scan the waves and ocean beyond for the sign of a German U-boat lurking off-shore.”

I had never heard of any sightings or saw a submarine rise from the ocean depths, but he had me thinking.

Seeing how I was on a budget. I figured my quarter would be better used for an ice cream cone.

I never saw time move so fast as it did that week. Before I knew, it we were motoring along the highway near Marion where workers waved at us from the fields of green tobacco.

As I waved back to ’em , I realized July 4, 1942, was just around the corner.

Uncle Harry said next week some of the Main Street store owners had gotten together to help the war effort.

“They’re gonna blow the siren at the fire station at noon and sell war stamps for 15 minutes and blow it again,” he said.
Also, the town was gettin’ ready for military maneuvers. One group of soldiers had already set up camp in Taxahaw.

As darkness slowly descended, we were home in our own backyard.
As we unpacked the car, I was wondering what I would do when the sun rose on the next day.

It didn’t take too long to figure it out. Billy Pipkins came over to welcome me back the next morning and invited me to his house, where a load of newly cut firewood had been unloaded in my absence.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t impressed. The wood was dumped in a pile.
Billy said his job was to get it stacked and in true Tom Sawyer fashion, he reeled me into his plan. However, after some thought, we decided to stack the wood in the form of a frontier fortress just in case there were any savages about.

There was enough to fashion out a war pillbox like the ones we saw on French beaches. You can never be too careful.

Yep, summer was passing by.