A quick stop in Columbia, S.C.

I hadn’t really thought about it when we made the plans to go to the beach. And I was never very good at geography anyway. So when Mark found a place to go to in Ocean Isle, North Carolina, I was all in.

It wasn’t until the days before the trip when I read the information about our accommodations that I realized we were going to be quite close to Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach 1953 – Dad

When I was young, Myrtle Beach was for me “the ocean.” Recently while sorting through my parents’ old photos and contemplating parts of their life that I just never took the time to think about before, I realized Myrtle Beach was where my dad first experienced the ocean, when he was in the army.

71 Myrtle Beach-4
Myrtle Beach 1971 – Mom, Dad, and Annie

If memory serves, I think it may be the first beach we ever went to as a family and one we returned to on several trips.

I contemplated this more as I was driving through the hills of Tennessee and noticed the lack of giant billboard signs for Ruby Falls. It’s funny the things that stick in your mind as a child riding in the back of a packed station wagon, playing alphabet word-scavenger hunts with my sisters as we rode along, my dad driving every mile of the way, using the open window as an arm rest while his bent elbow got redder by the minute.

Wade Hampton Hotel post card - 1953
Wade Hampton Hotel post card – 1953

On this trip I realized we would be passing somewhere close to Ft. Jackson, where my dad went to basic training in the early 50’s, and to Columbia where my parents stayed in the Wade Hampton Hotel when my mom flew down to visit him. But Mark is a get-to-your-destination, no-funny-business-side-trips allowed, kind of traveler, so I didn’t mention it at first.

03-04-Mom at capital bldg
Mom at the Columbia capital building in 1953

But as I was taking a shift at driving, and Mark was explaining the route for me, he said, “Take route 26 to Columbia where you get on route 20.”

“I wonder if we could try to find the Wade Hampton Hotel in Columbia for a quick stop?” I asked.

Mark googled it and started laughing. The first hit he got was about the implosion of the famed hotel.

“When?” I asked, wondering if it happened years ago and my parents knew about it. “April, 2013,” Mark said. (He obviously hadn’t looked at the video when he said this.)

Columbia state house
Columbia state house – 2013

We decided to go anyway, because the hotel had been across the street from the statehouse and I wanted pictures.

Columbia was a larger city than I had imagined, and the statehouse was massive and impressive. I was looking for an empty lot across the street that might have held the ill-fated Wade Hampton and found only modern high-rise buildings. So we went in a coffee shop where neither the young man working behind the counter, or the woman maintaining the automatic teller, knew anything about the Wade Hampton Hotel.

“Are you sure it imploded this April?” I asked Mark who got back on his phone. “1985,” he said, “It happened in 1985.” No wonder the young man behind the counter hadn’t heard of it. He might not even have been born yet. I wondered if my parents had heard about the implosion. For some reason I have a shadow of memory at the back of my mind about it. Maybe they told me when it happened, and like so many other things I just didn’t give it due attention. Or maybe it is my imagination re-creating history.

Site of the old Wade Hampton Hotel - 2013
Site of the old Wade Hampton Hotel – 2013

I listened to the implosion video and found out which corner the old hotel had occupied. I took a photo of the shiny high-rise standing there now and several of the statehouse. Mark bought a drink at the coffee shop. And we were on our way.

Fifteen minutes tops.