Murrells Inlet: Then & Now – Anne and Bill Chandler

By Leslie Moore

Murrells Inlet: Then & Now – Anne and Bill Chandler

The beauty and history of Murrells Inlet inspire great love and devotion from its long-time residents, none more than Anne and Bill Chandler. Married for 61 years, the proud parents of three sons and eight grandchildren, they live in a lovely creek front cottage in Murrells Inlet’s historic Sunnyside district where they spend their days enjoying the beauty of the Inlet, as well as working to preserve its ecological integrity for generations to come.

“We keep a boat in the water all the time,” began Bill. “We probably spend more time out on the Inlet than anyone in the area.” Bill is a member of a community organization, PMI (Preserve Murrells Inlet), which is currently working to list the marshes and creeks of Murrells Inlet as a National Wildlife Preserve. “I love to hunt,” began Bill, “and I do want our young people to have a place to learn to hunt and shoot. But, today hunters are shooting all types of birds in Murrells Inlet, like kingfishers and herons. I find them floating in the water.” Anne added, “There are hardly any ducks left now anyway.”

Anne has always been athletic and ran the very first Myrtle Beach Marathon and another marathon in Alaska, but these days, she limits herself to walking four miles daily at Huntington Beach State Park. Bill has knee problems and isn’t able to walk as far as his wife, but he, too, exercises regularly to stay in shape. Their healthy lifestyle must be working because you would never believe this active pair is in their 80s!

As natives of the Grand Strand, Anne was born in Myrtle Beach and Bill in Murrells Inlet, the couple remembers when our community was a much quieter place. I asked them to share a few stories of their youth and listened, fascinated, as they spoke. “I had a great time growing up in Myrtle Beach,” Anne began. “My father owned a barber shop, and we would walk to school; the school was where the post office is now. That’s where I met Bill; at that time there were no schools in Murrells Inlet. I was a cheerleader and he played football!” This was right after WWII, and there were German prisoners of war working in the area. “They would drive by in trucks on their way to work as we were walking to school, and my friends and I thought it was so exciting to say hello to them in German,” Anne told me, laughing at the memory.

“She was the best looking thing in school,” Bill interjected as he gazed at his still lovely bride. “And, she was crowned Miss Myrtle Beach in 1953.” Bill was raised in Murrells Inlet, on the property that was then called the Hermitage, and his mother worked for a time for Anna Huntington, the famous sculptor who, with her husband, Archer Huntington, created Brookgreen Gardens. “My father died when I was very young, and my mother had to raise us alone. She was college educated and a talented writer, but at that time there were very few jobs. One day she had me with her when she went to the post office; my brother and sister were in school. The post master told her a job was available working for Anna Huntington.” Bill and his mother went straight to see about the position, on the property that is now Brookgreen Gardens, and Bill remembers seeing a bunch of bananas in Mrs. Huntington’s kitchen. Bananas were a rarity then and young Bill really wanted one, but was too polite to ask. “She peeled off one of those bananas and gave it to me, I’ve never forgotten it.”

“My grandfather came to Murrells Inlet from Marion, in 1890, peddling shoes,” Bill continued. “He liked the area and soon met and became friends with one of Vereen family. Together they bought several tracts of land in Murrells Inlet and Garden City that included the property where I grew up. I admire him for what he did, but he was in over his head and eventually had to sell the large piece that is now Wachesaw Plantation and Wachesaw East. That’s when the Kimbel’s bought it. My grandfather was able to keep most of the waterfront property.” Bill’s uncle, Clarke Wilcox, who inherited the property, later sold lots in Garden City, reaching from the ocean to the marsh, for $200!

Anne was only 19 when she married her high school sweetheart. The couple moved to Columbia, and Bill finished college at USC with a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1962, he landed a job with NASA, and the couple moved to Houston where they lived for 30 years. This was an exciting time to be a part of the space program – Bill was in Mission Control the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and throughout the harrowing flight of Apollo 13. “I worked on every manned space program except Mercury, which was the first one,” Bill told me with great pride and emotion.

While both loved their adopted home state of Texas, Bill, especially, always wanted to come back to Murrells Inlet. When, Genevieve Peterkin, Bill’s sister, called him with the news that her mother-in-law’s summer cottage (Pulitzer Prize winning writer Julia Peterkin) was going on the market, he was ecstatic. After discussing it with Anne, Bill made an offer, and the deal was done. The very next day, Bill retired from NASA, packed up and moved his family to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he worked for Lockheed supporting space shuttle flights until the couple retired to Murrells Inlet.

“Julia Peterkin’s old home was on the property, but the house was in bad shape. Hurricane Hazel had damaged it, and Hugo pretty much finished it off. We built this house a little farther back from the water, and it has been our paradise,” said Bill. Anne chimed in, “It’s wonderful to be here. We watch the sunrise every day, and the family loves coming here.”

Legend has it that the Sunnyside area is haunted, and I asked Anne and Bill if any of the old Murrells Inlet ghosts ever visited their home. Bill laughed and told me, “No, but we’ll haunt it when we’re gone!”

The Chandler love of Murrells Inlet extends to the entire clan. The home Bill and his family grew up in was relocated when the Hermitage property was developed. His brother moved the house, remodeled it and still lives there. Bill’s sister, Genevieve “Sister” Peterkin, passed away in 2011, but her popular book Heaven is a Beautiful Place and Other Inlet Tales lives on as a beautiful testament to Murrells Inlet and its residents. The Chandler name remains as much a part of Murrells Inlet as marsh grass and pluff mud.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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