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Waccamaw Neck... as it was: A life on the inlet sustained by the creek

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

When June Hora was growing up in Murrells Inlet, nothing was more exciting than seeing a motorboat cutting through the briny water.

“Oh, it was really something to have a motor back then,” said Hora, 85.

Thomas Hutter of Marion was the only person in the area she recalls who had a motorboat, and he brought it regularly to the Sunnyside section of Murrells Inlet once known as “Little Marion” to put it in the water. When he did, he would take Hora and her siblings out for a spin.

“He had a board we’d all get on, and he would pull us behind him,” she recalled.

It was a special treat.

Hora was June Chandler then and she spent most of her childhood in the creek, romping with her brothers, Bill, Joe and Tommy, and her sister, Genevieve “Sister” Peterkin.

“We just lived out there,” Hora said. “It was all the entertainment we needed.”

Her childhood home on the creek had a long dock where they used to fish. They collected crabs, oysters and shrimp from the creek.

“We had a shrimp net and we could go out and pull the net and catch a bushel of shrimp in no time,” Hora recalled.

In those days, everyone was poor and seafood was a staple of most families’ diets.

“The creek kept us all well fed,” she said.

These days, Hora still lives in the creek. Though her hair turned silver long ago and her skin bears the inevitable marks of passing time, she’s spry and more active than many people half her age.

“I just love to kayak and swim and canoe out there,” she said. “Every high tide I try to go out there and swim, right in front of my house.”

She lives on the waterfront near Bovine’s and has a house next to her sister.

“I even got on a Jet Ski with my neighbor,” Hora said. “I think it shocked my sister to death. She said, ‘you’re crazy, just crazy.’ ”

For her 83rd birthday, Hora went parasailing and said she loved it. She’s always looking for a new adventure.

“What they’re doing now, and I just love it, is this paddle boarding,” she said. She hasn’t tried paddle boarding, which involves standing on a surf board and using a paddle to move through the water, but those who know Hora probably wouldn’t be surprised to see her out there giving it a go.

A grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of two, Hora knows she’s fortunate to be in such good shape.

“All my friends are either in nursing homes or passing away,” she said. “You just have to not let old age catch up with you. I’m running as fast as I can.”

She thinks the creek has something to do with the fact that she’s winning the race. That, along with remembering to laugh and always trying to find the joy in life.

That second part is something she learned as a girl from her mother, Genevieve Willcox Chandler, who taught at the one-room Murrells Inlet schoolhouse before Hora was born, and in Burgess before that.

“One of her students told me some years ago that she rode her horse to school and would tie it up in the yard, and she carried a loaded pistol in her pocket and would put it on the desk and say, ‘Now boys, I don’t think we’ll have any trouble today,’ ” Hora said. “She was a unique woman.”

She was also ahead of her time, Hora added, and she’s proud to say she takes after her.

“I think Sister and I are both a lot like her.”

Hora’s mother went to art school in New York when she was only about 17. After she finished, her mother sent her to England to get her away from one of her suitors. When she came back, she met Hora’s father, Thomas Mobley Chandler, who was a farmer. He died when Hora was 11.

When the Chandlers were at the Hermitage, Hora’s mother used to have school in the family’s kitchen for black children. There wasn’t a school for blacks at the time. Archer Huntington, who owned the property at Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park, later built one and provided a teacher. That was sometime in the 1930s, Hora said.

“My mother knew the teacher at the black school on Sandy Island and I remember going over there,” she recalled. “They put on a little play for us, so when they got through, they wanted us to do something for them. We got up on stage and jitterbugged for them and mama told them a story.”

Though the lines separating blacks and whites were firm and clear in those days, relations between the races were good in Murrells Inlet.

When the Chandlers lived at Wachesaw in Hora’s earliest days, their closest neighbors were black and the children in that family were playmates to the Chandler children.

“We loved them dearly,” Hora said.

Growing up, the Chandler siblings didn’t have many friends.

“There just weren’t that many people down here,” Hora said. “We looked forward to the summertime when people would come down to the Hermitage.”

Though they were “poor as we could be” in those Depression-era days, they never felt poor,” Hora said. “We were happy.”

When they weren’t playing in the creek, the Chandler children rode a work horse named Maude that their father used on the farm and kept themselves entertained by inventing games and toys.

“We had more imagination than children today,” Hora said. “I remember making little toys out of sticks and peas. The boys would take old shoe boxes and make trucks. They’d take spools of thread and make the wheels.”

As the oldest child, Hora found some of her fun in teasing her brothers and sister. After the Lindbergh kidnapping made headlines in 1932, Hora said she used to tell her siblings they were going to be kidnapped.

