By the grace of God, I was born in the great state of South Carolina, in Columbia to be exact. Once again God shed his light on me and allowed me to grow up in Newberry. My daddy worked in a cotton mill and we lived there until about March of my junior year in high school. Gotta be honest here, I wouldn't trade growing up in Newberry for anywhere else in the world, but I wouldn't want to live there now. Anyone who grew up in the South knows that the mills always "shut down" for the week of July 4th. For me and my family that meant, Windy Hill Beach here we come! Mama and daddy would rent the top half of the same second row house every year. Oh, and every year we shared that house with my aunt and uncle and cousin Larry from Winnsboro S.C.
My Mama can, and always has been able to get the most bang for her buck. Youseeopie, the second row was cheaper than the front row. The upstairs unit catches more of the ocean breeze than the downstairs unit. ( Think No AC! ) Also if we split the cost of the house with Aunt Juanita and Uncle Wesley, we'll have money to take you and your brother to the rides one night at Ocean Drive. Nuff said.
My daddy, Uncle Wesley, and my older brother, Jerry, spent most of their days on the Windy Hill fishing pier. Daddy and Uncle Wesley would take a break from fishing late in the afternoon and slip over to Moonies beer joint across the street from the pier, and toss back a few cold ones before supper. Cousin Larry and I spent our days in the ocean, pretty much tormenting anybody stupid enough to come within 20 feet of us. Mama and Aunt Juanita, among other things, spent their days sitting and walking on the beach. Of course Mama spent a lot of her time screaming at me to stop this or stop that, and come in closer to the shore, and threatening to kill me, or worse, not take me to the rides in Ocean Drive if I didn't. Mama always seemed to know how to get her baby boy to act right.
Below L to R: My brother Jerry, Cousin Larry, and Little Tommy
After supper, right about dusk, when everybody else was settling in to watch T.V., mama would let me walk the block and a half down to the Windy Hill Pavilion. This was my favorite thing to do at the beach, except of course, going to O.D. on Wednesday night to ride the rides. There was something magical to a little five or six year old boy from Newberry, about the colorful neon signs, the pin ball machines, and my absolute favorite, the juke box. I would put my money in and play my favorite songs of the day and dance by myself in front of the juke box. Folks didn't seem to mind, in fact they seemed to enjoy it so much that they would toss coins on the floor to me. Even at that tender age I knew how to "manage" money. When the song was over and the dance ended, I would pick up the coins and promptly "re-invest" them in to that magical music machine and continue to dance.
Uncle Wesley, Aunt Juanita, and daddy are all gone now. So too, the house on the second row, the fishing pier, Moonies, the Pavilion, and the rides at O.D. Hell, there's not even a Windy Hill or an Ocean Drive anymore. There's only a "North Myrtle Beach". What I said earlier about Newberry applies here as well, it was a great place to grow up...but I wouldn't care to live there now.