It was the July 4, 1967 week when we took our annual beach vacation with the Heft’s to Myrtle Beach, SC. But it was haying season. Bill and Martha Heft and their daughters Jean and Nancy lived on a small farm down the road from us. We had our hay to get in the barn and they had their hay to get in. Sometimes we worked up until the night before we left on that long trip, sweating it out in the hay mow, bale after bale as fast as possible, to not only beat the rain, which was normal for Northeastern Ohio, but also to get the haying done before we left for the beach. Sometimes, we would go help the Hefts because our other neighbor and close friend Warren McCarthy did the baling for both of us. It was a group effort.
Then the morning had arrived. We packed up our Buick Electra 225 convertible and drove over to the Hefts. Then the packing began. You can imagine how much “stuff” Martha, Jean, Nancy, and my Mom—all of them glamour girls in their own way–had to take for a week at the beach. But that trunk on the Buick was like a ballroom and we packed most everything in. Bill was an excellent packer and I believe I learned how to do it well by watching him. All seven of us packed into that Buick. I was the smallest, so I got to sit on a little fold-up camp stool on the floor in the back seat. It was pretty close quarters, but we thought nothing of it. We were going to the BEACH!!!!
The scenery changed quite a bit going from the north to the south. It was often like we were in another country, except the people sort of spoke the same language. We were always amazed that there were tobacco barns and what we were told were old slave quarters as we looked at the farms on the southern highways. We didn’t see these things in the north. Along the way, we would stop for gas and a potty break. It was really strange to see signs on the restrooms—Whites Only. Or the water fountains—sometimes there would be two, the cleaner one would have the sign: “White Drinking Fountain.” The other one may just have the words “Colored” painted above it. This is also something we didn’t see up north.
Myrtle Beach was all decked out for July 4th. It was a festive atmosphere. But a strange thing I noticed was there were no American flags, at least I don’t recall seeing any. The streets were lined with the Confederate Stars and Bars. In fact, it became a game to spot an American flag. There was one that I remember. It was at the very top of the roller coaster. All the American flags that were usually there had been replaced with the Confederate battle flag. Must be that they couldn’t easily reach that last American flag. When asking about this, we were told that “this here is the South and we do things different than you Yankees.” Indeed, they did. I didn’t understand at 12 years old what I was experiencing, but it caused me to think.
These trips South in the ‘60s quietly shaped me and affirmed Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This statement of equality in Christ is very similar to the Declaration of Independence statement that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Roughly a century had passed since the “War of Northern Aggression,” as we were often reminded, and all people in those states were welcomed into the Union with those rights restored, except some were more equal than others. Back in the Buick, we returned home, grateful for the truly wonderful southern hospitality, sunburned to where we could hardly sit, talking of all that we saw and did.