Myrtle Beach – The Sun, The Fun, … a day at the beach. On March 12th, the city by the sea turned 80. Happy Birthday Miss Myrtle!
Through the years, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has been called America’s family beach. Here is a look at her history.
In the late 1960’s, the baby boomer revolution brought teenagers by the thousands driving their muscle cars up and down the “strip” called Ocean Boulevard. The pavilion, the beach, and the strip – endless Summer…., days in paradise. Myrtle Beach was a city of true opportunity. Like America, Myrtle Beach was young and on the move in 1960.
How It Began – America’s Paradise
In the 1930’s. Myrtle Beach was largely an unknown beach town with a handful of oceanfront beach houses. The owners of those beach homes operated like bed and breakfast inns. “Beach home moms” actually lived onsite, renting out spare bed rooms, fixing meals and chaperoning their guests.
As the automobile, the television, and the interstate system emerged in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, an expanding middle class of white, east coast residents began looking for a beach to relax on during the hot summer season. Families found Myrtle Beach a central location with wide, sandy untouched beaches.
By the early 1960’s the beach town had arrived, becoming one of America’s top tourism destinations. Center stage was ocean boulevard and the Myrtle Beach pavilion which was permanently established in 1948.
In the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, Myrtle Beach was an unspoiled, tourist destination. The wholesome, small town American atmosphere cemented the myth of Myrtle Beach as all things red, white and blue. In the late 50’s and early 1960’s camping and cowboys became king. Myrtle Beach featured more camping than almost any resort town in America.
BEGINNINGS OF AN EMPIRE
The most recent era began in 1948 when Philip Gray, who was a relatively new native to Myrtle Beach, first ran for and won a seat on Myrtle Beach city council. Gray married into the long-standing and well connected Nance family. Local “up and coming” relatives included Clay Brittain Jr. and Bob Chapman. Each of these families would play pivotal and connected roles in how the city developed. Philip Gray was instrumental in growing the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. He was also the key figure responsible for bringing the South Atlantic Shrine Organization into Myrtle Beach. The Shriners still parade annually in Myrtle Beach during some events to this day. Gray would hold three terms in Myrtle Beach City Council. He also created two of the leading businesses in town, Grayco Steel and Genco Hotel Supply. His time and his service would create a legacy for a handful of local families that typically knew before-hand where the ball was rolling. These pioneers helped shaped the destiny of mid 1900’s Myrtle Beach.
COMING OF AGE – THE MYRTLE BEACH AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ERA
2009 was a huge, transitional year for Myrtle Beach. This was the year that the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce took the lead role in all things Myrtle Beach. Working with city council members and a local state delegation, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber was able to get a $22 million annual tax funding law passed called the TDF.
Today, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce spends over $38 million annually largely on Northeastern and Southeastern Google search and TV ads. The pictures are wholesome, fun, and inviting. The ads put a pretty face what was a largely unchanged town. “Myrtle Beach is your family’s fun in the sun” the 30 second spots proclaimed.
But, in 2016, just as America was rapidly changing, thirty second TV ads couldn’t hide the reality that Myrtle Beach needed to change.
MYRTLE BEACH: LIVING HER DESTINY – The Road Ahead
On the day of her 80th birthday, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber C.E.O. Brad Dean resigned.
Dean leaves a town that is fully in transition. Local residents, our mayor, and business owners are completely invested in restoring the magic that is Myrtle Beach.
Moving forward, many expect the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to play the typical role that most Chambers of Commerce play in traditional American cities. Such is an important role, but not the lead role.
Last November, residents elected Myrtle Beach’s first female mayor, Brenda Bethune. She brings fresh ideas and new life for the season just ahead. The challenges she faced coming into the job on January 1, 2018, were expected, but difficult.
As she finds her way, so too will our city. The future for Myrtle Beach is brighter than ever before. Tourists and locals can expect a new transition of development in the downtown area in the coming years. Our media savvy mayor will also work with city council and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to transition the town’s messaging to a younger and more mobile America.
As sure as the changing tide, Myrtle Beach is transitioning into more. At 80, she is finding her way forward. The city is becoming more inclusive, and more inviting to tourists, as well as, outside investors. Her brightest years are now just before her. 2018 is a year to get excited once again about the potential of all things Myrtle Beach.