Not built in a day

The Burroughs enterprise blazed a dirt road to Conway in 1914, and set about selling oceanfront lots for $25. If you promised to build a house costing $500 or more, they'd throw in an extra lot. This had to be Myrtle Beach's first buy-one-get-one deal, a predecessor of many more to come. And just as $500 cottages were nicely flanking the Seashore Inn and filling in the shoreline, though electrical service and plumbing was still spotty at best, some out-of-town upstart competition moved in.

The Woodside Brothers from Greenville, SC built the legendary Ocean Forest Hotel as well as Myrtle Beach's first golf course. At the center of Ocean Forest Hotel was a ten-story tower, gleaming in brick and steel painted white, ringed with balconies and terraces. It was flanked by two five-story wings, for a total of 220 guest rooms with fresh- and saltwater baths. Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers hung from the vaulted ceilings of the dining room and ballroom, and big-name bands and a summer stock theater played to full houses throughout the 1930s.

At Pine Lakes Golf Course, the sign says "the Granddaddy" and the country club is located on Granddaddy Drive. The clubhouse is the soul of Southern charm and the golf course was designed by Robert White, the first president of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. The golf course has endured; the hotel has not.

The Army Corps of Engineers brought in the Intracoastal Waterway in the 1930s, an oversized ditch that paralleled the coast about two and a half miles inland. The ICW helped drain the Withers Swamp, and at about the same time the beach also got telephone service, a weekly newspaper and a high school. The town incorporated in 1938. But the country was in the throes of the Great Depression, and the very grand Ocean Forest Hotel went into receivership. It never quite recovered from the next half-century of temporary owners and after it fell into disrepair it was finally dynamited in 1974.

Reign of terror

And speaking of things that don't last very long, Myrtle Beach opened a small municipal airport in 1940. A year later war broke out and the Air Corps took over the airstrip. The federal government also used thousands of acres of empty forestland as training grounds for bombing and gunning practice. With fighter jets screaming along the coast and bombs exploding all around, Myrtle Beach was also under a lights-out order, no headlights, streetlights or cottage lights that lurking enemy vessels could use to set their sights.

After the bombing stopped and the smoke cleared away, the city offered to donate the airstrip to the Air Force if it would keep the base active, retaining its 3,400 military and 650 civilian personnel. A deal was struck and tourists attempting to nap on the beach were able to hang onto their low-flying super-sonic jet fighters roaring along in formation.

In 1991 Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney pulled the plug on the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing and over the next two years something like 4,000 acres and 777 base housing units reverted to the city. A land rush ensued and it took much arbitration to sort it all out, but in the end the bulk of the property went to Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Myrtle Beach International Airport and Santee Cooper, the local power company.

Myrtle Beach State Park opened in 1934, and as part of FDR's New Deal after the war, the Civilian Conservation Corps fanned out across the nation to build new parks, roads and bridges. The oceanfront park got a great pavilion, public showers and a campground.

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