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Author: Mount Pleasant

Nightmare in McClellanville, Hugo 1989

“We made it Evangeline. The worst is over.” These were the words that Thomas Williams spoke to his wife as he looked out the back door of his McClellanville home during the calm of Hugo’s eye. The view before him was pretty bad but it wasn’t devastating. For the most part, his house and the houses of his friends and relatives on DuPre street were in good shape.

There was no way for Williams to know that in less than 30 minutes he, his wife and their four children, and indeed most of the residents of McClellanville, would be living the worst nightmare of their lives. The deadly wall of water that was hurtling toward this little picturesque fishing village was still fifteen miles away on the back side of the eye.

The first clue Williams had that things weren’t really over was the incessant whining and crying of his dog, Sonnie. “The dog is normally pretty quiet,” said Williams, “but that night he just wouldn’t shut up. My wife told me to let him inside because he was scared. Well I did, but he still wouldn’t stop whining. I was fixing to put him back out when the wind started howling again, this time with a vengeance.”

“I heard a cracking noise from the back of the house and saw part of the roof come off. I didn’t want the clothes in the back bedroom to get wet so I immediately started over there. As I walked down the hallway I could feel the carpet rising up around my feet. At first I thought that the wind was blowing so strongly it was lifting the carpet. Then I saw the water coming up through the floor and I knew we were in trouble.”

“I ran down to the kitchen, which is lower than the rest of the house , and saw that it was under about a foot of water. I thought our best chance was to get in the van and drive to safety so I told everyone to pack up whatever they could. I ran to the front of the house and started to open the front door — a glass storm door. That was a mistake because I could see at least three feet of water through the glass. I had to call my wife to help me shut the door.”

“I knew we were trapped inside the house so I told everyone to head for the kitchen because that was where the access door to the attic was. By then it was too late. The kitchen had about three feet of water in it and the appliances and counters were either toppled over or floating around. There was no way we could climb over all those things and get to the door. Besides, I couldn’t even find the ladder that was in the kitchen.”

“I rushed everyone into the kid’s bedroom because there was a huge dresser in that room we could all stand on. That was when I decided to bust a hole in the ceiling to get into the attic. The ceiling in that room was sheet rock over plaster and I had a devil of a time busting through. I pounded and pounded, and just as I put a hole in the ceiling, the water lifted that dresser up like it was a cork. We were all tossed into the water which was about three feet high at the time. We fished everyone out and they seemed to be okay but at that point I didn’t know what to do. We had nothing to stand on and the water was rising fast.”

“Just then my daughter said, ‘Daddy, look! There’s the ladder.’ Sure enough, like a gift from God, here came the ladder floating into the bedroom. I don’t know how it got out of the kitchen but it definitely saved our lives. I stood it up under the hole and began carrying the children up to the attic. It was pitch black in there and I told them to stay on the main beam and not to move. I knew if they stepped onto the sheet rock they would come right through the ceiling.”

“After my wife climbed into the attic I started throwing everything that was usable up there — clothes, food, flashlight, candles. The cooler floated by and I threw that up there, too. By then, the water was about five feet high so I grabbed the dog off the bunk bed and we climbed into the attic. All of this happened in a time span of no more than 10 to 15 minutes from when I first saw the water in the kitchen.”

“There were some panel boards in the attic and I laid them out so we wouldn’t have to sit on the rafters. Then I told my wife, ‘Listen honey, whatever you do, please don’t cry out or act frightened. It will only panic the kids.'”

“We were all up in the attic in the darkness, scared and cold, but at least we were alive – and for the moment, safe. I couldn’t think of anything else to do so we just prayed for a few minutes.

“When I looked down into the bedroom it was as if someone had turned a light on. I could see that room just as clear as daylight, even down to the pictures on the wall. I saw a bag of shrimp float out of the room and I remember saying to my wife, ‘There go the shrimp, trying to get back to the ocean.’ To this day I can’t understand where that light came from but it was a real comfort to be able to see something from the darkness of the attic.”

