Atlantic Beach, SC lies just south of North Myrtle Beach at the northern end of a 60 mile string of gorgeous beaches appropriately named “The Grand Strand”.The G/S is a popular resort area hosting millions of vacationers every season except winter when one can safely take to the streets with frisbees. There are over 90 golf courses in the area and the third largest golf course management company in the world. In recent years it has become a retirement magnet rivaling Florida and Arizona.
Myrtle Beach and it’s ancillary communities came about in the 30’s as a Sunday family relaxation place for the timber workers in nearby Conway. The timber companies would run open train cars the 12-14 miles from Conway to Myrtle for the workers and their families.There was virtually no development at this time, thus things were on the primitive side. The biggest elephant in the room was segregation.
Atlantic Beach was established during this period for the African-American workers and has remained a black seacoast Mecca to this day. Over the years it’s reputation as a pleasant place for African-Americans to vacation with little conflict has drawn families from all over the eastern part of the US. The town still retains a portion of it’s Gullah/Geechee cultural roots but things change with time and these attributes are fading.
Although the permanent population of A/B is only c. 250 souls, during the Memorial Day weekend it is blessed with an event labeled Black Biker Week. BBW’s inception was fueled by an event that takes place at the other end of the Strand. Harley week is similar, predominately white and Harley-driven and takes place a couple of weeks prior to the BBW. Both of these gatherings, together, draw visitors in the hundreds of thousands, nearly a million counted together, during these 2 weeks.The shear numbers of custom, customized and enhanced “statements” on 2 and 3 wheels is awe inspiring. I have been around motorcycles all my life and even I get cramps in my jaw in amazement.
As with any affair with a draw of this many people problems are bound to occur. And these problems give birth to other problems. Some of the results of ongoing mismanagement follow.
Last week the on-going problems at Town Hall in Atlantic Beach came to a head. Interim town manager Benny Webb and the mayor pro-tem cranked up a new broom and started sweeping. The police chief was asked to attend a meeting and not only refused but took the remaining police officers and left Town Hall. This precipitated his immediate termination along with the entire police force. The town judge was fired, a new judge hired and the sitting town manager told to take a three week vacation. A deal was struck with Horry (O-Ree’) County police to provide protection until new hires can be effected.
In the meantime, ex-mayor Retha Peirce Sturdivant had charges of leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, dismissed. She was convicted on July 13, 2011 of resisting arrest and sentenced to 18 months probation. She also had a 2009 DUI charge dismissed after test results (blood and breath) revealed no intoxicants in her system. She was charged with trespassing at Town Hall after a dispute with staff while trying to “uncover a larger conspiracy” among appointed officials. When Strdivant was arrested for the “hit-and-run” in 2009 then-governor Mark Sanford removed her from office. Also, during this time her first lawyer was disbarred and is currently serving prison time for trying to have his former law partner killed.
Nonetheless, Atlantic Beach is STILL 4 square blocks of ongoing entertainment. Street theater was NEVER this good.