Thursday, July 3, 2014
Steve and Cokie Roberts, who individually and as a couple are well-known journalists and writers, count themselves among the fortunate ones.
They have not only found the magic of Pawleys Island and a way to share it, but also to keep it close.
They appreciate it for what it has, as well as for what it doesn’t have.
It doesn’t have cocktail parties, stoplights, honking vehicle horns or gridlock – unless there’s construction going on.
It does have pelicans, the ocean and what seems like miles of sand, although the town is only 640 acres, and a year-round population of fewer than 150 people.
While the summer tourists swell the residential base, the word “crowded” seldom applies.
Steve Roberts, former bureau chief of The New York Times, reporter for U.S. News and World Reports and a current professor at George Washington University, likes to use the word “fresh.”
“There’s one word we keep coming back to. It’s fresh,” he said. “We’re here for the fresh air, we’re here for the fresh food. We love the local food. I could spend five weeks here and have shrimp 10 times. The produce tastes different here, the melons taste different here, the peaches, the corn.”
And then he turns serious. “We’re here for the day to day, hour by hour quality of openness, health and beauty and relaxation.”
“And even if we work very hard, it’s a different way of working,” said Cokie, contributor to ABC News and NPR. “You know, I’ll get up at 5:30 or 6 and I’ll see the sunrise.”
The pair acknowledges that they are working harder now in some ways than they did earlier in their careers, but they are working differently. They are more in control of their time.
That lets them truly enjoy their time at Pawleys, which has increased to eight or nine weeks each year, particularly in the spring and the fall.
And they keep the door open to family.
“You should have seen us earlier,” Cokie said as she prepared to bid the island goodbye for a time and head back to Bethesda, Md., and the home she grew up in. “We had eight kids from 8 to 13, their parents and four big dogs here. It was wonderful.”
“There’s a timeless appeal here,” said Steve. “The beaches are timeless, the pelicans are timeless, the flounder are timeless.”
In a way, that was what they were seeking when they returned to America after a stint overseas 36 years ago.
Steve was the New York Times bureau chief in Greece and Cokie was stringing - suggesting stories and covering articles as assigned – for CBS News.
“We lived in Greece from 1974 to 1977 and we would rent a house and spend a week on a Greek Island for a vacaction, explained Cokie. “So when we got back to America we started asking friends if there was any place in America that was like a Greek Island – a place you could go and completely unplug.
In a way, it was fated.
She laughs about it now, but recalls that a friend, who had never been there, suggested Pawleys Island.
Steve, meanwhile, while interviewing Rep. James R. Mann of South Carolina in Mann’s Washington, D.C., office.
“Like in motels, congressmen had racks of brochures about places in their home state or district,” and he saw a brochure for Pawleys Island,” Cokie explained. “So he asked the receptionist what he would do if he wanted to vacation there. And she said, ‘you’d call Pawleys Island Realty.’ And he did, and we’ve been coming here since 1978.”
Their first rental house was small and off the beach near the North Causeway. They outgrew that and a second place. Now though, they have found a place that fits, just as they have fit into the community.
They give speeches - for Coastal Carolina University and Brookgreen Gardens - hold fundraisers, most notably for the victims of Georgetown’s Front Street fire, and they pay “lots of taxes.”
They celebrate Easter at Pawleys and their daughter-in-law celebrated her 40th birthday here with her family from California.
The children and grandchildren play here too – whether it’s golf or water sports.
“It’s all here,” they said.
They write about it, they walk the beach, they enjoy their time.
“It’s unique, you can be so close to the ocean and have so much privacy,” Cokie said.
They also have embraced the Pawleys state of mind. “We cross that creek and we’re in another place,” Steve said. ”It could have been 3 miles instead of 300 yards.”
For the Roberts, it’s paradise found.