Have you ever wondered what happened to your favorite summer hangouts or vacation spots? One day I decided to look for information on a campground where my family and I spent several summer vacations. I wondered if others remember it as fondly as I do. It was the place where my older cousin saw the ocean for the very first time. It is the one place from our childhood that has no equal.
Enter a combination of Google and Facebook. I am now one of a growing group (48 members at last count!) of baby boomers who gather Online to reminisce about the shared experience of this old campground. Best of all, they share PHOTOS! My family wasn’t big on picture taking and my memories were becoming faded. Reading the posts by the other members made something very clear very early on: this place holds an almost transcendent nostalgia for all of us. There is almost a reverence in talking about it.
Some of us have made the mistake of trying to find out what happened to our old campground. I was tempted a few years back, when my son was in college about an hour north of it. Knowing me as well as he does he advised me to keep my old memories and not go look at the area as it is now. Curious, I looked it up a few weeks ago. I should have listened to my son. What I discovered left me sobbing. The beautiful beach is now home of several high-rise hotels and condos. The wooded area is now a gated community of townhouses and a conference center. The website for the area describes it as beautiful and full of amenities. And yet those of us who spent those magical summers in tents and campers, showering in the bathhouses and using the public toilets, do not see the new and improved version as an improvement at all. One man said that he drove by a few years ago and was shocked at the emotional reaction he had when he saw the area. He longed for the old Trading Post, the rickety wooden footbridges, miniature golf and rowboat rentals. Our pristine, once almost wild beach now resembles a small city.
I know that the South had some ugly things happening in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of those things were shocking for me to see, and even at such a young age I felt anger at the inequality that was almost proudly on display. I had never seen a “Whites Only” sign until I went to eat dinner in that town. This was a time when many of our leaders who had the audacity to speak out in favor of equality for all of our citizens were gunned down. We were at war in Southeast Asia and we saw black and white imagines on the nightly news of soldiers returning home in body bags. Maybe that is what added to the innocence of those wooded acres of solitude and natural beauty. Maybe the contrast of the beauty of the unspoiled beach and the smell of the pine that hung so heavily was what soothed us.
I watched man’s first steps on the moon from a tiny, snowy black and white TV that my uncle plugged into the campsite’s lone electrical outlet. Reception wasn’t great, but the crowd that gathered round to watch with us hardly seemed to care. It was July 21, 1969 and I was 10 years old. In my heart I know that had I been on the 15 floor of one of those climate controlled luxury towers on that same South Carolina beach, watching a giant plasma TV when Neil Armstrong’s boot touched the surface of the moon, it would not have been as magical.