By Jim Hulen, NorthMyrtleBeachOnline.com
North Myrtle Beach, May 7, 2008—On May 7, 1968, the SC Legislature passed legislation incorporating the four towns of Cherry Grove, Ocean Drive Beach, Crescent Beach and Windy Hill into one city – the City of North Myrtle Beach.
A large crowd, estimated to be around 100 people or more, attended a ceremony at City Hall today to celebrate the anniversary and share memories.
Mayor Marilyn Hatley reminded the crowd that the population of the city at the time of its founding was less than 1,900 people and the tourist season was the summer months and most businesses opened in May and closed after Labor Day. After Golf was firmly established, a shoulder season was created and businesses stayed open longer.
Hatley recalled that for many years, North Myrtle Beach was the spring break destination for thousands of college students. Smiling, she looked at the crowd and observed that many of those college kids moved into the area, married, raised their own children and was among those in attendance.
“In 1985, the big, hottest issue was whether the beaches should be open to driving. Dick Blackburn was the Co-Chairman leading the effort to keep the beaches available for citizens and visitors to drive their vehicles on the beach. The referendum was turned down by the voters and driving vehicles on the beach was prohibited,” Hatley remarked.
“When we got the first McDonalds, that was a big thing,” said Hatley.
Doug Wendel, first North Myrtle Beach City Manager and retired CEO of Burroughs and Chapin, spoke of the early days of the city and the challenges of bringing together the four different communities and forging one.
“I flew in for an interview in a prop plane and there was no terminal. The first questions I was asked was ‘Mr. Wendel are you a Christian?’ I replied that I was and the follow-up question was what denomination? When I replied Catholic, that was followed with ‘Oh, that’s OK.’ And I guess it was because they hired me,” recalled Wendel.
“The first phone call I received was from C.D. Nixon, former Mayor of Cherry Grove. He said to me ‘I hear you are from Maryland.’ I replied yep and he said ‘I wish you would go back’ and hung up,” said Wendel. “That gave me the hint that people still were not ready to come together as one city.”
C. D. Nixon was the first mayor of Cherry Grove Beach and responsible for closing the Cherry Grove inlet and connecting Cherry Grove Beach to Futch Beach. He was also responsible for blasting a new outlet to create Hog Inlet so that the tide would continue to flow into the marsh
Wendel recalled that there were only 50 city employees in those days and on Sundays, everyone, including himself, got out and gathered up the garbage that was piled up when visitors checked out. The top priority was infrastructure. Only a few main roads were paved, most homes were on septic systems, there was no storm water system and water pressure almost nonexistent.
Wendel said, “The saddest day in my life was when Dick Biondi, a famous Chicago broadcaster was fired and came to work at WNMB-FM. He called me the ‘big cheese in city hall’ and was always after me about something.”
Concluding, Wendel said, “Your current Mayor is phenomenal and the Council outstanding.”
The first mayor of North Myrtle Beach was Robert L. Edge. Council members consisted of Mance Watkins, Jennings Livingston, M.S. Thompson, David B. Witherspoon, Jr., Eli T. Goodman and J. Bryan Floyd.
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