Lost Myrtle Beach by Becky Billingsley is about the things that were, but are no longer here. It’s both a history and a fond remembrance of how present day Myrtle Beach came to be.
“Isolated Beauty,” “Beach Retreats,” “Business Boom,” and “Motorcycle Rallies” are just a few of the chapter titles in this unique book that tells the story of what we today call the Grand Strand. From hurricanes to land developers, author Becky Billingsley takes no prisoners in her heavily researched account of the good, the bad, and the lost of Myrtle Beach.
Four hundred years ago Native Americans used this coast much as we do today, both living here year-round and migrating to enjoy fresh seafood. Billingsley describes the area as a densely forested paradise that was the ancestral home of the Chicora and Waccamaw Indians among others. Over the centuries European settlers, hurricanes, and land developers all took their toll on the population and the coast, leaving the area a very different place.
Like an archaeologist carefully digging through layers of dust, Billingsley takes us on a journey of discovery with information gathered from old newspaper articles, books and personal interviews. Richly illustrated with historical photographs, she shows us the theme parks, events, and resort hotels that have come and gone.
Among the many historical facts, Billingsley weaves stories of the personal lives of former Myrtle Beach inhabitants. There is a sad tale of the hurricane that washed away an entire house along with its family, and delightful accounts of crossing the Peachtree Ferry and stopping at Cooper’s Store in Socastee.
Billingsley discusses a variety of topics including the military presence and the importance of the air force base, the tensions and struggles of integrating the beach, the controversies of the bike rallies, the passing of the populuxe motels and how there are no provisions in Myrtle Beach for historical preservation. As a consequence many of Myrtle Beach’s historic structures have been torn down to make way for mini golf courses and other tourist related amusements.
The Pavilion, the Sun Fun Festival, the Ocean Forest Hotel, Fort Caroline and Hard Rock Park are all gone, but rather than leaving us with a sense of loss, the author points out that all of these places and events are part of our past and that Myrtle Beach is today what it has always been, a dynamic, growing area with an exciting future. It is up to us to meld that future with what is currently here and to preserve what we can of the past.
I recommend Lost Myrtle Beach to anyone who wants to know more about how Myrtle Beach came to be as it is today. The book offers a glimpse into the history of the Grand Strand through its structures and culture. By knowing where we’ve been, we can see better where we are going.
Lost Myrtle Beach
By Becky Billingsley
The History Press, 2014, $16.99
This book is available in area bookstores and through online booksellers like Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and BooksAMillion.com.
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