By Jim Hulen, North Myrtle Beach Online.com
AUGUST 11, 2009 NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC ― This Saturday, August 15th at 1pm, a long overdue recognition of the role Sonny’s Pavilion played in the history of North Myrtle Beach will be commemorated. A historical marker will placed on the property it formerly occupied.
From 1949 through the late 60’s, Sonny’s Pavilion occupied the property on Ocean Boulevard near Sea Mountain Highway. The property is currently owned by Boulineau, Inc. and loaned to the City of North Myrtle Beach for an ocean front parking lot.
Sonny’s Pavilion started out as a eight square foot gazebo given to Dr. ‘Sonny’ Nixon in 1947 while he was still attending Wampee High School. Nixon moved it to the ocean and sent himself though college by adding an eight-foot-wide porch on two sides, selling snowball cones and renting floats and umbrellas. It became a popular Shaggers’s hangout when Nixon added a room on the porch to house a jukebox.
“Roy Harrelson put in a Wurlitzer and gave me half the take,” said Nixon. Harrelson owned the Winyah Music Company and also owned the Roberts Pavilion at the end of Main Street in Ocean Drive.
At the time Ocean Drive was incorporated and Cherry Grove Beach was not. Nixon’s ‘Pad’ benefited from Ocean Drive (OD) closing down places that allowed shag dancing at midnight. Shaggers would migrate from OD closing down and come to Sonny’s Pavilion. “We regularly stayed open all night long,” said Nixon.
Sonny’s Pavilion suffered some ups and downs during its era on Cherry Grove Beach. In 1954 Hurricane Hazel came ashore and completely destroyed the structure. Nixon rebuilt in 1955 and regained its place as the Cherry Grove home for shaggers.
However, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 put an end to the Pavilion which had been operating as a family arcade for several years.
Bill and Charlotte Drew were instrumental in getting the historical marker. Drew said, “It is a lengthy process. We applied last fall and got the approval then had to work with a Midwest foundry to create it. We received the marker in June but wanted to wait until the annual Sonny’s Pavilion reunion to hold the dedication.”
Drew met his wife Charlotte at Sonny’s in 1964 when he was visiting from Anderson, SC. He and his wife are now residents of North Myrtle Beach and are active in the OD Pavilion Social and Shag Club which paid for the historical marker.
Mayor Marilyn Hatley will speak at the dedication. Hatley said, “It is really nice to see the people of the community take such pride in our being the home of the Shag – the State’s official dance – and its place in the history of our community. The Nixon family were among the leaders in developing Cherry Grove and I am glad to see Sonny Nixon’s Pavilion get the recognition it deserves.”
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