Paying tribute to a hamlet that has earned its distinction as a family beach
Surfside Beach was an east coast paradise for the working class when my family and I first started vacationing there in 1969. The pier was a mecca, complemented by amusement rides and a bingo parlor. The photo of the Surfside Pier above this story was taken in 1967 and that’s exactly how I remember it looking.
What else does a kid need other than a glorious stretch of golden sand and the awe-inspiring, blue-green ocean before he or she? We lived then in the tiny central Pennsylvania town, Winfield, along the majestic Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania, driving roughly 630 miles to Surfside Beach in 11 hours.
I still remember the anticipation of our yearly, one-week vacation and that long trip. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” I know my sister, Terri, and I drove my parents, Linda and the late Robert Hufnagle Sr., nuts. My brother, Brad, was a baby early on. That made the trip more enjoyable for my folks, huh? We first came here with my paternal grandparents, the late Blanche and Gordie Hufnagle of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In the early years we were joined by my aunt and uncle, Aggie and Charlie Hufnagle, and their sons, Mike and Scott, of Lewisburg.
The Smith family — Jim, Janet, Jeff, Janine and Joelle, also Lewisburg dwellers at the time, joined in the fun in the early 70s. So, so many great memories. One that still stands out in my mind is Jeff and I letting our limp bodies float with the surf, allowing waves to break over us and the current to take us north or south along the beach.
Ah, the fun of it all. Magical. And our families are somewhat indebted to the Surfside Pier, beloved albeit inanimate, proud in its unmoving, skeleton-like structure, yet humble and moving in the affectionate memories it’s provided for us: like walking to it along sandy roads, passing many a vacant lot overrun by indigenous flora – including live oaks, Myrtle, Azaleas, Magnolia trees, cacti and a multitude of other indigenous flora along the way; listening to now-classic rock and roll blaring from the adjoining arcade jukebox, riding go-karts and playing miniature golf nearby; our parents buying us ice cream on the way home; and awakening to warm, sweet Krispy Kreme donuts delivered door-to-door early in the morning. We kids didn’t have a care in the world and I doubt the elders were worrying about too much, other than trying to keep us from wandering too far away from them. Those were more innocent times and the unseen boundries stretched much farther away than they do now.
My siblings, cousins, friends and I played Skee Ball and those Ted Williams baseball games, spending our allowances to accumulate tickets while the older folks, as I thought of them then, played bingo, walked in the glare of the multi-colored, neon amusement park lights or strolled out on the pier. If we kids were really lucky we won a plastic case with a couple of bucks in it in those machines with the dropping claws. Step right up and win some crap. Or was it? Well, not if memories have anything to do it. I still recall a rabbit’s foot I got with those tickets. I’m sure my siblings, Scott and Mike Hufnagle and the Smith kids, all still alive and well, remember items they won, too. Like pocket knives, cheap transistor radios and those troll dolls with the Don King hair.
The Hufnagle and Smith family members who shared those vacations will always treasure our memories of Surfside. They’re anchored in our minds much like pier pilings driven into the wet sand beneath the surf.
Enough about me and mine. This site is for you. Good people like the Coggins family of Gaffney, South Carolina, who I met while hunting sharks’ teeth near the 67th Avenue beach access in Myrtle Beach a couple of years ago. They have their photographs and memories and they were kind enough to share one of their family’s frozen moments in time with me. It’s always a pleasure to meet people like them on the Grand Strand sands. They are encounters and conversations that I’ll always remember.
Why don’t you share some of your treasures of experience?
(Bum raps: The story above was re-blogged from my latest creation, grandstrandrevisited.com/ My apologies to fellow WordPress bloggers and to my Facebook family and friends for what I’m about to do for the first and perhaps last time, intentionally: sharing the same story twice on WordPress and Facebook on the day of its original publishing. I recently realized that I had done so in the past on Facebook without intention. So, the re-sharing of this piece of passion, I reckon, is self-self-serving. That makes me mighty arrogant, my family and friends, but I must do it to make people aware of “Remember When…in Myrtle Beach and Along the Grand Strand,” at grandstrandrevisited.com. Thanks for bearing with a formerly happy-go-lucky person who can be overbearing now days. My next endeavor will be to format a third Facebook page for grandstrandrevisited.com/ Confused? You’ve got to be. This process has confused me. May you all have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends! Most humbly and sincerely, dharma beach bum/Rob Hufnagle.”