What? Where did the Surfside Pier go?

Pier 1

The only thing I saw over the last few days that was newsworthy was that a huge part of the Surfside Beach pier was missing.

It was the first time I’d been there since Hurricane Matthew, and it was weird to see people playing in the surf out past the end of the pier.

Apparently, local folks have been having trouble figuring out whether and/or how to rebuild it, and it probably won’t be up and operating until next year sometime, at best.

It’s amazing anyone would even consider not rebuilding. But then, I remember when the pier played a more central role in the town’s life. When I was a kid, and even later when my older kids were young, that was the place to go. There was the pier, and the bingo hall, and the arcade, and the little family-scale amusement park, all right there together. Back in the days before cable TV, there wasn’t anything to do in the evening in Surfside besides going to the pier — unless you wanted to go down to Murrells Inlet and wait an hour to be seated for dinner.

Here’s what it looked like back then. I wish this had been taken from a different angle, so you could see the arcade and amusement park better — as opposed to the parking lot (which used to be free, by the way) — but you can see it would be the focal point of a sleepy, family beach town.

Then, sometime in the 80s as I recall, someone got the idea of replacing everything but the pier itself with a high-rise hotel. There went the center of Surfside life. Sometime after that (I’m thinking after Hugo repairs), someone got the idea of charging people a dollar or two just to walk on the pier.

Still, I hope they get it together and rebuild. The pier may not be what it was, but I still can’t imagine Surfside without it.

You know what it looks kind of like from this angle? One of those Imperial Walkers from "The Empire Strikes Back." To me, anyway...

You know what it looks kind of like from this angle? One of those AT-AT Imperial Walkers from “The Empire Strikes Back.” To me, anyway…

31 thoughts on “What? Where did the Surfside Pier go?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Doug should like this…

    I don’t know the details about how these piers are owned and managed, but the implication I got from Googling news stories about them caused me to think that the Surfside pier is owned by the city, while the Garden City Pier is privately owned.

    And the Garden City Pier reopened week before last, while Surfside still dithers.

    Also, you can walk on the Garden City Pier for free. Or at least you could, before the recent damage. I don’t know whether that’s still the case.

    I also don’t know whether to blame the town council for having to pay to walk on the Surfside pier, or whether that’s something having to do with the private folks who lease the pier from the city.

    Still, this would SEEM to fit into Doug’s “private good, public bad” paradigm…

    Reply
    1. Doug Ross

      Now that photo is a real example of the adjective “crumbling” that is used far too often to describe South Carolina’s roads.

      And let me ask you – if I gave both a private enterprise and a public entity the same task of restoring that pier, which do you think would get it done faster and cheaper? My guess is that the private entity would have it completed before the public entity had worked out which contractors to collect kickbacks from.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, of COURSE the private actor can act faster. He can go with whomever he wants to do the work. A city council has to get a consensus, or at least a majority, to agree.

        Anyway, I deliberately set you up on that one. You can thank me later.

        Now, let me give a prop to the public side….

        Garden City is the libertarian Wild West of beach towns — one high-rise after another lining the whole beach. At unusually high tides, the tide washes across their parking lots and floods Ocean Boulevard. The perfect example of what you get without regulation, letting the market do what it will.

        On Thursday, riding back from taking the kids to the arcade in Garden City (we used to have a nice one we could walk to when we had the little amusement park at the Surfside Pier), I had a terrible time avoiding killing the visitors who were overcrowded into that town and had little space to walk along the road between the condos at Ocean Boulevard.

        As soon as I crossed the line into Surfside, there were no more tourists staggering into the road (or, in the case of those in the 15-25 age group, deliberately walking in it). That’s because Surfside long ago decided to be a nice, sensible family beach, and barred high-rises (except for that hotel at the pier). Most of Surfside is single-family homes. The condos that exist are limited to three stories and I think have other restrictions on them.

