It’s been quite some time since I talked about the early days on Hilton Head Island and, since it’s the dead of winter, it’s the perfect time to do a little looking back.
The island was different back then.
We had to drive to Savannah for everyday items. My siblings had to go there for school. We were up at 5 a.m. and on the road. And, because most every road there was two lane, it made for a long day. The bridge over the Savannah River was a toll bridge and all it took was one hiccup — a stubborn cow on the highway or fender bender — and we not only left in the dark, but got home after the sun set.
We had two TV stations, both out of Savannah. Revivals were broadcast pretty much every day, as were programs like the Porter Wagner Show.
Other than Superman, one of my favorite shows was the weather forecast. Starting out with a jingle that I can still recite, on came Capt. Sandy in his sailor suit and captain’s hat. Using a grease pencil on a map of the good `old US of A, he would draw on the map where the weather action was happening.
But it was his props that made the show.
First Wilbur the Weather Bird would drop down. If he was wearing a raincoat, you knew what was coming. Shorts and a T-shirt meant the opposite. There was also Aurther-moneter.
My favorite character was behind the Davy Jones Locker door. His name was “Calamity Clam.’ This devilish clam had big googly eyes along with a mouth that opened and closed. Capt. Sandy would try to snatch cards with tide information on them from the clam’s mouth without getting his fingers snapped. That war went on for years and I would howl when the clam won. The Weather Channel could learn a lot from the captain’s interactions with all of his critters.
So what did us kids do for fun? Anything and everything.
Our house was in Sea Pines and there were but a hand full of kids around. And it wasn’t like you could go to the mall or a rec center. Our recreation center was the great outdoors. There was basically one sheriff’s department officer and on occasion, one highway trooper would pop up. Of course these officers knew every one of kids on the island and, thankfully, were pretty forgiving we we strayed outside normal bounds of behavior.
We would build monster bonfires on the beach. We’d drive the length of the island without headlights on full moon nights. As reckless as that may sound, we rarely encountered another vehicle.
The island was full of game. On any given night, moving shadows were continuous on my bedroom curtains. It wasn’t the wind blowing trees, but rather herds of deer.
On Friday nights during the summer, Sea Pines would host coon hunts. I can still remember the rhythmic baying of the hounds until they treed a coon. At that point, their barking would become furious. I was never a fan of coon hunting but the experience was something else.
During the cooler months, coon hunts were replaced with deer and wild hog hunts. I went to a few of them and one in particular sticks out. It was a bow-and-arrow pig hunt in Sea Pines. I was around eleven or twelve and was dropped off and told to sit at the base of tree and wait until the dogs ran a pig by me.
The problem, in my mind at least, was they only gave me one stinking arrow.
I knew wild hogs could be vicious. One of our basset hounds had been cut wide open by one. So I climbed the nearest tree and never once considered notching my arrow to the bow’s string.
Mid-island had the Roadside Rest restaurant and Abe’s Driftwood Lounge. Beachside on the south end was an open-air souvenir place called the Arcade where visitors could buy cheesy trinkets, beach towels and soda pop. There really wasn’t much else except exceptional beauty in every direction.
As I sit here writing, more and more memories pop out of some dusty corner of my brain.
Maybe I’ll write a book.