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Pawleys Pavilion: Memories as clear as weekend forecast (hopefully)

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The folks coming to the annual Pawleys Pavilion Reunion Saturday want to make the trip back to “Happy Days” for one more night.

Georgetown native Larry DiBiase of Camden said Winyah High School romances usually ended on Memorial Day so local teen-agers would be free to dance with summer strangers at the Pavilion. “The TV show ‘Happy Days’ could have filmed right here,” DiBiase said. “This was nirvana.”

Georgetown County Habitat for Humanity is sponsoring the annual Shag dance reunion at the Pawleys Nature Park to help finance its 102nd house for a deserving county resident, according to Annette Perreault, executive director. The weather is expected to be a lot better this year, sunny with warm temperatures.

The dance had to be moved indoors last year when Tropical Storm Ana threatened heavy rain and high winds. It was the earliest tropical storm to make landfall in the U.S.

Pawleys Island Police Chief Mike Fanning and Midway Fire Chief Doug Eggiman agreed the threat of wind was too great a risk, and the event was moved to Habitat’s new Re-Store in Georgetown. Tickets purchased last year will be honored at Saturday’s dance featuring The Entertainers.

The reunion gives its participants a chance to remember the days when people didn’t bother to lock their doors. Henry Deer Jr., manager of the Pawleys Pavilion in 1962 and ’63, said it came about when some beach house owners wanted a place for their children to go on the island. “There was nothing around for teen-agers to do,” Deer said, “so a bunch of these guys got together and created the Pawleys Pavilion association and bought the land and built a building after the previous two or three had burned. That’s how it got started.”

Deer, who went by his middle name Googe, was son of Pawleys Island Magistrate Henry Deer Sr. He ran a tight ship at the pavilion. All his staff wore white collared shirts with “Pawleys Pavilion” stenciled on the backs. His shirt had “Mgr.” on the front pocket.

The Pavilion opened for Easter weekend with bands, Deer said, and then closed until summer officially arrived on Memorial Day weekend. Deer said he had live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Blues man Drink Small, who played recently at Hobcaw Barony, was a regular. “He was pretty good,” Deer said, “and the cheapest we could get.”

Deer said the Pavilion played its part in popularizing the shag, a beach dance that got its start at The Pad in Ocean Drive.

“I think the Pawleys Pavilion made the shag popular,” he said. “It was more significant than anything.”

Deer said the Pavilion drew teens from Georgetown, Andrews, Socastee and as far away as Conway. The chance to meet somebody from another town was a teen-age aphrodisiac. There were fights occasionally, but Deer had one of the few phones on the island and could call the jail to dispatch a deputy. When Claude Altman showed up with his German shepherd, Wolf, everybody fell into line. Deer said Sheriff Woodrow Carter also had a huge deputy from Andrews who could lift two boys by their collars and carry them out the door.

“He was a nice guy,” Deer said, “but big and strong.” Deputies tried to be tolerant of the Pavilion’s crowd. They knew most of their parents.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate. Children ages 3-12 are $10. Call 843-546-5685 for tickets. Hours are 6 to 11 p.m. Shuttles run to parking at Pawleys Island Community Church.

The website lowcountrygivingday.org lets donors see the participating nonprofits and their missions. They can filter the groups by category, service area and whether donations will be matched.

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