If you missed my column in the July 7 issue of the Sun, I wrote 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 60 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. With that said, I’ll keep on going.
In this chapter, I want to tell you about the people that lived here as well as the places they lived. For instance, what prompted my father and mother to gather up all their five kids and move us to some unknown island off the South Carolina coast? My dad was a very successful fixture in the New York City advertising scene and to make such a move had to have been downright scary.
I once asked him that question and his reasoning is not much different than what brought many others here. It was all about quality of life.
There were so few people around, you pretty much knew everyone, no matter if they were black or white. There were a couple of grocery stores, but for the most part it took a trip to Savannah to get most staples.
The only courier service around belonged to Charlie Simmons, an elderly black man who drove a rickety old school bus. The amusing part of Charlie’s delivery service was that he toted everything from fine furniture for my folks shop, The Island Shop (Hilton Head’s first shop) to boxes of fish and shrimp. I can remember my folks having to leave that fine furniture outside for days on end so that the fish smell could be aired out. It was just the way it was.
Hunting was big back then and most everybody carried a shotgun around in his or her car. Sea Pines and Port Royal Plantation were the only two developments on Hilton Head 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.
Today’s Colleton River Plantation once was called Foot Point Plantation, owned by the Cram family, and it was one of my favorite places to explore. Long, winding dirt roads snaked through this huge piece of property and during a whole day of walking the only living thing 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 winter morning and I was woefully underdressed for the occasion. I shot a black duck with my dad’s old 20-gauge shotgun but the duck dropped way out in the pond. Having no dog to retrieve it, and no waders, I swam out to retrieve that damn 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 gator away from her babies and then run over to the where the babies were hidden and, using a crab net, try and catch as many as I could before she came after me.
In addition, angry gators regularly chased me as I tried to drag a fish out of the water before the gator could get it. It was a great form of entertainment.
Old South Gold Links was nothing but tomato fields owned by the Ulmer family, 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 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.
Maybe someday I’ll tell you about catching rattlesnakes, hanging out at all hours of the night at the Golden Rose Park, while getting our vegetables off an ox-drawn cart as an old black fellow sang Gullah spirituals … but that will have to wait. I will tell you this, all of these things may have happened long ago, but for me it was like it was just yesterday.
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. email@example.com