By Margaret Harvey Thompson
Even today as I drive into Beaufort, I roll my windows down to smell the marsh, the mud, the salt water — I love this place!
The place of my fondest memories is our neighborhood “Hundred Pines.” As the fourth of five kids, I remember our home as a center of activity, but I think of our whole neighborhood as our home. Almost every door was open to us, there were few fences, each family had at least three kids to add to the pack and at least one dog. “Honey” and “Sambo” were as much a part of the pack as Margaret and Carroll. The bike ride down Hermitage Road seemed long and the hill up to Fripp Street steep as we daily traveled on our one gear bikes (usually hand-me-downs) from Western Auto. After checking around to see what each house had to offer for lunch, we would also check the water level in the creek to plan our day. We might crab with chicken necks on cotton string as the tide was rising, awaiting the summer high tide which was perfect for jumping off our small rickety dock into the creek. Bogging in the plough mud was best at dead-low tide, and we could either build slip-and-slides or trudge to the mouth of the creek to cast-net for shrimp. As the temperature changed in the fall we would look forward to high tide when we could take the wooden boat to Rabbit Island to camp out, and the low tide brought space to explore the edges and banks where we built intricate forts.
A bike ride into town involved cutting down North Street, stopping by Pruitt’s store for some penny candy from the bald-headed man who never smiled, carefully cutting across “dangerous” Ribaut Road, and zipping past Beaufort Jr. High School, the court house, the huge old houses and oaks on Bay Street until we arrived breathless at our one big store, Edwards, on the corner of Bay and Charles streets.
Sometimes I would have to meet Mom at Dr. Hutchinson’s, the eye doctor, or Dr. Lipsitz, the dentist. Then I followed her into Schein’s, where I was able to head straight to the back and buy a bottled coke for a dime, or into Wallace and Danner, where I kept my hands off the tiny sock hangers that looked perfect for doll clothes. I actually liked Lipsitz’s because of Lippy the myna bird who loudly called out “Hello” as I entered and hurried back to the elevated kids’ seats to try on shoes. After finishing errands with Mom, I hopped back on my bike, rode the back way by the Piggly Wiggly, past Dad’s office, around First Presbyterian Church, with a final stop at Koth’s before heading home.
One of my favorite days was Sunday. After a quick breakfast while fighting over the funnies (comics), hurrying to get to church on time and seeing so many friends, life would slow down as we crossed Boundary Street to the Point for lunch with my grandparents. As we drove past the Castle and whispered ghost stories, then rounded the corner under the canopy of oaks, we would be reminded of our table manners as we walked up the stairs of Ma-T and Pop’s grand house. High tides at their house meant sitting on the porch enjoying the Beaufort River, counting the number of times the bridge had to open, drinking apple juice with crushed ice and playing gin rummy. After a delicious lunch around a huge table with fine china and silver, we would ask to be excused to go outside and play “acorn man” under the Angel Oak or “here comes the bride” through the flower-lined paths.
My memories of growing up in Beaufort are happy, bright and free. Everywhere I went someone would connect me to my family or even to my neighborhood. The place seemed to love me and I loved it back.
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. To contribute your memory, contact Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.