“We couldn’t find the flashlight but we managed to locate a candle. My wife had a fairly dry pack of matches in her coat pocket and she tried to strike one but it didn’t light. Thank god it didn’t because I suddenly realized there was a very strong smell of gas in the attic. We had a large propane tank outside, and one of the lines in the kitchen must have broken. I suppose that the water, which by this time was almost up to the top of the doorways, was pushing the gas into the attic. I knew we had to get out of there and into some fresh air so I made everyone crawl along the main beam toward the kitchen where part of the roof had blown off.”

“When we got there I looked out over the area behind my house and noticed my neighbor’s van with the lights on. I thought, ‘That poor fool must have tried to drive out when the water came and now they’re trapped in their van.’ I was going to tie a length of telephone cord we found in the attic around my waist and swim over there. My wife convinced me that the water was too rough and I’d never make it.”

As it turned out there was no one in the van. The salt water had shorted out the switches, and the lights came on by themselves. In fact, Williams’ neighbor, Wilbur Gibbs, was sitting in his attic thinking that Williams was the poor fool who was stuck in his own van.

For the next several hours, the Williams family, dog and all, sat huddled in the attic, completely unprotected from the hurricane force winds.

“The constant pounding and howling of the wind almost drove us crazy,” said Williams. “The rain pelted us like beebees and we had to dodge large objects that were flying by. I just kept saying, ‘Lord, won’t you please stop the wind.’

“I could see the waves of water outside and some of them were rolling over the backboard of our basketball pole. Then I heard screams from Lincoln High School. The school was about 300 yards from my house and the wind was roaring around us but we could still hear people screaming. I thought, ‘My God, if they can’t survive in there, how are we hoping to make it out here?’

“Some of the waves were reaching up to our roof and I was afraid that one of them might wash us out of the attic. Then I said to myself, ‘If that happens, which one of my children am I going to save and which ones will I let drown?’ So I grabbed the telephone cord and used it to tie us all together. I told them that it would keep anyone from floating away. In my own mind I decided that this way we would at least live together or die together.”

“About two hours after we had moved over to that part of the attic the water stopped rising and the smell of gas was gone. We crawled back over to the covered portion of the roof and laid down on the panel boards. The house was shuddering and shaking but at least it was still standing. Just then I felt a huge wave hit the house. That probably was the one that moved it although I didn’t know it at the time.”

“I guess I went to sleep for a few hours because the next thing I knew it was dawn. I could see my uncle’s house next door and it wasn’t in the same position that it was before the storm. I thought his house had moved.”

“Then everyone in the neighborhood started hollering from their attics, ‘Are you okay?’ and people would holler back, ‘Yes, we’re alright. How about you?’

“There was about three feet of water on the ground so I climbed down from the attic to check on my aunt and uncle who live near us. That’s when I realized my house had moved about 10 feet off its foundation. My uncle’s house was rock solid.”

“My uncle is partially paralyzed from a stroke and I was very worried about him. I found him lying in an upstairs bedroom, shaking and wet, but otherwise all right. I asked the woman who takes care of him, Betty Singleton, how she got him upstairs. She told me that she certainly couldn’t carry him upstairs so when the water started rising she floated him up the staircase.”

“Then I went over to my aunt’s house. She is an elderly woman with a number of physical problems. When I found her, her feet were so swollen she couldn’t walk, so i carried her over to my uncle’s house.”

“Then I walked over to Lincoln High fearing that I would find hundreds of dead bodies. Miraculously everyone survived. The principal kept asking the same question that everyone else was asking, ‘Why did they send us to this death trap?’

“Seeing everyone was okay I went back to my house to get my family down from the attic. My wife looked around at the wreckage in our house and she started crying, ‘It’s gone, Thomas. Everything we had is gone.’

“About 10 o’clock that morning a helicopter flew over and we all started waving and shouting at him. He dipped down as if to say he had seen us. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon a National Guard Truck arrived and picked up about 40 of us. They took us to the National Guard armory in Georgetown but that place was full so they drove us to Waccamaw High School on Pawleys Island. They told us that was where we were going to spend the night. That place had nothing: no food, no water, power, clothes or bedding. We had to lie on that hard cement floor all night. We were wet and cold, hungry and thirsty. It felt like we didn’t even exist.

