Notes for Newcomers: Women Shaping the Grand Strand

By Phil La Borie

Notes for Newcomers: Women Shaping the Grand Strand

As a longtime resident of Weston, Connecticut, I was accustomed to seeing movie and TV stars on a regular basis. It was not unusual to see Robert Redford riding his motorcycle or Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward grocery shopping.

So when I moved here to the Grand Strand, I thought it might be interesting to look into historical and current personalities who have been instrumental in shaping our shores. Some are light-hearted looks, others more serious.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Ms. Woodward and Eartha Kitt both lived in South Carolina and that in fact, Woodward still lives in Weston, and that Ms. Kitt passed away in my old hometown!

Here is just some of what I discovered about the famous, and not so famous, women who helped shape the Grand Strand.

First off, how did Myrtle Beach come to be called Myrtle Beach? Accounts differ, but I’m sticking with the version supplied by visitmyrtlebeach.com. In 1907, a contest was held to give the beach community its official name. The winner, Ms. Addie Burroughs, suggested “Myrtle Beach” because of the numerous wax myrtle shrubs that grow along the coast. Makes sense. Nice thinking!

The oceanfront boardwalk from the 14th Avenue Pier to Plyler Park is called “Gloria’s Way,” in honor of Gloria Lindsey Sapp, a longtime teacher, hotelier, volunteer, businesswoman and civil leader. You may have noticed the bronze plagues at both ends of the “Way” honoring her contributions. Thanks to visitmyrtlebeach.com for that information as well.

Next we come to Julia Pryor Macklen, who according to Old Times in Horry County, by Randall A. Wells and History Press, “…was a pioneer of pies.” Julia and her husband bought a grocery store in 1935 and eventually operated Lloyd’s Hotel, which was located between 15th and 16th streets in Surfside. Here’s what Julia had to say about the grocery business and how difficult that was.“There were so few people here and we were having so little business, the need was urgent that we sell something. So we would serve the people if they came to the store, but if they didn’t come, there were times when my husband would go to them and ask if they wouldn’t like something he had particularly good that day. Then he’d come back to the store, go back and deliver it to them, wait a week and then collect from them.”

Try that in a modern grocery store!

Then there was Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, a prolific artist and sculptor. Along with her husband, Archer, she was responsible for the founding of Brookgreen Gardens. Largely self-taught, Anna’s work appears in approximately 200 American museums today. Thanks to Palmetto Profiles, W. Eric Emerson, USC Press, Columbia, South Carolina, for that information.

So that was the past, what about the present?

In conversation with Judy Collins, the proprietress of Judy’s House of Oldies in North Myrtle Beach, I learned that she has been involved with the Grand Strand’s musical scene for more than 50 years. In fact, she has produced a half dozen Beach Music and Shag dance CDs!

Judy says,

“In the old days, men were always the featured performers. Nowadays, there are classes all over the state where women are learning the Shag dance steps. We have local and national dance competitions all the time.”

The steps, by the way are very intricate and involved. You can look them up online and see for yourself. Just go to YouTube or Wikihow.

Judy went on to say, “As a newcomer, you might not know what Beach Music is, but just listen to the radio stations around here – you’ll hear it all the time, and maybe even want to learn the Shag so you can dance it as well.”

While where the Shag originated is in dispute, one song, I Love Beach Music went on to be a national hit.

And for a little additional trivia, not only is the Shag the official dance of South Carolina; the 1989 film, Shag starred Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates, Annabeth Gish, and Page Hannah as four high school friends on their last road trip together before graduation. The movie was filmed in Myrtle Beach and features the Carolina Shag.

Wonder why it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award?

Finally, female contributions to Grand Strand history would not be complete without a good ghost story. While there are many to choose from, I’ve selected the case of poor Alice Belin Flagg.

Our story begins sometime before 1849 when Alice fell in love with a man who her mother and brother considered vey much below her station in life.

As Alice’s mother whispered to her,” Every woman must leave her mark on earth, how can you etch on this earth anything that’s worthwhile if you attach yourself to this common lumberman?”

Despite the strong opposition, Alice secretly became engaged to the young man, but since she knew her family would refuse to let her wear the engagement ring, she wore it on a string around her neck but concealed it under her dress.

In a final shouting match with her mother, Alice agreed to move away from the family homestead and attend a boarding school in Charleston. The school had strict orders that the two lovers were not to even correspond with one another. However, she missed her fiancé so desperately that her health was affected and eventually she passed away.

Now that would have been all there is to the story, but Alice’s engagement ring was strangely missing at her funeral. The story goes that her brother discovered the ring while she lay ill, was furious and threw it into Murrells Inlet. It’s been said that on certain nights, Alice can still be seen searching the Inlet for her missing ring.

After all this time, hers might be a lost cause. What do you think?

My thanks to Nancy Rhyne and Sandlapper Publishing for permission to draw upon the story in their publication, Coastal Ghosts.

That’s it for this edition of Notes for Newcomers. Stay tuned for my next look at Grand Strand personalities. The men will be on deck. Argh, matey!

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at smilesforall.com. Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at plaborie@voxinc.net.

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