MYRTLE BEACH — Being such a transient city, sometimes one can be hard pressed to find a local resident who was born and raised in the area, let alone one who is the same age as Myrtle Beach.
But that’s the case for Socastee resident Betty J. Holmes, 75, and Mary E. Martin, 74, of Little River. Both women were born in the area in 1938 – the year that Myrtle Beach was incorporated.
“It’s great to have seen everything happen over the years,” Martin said, who was born in Ketchuptown. She will be 75 in June.
Martin and Holmes both said the amount of growth that’s happened in Myrtle Beach during their lifetimes is stunning.
“The biggest difference is the growth,” Holmes said, who was born and raised in Murrells Inlet. “The place has grown up so much. … It used to be more like a forest, now it’s a city. So many people moved just to retire in Myrtle Beach. It’s not country anymore. Everyone wants to build here.”
Martin marveled at the amount of growth the Myrtle Beach area’s seen.
“It was just a little tiny family beach,” she said. “They didn’t have high skyscrapers like they do now … There was not hardly anything in Myrtle Beach. [Going to the beach] was always a favorite thing of ours to do. We would go to the Pavilion and get on the rides, then we’d go to the beach in that area.”
The Pavilion opened in 1948 and closed and was demolished in 2006.
Martin said she also has fond memories of visiting the Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park as a child and taking family trips to the beach.
Holmes said the Pavilion was also a fond memory for her children, adding that when she was an adult her husband worked there for 40 years. Due to segregation at the time, Holmes, who is black, said she wasn’t always allowed to patronize the Pavilion.
“When I was growing up the only place [black] people could go was Brookgreen Gardens,” she said. “We couldn’t go to the beach unless we were with a nanny or a white family.”
She said she remembers the first time she was able to go to the beach and to the Pavilion in the late 60s.
“It was very thrilling,” she said. “We loved it. We would go on Sundays.”
Many people would travel from other parts of the area to shop at the Chapin Department Store.
“Everybody shopped at Chapin’s,” said Mavis Anderson, 57, whose family has been in Horry County for generations. “You could buy fish bait and engagement rings there.”
Holmes said she would travel from Murrells Inlet to shop at Chapin with her uncle when she was a child. Chapin opened in 1927, 11 years before the city even was chartered. It closed in 1999.
“That was the store for everybody,” she said. “It was a furniture store, grocery store, they even had a movie theater … Most of the shopping was done on Saturdays because they didn’t have cars then.”
Both Holmes and Martin said they think most of the change Myrtle Beach has seen has been for the best.
“Actually I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Holmes said. “I like everything about Myrtle Beach.”
She said businesses and the government of Myrtle Beach have given opportunities to her children. Her daughter, Kimberly Gary, is the human resources manager at The Sun News. Both her son and son-in-law work for the city.
“My family didn’t have to leave to work,” she said. “Myrtle Beach has really helped people through its growth and the jobs that are here.”
Martin, who said she lived in Ketchuptown until she was 13 years old and returned in 1995, said she believes that Myrtle Beach has one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
“I think we have probably the most beautiful beach in South Carolina,” she said. “There was a time when you couldn’t give a piece of [beachfront] property away here. Now, you can hardly buy one.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.