make WWAY your homepage  Become a fan on facebook  Follow us on twitter  Receive RSS Newsfeeds  MEMBERS: Register | Login

Cape Fear 2020: Myrtle Beach

READ MORE: Cape Fear 2020: Myrtle Beach
MYRTLE BEACH -- Jack Thompson's Myrtle Beach photography studio is a treasure trove of grand strand memories. "Myrtle Beach was a magical place," he said. It was that magic that kept Thompson here after he hitchhiked into town in 1951 at the age of 13. And it was that magic that kept him in business, snapping photos of the place he says was a Shangri-La for locals. "Myrtle Beach was a paradise," Thompson said. "We had it all." And as time went on more and more people wanted it all, too. Thompson was there to capture the evolution, like the way Cherry Grove -- north of Myrtle Beach -- changed in just a few decades. Loretta Murphy knows those changes well. After her husband Jack retired from the New York City Police Department they moved to Cherry Grove in 1978, finding peace, quiet and not much else -- especially when the tourists left. "We'd drive up to Wilmington to do like a monthly grocery shopping during the winter. There was no one on the roads. Highway 17 was empty," Murphy said. The Murphys liked what Loretta calls a slower, nicer life. She put her nursing degree to work and Jack painted houses. But by the mid-'90s, with Jack ready to stop working for good, development had overgrown their retirement. The Murphys retired again to central Florida. "The little family beach houses turned into, 'Oh, I can sell my lot to a condo owner.' So they would sell their lot, and the condos would go up. Now the condo owners were selling their property, and these tremendous high rises," Murphy said. Today their old house literally sits in the shadow of one of those high-rises, which all but blocks out the view of the ocean the Murphys had from their front door. "People again, like the big city, isolate themselves into their own little unit," Murphy said. Thompson says he knew the end to the old Myrtle Beach was in near in the late '80s and early '90s when plans for Broadway at the Beach and the Palace Theatre revealed his hidden treasure to the rest of the world. It also marked the eventual demise of landmarks, like his beloved Myrtle Beach Pavilion, now just this empty lot waiting to be redeveloped. "I miss the sounds of the roller coaster rolling along the tracks," Thompson said. "I miss the music from the carousel in the former Pavilion Park. I miss the screams and the thrills from people having fun." Thompson says it's sad to see what's happened in many ways. But he says redevelopment means there's also a great future for his adopted home. "It's waiting for the rebirth of the new Myrtle Beach," he said. Thompson says there is a way to hold onto the past. He says several communities in Horry County are devoting resources to historical societies and museums to help preserve what once was -- even as progress takes hold.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

»

{"Last week we traveled to

{"Last week we traveled to Myrtle Beach to see how that area has dealt with the kind of regional development we're seeing here along the Cape Fear coast now. We head back to the grand strand for another comparison. As our area continues to grow, what is the personal impact"....} I really wouldn't waste my time going back there for comparisons, because Wilmington ain't got what it takes to be another Myrtle Beach. Leave M.B. alone and just go there when you can and enjoy it. If Wilmington tried and do as they do and have done...Wilmington would build first, then try and figure out the road system last...no doubt!

The end of Myrtle Beach?

Myrtle Beach never "ended", it just changed a lot. Change is what we humans despise. We get into our little comfort zones and want to stay there forever....that will never happen, unless you want to move to central Nebraska or Minnesota. Myrtle Beach is the first beach I ever went to at 5 years old. As soon as the car stopped, I opened the door and bolted, craving to see what I had heard about while ignoring my parents commands to stop. There I was, a little kid with my feet in the sand, looking, listening and smelling things I had never had the opportunity for before. I knew at that very moment that the ocean was where I wanted to be and was where I belonged. I'm here now and I ain't leaving, no matter how much it changes! Myrtle Beach has always been about commercialism, even when I was a kid. It's just on a much larger scale now as virtually everything is...biggie style. Wendy's started it. 45 years has passed since I first saw that beach that day and I still remember it as clear as yesterday. I still like going to MB occassionaly and personally think the development they have done is quite impressive. It's easier to get around there than it was when I was a kid, and the complexes with their entertainment venues are quite impressive to say the least without a dollar spared. Myrtle Beach is doing the same thing it has always done...provide for the tourists, only on a much grander scale. Wilmington is a different atmosphere. While there is a large tourist trade here, it is miniscule in comparison to MB and has never come close to being parallel. Wilmington will never be a MB, it will be more like a NYC if they don't get better at infrastructure planning.