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Waccamaw Neck… as it was: Pawleys stays with natives, wherever they go
By Jackie R. Broach
“I won’t say Pawleys Island is an enchanted place,” said Peggy Deer Rodway. “But it’s certainly a wonderful place, and a beautiful place. It’s the place where my heart will always be.”
It’s also a place that she’ll keep coming back to, time and again, though she no longer owns a home here. It’s where the Marietta, Ga., resident grew up and it holds a treasure trove of happy memories.
“It was a wholesome place to grow up. A family-friendly place and I always felt safe here,” said Rodway, 73, a retired real estate broker. “We had what we needed and the friendships were good and strong. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. And it was so good to have all that space.”
Rodway grew up on Woodville Plantation near All Saints Church. It had 1,000 acres, about half of which were cultivated, and her father, Henry Deer, managed it.
“Instead of a plantation for the rich, it was owned by George Trask out of Myrtle Beach,” Rodway said. “He had a trucking farm and we planted crops for northern markets.”
It was a large operation, with a packing house onsite, she added. Black women were employed to help with the harvest and the farm would ship out one or two loads of produce every day, sending them to Boston, New York and other cities in the Northeast.
When the food was harvested, it was put into wooden baskets and washed, then repacked and put on rollers so the containers could be loaded onto tractor-trailers.
“We didn’t have any refrigerated trucks, of course, so we had large ice machines and we put ice in the trucks so we could get the produce to market while it was still fresh.”
Rodway and her siblings, Googe and June, didn’t work on the farm, generally being assigned to help their mother, Annette, with household chores instead. But they were familiar with the operations.
The farm closed in the early 1950s, when Rodway was just entering her teen years, and the family moved to the other side of Highway 17, near the Hammock Shops. Rodway’s father opened Deer’s Grocery and kept a garden where he grew produce to sell in the store. He later converted Deer’s Grocery into Deer’s Hardware, which demanded less time and allowed him to do more fishing, while pulling in the same income.
Trask had another farming operation that he wanted Deer to manage, but Deer turned it down. Deer was the local magistrate and didn’t want to give that up.
“He wanted to make things better for everybody,” Rodway said. “That was very important to him.”
His position kept things interesting at the Deer home, as he didn’t have a courtroom or an office. For that matter, he didn’t have a robe or gavel either.
When he was appointed, the county gave him some law books and county stationary. He held court wherever he could – the living room, the porch, in the yard, or at the store, Rodway recalled.
“Daddy was pretty much ‘the law’ at Pawleys for a long time,” she explained. “Sheriff’s deputies and [the] S.C. Highway Patrol were in and out of the area, bringing people who were charged with one offense or another. We were awakened in the middle of the night many times with people coming to get my daddy to stop a fight somewhere. People came bleeding to our door, game wardens might show up during the night with night hunters and people came to get married, sometimes in our living room.
“I remember seeing a pint jar on a table and asked daddy what that was. He told me it was whisky from a still that had just been raided and was evidence.”
Growing up at Woodville, the Deer siblings mostly had to keep each other company. They didn’t have any neighbors, Rodway said, and “having friends come home with you from school was not an easy thing in those days, because mothers didn’t drive.”
The Deer siblings attended the two-room Waverly Mills School, near the intersection of Highway 17 and the North Causeway. There were 30 students in the little building and two teachers, Marie Ward and her daughter, Betty Lachicotte.
When the school closed in the late 1940s and students started attending school in Georgetown, Rodway was shocked at the size of classes. There were as many students in her fifth-grade class as had been at the entire school at Pawleys Island.
The bus ride to Georgetown was a long one, often interrupted by an open drawbridge that crossed the rivers, she recalled.
Waverly Mills was about two miles from Woodville, and the Rodway children were driven there by their father every morning. There was also a school bus.
“It looked kind of like a milk delivery truck and Doc Lachicotte’s maiden aunt drove it,” Rodway said.
She remembers when there were no paved roads on the west side of the highway. What is now Waverly Road was the first to be paved, from Highway 17 to Woodville, thanks to a program that aided trucking farms. Before that, trucks got bogged down on the rutted roads frequently going to and from the farm.
“Daddy was forever rescuing somebody with the tractor,” Rodway said.
Despite their relative isolation, the siblings never had much trouble keeping themselves occupied, even though they didn’t have a lot of “stuff” like modern children do. They spent a lot of time outside, Rodway said, playing hopscotch, kick the can, cowboys and Indians, hide and seek and marbles.
They played baseball when they had enough people, and wandered the woods picking berries, and climbing trees. There were card and board games for inside play, and they listened to the radio a lot before TV came around.
“Reception was not always good, but at night we pulled in the big stations like Cincinnati and Fort Wayne, Ind.,” Rodway said. “Around 1950, TV started popping up, and we could pick up Charleston and Wilmington on a clear day.” But a lot of times, all they could get was static.
While many of the children who grew up at Pawleys Island in the 1930s and 40s spent most of their time in the creek, Rodway said she always loved the ocean. She and her siblings would play on the beach while their father fished or when they went to visit a couple there who were substitute grandparents for them.
When the Deers lived at Woodville, it was three or four miles to the beach, so they would wait until their father could drive them over. They’d ride in the back of his pickup truck and on the way back they would stop for ice cream at either Lachicotte’s or Marlow’s stores.
Even then, summer brought crowds to Pawleys Island, Rodway said.
“They would come in flocks and some would stay all summer,” she said. “There were at least three boarding houses on the beach and they would stay in those or rent houses. We finally realized as we got older to get our suntans before the crowd came.”
During World War II, Rodway remembers families put blackout shades on the windows and black paint on the top half of car headlights. Members of the Coast Guard patrolled the beaches on horseback, and volunteers manned an observation station between Lachicotte’s and Marlow’s stores, to the north of where Frank’s restaurant now stands.
The Pawleys Island area only had three telephones at that time, Rodway said. There was one at Marlow’s, one at Dr. Philip Assey’s home on the beach and one at Towers Service Station on the South Causeway.
“You should have seen people scrambling to get a [phone] line in the summer,” Rodway said.
Kids didn’t hear much about the war, because parents didn’t want to scare them. Rodway heard later that enemy boats were located not too far from Pawleys.
Rodway moved away in 1956 to attend Lander College in Greenwood, then moved to Columbia, where she worked in a law office for Attorney General Henry McMaster’s father. She married there and settled in Georgia, but regularly brought her family back to Pawleys Island.
There’s no question Waccamaw Neck has changed, Rodway said, and she feels lucky to have known it as it was and as it is.
“It’s not garish like Myrtle Beach,” she said. “It’s still a treasure.” And she commends folks, such as Joe Easley and Bill Otis, who worked to control growth and keep it that way.
“Pawleys Island was great then and now. It’s just a different kind of great,” she said.