Winter beach trip is worth it

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By W.B. Evans

I know beach sand doesn’t mix with frosty window panes and cold mornings, but bless Pete, I was ready for a change.

So when Uncle Harry mentioned riding to the coast, I was all for it. Uncle Harry’s friend, Dr. Brown and his smoking buddy, Mr. Plyler, hatched the plan.

“Harry, you ought to take a few days off from lawyering and so something different,” Dr. Brown said.

The dead of winter was a funny time to be talking about a beach trip. However, I was more than willing be break away from my studies if they needed me to. Hey, family comes first. 

Besides, Mama said I’d still get to see the Jack and Judy Dental Health Puppet Show that was coming to school Thursday.

Of course, there was still some other school stuff to handle.

Mama didn’t have to go to Mr. C.M. Lockwood’s office or see somebody on the school board for permission, but she did have to go talk to my teacher.

I was hoping make-up work would be all they would talk about. They came to some sort of understanding because Mama was smilin’ when she got home.

Everything was just about set.

For us, this was one of those “someone knows somebody, who knows somebody else” deals. I reckon that’s the way lawyers like Uncle Harry get stuff done.

He spoke to his friend, Mr. Plyler, who was good friends with a fella who knew the owner of a big summer house smack dab on the water. After some wheeling and dealing, they struck some sort of bartering arrangement. Uncle Harry was always good at horse trading. It was late January, the beach business was slow and he got us a place to stay that included meals.

Knowing how the weather was here, I packed sweaters and long britches instead of a bathing suit, shorts and tank tops.

“Now don’t be too disappointed,” Aunt Bess said. “You need to know before we get there that the ice cream stands, Pavilion and amusement park won’t be open. I think we can still find plenty of good stuff to do.

“Why, we’ll have the whole beach and ocean to ourselves,” she said.

Friday morning finally arrived.

Yesterday at school, I told some of my friends that I was going to the beach today. They thought it was crazy, but wished they were going, too. We got old Betsy loaded about daybreak. Everyone was in their seats and we backed out of the driveway, got on Chesterfield Avenue, and headed right toward the cold morning sun.

I was sleepy, but too excited to sleep. We rode and rode past places Uncle Harry called by name. Once-green fields were bare and covered with a thin coat of frost that gleamed in the sun.

To tell the truth, I liked this goin’ to the beach stuff better when we had the windows rolled down so the farmers could wave at us when we waved at them. 

We finally reached Marion, but the tobacco auction barns were locked up tight and silent.

Mama pulled into an ESSO filling station for gas.

The cold wind was a big change from the warm heat in old Betsy. We all got a Coco-Cola to go with the ham biscuits in our lunch basket. With a full tummy, it wasn’t very long before I fell asleep.

I awoke just as old Betsy came to a stop. I looked up to see the front of a two-story beach house with a wraparound porch.

As I peered at the beach, I noticed right away there were no striped beach chairs in sight.

Yes sir, we were definitely at the beach in the off season.

We unloaded old Betsy and got our rooms. The first thing me and Aunt Bess did was walk to the ocean. A cold wind was blowing and whitecaps were all over the water.

As I looked back at the big wraparound porch, Mama was standing there.

“Y’all need to come back,” she yelled over the rush of the waves. “Supper is on the table.” 

The dining room and the food were both hot.

Oysters, clams, crab and fresh red snapper with hush puppies were loaded down. We had the whole place to ourselves, and since things were slow and quiet, the staff ate with us, which suited me just fine.

“You should come down to the beach early in the morning when the fishermen are pulling in their nets and sorting fish for the markets and hotels,” one of the waiters suggested to Mama. “It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Sure enough, we went down to the beach bright and early the next morning. Fishermen were pulling in their boats and nets using an old truck. I was surprised at the size of the fish.

Shucks, one was big enough to feed all of us.

Even though it was real cool, the fisherman cut palm branches to place over the catch to keep them fresh.

Well sir, you might say we were like folks on one of those fancy cruise ships. All we had to do was eat and look at the ocean.

I had some funny books to keep me occupied and, most of all, Uncle Harry was getting a chance to sit back and relax.

One afternoon we rode up to Myrtle Beach. It sure looked a lot different.  Only one or two beach stores were open. As we walked down the boardwalk, they were doing their best to sell us some sand buckets and shovels, but we just kept on walking.

Time moved at a snail’s pace, but it seems in a flash, it was time to pack up and head home.

I think the folks at our beach house enjoyed our company just as much as we enjoyed theirs.

You know, even in the wintertime, my face and hands were sunburned.

I noticed it that Sunday night when we got home. The one time I wanted time to slow down, it picked up quickly turning into a school morning.

I dreaded all that make-up work my teacher would give me that day, but I was ready.

To be on the safe side, I brought her back a little calendar with sea shells on it.

Maybe she will cut me a little slack.

Oh well, I’ll know shortly.