Mary Catherine Canty was instrumental in the building of the Canal Street Recreation Center in the Harlem neighborhood of Myrtle Beach where she spent most of her life.
On Tuesday, Myrtle Beach City Council will discuss changing the name of the center to honor Canty, who died earlier this year.
“The story that I’ve heard is that when the city was looking at building Canal Street [center] she pushed for the center and took a napkin and drew where it should go and what it should look like,” Councilman Wayne Gray said. “That’s anecdotal, but I think it’s fitting that facility be named for her.”
Canty’s daughter Mary “Cookie” Goings said her family is incredibly humbled by the gesture.
“We are grateful and excited and happy for her and our family, but in the most humble way,” Goings said, saying that was how Canty raised her children. “[Were still still living] she’d stand there and she’d graciously and quietly accept the honor in her little way, and thank everyone for coming. And then when we walked through the door at the house she’d pinch herself.”
Canty’s oldest daughter, Martha Canty Gore, said naming the recreation center after her mother reflects all of the work Canty did for the community over the years.
“When it was mentioned to me by some of the city officials – I was just amazed to know that they wanted to honor her in such a big way,” Gore said. “I’m just glad and appreciative of the feelings and thoughts thaty people had for my mom.”
Of the four recreation centers in the city, two already are named after people. Pepper Geddings Recreation Center, built in 1968, was named after Myrtle Beach High School graduate Arthur Joseph “Pepper” Geddings Jr.
Geddings took part in city recreation programs for seven years before going away to college, recreation superintendent Pam Stone said. He died at age 20 from an injury during a baseball game.
Clement “Clem” Gurley Crabtree was a former recreation director with at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. When the city acquired the recreation center when the base closed, it already was named Crabtree Memorial Gym. Stone said the city also kept the name for the Base Recreation Center in honor of the former air base.
If the city votes to change the name of the Canal Street center, which was dedicated in 1981, it would be the first time a city recreation center was renamed to honor someone.
Canty also is credited with helping to save the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School. She attended the school, which was the first public school for black students in the Myrtle Beach area, beginning in 1939 when she was 6 years old. She worked with a group of former students for more than 20 years to ensure the school, which closed in 1953, was not destroyed.
Canty was born in 1933 in Myrtle Beach, growing up on Oak Street before moving to what is now known as Dennison Avenue in the Harlem neighborhood about 70 years ago. Dennison Avenue was named after Canty’s grandfather.
Gray – who Goings said Canty considered family – said it was important to him to honor Canty in this way because of the impact she’s had on the community.
“Years from now, when people hear the name Ms. Canty – as they hear the name Mr. Futrell [who was Myrtle Beach’s first black city councilman] – I feel like this will leave a lasting impression,” Gray said.