One of the other key advantages the Sub Debs offered was a poorly chaperoned beach trip to Myrtle Beach every summer.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was the destination of choice for summer fun for almost everyone in Danville and when the teenage girls left on these trips, you can be sure the teenage boys were right behind them.
Sometimes, I think half the city of Danville just packed up and went there all at the same time…usually the first two weeks of August when the Mill closed down for vacation.
I haven’t been to Myrtle Beach in 30 years. I frankly have no desire to ever go again. But there was a time we all thought it was the most amusing place on earth.
I’ll never forget my first trip to Myrtle Beach with the boys. The JSJ Sub Debs were down there and some of our best friends were in that Club, so we headed down.
I knew this was going to be an eye-opening experience as soon as we got there. Our first stop was to see the girls and so we would know where to find a hotel near by to them.
One of my friends in that club was from a strict Pentacostal Holiness Family and spent quite a bit of time working around that issue with her parents. We pulled up to their hotel to find her laying on the porch of their bungalow in a pink bikini totally jonked out of her mind on Biccardi 151 Rum. We were most amused and approving.
My friend Dennis just smiled and shook his head and said: “Honey, you are one drunk bitch.” She lit a cigarette, tried to focus, and delivered her now legendary reply: “I’m not a bitch, I’m a whore. Now get me another drink.”
That girl remains one of my dearest friends to this day…
See, nothing that happened at Myrtle Beach mattered. It wasn’t the real world. To so many people we knew, if it didn’t happen in Danville, it didn’t matter. You could go to Myrtle Beach, get drunk, have sex, get pregnant or get arrested and no one said a word. It just didn’t count….
As cautious and mild mannered as I was, even I was riding down Ocean Blvd on the running board of a volkswagen with a bottle of Boone’s Farm Wine in my hand before the day was done…I was 17 and free for a few days.
After we had located the girls, we set about getting a hotel room. Of course we didn’t have reservations and of course we didn’t have much money- and wanted to spend what we had on drinks and clubs instead of a hotel room. We just needed a place to sleep and change clothes.
After a couple of tries we finally got a room at the Stardust Motel. I kid you not. And in the years since, I’ve discovered that there are Stardust Motels all over the country. Second or third rate, seedy motels that in other cities would do most of their business at lunch time.
This Stardust was run by a hard looking woman somewhere between 40 and 70 years old. It was hard to tell. But she also looked rather like a Danville Church Lady, so we knew we could handle her.
The first thing she said was: “This is a Christian hotel and I won’t have any drinking or girls in the room.” We assured her we were good Christian boys, paid her in cash, and got the keys. At the time I was reading a book called “Bisexual Living” and I made a point of leaving it behind…
I was hoping this trip lived up to the trip my friends had taken the previous year when I had not been allowed to go. It was the stuff of legend as two of the girls had picked up Marines- one named Moose, who apparently barely passed the Marine IQ test- and toyed with them for a couple of days leading to much adventure when they wouldn’t put out.
Another friend got drunk, wrapped herself in the bedsheets and went down to the pool and introduced herself to people as Indira Gandhi. Then she decided to try to bless the masses…
It was Myrtle Beach.
This trip wasn’t quite so extrordinary, but we did have fun. As I recall, we got thrown out of the Stardust after one night and moved to a more hospitable cheap hotel. We went to clubs, but mostly we hung out together. The last night there, we ended up drinking in our room and talking late into the night and, thanks to their slack chaperones, several of the girls stayed over.
Nothing happened. Hell, half of the guys on that trip were gay, but didn’t know it or admit it yet. We just enjoyed each other’s company and the safety of friends while sharing freedom for the first time.
The last time I was in Myrtle Beach was the summer after College. Some of my Danville friends were there as well as a friend from W&L and a friend from Sweet Briar. We had fun, but it wasn’t magical like when I was 17.
I didn’t need Myrtle Beach to be free or to have a false sense of freedom. It was time to leave it behind and find that freedom else where. Time to find that freedom was something you carried with you, not something you ran to or only had out of town.
I left Myrtle Beach behind, but took the memory of the freedom I first found there with me. I built on it and learned from it. I expanded on it. I eventually found out freedom wasn’t a place, but something inside you that you carried with you every day-even when it was hard and took some guts…
I can’t imagine going back to Myrtle Beach. I hear it is like Branson East now. Condo’s, malls, golf courses and has-been entertainers.
It now sounds more like my idea of hell than heaven…
I prefer to remember it as the slightly seedy place it was when I was young and needed it as an escape, when adventure was easy because I knew so little…
But I do wonder, is the Gay Dolphin Gift Store still there?