Myrtle Beach is now on the map in the minds of average New Yorkers after so many years of being thought of as some small town in Florida. I can say this with some conviction after taking my annual trek to Teaneck, New Jersey last Saturday. I traveled via LaGuardia airport in New York City…Queens to be exact.
Seventeen years ago, when I left Washington DC to come to Myrtle Beach permanently, I was given a lot of cute good luck and “moving away” cards and not a few of them made jokes about my destination. But the one that really got me came from someone who obviously meant well but was totally out of it, “Good luck in Turtle Beach,
Florida is a great place,” it read.
I was leaving the big time after 30 years in the news business in New York City and Washington, but it took me awhile to understand how really jerkwater Myrtle Beach was in the minds of so many people back then. The epiphany that opened my eyes occurred when I began the morning show on WRNN on January 2nd in 1995. We didn’t exactly have the best equipment--our production computer would operate only when the hamsters were running on their wheels--and some folks on our staff were really off the wall.
The police spent an inordinate amount of time at the front door asking questions about one employee or another. Although two or three were literally lifesavers because of the dedication they had for what was the smallest, weakest station in town. One fellow we had to fire apparently wasn’t going to let it go at that. I have no evidence against him, but the Monday after the Friday that he was fired, someone threw a huge load of decaying turkey guts at the front door and plastered them all over my van windshield. I decided not to reply in kind although I did go on the air and announce to whomever it was that carried out the turkey attack that, “You had better watch out, my Voodoo is stronger than your Voodoo.” That’s when I came very close to packing up and going back to New York City or DC, but I stuck it out and the anger finally wore off.
My feelings after returning to Myrtle Beach after my annual attendance at a luncheon for over-the-hill news people was very different than it was back then. Although the opportunity to munch on great Italian food and talk with a lot of old friends was a great experience once again, the getting there, driving a rental car over to Jersey, and getting back was a nightmare of screeching brakes, pot holes, bumper to bumper traffic, blaring horns, middle fingers, construction detours, and ultimately, having to park at the toll booth on the Tri-borough Bridge because I had run out of change to pay the $6.50 toll. That was only five minutes after paying $12 to get across the George Washington Bridge. Nobody warned me about the trouble I would have.
A cop finally walked up and handed me a bill for $8 and told me to be on my way. There’s a lot more to this story, but there is a good part. Unlike when I moved here 17 years ago, everyone at that dinner knew all about Myrtle Beach…many had been here and will be back. One old friend, a grandmother of teen-agers, asked me what Myrtle Beach had that appealed to New York City teens. I guessed at something but I don’t know what. On the way back I was in the company of a bunch of New York City Firemen who were coming here for an annual golf tournament. They were loud and funny and full of praise for the Myrtle Beach area with more than a few saying they were thinking about retiring here when the time comes.
I have to admit, it’s been quite a turnaround in just 15 years, and I’m thinking I’ll spend more time here and less in New York.