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Technology: Fingers that still do the dialing will get a workout

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The requirement to dial the area code for local numbers beginning Saturday won’t be the first time folks here have been asked to dial three extra digits to get connected.

Faye Marlowe remembers the phone at Marlowe’s Store in Pawleys Island had a four-digit number when it served most of the community. And Bill Chandler said residents of Murrells Inlet got word of emergencies in the 1930s via the crank telephone on the wall at Jimmy Eason’s store, across Business 17 from the present Dead Dog Saloon. He can remember calling his aunt in Conway. Her number was 237.

Lee Brockington, senior interpreter at Hobcaw Barony, said Pawleys Island residents were still dialing four digits when she moved here in 1984. Population growth soon necessitated the prefixes 237 and 235 for local calls.

More people, and more phones, are demanding a longer dialing process. A second area code is on the way. Coastal South Carolina and some inland areas are getting area code 854 because the 843 numbers will soon run out. It will be South Carolina’s first “overlay” area code, which means the same region will have two area codes. Callers in area code 843 have been in a break-in period since March when permissive 10-digit dialing was allowed.

It’s hard for the cell phone generation to imagine being summoned to the country store for a phone call. It was so rare that it was almost always an emergency. “Jimmy Eason would send somebody in the car to come get us,” Chandler said.

The first phone near Pawleys Island was at a store called Grab All at Waverly and River roads, Brockington wrote in the book she did with Linwood Altman, “Pawleys Island: A Century of History and Photographs.” Brockington said reporters would call owner Harry Marlowe to get the weather at Pawleys Island.

After the Seashore Road was paved in favor of River Road in 1935, Marlowe moved his store to Highway 17.

“Because of his position as magistrate, Harry Marlowe had the first and only telephone in the Pawleys area, which helped in conducting business but also helped him serve customers by recording messages and telegrams by phone and then delivering them over on the island,” said Brockington in her book “Pawleys Island: Stories from the Porch.”

Dr. Phillip Assey had the only phone on the island for years, she said.

By the mid-’50s more island houses had rotary dial phones like the one Alan Brown still uses at his shop Earthly Treasures in the Island Shops. He has three rotary phones at home too, including one with its bell on the wall. Adding the area code to local numbers will take him a few extra seconds of dialing. That seems burdensome in the cell phone age where contacts are stored and recalled at the touch of a finger. But even for those modern dialers, numbers stored without an area code won’t go through beginning Saturday.

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