The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

July 8, 2014

The beach is the same, just different

ASHEBORO — When I go back to Myrtle Beach I can’t help but notice changes compared to when I went back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Or even the ‘90s, for that matter.

Oh sure, there’s still the big draw — the ocean with its sandy beaches, sunny breezes and ever-scantier bikinis. And the powerful waves that just keep coming.

But I can’t help remembering the cottage my family stayed at during my first beach excursion. If I recall correctly, it was a duplex that was set right on the beach within walking distance of the Pavilion.

Most of those rental cottages were eventually replaced by high-rise hotels after Hurricane Hazel swept through a couple of months later.

Even in 1964, when I was a rising junior in high school, a friend and I stayed in a rooming house about a block from the beach. We each handed over a 20-dollar bill to stay there for five nights.

That summer I had a couple of books with me to read while lying in the sun. That’s not a complete thing of the past, but almost.

These days I find sunbathers fiddling with hand-held devices instead of flipping through paperbacks. Actually, one woman appeared to be reading a book, but the pages were on a screen rather than on paper.

That first summer at the beach when we went to the Pavilion (itself a thing of the past), I was mesmerized by a man playing on a pinball machine. He kept flipping the paddles to keep the ball in play and add to his score.

This summer our hotel had a game room with all kinds of video equipment to occupy the youth after they were tired of swimming. Next door was the Business Center with a couple of PCs, a nod to those — such as myself — still without smart phones, laptops and such, to check our email.

Even Ripley’s Believe It or Not has gone high-tech. The youth in our group had to go see the 5-D movie, which adds movement and the like to 3-D to enhance the experience.

For $8, they experienced for exactly 15 minutes.

But back in our hotel suite, I found the local public information TV channel — MBtv — was playing music from the ‘60s. It took me back to a time when I was young, strong and oblivious to the aging process.

I turned it on one afternoon and Roy Orbison was singing “Pretty Woman.” The two grandsons with us — Cody, 15, and Ryan, 12 — started dancing in their inimitable style.

It was fun to watch them as they performed to Lee Dorsey‘s “Working in the Coalmine” and several other oldies but goodies.

Then it hit me that they’re just about the same age I was when those hit songs first came out. Where did all that time go? What’s happened to my body?

Is this the beach of my youth? Or has something changed?

I learned soon enough that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Cody and Ryan found a couple of girls one day — and we surveilled them from our perch on the ninth floor as they walked down the beach until they were out of sight.

Later, back in the hotel, they had stories to tell that reminded me of my own teenage years.

The lesson for me was that, no matter how much change occurs in society, the basics remain the same.

And that’s comforting to this old man.

Larry Penkava, who has written Now and Then since 1994, can’t wait to get back to the beach.

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