Friday, March 10, 2006
Take Another Little Piece of My Heart
Ironically, I was just thinking of Myrtle Beach this morning as I stepped off the Metro onto the King Street platform and a warm breeze swept across my face. I always reminisce about Myrtle on days like this—when it’s warmer than expected and the air smells particularly fresh. Living in South Carolina for a year and a half, there were times I swore I could smell the salt water in the air, even from three hours away.
There are places in this world that are sources for such joy and dear memories, I actually hold them in my heart like a person. Myrtle Beach—for all its kitschy glitz and neon—is one of those locales.
And it’s about to change irrevocably.
Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., owners of downtown Myrtle’s Pavilion amusement park, announced Thursday the 58-year-old facility will close after the 2006 season. It’s a blow to me, personally, because the Pavilion is an institution in my life. My family went to Myrtle on a near-annual basis throughout my childhood, and, of course, the amusement park—which seems to magically appear up out of the street along Highway 17—was always a highlight of every trip to the Grand Strand. “Galaxy” and “Corkscrew” were two of my first roller coasters (they’re already gone, actually); the “Log Flume” was a must, as it bordered the street, beckoning to me as soon as we got out of the car; and the “Rainbow,” with its gorgeous views of the ocean, flipped my stomach every time.
This shutdown has been in the offing for years—nearly a decade, from what I read. Burroughs & Chapin say it’s been a struggle just to break even, and attendance has flatlined. Plans haven’t been finalized for what will now occupy the 11 acres of prime real estate at the hub of Myrtle Beach tourism, but the owners say it will be a mix of condos, shopping, and other attractions. In other words, it’ll go from one of the most unique sites on the strip to looking just like everything else.
I can understand why they made the decision, though. Nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills. I hadn’t ridden even one of the attractions in a decade or more, but not because I didn’t want to—they just got too expensive. And in the current bloodthirsty real estate market, the Pavilion’s sweet site is sure to be worth millions and millions.
So I’m not going to rant like some misty-eyed moron. These guys are businessmen. I understand that.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I can go to the Gap (well, okay, I don’t EVER do that), or eat at some chain restaurant here in Maryland. There was only one Pavilion, and for a good portion of my life, it was one of my favorite places on the planet. Even now, it was a little like Disney World for me—just walking around that place transported me to another time. For a few moments, even as a skeptical 26-year-old, I didn’t have a care in the world, content to just take in the sights, smells, and sounds of my youth. Sappy? Sure. I don’t care—those that can’t put the cares of this world aside once in a while are bound to drown in them. You can’t just slip something else into the place in my heart occupied by the Pavilion. It doesn’t work that way.
Or maybe it does.
Let’s face it: Myrtle Beach’s Pavilion hadn’t been the Pavilion of my youth for a while. Must be time to find a new place to fill that hole. Life goes on, man.
And, hey, at least I still have the Golden Griddle. For now, anyway.