By Christy Trumps
I‘m not sure that I count as a native Beaufortonian; I’ve lived here since 1978 — 31 of my 50 years — when my family moved here from Louisiana. I was a college student when we came across country, and though Beaufort was a very small town, it was an exciting move for me. My hometown was even smaller, a town filled with industry and pollution, and the same people I had known all of my life. I had never seen such beauty in nature and architecture, known such rich history and culture, or met so many interesting people. I immediately fell in love with the Lowcountry. I loved its forts and its church ruins, its antebellum homes and plantations, Penn Center, the Atlantic Ocean, the “mushroom houses” on Fripp Island, the lighthouses on Hunting Island and Sea Pines, the ghost stories about the Castle and Fort Fremont and day trips to romantic Savannah and Charleston.
My dad had bought Royal Pines Country Club and we lived there for over 15 years. In those days, you could drive down Sams Point Road and never pass another car. The only grocery store on Lady’s Island was the Red and White. Captain Geech’s and The Lighthouse Deli were the only restaurants. But just like it is now, Beaufort was populated then with warm, welcoming and enlightening people who had lived all over the world. Royal Pines, at that time, was largely inhabited by retired military — many of them Marines, but other branches as well. There were a slew of four and five star generals who had played major roles in World War II and had some stories to tell. Beaufort had people who wrote books and people about whom books were written; politicians from the world stage like Bill Verity, Ronald Regan’s Secretary of Commerce.
Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park was fairly new. We ate at the Yankee and in the hospital cafeteria — pretty much the only places you could get a “plate lunch” for a while. We shopped at Bay Street Fashions and Foxbow downtown. Tootie led the city parades and swept Bay Street. Not long after we moved here, Hollywood discovered Beaufort and began to make movies on our islands, like “The Great Santini” and “The Big Chill” and we all enjoyed the tales of “who saw what celebrity where.” Steve and Marianne Harrison moved from New York, opened the Rhett House Inn and used their connections to feature Beaufort in high profile publications in New York and throughout the northeast. Alcoa Corporation started developing Dataw Island and Bill Cochrane spurred the Main Street Beaufort program which revitalized downtown Beaufort.
Those were exciting days as we watched Beaufort start to grow and grow and grow. We have celebrated many happy times here like weddings and births, and we have buried two of our beloved family members.
Beaufort has changed tremendously — our Catholic parish has grown from just 30 families to over 1,000 families in that time — but for me it still retains the charm and wonder. The small town spirit with the metropolitan flavor, the richness of character and history and the astounding God-given and man-made beauty that keeps us counting our blessings that we have been given the gift of living here.
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.