“The next morning a truck picked us up and took us to Georgetown High School. The principal there did everything he could for us. He gave us dry clothes, even some of his own, and let us take showers in the gym. Then they took us to the First Baptist Church of Georgetown which was a Red Cross shelter. They had hot food, clothing and bedding. The minister of the church also helped with clothing and financial aid. He said that even if the Red Cross left, that would be our home until we found one.”

“We stayed there for about two weeks and then we moved into my sister’s trailer which now has nine people living in a place that is barely big enough for three. We were supposed to get a trailer from FEMA but they declared McClellanville a flood zone and won’t allow us to put a trailer on our property.”

And five weeks after Hugo hit Thomas Williams and his family still wait — for assistance from FEMA.

Hurricane Hugo brought a lot of hard work and inconveniences to all of us. We had to clear trees, patch roofs and live without power for a few weeks. For the Williams family, and for hundreds like them, Hugo has forever changed their lives. Their home is a twisted, gutted shell. It will have to be torn down and replaced with a new one. Since the Williams had no flood insurance, that won’t be easy.

They had just finished paying off a $15,000 home improvement loan and were looking forward to a bright future. There would have been enough money to send their kids to college and to do some traveling on their own. That will no longer be possible. Now they talk about the things they won’t have, not the things they will have.

At the time in their lives when they should be near the top of the mountain looking down they’re at the bottom looking up. For Thomas Williams and his family, the nightmare in McClellanville continues.

Night of Wind and Water, Hugo 1989

The point in time most vivid to one of them, Michael A. Pulliam, was acceptance of the belief that he would die. He and friend Kevin Williams were swept from a second floor of the house on the front beach and were propelled through twelve-foot white-water currents for a city block, landing finally on the roof of a one-story house. Sense of time was suspended, he says, the water, the wind and ink-black darkness were his only perceptions. “We didn’t scream,” he said. There wasn’t time.

Their experience with Hugo began calmly on Wednesday night as the two headed for the island to board up Pulliam’s family beach house at 2910 Palm Blvd. The family built the house in the 50’s and Pulliam remembers spending summers there as a child. The young men went with the intention of remaining there during the hurricane.

“It was half crazy, I guess,” Pulliam said. “But I really like the outdoors in bad weather. We didn’t want it (Hugo) to hit, but we were excited about the onslaught.”

With no radio in the house, and a television that did not work, Williams and Pulliam were unaware that by 6 p.m. on Thursday the storm was upgraded to category 4, with winds of 135 mph predicted. “We weren’t concerned at first,” Pulliam said, “because the winds were only 70-80 mph. But we had no television. If we had known the storm was upgraded, we’d have left.”

The two were in touch by phone with parents and friends in Columbia, who advised them of the progress of the storm. Pulliam’s mother called the Isle of Palms Police Department to report the presence of the two on the island,” Pulliam said. His grandfather called to instruct them to leave the house, a two-story brick construction, and go to the house next door, which is also two stories, but on stilts. “My grandfather was worried about the 12-18 ft. tidal surge predicted. He didn’t think the house would stand. There was nowhere for the water to go.”

They left at 8:30, when the power went out. “We gathered the candles and went next door,” to the house owned by Othniel Wienges of St. Matthews. “It was very, very dark.”

By 9 p.m. Hugo began to flex his muscle. “The house started to shake and glass began to break upstairs, ” says Pulliam. They found a weather radio and learned that, incredibly, the storm was not predicted to make landfall for another three hours. We realized then we were in for quite a ride.”

In the hours to come, says Pulliam, “the water became the most terrifying thing of all. There was more water from the water than from the wind.” In less than an hour the water had risen by 15 feet to seep in air conditioning ducts in their second-floor refuge. The floor’s linoleum would later become “a giant bubble, with water underneath.” Waves battered the structure.

The noise of the water and wind was not the only sensory input to affect Pulliam and Williams. As the eye approached, barometric pressures plummeted, causing the ears to “pop” in a manner similar to ascending in an airplane. “There was an electric feeling in the air, is the only way I can describe it,” says Pulliam. “The hair on your neck stood up.” A five-gallon water cooler in the house began to bubble.

