By Harry John Chakides, Jr.
Growing up in Beaufort was a joy for any young boy and girl. We had no boundaries; our backyard was the Beaufort River and the river shore. On the bluff, we had a long rope that hung from one of the trees over the water. On our way down Bay Street to go to the Saturday matinee at the Breeze Movie Theater, we would catch the rope and take a few turns swinging out over the water. No one knew whose rope it was; it was just there.
The way you learned to swim was your older siblings would take you down to the river, get in someone’s bateau, drift around in the marsh, and then throw you in the river! You would have to swim back to the boat! There were no swimming pools in those days.
Everyone was allowed to be a “Huck Fin” and wander around. We knew all of the shopkeepers and they would look out for us. We had a town whistle that blew at 12 noon, and everyone knew it was time for lunch; your mother would have a hot meal on the table.
During World War II, Beaufort was very patriotic. In the homes that had men and women in the service, there were flags in the windows that had a star on them to represent each family member in the service. Memorial Day was very important in Beaufort back then. We would have a big parade that would go down Bay Street and then down Bladen Street to the National Cemetery. Speeches were made and flags were placed on each grave plot. People would come from all over; we even had people from New York who would come on the boat from Savannah. By the National Cemetery, food booths were set up to sell food to all of the people. We had a carnival where the tennis courts are today. Big party! But not for little boys. My friend and I, who were 5 or 6 years old, asked our parents if we could walk to the next block to watch the parade. And there it was! The leader of the parade was always an old man who would ride his bicycle with flags all over the handlebars, and he would be dressed in his World War I uniform with his leggings and his campaign hat that looked just like the one Yogi Bear wore. He was a “dough boy,” straight out of a magazine. My friend and I followed the parade, first down one block, then two, then three blocks, trying to keep in step with the band. Finally we made it to the carnival. Lots of fun! When I saw my brother riding his bicycle with a friend, we ran over to tell them what good time we were having. They told us to get on the bike, and then they took us home because all of Beaufort was looking for us! It was the biggest spanking we ever got!
Telephones in those older days were quite unique; no cell phones, no text messaging, no “music buttons”. Come to think of it, no buttons at all. When I wanted to talk to my father at his business, I would pick up the telephone and tell the operator his number (150), and she would connect me. One time I hurt myself and I picked up the phone and told the operator I wanted to speak to my daddy; she told me to wait a minute because he was busy. I didn’t give her a number or a name; she just knew who I was.
Yes, the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is true. And Beaufort was quite that village.
Beaufort Then & Now: This moment in Beaufort’s history is an excerpt from the book “Beaufort … Then and Now,” an anthology of memories compiled by Holly Kearns Lambert. Copies of this book may be purchased at Beaufort Book Store. For information or to contribute your memory, contact Holly at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.