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Kids: Make sure your graduation beach trip will still be fun in 40 years


Carly Rutledge is 18 and heading to the beach on her own, and she already knows where the good shells wash up.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, June 2, 2018

My oldest daughter, Carly, is about to do what nearly every other person in this corner of Tennessee has done after high school graduation: Head for Myrtle Beach.

“Everyone is going, Dad,” she said.

Of course they are. They always have. I even made a practice run the year before graduation. I'm not sure what my parents were thinking by letting me do that 40 years ago, but they did.

A lot has changed since my teenage trips to that sacred South Carolina sand. The historic Myrtle Beach Pavilion amusement park is gone. There’s a new amusement park, but it’s not the same.

I ate lunch somewhere inside the new one during a volleyball tournament a few years ago. Pigeon Forge has the exact same cookie-cutter features without the six-hour drive.

I don't know what the kids do for fun in Myrtle Beach these days and that worries me. It makes me sound old and out of touch, but I still want to warn my daughter and her friends about a few pitfalls.

Based on my experience, I will tell them this:

■ Do not stop at Jimmy Carter's Fireworks on the way in. You'll just blow a sizable chunk of your limited spending cash on stuff that will be going off on the beach every night anyway. Watching someone else's money explode is cheaper and just as much fun.

■ Resist the urge to drive your vehicle onto the deep sand near the ocean. Ten feet in, you'll sink the rear axle and be exposed as a numbskull teenage tourist on the loose for the first time.

■ Never take a full swing from the tee box during a game of dinosaur golf. The manager will take away your putter, keep your money, and have you banned from all of the 148 other miniature golf courses in town.

■ Avoid boys on the beach offering to show you where the good shells wash up. It's the oldest trick in the book.

■ If you decide to stop at Jimmy Carter's Fireworks on the way home, do not ignite firecrackers in the ashtray or shoot bottle rockets out the window just to see if the car will catch up to them before they explode. For that you need a 1970 Chevy pickup with a metal dash and no sensitive airbags.

Despite the pitfalls, there are wonderful memories to be made. I just wish my daughter could experience one of the greatest times I had during my graduation trip: Chairmen of the Board performing in the salty and sticky breeze at the Afterdeck.

“Give Me Just a Little More Time.” “(You've Got Me) Dangling on a String.”

It was magical.

Chairmen of the Board is classified as soul music, but their style is commonly known as Carolina Beach Music. Although General Johnson, the lead singer who gave the group its iconic sound, died in 2010, the group is still making its way up and down the Carolina coastline.

I went looking online to see if the Afterdeck is still around. It is, but judging from the crowded dance-floor pictures, Chairmen of the Board no longer plays there. No one was wearing enough clothing for shag dancing — the still wildly popular six-count, eight-step descendant of the Carolina Jitterbug.

And we thought it was slightly risqué when General Johnson sang, "“39-21-40 Shape”" was risqué..”

Here’s another piece of advice for today’s graduates: Avoid the Afterdeck. Whatever it is that’s going on inside there now, you will not want to explain to the kids in 40 years.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.