Tag Archives: Myrtle Beach

Broken Noses and Broken Hearts at Beach Week ’89

NOT what you want to see at the beach.

NOT what you want to see at the beach.

Anyway, the week wasn’t off to the greatest start with having to wrestle down and hogtie a skeeved out stoner so I figured it had to get better. Day 2 — rain, and lots of it. This wasn’t a passing shower to cool things down for ten minutes then raise the humidity out the roof. This was what Papa Wham called, “a good soaking rain,” which is great if you are growing corn or some such crop, but it sucks all the life out of a beach trip.

The most immediate danger was just being in the room all together. Too much testosterone confined in too small a space is trouble enough, but add in copious amounts of alcohol and you have the Balkans right before World War I — everyone wants to fight and fight badly, but honor demanded an excuse. “Borrowing beer” was always a great excuse, and two or three times things came to blows in the room over someone taking more than his share of the libations from the fridge or cooler. Luckily, everyone was slightly too drunk to either cause any real physical damage or to feel much of the damage that resulted from the few haymakers that managed to land on the odd jaw or nose.

It’s at this point I need to interject some background about my place in all this mess. While most everyone else was binge drinking to make a sailor proud, I was limiting myself to nursing a couple of Jack and Cokes. Truth be told, I wasn’t a very big drinker throughout high school. The prospect of having to face Mama with liquor on my breath was a buzzkiller every time so I was a pretty light drinker. I would sip a little at parties but I preferred to stay mostly clearheaded and alert enough to talk to anyone in a uniform who happened to show up at the most inopportune moments. Don’t worry though, when I got to college, I quickly made up for lost time.

Typical boys hotel room at the beach.

Typical boys hotel room at the beach.

In the early afternoon of the rain-soaked second day, several of the guys got word their various girlfriends had arrived “in country.” Most of the girls had waited an extra day to come to First Week, ostensibly because it took that much longer for them to pack their suitcases and then get all the suitcases into the 54′ U-Haul trailer to bring the stuff down. Most of us guys had two — maybe three — pairs of shorts, a handful of t-shirts, some swimming trunks, and some type of footwear. I packed everything I needed for the week in one backpack and had plenty of room to spare.

In any event, the arrival of the females of the species meant we wouldn’t see quite a few of the guys anymore that week. For one thing, the girls always stayed in much nicer hotels — the kind with running water and real sheets. Also, just to be honest, several of the guys were giddy at the prospect of finally getting what had been promised, for some since freshman year. I leave the details to the gentle reader’s imagination. Suffice it to say, with no parents around to walk in at the worst possible moments, many couples were, in the words of poet Robert Herrick, “Gather[ing] ye rosebuds while ye may.

Typical girls hotel room at the beach.

Typical girls hotel room at the beach.

Not all my lusty boon companions had perforce waited for the arrival of some maiden fair, however. Several of the guys were at the beach specifically to hunt for foreign eyes, ruby lips and shapely hips, and when you grow up in the booming metropolis of Greater Laurens County, “foreign” is any out-of-state plates — even if the state was Georgia or North Carolina. The siren call of girls strange to them was irresistible and several ended up in whirlwind Beach Week romances. Unfortunately for some of them, their souvenir of the week was a little more than a scrapbook but thankfully nothing Ajax couldn’t get off. They were lucky. In 1989 in the backwaters of South Carolina, we had heard of AIDS, but it was still just a boogeyman, not a real threat, or so we thought. I found out different in college, yet another story for another time.

For my part, senior year had “put me off my feed” insofar as females went. I broke up with the first great love of my life late  junior year in pursuit of greener pastures. By October senior year I realized the pastures were only greener because they sat over septic tanks, so I worked hard to get us back together. For awhile — a few weeks right around Christmas — it seemed we were an item again. Then in late January she disappeared for two weeks and all her dad (who absolutely hated me) would say was, “she’s at her momma’s in Georgia.”

I think that went well; don't you think that went well?

I think that went well; don’t you think that went well?

She came back on a Thursday  just after third nine weeks ended and met me at my locker after school with no fanfare, no “hello”, “how are you”, “kiss my ass” or anything; she just handed me my class ring. The last thing she ever said to me was, “Dean (to this day she is the only person who used my middle name), I’ve got some good news for you and some bad news.” Normally, when someone tells you that, you get to choose which you wish to hear first but in her case she just continued on with, “The good news is — IT’S NOT YOURS — I guess you can figure the bad news out for yourself.” Then she turned and walked out of my life forever and I made an exception to my usual “light drinking rule” for a few days. I made a very interesting discovery during those drunkenly hazy days too — when you are drunker than Cooter Brown, you don’t notice the tandem-axle dump truck load of emotional pain life heaps on you day after day nearly so much. Thus began a long period of self-medicating a clinical depression and personality disorder I didn’t even know I had. Anybody see an eminent train wreck in this locality?

Anyway, twenty-five years on, she’s a mother of three, and grandmother of three more (I’ve discovered all too often Facebook has a way of giving you news you aren’t looking for and don’t really want) and I’m in the midst of a good life with the third and greatest love of my life. My Budge has stayed with me through episodes that would have sent any of my former ex-girlfriends running in terror so it seems all things worked together for the good.

Sorry that I still haven’t finished the story of Senior Week. Actually, I haven’t even gotten to some of the rougher moments. Still, it’s enough for now.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean . . . unless it’s sand between your toes.

Modern Day Mos Eisley

The crew I used to run with in high school. This is us the morning we left for Senior Week.

