Do you have a place from your childhood that brings back great memories? I have several, but one place, in particular, has to be The Pavilion at Myrtle Beach, SC.
My family grew up vacationing in Myrtle Beach every year. (This is actually the first year I’ve not been to Myrtle Beach in *cough* 43 *cough* years.) We stayed in an ocean-front motel (yes, I said motel, because condos were not even heard of back then) only 2 or 3 blocks from the Pavilion. Once we parked our car, we didn’t go out much, unless it was to the K&W Cafeteria a few miles down the road. We ate the majority of our meals there because it was cheap and they had everything you could imagine. I always got square jello that jiggled when the lady with an apron came to carry my tray to the table; because I was too little to hold it without spilling.
Everything you needed was within walking distance in the heart of The Grand Strand. The grocery store was a few blocks away, entertainment across the street, food within walking distance. I remember my daddy would walk to the Pavilion and get three cherry dipped ice cream cones & run back to the hotel with the ice cream dripping down the cones and his arms. It was the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten.
We walked to the Pavilion each night and played arcade games, laughed at how silly we looked in the funhouse mirrors, rode the ferris wheel while I buried my face in my mom’s chest because I was afraid of heights, and ended the night licking cotton candy from my fingers while we walked back to our hotel.
Oh, I have some great memories from the Pavilion. When I was a teenager, it was the cool place to hang out & cruise the strip. Everyone who was anybody cruised the strip to flirt with all the teens who crowded the streets and sidewalks night after night. I remember when I was old enough to finally go to the Magic Attic, which was a teen dance club on the second floor of the Pavilion boardwalk. I wore my neon, multi-color hammer pants, crop top, and jelly shoes with my hair teased high on my head. The black lights made everyone glow on the dance floor. We thought we were hot stuff while we dance the night away to Pump Up the Jam, It Takes Two, and Funky Cold Medina – just to name a few. We came out soaked in sweat & hairspray, having had the time of our lives while we laughed and giggled trying to find our parents car on the strip. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so you wore a watch – 2 Swatch watches to be exact because it was cool – and paid attention to the time, and you’d best be where your parents told you to be when the clock chimed 10 pm.
I remember when I turned 16 and my parents finally let me and my best friend drive to the beach that year. By this time, high rise hotels were becoming popular, so our family moved further south to stay in a hotel room with a kitchenette so we could cook some of our own meals and didn’t have to frequent K&W as often. We vacationed with my best friend and her family every year and she stayed in the room with me and my parents while her brother took a friend and stayed in the room with her parents. I always hated having to go out with her older brother, so it was a celebration when me and my best friend finally got to experience the Pavilion on our own. We cruised the strip until my leg burned from manually changing gears and then we drove to the parking deck and paid $5 to park so we could go ride some rides at the amusement park.
We rode every ride. Sometimes we stood in line for an hour and didn’t even care. It was worth it. The vibrant lights, laughter, sounds of clanking ride chains, smells of funnel cakes… it was the best experience. Every summer.
The Pavilion had it all… the only beachfront amusement park on the East Coast… and was so crowded you could barely walk because of all the people. Even after I graduated high school, went to college, and got married… we still went to the Pavilion at Myrtle Beach every year until it was set to close in 2006. Thankfully, we took my boys that summer when they were very little and have a few pictures from that exciting place that brought me so much joy as a child. I remember walking through the park that night and seeing how many rides had been shut down and abandoned. The sounds and smells were mostly the same, but it was evident that this iconic park was no longer an icon on the Grand Strand. It had changed.
Now, the space that held so much fun and laughter and many of my childhood memories is an empty, grassy lot with a zip line that is barely used. They moved some of the attractions and arcade games from the Pavilion to the new hot-spot on the Grand Strand – Broadway at the Beach – but it’s not the same. The feeling is no longer there for me. I’m sure this next generation is making their own memories of the latest attractions on the Grand Strand, but it’s evident to me, that mine will have to stay tucked away in my memories.
When I read articles like the one I posted at the beginning of this blog, I feel an empty space inside – like a loss of something familiar. I see the pictures and think about all the wonderful memories I made at the Pavilion. Riding my first roller coaster, watching my great-grandmother nod her head while she sat on the benches listening to the old organ band, sitting beside a cute boy on the Mind Scrambler ride while Def Leppard blasted over the loudspeaker, being hoarse from screaming so loud when the Caterpillar ride decided to go backwards and cover our heads with a tarp, finding a keychain that had my name on it at the store on the Boardwalk, and getting matching air-brush t-shirts with my BFF… these were good times.