The next time you get stuck in traffic near the beaches, count your blessings.
As an article in the Independent Republic Quarterly illustrates, road conditions were once much, much worse.
The author, John Cartrette, recalled that in 1924, a particularly wet year, the rains made dirt roads in Horry County almost impassable. Farmers with mule teams along particularly boggy parts of roads stood ready to pull cars out—to the tune of $5.
One morning Cartrette and a friend, Clarence Macklen, decided to travel from Myrtle Beach to Conway to date their girls. The trip quickly became nightmarish.
“After we left the beach sand, the road became soupy and in ruts. The wheels were in about four to six inches of soup (sand and water), the car axles shaved the dirt smooth,” he wrote. “At places when the car was about ready to gasp its last, the farmer with his team in the distance would start to meet us, confident of a fee, but I would get out and push until the car could pick up speed on some firmer ground.”
Cartrette said he and Macklen arrived at the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue in Conway at the New York Café. The car was muddy and so were they. Their hard white collars, white shirts, Sunday suits and shoes were all caked with mud. Reluctantly, they called to cancel their dates and headed back to Myrtle Beach.
“At Red Hill, just across the river from town, the car began to knock,” recalled Cartrette. “The ball bearings were burnt out. It was decided that we could not get to the beach by the Socastee road and that we would try to make it by Wampee…After supper we set out by Vaughts to get the Sand Hill road home. At the low places I broke bushes and limbs and placed these in the ruts and pushed.
“At Deep Head we heard a bump when the wheel hit the bridge. Examination showed the tire was missing. So was the inner tube, all except a small patch. We rode on to the beach on the tire rim—-and so to bed.”
Cartrette added that Dr. Jamie Norton took the extreme measure once of taking the tires off of his car and riding the railroad rails from Myrtle Beach to Conway on its rims!
Editor’s note: These tales of horrible roads are common. The late Allen LeGette of Centenary, S.C. said a trip to Myrtle Beach involved tying at least four spare tires on the roof of the car and frequently that wasn’t enough. U.S. 501 didn’t exist until after World War II so the most popular route followed S.C. 544 to Socastee.
The Independent Republic Quarterly can be read online by visiting www.digitalcommons.coastal.edu