The crew I used to run with in high school the morning after graduation just before we left for Senior Week.

The debauchery goes by many names: First Week, Sun Fun Week, Beach Week, or just Senior Week. I’m referring to the two-week period in late May to early June when hordes of hormone fueled recently graduated teenagers descend upon the strip of sand and water known in the Chamber of Commerce literature of Horry County as “The Grand Strand.”

Beach Week has been a tradition around the south for as long as anyone I know can remember. Daddy told me several stories about his teenage trips to the beach in the Wonder Years of the 1960s. Mama and her best friend, Carolyn used to ride down in CP’s 1965 Mustang convertible just to watch the boys go by.

That was a different time though. If you want a documentary of that particular era in the life of the Grand Strand, find a copy of the movie Shag and take notes. It’s a superb movie and from all I can gather from my older friends and family who knew the beach “back when,” it’s pretty accurate.

By the late ’80s though, action on The Strip was a little different. The bikinis covered much less, the kids had much worse manners, and no one had a clue how to dance correctly. Beach Week had evolved into a secular version of Carnaval. Looking around on the main drag, one can almost hear Obi-Wan informing young Luke Skywalker, “Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” Just like Luke, none of us listened anyway.

We left for the beach the day after graduation, 3 June 1989. Robby and I were riding together. His graduation present from his dad and stepmom was a snow-white ’89 Chevrolet Beretta sport coupe. To this day, I have never seen a whiter white on a car. It was a glorious piece of Detroit steel. Of course, we weren’t driving it. Robby’s dad, Bobby, forbade Robby to take this beautiful French vanilla wonder down to the coast. Bobby had been to Senior Week in his day plus he knew the two of us extremely well. For example, my driving reputation was so horrible, Robby (and a lot of my friends now that I think of it) couldn’t ride with me if I was driving the car. Basically, he didn’t want the Beretta totaled before it needed an oil change.

So we took the four banger doo-doo brown Subaru. At least it had a sunroof.

If I’d known how much my life was going to change on this trip, I’d have paid more attention to the details. Unfortunately, we never see the good times when we are in the midst of them. It’s only looking back when we can say, “It never got better than that” or “I wish I’d have know x so I could have done y.” For instance, I had no way of knowing that long bumper to bumper ride to the beach would be one of the last times I would ride with Robby, my best friend since second grade. Our paths were starting to diverge; I just didn’t know it.

We stayed at The Rainbow Court Motel. It was a “second street” accommodation meaning we had to walk across the main road and past the beachfront hotels to get to the sand. I knew a lot of girls who stayed in the beach front five-star palaces like The Yachtsman, but their parents were paying for their trips. Community Cash overtime stocking and bagging was paying for mine. Gas and everything cost me less than $200 for a week. Of course, eight of us were staying together (at least that’s what we told the manager — it was really more like 24) so someone was making a mint.

The first night we were there, one of the sophomores from our school who’d tagged along with another group from my class went nuts. He was a serious stoner even at 16, but he had broken the ONE rule, nay COMMANDMENT we had laid down — you can do all the drugs you want, but BUY THEM AT HOME! Any fool knows to never buy baggies from a stranger, ESPECIALLY AT THE FREAKING BEACH. Seriously, people from all over Hell and half of Georgia are milling around the beach during the first weeks and they love to screw over dumb, gullible teenagers. This kid couldn’t pass up a deal though. Unfortunately, his “bargain” turned into much more than he bargained for. Whatever jerk he bought his dime bag from had laced the pot with angel dust — PCP, and my friends, PCP is a bad day in powder form. This kid absolutely flipped out. He was hallucinating and screaming about glowing purple spiders and running around like a madman — buck naked, of course — and at the beach, attracting attention like that is a BIG no-no.

Myrtle Beach Police Department contracts with every surrounding department to get enough extra help for the two-week tsunami of teenagers. The contract police are tired and cranky and let me say, those boys don’t play. Back then a public disturbance charge — and running around in your birthday suit definitely fit the criteria for “disturbing” — would get you a $238 fine, but even worse, since most of us weren’t 18 yet, we couldn’t pay our own bail which meant a call to the parents to come get you. I’d heard horror stories about guys whose moms and dads had to come get them from the beachfront hoosegow. Getting in trouble anytime is bad; getting in trouble when your parents have to drive five or six hours to come get you is a whole other level of trouble. I know if I’d gotten arrested, which I almost did (more on that later), I’d have just ridden home on the roof rack or in the trunk. No way would I have sat next to Mama (or Daddy either) for the long road back.

Anyway, this kid is going crazy so we had to get him inside and shut up before the heat came down on all of us. It didn’t help matters that someone had come up with the brilliant idea to go get his sister AND his girlfriend who pitched right in to help by going all hysterical and weepy just as soon as they saw him. Wonderful.

We lured him inside with promises of showers to drown the glowing purple spiders. Getting him to calm down proved a bit more problematic. This dude was about 5’9″ and 115. It took EIGHT of us to get him under control and the eight of us were all wrestlers or football linemen. We were not small guys. Once we got him sort of wedged in to a couch so we could handle him better we took turns holding him down for the four hours it took the stuff to get through his system. Looking back, we probably should have dragged his naked butt to the hospital, but that would have raised many, many questions we had no good answers to, so we did the best we could.

That was just the first day. It didn’t get any better for me.

I’ll tell you some more later on. For now, know that I love y’all and keep those feet clean.