Since my inaugural Bluffton Sun and Hilton Head Sun column a couple of weeks ago, I have received some of the coolest emails from the increasingly shrinking number of Hilton Head and Bluffton old timers. By describing my early days that started in the early ’60s when my family moved to Hilton Head, I rattled memories from others that shared my experience.
Since all these cold, gray days have kept me off the water, I figured y’all might like to hear a few more descriptions of places and experiences from that time. With so many changes over the years, you might want to read this then sit back, close your eyes and try to visualize what it might have been like when deer far outnumbered people.
The house I grew up in was one of only a dozen or so homes in Sea Pines. Most all the roads were either two lane or dirt and on most days I could walk the length of the island and see, at most, four or five cars.
As for Bluffton – talk about sleepy – it was Rip Van Winkleville. Burnt Church Road was a bumpy dirt road and on days after big rains, pretty much impassible. Before burning to the ground, Bluffton High School was where the Town Hall currently sits.
And believe it or not, people down here in the South actually did make an RC Cola and a Moon Pie a dietary staple. I can remember after Pee-Wee football practice walking to Messex Country Store on the corner of Calhoun and Bridge streets for precisely these two items. There was just something special about washing down a Moon Pie with an ice-cold RC Cola.
After Messex moved, that building housed Eggs ’n’ Tricities boutique for years.
As you may or may not know, fishing was and still remains my passion in life. With two brothers and two sisters and at most three kids around my age on the island, the great outdoors was our only entertainment.
We could watch two TV stations from Savannah, WSAV and WTOC, and other than Superman on Saturday mornings, it was lots of revivals and country music shows like “The Porter Wagoner Show.”
On Friday nights, Sea Pines would host ’coon hunts. Talk about bizarre! I urge everyone to attend at least one of these gigs. With lots of deer and wild pigs, Sea Pines would also host hunts for these critters too. I can remember one pig hunt when they sat me at the base of a tree and gave me a bow and one arrow. Yes, one arrow! These pigs were mean as hell and their tusks could tear you apart in a heartbeat.
On a separate occasion, my sister Grace was cornered by just such a pig. Looking for anything to defend herself, she grabs a rock. The pig backed off – and it was then that she remembered there were no rocks around here.
As it turned out, the rock was actually used by long gone Indian tribes on the island to grind corn. It remains one of her prized artifacts from those early days.
Artifact hunting is something I have done my entire life, especially during the winter months. Because of the more than 12,000 Union troops on Hilton Head during the Civil War, I have managed to acquire quite a collection of items from that period.
In addition, the Indian tribes that made this area their home must have had it great. Just think of all the seafood and game at their disposal. My guess is they were plump with so much food around. I have baskets full of Indian pottery, arrowheads and spearheads. While artifact looking, I have also found quite a few megalodon shark’s teeth, some larger than my hand. These came from prehistoric sharks that were more than 60 feet long!
The swing bridge to the island had just been built and, though I can’t remember exactly what year it was, I recall when a barge hit the bridge, shutting it down for a couple of months. The Corp of Engineers installed a pontoon bridge during the time it took to fix the bridge.
Can you imagine if such an event were to occur these days? I can’t.
As for the beach, even in the summer it was void of people. I could fill a bucket with blue crabs in minutes simply by using a crab net in tide pools at low tide. All we had was AM radio and the station was WAPE, or The Big Ape, in Jacksonville, Fla. Before leaving the Ape for fame and fortune, The Grease man or Uncle Greasy was the funniest, and at times raunchy, DJ of DJs. I could go on and on but with space running out I’ll save some tidbits for future columns.
I love hearing from you so email me with ideas for future columns. Until then, get outside in this beautiful place we call home.
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. firstname.lastname@example.org