        Totally different atmosphere, and one I find vastly preferable to the Garden City madness…

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          garden city

          Here’s how you tell where Surfside ends and Garden City begins…

          See the multicolored houses on the left? Those are more or less the biggest things you can build for rental in Surfside.

          See the high-rise, concrete monstrosity in the distance? That’s where Garden City begins…

          Reply
      2. bud

        I was just reading about the passing of the man who actually did invent the internet, Robert Taylor. He accomplished that while working for the federal government. How is that even possible since government NEVER accomplishes anything.

        And of course it must be noted that the super overpaid CEO of United Airlines “earned” his bonus by making a total ass of himself in the Overbooking fiasco. Look I get it that we live in a capitalist world with all the benefits that go with it. But let’s not ignore government accomplishments and business debacles. That black and white narrative of the world is both inaccurate and insulting to all the hard working government workers who keep us safe, clean, mobile, healthy and informed.

        Reply
        1. Doug Ross

          Yeah, let’s compare what happens to United when they have this situation (large drop in stock price, people WILL be fired) to what happens when a TSA agent frisks a woman recovering from breast cancer surgery (coverup, blame the victim, no public admission of fault).

          As for Taylor, saying he created the internet is like saying the guy who created the first nail invented the house. Please review his biography and notice that he left the government as soon as he could (less than a year after “inventing” the internet) to go to Xerox where he spent the bulk of his career before going to the company I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1983 – the same year I started. So he spent 85% of his career in the private sector — most likely because it offered the opportunity and income he wanted.

          Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              My point is he left the government for a reason – most likely the perception that he was limited in what he could do and achieve in the government system. He left bureaucracy for opportunity.

              But quick name the next best thing created by the government in the past twenty years.

              Reply
              1. bud

                New Horizon visited Pluto
                Messenger went to Mercury
                The USS Gerald Ford is pretty cool
                The Ravenel Bridge
                MOAB
                Many medical treatments are the result of government efforts, Ebola for example
                Just watched Patriots Day. Catching those guys was a great cooperative effort by government at all levels

                Reply
            2. Doug Ross

              And I’ll see your crumbling pier and raise you highway 321 about a mile before the entrance to I20. There’s a stretch of road there that has been cut down to one lane on both sides of the road for more than a year. Nothing has been done. Plenty of cones and barriers but no actual work. This is the beauty of having a monopoly like the DOT. If you don’t do any work, you get paid just the same. And then you sit and wait and wait and wait until people give in and raise the gas tax so you can do the work you should have been doing all along. It’s a great system. No accomplishments are required. Just keep collecting the paychecks until the pension kicks in.

              Reply
          1. bud

            Doug you really do need to view the world without this anti government chip on you shoulder. It’s not a black and white government all bad, business all good dichotomy. It’s just not. Sure Taylor did some good things after leaving the government. I believe he played a role in developing the mouse. I’m not going to denigrate those accomplishments. But it doesn’t negate what he did while in government. There is just no logical connection to blow off his internet work so dismissively that way. As a man who worked in both the private and public sectors I can state unambiguously state I am far more proud of what I accomplished in government. I always felt kind of dirty trying to game the system for profit in the private sector. The greed aspect of it was not something I enjoyed. But for those of you who are rewarded by the trappings more power to you. But don’t put down public work because of of some ideological purity standards.

            Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              “I always felt kind of dirty trying to game the system for profit in the private sector. ”

              That’s not how it works for most ethical people. I don’t recall ever trying to “game the system” in my career. I worked hard and was rewarded accordingly, especially the four years I worked as an independent consultant. I asked for and was paid what I felt my talents were worth.

              Reply
          2. bud

            blame the victim, no public admission of fault)
            -Doug

            Those words EXACTLY describe Oscar Munoz comments in the days after the dragging debacle. And Mr. Munoz will keep all his money. No Doug. The United mess does not in any way support the notion that free enterprise always works.

            Reply
            1. Doug Ross

              Who would you fire, bud? It wasn’t a United employee who dragged the guy off the plane. United is taking its hit (as it should) in the pocketbook and will pay big money out in lawsuits.