The strange calm of the hurricane’s eye lasted about thirty to forty minutes. “The wind slowed and it got quieter,” Pulliam said. “All you could hear was water under the house. During the eye, we had some contemplative time. We realized we’d both lost our cars (Which were floating out front) but that didn’t bother us. We thought we were lucky to be alive. The two also believed the worst was over. “I thought, well, the house made it through the first part of the storm, and the second part can’t be as bad.”

As anyone who experienced the storm, even hundreds of miles inland, discovered this was not the case. “In the time that you could drop a penny, Pulliam recalls, “it started back up again,” with greatly increased force. “The wind began immediately to come in opposite direction. In the first part of the storm the wind came from the front of the house,” says Pulliam,” and blew the water from the house. We weren’t having a good time or anything, but I didn’t fear for my life at that point. When the wind changed direction, it blew the water toward the house. The house started shaking considerably more and water started coming in through the sliding glass door. There were serious prayers going on in the kitchen.”

He recalls the darkness was overwhelming. :”I looked out the window. The houses are only 20 feet apart, but I couldn’t see my house. I thought it was gone.”

The young men realized a critical decision was in order. Should they risk a retreat to volatile third floor or take their chances with the tides on the second floor?

A gust from Hugo decided for them. “I went to the front door and opened it to see how high the water was,” Pulliam said. With Williams holding on to his shoulder, I stuck a foot out the door. The wind sucked us out and the porch collapsed. The water was very cold. It was like white-water rapids. You don’t sink in water like that, your just carried along.”

Pulliam doesn’t recall how long they lay face down on the roof of the one story house a block away. Maybe an hour he says. At approximately 3 a.m. “you could start to barely see again, and then the water went out as fast as it went in.”As dawn broke at the still-standing Pulliam house, Michael recalls the scene of destruction.”There was a piano and furniture in the front yard which I thought at first was ours, but weren’t. There were appliances on the beach. It was like there was no civilization and you were alone. It was hard to imagine the peninsula was still there and functioning.”

When Hugo made landfall on the Isle of Palms, the two young men felt the storm in life-threatening dimensions but did not see it or understand the full reach of its power. No one did. Hugo hit the darkness of night, and sight was useless. Understanding, if it came at all, would not begin until morning.

Improve Your Game with Golf Tec

If you have been frustrated with your golf game lately, it is time to let a Golf Tec professional guide you in the right direction.

“We identify the first flaw in your swing and work from there rather than trying to work from the end result,” explained Sean Petrone, franchise owner and director of instruction for Golf Tec in Mount Pleasant. “A lot of others offer band aids after only a few lessons, but that doesn’t happen here at Golf Tec. Our sessions typically take a year to complete and it’s a lot of hard work.

“It’s definitely a process to teach the correct technique,” said Petrone. Starting with a full swing evaluation, instructors at Golf Tec will figure out each individual’s goals and make a diagnosis.

Including Petrone, who has given over five thousand golf lessons, the Mount Pleasant team of Golf Tec professionals includes Boykin Powers – one of only seven PGA Master Teaching Professionals in South Carolina – and Simons Cuthbert – a class A PGA Professional.

The five factors of Golf Tec’s proven path to learning a better golf swing are fact-based diagnosis, sequential lessons, video-based practice, advanced retention tools and precision matched clubs. “We help you learn through all five senses,” said Petrone.

Golf Tec also provides motion measurement sensors, digital video, TOUR video comparisons and the capability of biofeedback beeps to fine tune a particular issue.

Clients of Golf Tec range from beginners to professionals who make their living at swinging the club. “Everyone, at some point in their game, wants to learn new techniques so they can play better.”

With over three million golf lessons given and a 95% success rate, it is no wonder Golf Tec has been coaching across the country for sixteen years. If frustration is working its way into your golf game and you would like to arrange for lessons; or to register for a free Momentum Newsletter, visit Golf Tec online at or call (843) 654-1046.

Restoring the Soul: The Gardens of I’On

I once read that beauty is the most powerful thing in the world, able to heal, soothe and restore the hearts of those in its presence. Homeowners in I’On, located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, understand the power of beauty in its truest sense. Behind the gates of the neighborhood’s Charleston-inspired houses, the gardens of I’On are as diverse as their owners. In a single afternoon, visitors to I’On’s gardens can be transported from an Italian hideaway to a creek-side retreat, from a magical courtyard to the tropical West Indies.

