If you missed my column last week, I talked about what it was like growing up here in the Lowcountry way before development changed everything. So why am I taking this bumpy ride down the dirt road called memory lane? I guess it's because whenever someone learns that I have lived here for more than 50 years, they almost always bombard me with questions about what it was like. And almost without exception, they get this glazed look as I describe a place that has little resemblance to what they now see every day. So with that said, I'll keep on going.
In this chapter I want to tell you about the people who lived here as well as the places they lived. For instance, what prompted my father and mother to gather up their five kids and move us to some unknown island off the South Carolina coast? My dad was a successful fixture in the New York City advertising scene and to make such a move had to have been scary. I asked him that question before he passed away and his reasoning is not much different than what brought many of you here. It was about quality of life. I can relate because during my career in advertising and design, I have passed up many offers to move to the big city -- and make big money -- in favor of that same lifestyle my father chose. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I have never regretted the decision to stay here and live a charmed lifestyle that visitors pay big money to experience.
There were so few people around, you pretty much knew everyone. There were a couple of grocery stores but for the most part it took a trip to Savannah to get staples. The only courier service around belonged to Charlie Simmons, an old black man who drove a rickety school bus. The amusing part of Charlie's delivery service was he toted everything from fine furniture to boxes of fish and shrimp and I can remember my folks leaving that furniture outside for days so the fish smell could be aired out.
Hunting was big back then and most everybody carried a shotgun in his or her car. Sea Pines and Port Royal Plantation were the only two developments on Hilton Head Island and the majority of the land in both of these places was undeveloped. I would hunt ducks and wild turkeys in Sea Pines and there was no shortage of either. Where Colleton River Plantation now sits was called Foot Point Plantation, owned by the Cram family, and it was one of my favorite places to explore. Winding dirt roads snaked through this huge piece of property and during a whole day of walking the only living things you might encounter were deer, pigs, turkeys and an occasional rattlesnake basking in the sun on one of the sandy roads. It was magical.
As a matter of fact, the first duck I ever shot was in one of ponds at Foot Point. It was a cold morning and I was woefully underdressed. I shot a black duck with my dad's old 20-gauge shotgun, but the duck dropped way out in the pond and having no dog to retrieve it and no waders, I swam out to retrieve the duck. Needless to say, I spent the next five days in bed with a cold, but it was worth it.
Alligators were everywhere, and one of my favorite childhood activities was catching baby gators. I learned how to call the mama away from her babies, run over to the where the babies were and, using a crab net, catch as many as I could before she came after me.
Old South Gold Links was tomato fields, Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head was the Pope Hunting Club and Honey Horn Plantation was a working farm. Pinckney Colony Road had a working dairy farm, a pig farm and was the site of a monkey farm that burned down and all the monkeys escaped, though I never did see one. This whole area was meant for exploring, and for us kids that was pretty much all we did. It was paradise pure and simple. All of these things happened long ago, but for me it was just yesterday.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.