Her parents stuck close to home and, like their children, spent a lot of time in the water.

“They would go out and spend all day in the creek getting oysters and they were perfectly happy like that,” she said.

Her mother, she recalled, would go out and pull stone crabs from their holes by putting her arm in up to the shoulder.

“That’s something I never heard of any other woman doing,” Hora said.

There was no refrigeration, of course, so seafood had to be eaten quickly. It was kept briefly in insulated ice boxes and any surplus was shared with other families before it could spoil. A truck came from Conway once a week to deliver ice.

Murrells Inlet didn’t have electricity or running water until the early 1930s.

Hora remembers World War II as an especially interesting time to live in Murrells Inlet.

Airplanes used to fly in from Shaw Air Field and practice shooting at targets set up on the inlet.

“They were supposed to make a dry run before they opened fire, but I remember one time they just started shooting when I was out there with Sister and Howard Buxton, Bernard Baruch’s boat captain, who would take Sister and me out to fish with them,” Hora said. “I remember I dived under the boat, which wouldn’t have saved me if they had bullets and had been aiming at me. We thought we were done for that day.”

The pilots even used to practice on Sundays, she recalled, and when the planes would crash — a common occurrence — boats would pick up the debris.

“They had big grass baskets and they would go out and pick up the remains and bring them back in those things.”

As a young woman, Hora worked at the air base in Myrtle Beach. An old newspaper clipping she’s held onto shows her when she was picked as a contestant in the Miss Air Force Base 1944 beauty contest. In the photo, she’s wearing a bathing suit she made out of a torn parachute one of the men at the base gave her. The parachute was made of white silk and she thought the material was so pretty she made two-piece bathing suits for herself and Sister out of it.

She also wore the bathing suit during a show at the base.

“I guess my part was to do a strip tease,” she said. She wore the bathing suit on stage, then went off stage where Sister was waiting in the wings. She peeked back around the curtain and Sister threw her bathing suit out, making it look like Hora had stripped.

“It was quite risque for the time,” Hora said.

There was always some entertainment going on at the base and Hora used to go dancing every night at either the officers club or the enlisted men’s club. She also used to go to dances at Fort Jackson.

“They had big bands there and I used to date a fellow that sang with Jimmy Dorsey,” Hora said.

But it was at home where she met her husband. Her brothers used to go down to the boat company where they made friends and one day they brought Kenneth Hora home to play horseshoes. He was from New York and stationed with the Army Air Corps, a forerunner of the Air Force.

“I guess there would have been a lot of us who would have been old maids if they hadn’t brought the Air Corps here,” Hora said.

As soon as she saw Kenneth, she knew he was the man for her.

“Sister was a freshman at Coker College then and I wrote her that day to tell her that I had met the man I was going to marry,” Hora said. “Freshmen couldn’t come home from college, but she got special permission from the dean, because she said ‘my sister has lost her mind and I have got to go home and see her.’ ”

Hora married Kenneth a year later and they were together until he died in 1971.

After the war, Kenneth became an engineer and his work took them away from Murrells Inlet. They lived in Columbia until 1963, and then New Jersey and Florida. Hora was in Jacksonville when Disney World was being built.

She moved to Charlotte next and stayed there after her husband died until 1977 when she moved back home to help take care of her family.

“My mother was an invalid and Sister had just lost her son,” Hora said. “I didn’t want to leave Charlotte, but I’m glad I did.”

Hora missed the inlet while she was away, but she visited every summer and raising three sons kept her too busy to dwell on it too much.

However, she wouldn’t want to be away from the inlet for long now.

“I love to share it with people,” she said. “And it’s good to have family around.

In addition to her sister, two of Hora’s brothers live in Murrells Inlet, as does one of her sons.

Hora loves Murrells Inlet as much today as she did as a girl, but some of the changes that have occurred over the years have been hard to watch, she said. There are restaurants now where once there were homes and there’s a lot more traffic on the water.

About the only restaurant in Murrells Inlet when Hora was young was Oliver’s Lodge, where a full seafood dinner was $1.25.

After Hurricane Hugo in 1989, many families sold their homes and restaurants were built in their places.

“I don’t mind the restaurants as much as I do other things coming in,” she said. “I’m glad we have some law in Georgetown County that keep out the T-shirt shops and things like they have in Horry County.

In the future, Hora said she’d like to see Murrells Inlet remain a small fishing village and keep the character that locals and tourists alike love so much.

“I hope these [homes on the inlet] won’t become condominiums or stores or something,” she said. “If they do, I’m going to haunt somebody.”

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