Creek-side Retreat Brooke

Niznik’s creek-side retreat is stunning. Stepping through the door onto the side porch is like walking into a wardrobe and finding Narnia. The lush garden is reminiscent of a flourishing creek-side habitat. A magnificent oak sweeps across the span of the garden, blessing it with cooling shade. Beneath it, hibiscus, begonias and impatiens thrive around a small fountain in the center of the garden, providing the sound of a bubbling creek. Bright pink stargazer lilies infuse the garden with their refreshing aroma. A bench at the gate invites visitors, and, at night, tiny white flowers throughout the garden glow and light the way. Toward the back, banana trees and ferns surround a small sitting area. Another world waits through a small gate at the back of the garden. A small spot of grass with a bench creates a park-like atmosphere beneath the pine trees, perfect for Brooke’s playful dog. Wild plants and exquisite purple flowers reach for the sky as they border the area a beautiful Narnian meadow.

Italian Afternoon Retreat

When planning her garden, Mary Hewlette wished for an afternoon retreat. Her back porch sits on the I’On walking path, where visitors regularly stop for a cold glass of water on a hot Carolina afternoon. But since the sun is simply too warm there, the garden was created on the other side of the house. As you enter the scrolled iron gate, you are greeted by pink salvia mixed with white angelonia in pots along the path and creeping fig lining the steps. To the right sits a fountain, bubbling happily, while four crepe

myrtles tower over each corner of the garden, providing afternoon shade. To the left, an apricot antique climbing rose drapes over a wooden pergola. Beneath the pergola is the afternoon retreat—on the wall, an ancient Italian frieze overlooks a cozy iron table and four chairs. Italian Afternoon Retreat When planning her garden, Mary Hewlette wished for an afternoon retreat. Her back porch sits on the I’On walking path, where visitors regularly stop for a cold glass of water on a hot Carolina afternoon. But since the sun is simply too warm there, the garden was created on the other side of the house. As you enter the scrolled iron gate,you are greeted by pink salvia mixed with white angelonia in pots along the path and creeping fig lining the steps. To the right sits a fountain, bubbling happily, while four crepe myrtles tower over each corner of the garden, providing afternoon shade. To the left, an apricot antique climbing rose drapes over a wooden pergola. Beneath the pergola is the afternoon retreat—on the wall, an ancient Italian frieze overlooks a cozy iron table and four chairs.

West Indies Oasis

Gail Summars’ home, white with bright teal shutters, draws its inspiration from the West Indies. Unlike other gardens, hers is surrounded by a white concrete wall with a gate next to a fountain set into the back wall. Palm trees, with hidden lights to brighten the garden in the evening, proudly line the walls, while banana trees provide cover for the ferns that mark the path. Purple yuccas stand tall in pots along the central path, as vivid blue plumbagos brighten the way throughout the summer.

Garden Courtyard

Heidi Woody has created her own world behind the white wooden fence covered in Lord Banks rose and plumbago. The gate swings open on a garden courtyard with a classic fountain as the centerpiece. Four white crepe myrtles surround the fountain, providing shade for the area. Grassy spots next to the fence receive shade from corner trees and provide a lovely spot for Heidi’s children to play

East Cooper Montessori Charter School

“No one knows we’re back here,” says Jody Swanigan, founder and principal of East Cooper Montessori Charter School.

I was surprised myself to find a school inside I’On. I’ve passed the entrance to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood many times, and I’ve noticed the Charleston-style architecture of the homes and the compact shopping area just off the Mathis Ferry Road roundabout. So when a co-worker mentioned the school, I had to see for myself.

Tucked into a tiny corner of the neighborhood, the school doesn’t look like much at first glance, but I see a rendering of its dream leaning on an easel as I enter the office. A volunteer is bustling around as Jody chats animatedly on the phone.

“Let me show you around the school,” Jody says, after I explain my mission to her. I’m working on a series of articles destined to become an I’On lifestyle magazine. She’s thrilled at the chance for publicity that will further her mission. It is clear that Jody loves educating children and that she sees something special in each one of her young charges. Normally, she wouldn’t allow an interruption like this at the beginning of the school year, she explains, but she can’t resist showing me the students interacting with their teachers.

