Elvis, Bermuda shorts, and The Beatles

  • Friday, March 28, 2014

  • Updated Tuesday, April 1, 2014 7:41 am

Caroline Thomas, Kay Altman, Barbara Mathis, and Marilyn Abrams sitting on Grand Prix Pontiac furnished by Rodwell Pontiac-Cadillac Co. From 1964 Winyah High School Yearbook.

It seems like yesterday that my older brother, Rhett Johnson, was graduating from Winyah High School. Actually, it was fifty years ago. Yes, half a century. I can’t tease him about it, because my high school graduation came just three years later.

As a freshman, I looked upon the seniors with awe and tried to copy everything they did. They wore Bass Weejuns, Villager sweaters, and Bermuda shorts. In the spring of 1964, Belk’s Department Store ran an ad in the Georgetown Times announcing a sale on Bermuda shorts – $1.77 a pair. In the women’s department, shirtwaist dresses with princess collars were advertised for $5.99.

I couldn’t wait to be old enough to attend the Junior-Senior prom. In 1964, the Winyah High School prom was held at the old Armory on Church Street. From the description in the yearbook, it seems the Class of 1965 gave the seniors a great send-off. “With ‘Treasure Island’ as the theme, the austere armory became a tropical paradise, with pirates, treasure, palm trees, an oasis with floating water lilies, and a mermaid reclining on a nearby rock.” Kit Siau was voted “Miss Senior.”

Preparation for the prom was not as costly back then. Both Fogel’s and Belk’s Department Stores ran ads prior to the prom offering complete tuxedo rentals for $8.75. Faye’s Beauty Shop on Highmarket Street was offering the girls a permanent wave for $7.99.

Even with the British Invasion and Beatlemania, the Class of 1964 still enjoyed music they could dance to, like “My Guy” by Mary Wells, Bobby Vinton’s “There I’ve Said It Again”, “Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups, and “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen.

When it came to movies, anything starring Elvis Presley drew crowds. “Kissin’ Cousins” and “Viva Las Vegas” were box office hits in 1964. I didn’t see either of them, but I did see “The Pink Panther” with Peter Sellers and “From Russia With Love” with Sean Connery (as James Bond) simply because my brother Rhett liked them.

The Class of 1964 used pay phones, not cell phones, to let their parents know they were running a little late getting home from the Pawleys Island Pavilion. Term papers were either hand-written or typed on a manual typewriter. In 1964, Sam’s Office Supply ran an ad for items that are now considered obsolete: typewriter ribbons and carbon paper.

Underclassmen marveled over the athletic prowess of their senior classmates. The track team, led by Coach Charlie Thompson, had an undefeated season with senior Eddie Wrenn breaking three school records.

Under Coaches J. C. Hudson and Charlie Thompson, the football team had a 6-3-1 record. Senior Jimmy Killen was on the AA All State team and was named Outstanding Back in the Shrine Bowl held in Charlotte.

Coach Jim Macfie led the boys’ basketball team to a 10-7 record. Watching Allen Moore on the floor was like watching poetry in motion.

The golf team was impressive, as was the girl’s basketball team (The Gatorettes), led by Coach Buyck and Captain Linda Isaac.

We looked up to the seniors and wondered if we could ever measure up to them. Even though she never knew it, I idolized Susan Tamsberg, who, along with Barry Maynard, was named “Most Likely To Succeed” in 1964. Susan finished Columbia College in three years, so I finished Winthrop College in three years. She went on to Georgia State University and I, many years later, did the same. Sadly, Susan Tamsberg Wise died in 2006 at the age of 60.

There was always something going on at school, at the beach, and on Front Street, which boasted many more businesses than we have now. We had the Whistling Pig (best chili dogs ever), house parties at Pawleys, and great teachers like Mr. Edwards, Mr. Brock, and W.W. Doar at Winyah. We also had the best principal, Mr. Harvey Rice.

I recently read the entries made by other students in my 1964 yearbook. The one written by my brother, Rhett, reads, “Best wishes, punk, from your favorite brother.” I guess it could have been worse.

The Class of 1964 is having their 50-year reunion on April 26. Best wishes to all of you.

To the Winyah High School Class of 1964 . . . thanks for the memories.

Debby Summey may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or djsummey@gmail.com.

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