              Remind me of who I can complain to about the poor performance of the DOT? Or where I go to get a refund on my taxes paid for lousy service? Monopolies are great, aren’t they?

              Reply
              1. Doug Ross

                It’s hilarious that you think United is somehow run by libertarians (well, in your definition anyone who has a job that pays more than $100K a year is a greedy libertarian).

                I think you believe that United’s employee manual is just a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

                Anyway, give me the libertarian “screed” any day of the week over the liberal whining about luck being the basis for any success.

                Reply
  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    To give you an idea of how much less inviting the pier area is now….

    Go look at the picture I linked to from 1967.

    Then, below, you can see a Street View from roughly that same angle in Street View on Google.

    No, it’s not a one-to-one comparison. The old shot was taken from a higher angle looking down, and the new one was taken with an extreme wide-angle lens, so that the building at this end of the pier looks like it’s a mile away instead of being up close and personal.

    But I think you can probably see how much less inviting it seems — and not just because of the “Pay to Park” sign in the modern image…

    pier now

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      IMG_5083

      I’d like to know how the 1967 photog got that elevated angle, especially since he was shooting from the middle of a street (Surfside Drive, right where it intersects with Ocean Drive). Maybe he was on a cherry-picker.

      A little bit of elevation is magic in photography. For instance, Soda City market is an ADCO client. Last year I went there to get some photos for their website. There was a huge crowd, but I was having trouble reflecting that. When you’re on the same level as the crowd (above), all you see is the few people right in front of you — also, you get no sense of the scope of the market. I had even tried getting on the roof of a couple of Main Street buildings and looking down, but I couldn’t get a good angle.

      Finally, it dawned on me — a stepladder! Made all the difference. Just get a couple of feet above people, and you have perspective (below)…

      IMG_5127

      Reply
  3. clark surratt

    Ah, Brad, you opened the door for me to wax about my upcoming summer week at a backwater beach in North Carolina where there are no high rises and few of anything else but houses. The old pier starts at a ratty entrance where they make the best sausage and egg sandwich anywhere. Parking is free. It does cost a buck to walk out on the pier, but well worth it. The pier is my second favorite place at my beach. Tops is the stinkin’ fish house beside the inland waterway, which is one block from the beach and next to the free boat launch. See you soon, beach.

    Reply
  4. bud

    I remember the Tilt-a-Whirl at Surfside. Plus there was some kind of putt putt. But for real thrills we had to ride into Myrtle Beach and ride the Swamp Fox.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, yeah, but that was a huge treat. Maybe once in the summer we’d get to go to the MB Pavilion amusement park — after days and weeks of whining to the parents.

      We could walk to the Surfside amusement park and hang out there all the time if we wanted.

      But mostly I remember it as a great place to take our kids in the evening when they were small and we were young parents living on a reporter’s pay. It was very reasonably-priced entertainment, and most of the rides were kiddy-scale…

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And now, well… in that top picture on the post you can see some of my grandchildren — one of the twins to the left, and the other towards the middle with her blonde cousin. My grandson is in front of them, so all you see is one of his feet.

        My grandfather built a house at Surfside in 1959 — then sold it and built another one across the street from it in the ’60s. My mother inherited it. Now my grandchildren enjoy it. That street has stayed pretty quiet, although the changes in the surrounding area are staggering.

        Y’all remember ex-SC political blogger Tim Kelly? His family, or maybe his wife’s, owns a house across the street, on the lot where my grandfather built his first house (now long ago razed).

        My grandfather wasn’t rich by any means, but he had foresight, and bought those two lots back when regular folks could afford them. The whole family is grateful for that…

        Reply
    2. Dave Crockett

      I used to call it the “Tilt-a-Hurl” after my one and only ride on it back in the late ’60s with my new steady girlfriend had me swallowing real hard to keep from embarrassing myself.

      Reply

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