“We’ve been raising money for a new school building,” Jody told me. “We’re not there yet, but people help out in many ways. For instance, the deck we’re walking on was donated.”

84 Lumber chipped in with the initial deck two years ago; this year, the school was lucky enough to receive another donation from Guy C. Lee, which extended the deck to include two additional classrooms and a technology lab. The East Cooper Montessori Charter School was founded in 2003 with 44 students and has been growing steadily since. The lower and upper elementary schools, which serve grades 1 through 7, share the current complex of mobile classrooms, but everyone anticipates the opening of the new building for the 2007-2008 school year.

A common misconception about the school is that it is private.

“We’re a public school,” Jody laughs, “but no one seems to know that. Just last week, a parent in I’On called to ask me what the yearly tuition was.”

East Cooper Montessori is part of the Charleston County School District but, as a charter school, operates independently. While not necessarily separate but equal, Jody likes the fact that she can lead the school the direction she wants. As she leads me from classroom to classroom, I can see the students actively engaged in learning, although it hardly seems like work. In one room, a teacher is on the floor with her group of children; in another, a teacher challenges the older students.

It’s a different way of educating, to be sure, but 100 years of successful learning is proof that it works. The premise of the Montessori method is that children are respected as being different from adults as well as from other children. In addition, proponents believe that young children possess an extra sensitivity to learning. Seeing it in action was a learning experience for me. It almost made me wish my kids were still in school. Almost.

Interested in knowing more? Visit

I’On Lifestyle is Very Eventful

I’On presents a modern take on an old-fashioned concept, featuring old-Charleston-style homes on tree-lined streets, an air of neighborliness and an array of special gatherings. Since many of them are open to the general public, even people who are not residents of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood have ample opportunity to experience the I’On lifestyle.

Some special events actually take place outside the confi nes of I’On, such as the Halloween treat “Poe— Back from the Grave,” marking the anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s death and taking place on Sullivan’s Island, where the prolif c writer spent time serving his country.

Other events are less eerie but guaranteed to provide a fun time for all who attend. Thursdays in October are set aside for “Markets in the Square,” while First Friday draws a crowd for a cocktail party each month. On a lighter note, every second Tuesday is set aside for a women’s coffee. While some events are solely for I’On residents, others, such as the Thursday markets, are designed to encourage participation from the general public.

If music is your love, you’ll want to learn more about I’Onissimo. For the last four years, talented I’On residents and friends from “outside” have taken great pleasure in presenting community concerts for all to enjoy. From a small, core group, I’Onissimo has grown to more than 35 musicians and is believed to be the only neighborhood- based organization of its type in South Carolina. Supported by the I’On Trust, I’Onissimo is dedicated to bringing music to adults and children in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

I’On offers so much more than music. The event schedule includes a quarterly lecture series and holiday celebrations such as the Fourth of July CelebratI’On, which features a parade, fireworks and a band blast. During the Christmas season, you’ll have the chance to enjoy the Holiday Tour of Homes.

Members-only events include Kids Night Out, oyster roasts, margarita mixers and a New Year’s party. Located on Hobcaw Creek, the Creek Club offers fabulous views of the surrounding marshes from spacious porches. It is the perfect place to plan a special event—for instance, a wedding or something more casual, like an oyster roast. The Creek Club is available to the public, and fees and requirements are posted on the Web for your convenience.

For additional information on I’On community events, visit and

Trident Academy, Mount Pleasant

Located in Mount Pleasant, Trident enrolls students with learning issues that cover a broad range of diagnoses, including attention deficit hyperactive disorder, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and processing difficulties. It is one of only 11 schools in the nation accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE).

The school offers parents and students educational support in a multisensory environment, according to Director of Admissions Corbin Bettencourt.

“We support every student as a unique learner, Orton-Gillingham is a structured, sequential and cumulative approach that systematically introduces the elements of language accentuating each individual’s strengths while constructing coping strategies in challenging areas,” she explained. “Our students are bright, creative, out-of-the-box learners.”

“Daily Language Enrichment and Development (LEAD) tutorials make our program unique. All Trident Academy teachers are Orton-Gillingham trained. Our classes are taught in a low student-to-teacher ratio, four to one, allowing individualized lessons,” said Bettencourt.

The approach extends beyond language arts into math, science and social studies. A kindergarten through grade 12 school, its doors were opened in 1972 by a group of local physicians, educators, businessmen and parents who realized that the needs of many students were not being met in traditional school settings.

“A third of our students arrive from other parts of the country and even the world,” explained JoBeth Edwards, director of advancement at Trident Academy. “Once a child is diagnosed, the parent is typically given information that recommends an institution that will serve the student’s needs, and one that is accredited by AOGPE ensures the Orton-Gillingham instruction.”

Utilizing the Orton-Gillingham approach is Trident Academy’s hallmark.

“We want to help students conduct strategies they can carry into their life’s work,” Bettencourt concluded.

To learn more about Trident Academy, visit or call (843) 884-7046. Alumni of Trident Academy are asked to update their records for the upcoming 40th anniversary by contacting Edwards at [email protected].

Shopping in Mount Pleasant, SC

Towne Centre

Towne Centre hasn’t been around long, but it has become the place to shop for East Cooper residents. And no wonder, with shops to please everyone, including most of your favorite national chains such as The Gap, Barnes & Noble and Bed Bath & Beyond. There are also local boutiques such as Shooz, Copper Penny, Palmetto Moon and the Sand Dollar Gift Gallery.

It’s easy to spend a full day at Towne Centre – and not just during the holidays. An outdoor mall with tree-lined sidewalks, you’ll find upscale shopping mingled with stores that appeal to the younger set. Families with young children will appreciate Baby Bloomers for gifts and apparel, while teens will head straight for Old Navy or American Eagle. Women will find an impressive array of shops that cater to their style, including Chico’s, White House/Black Market and two recent additions, J. Jill and Coldwater Creek.

After a shopping expedition, it’s time to relax in one of the many restaurants, such as LongHorn Steakhouse or Hatchell’s American Tapas Tavern, perhaps followed by a movie at the Palmetto Grande.

In addition to individual store promotions, Mount Pleasant Towne Centre offers special holiday events throughout the year.

Belle Hall Shopping Center

Just a bit newer than Towne Center, Belle Hall Shopping Center has become a main attraction where Long Point Road meets Interstate 526. Anchored by SteinMart at one end and PetSmart and Ross Dress for Less at the other, Belle Hall includes a variety of local and national shops. Eye care, dentistry and financial planning services co-exist with boutiques such as Belladea, The Coastal Cupboard and Sassy’s. You’ll also find jewelry stores, shoe shops, menswear and the all-important grocery store.

As with Towne Centre, it’s not all about shopping at Belle Hall. When it is time to eat, Belle Hall offers an eclectic variety of dining experiences, including Dog & Duck pub, Six Tables, Brixx Pizza and Beef O’Brady’s. Personal care is important, too, and you’ll find salons, from budget to upscale, as well as a spa to pamper yourself, Urban Nirvana. Fitness Now is there to help you keep in shape.

Similar in style to Towne Centre, Belle Hall is an open-air mall with trees and walkways.

Coleman Boulevard and Pitt Street

Before the Isle of Palms Connector was built, Coleman Boulevard was Mount Pleasant’s main thoroughfare and the primary route to the beaches. Though there was never a specific shopping district, a variety of shopping centers served the needs of East Cooper residents. One of the largest is the Sea Island Center, where Chuck Dawley Boulevard and Ben Sawyer Boulevard meet.

Another major shopping center on Coleman is the Moultrie Plaza, across the street from the soon-to-be-rebuilt Moultrie Middle School, where you’ll find a fitness center, an antiques and crafts mall, a variety of smaller boutiques and a restaurant or two. Just down the road, a new breed of boutique is cropping up: live/work developments.

The original shopping district in Mount Pleasant was Pitt Street in the Old Village. Decades ago, you could find a grocery store, a doctor’s office, post office and much more, including the Pitt Street Pharmacy. This beloved drug store, with its fountain drinks and old-fashioned malteds, remains a favorite and is well worth a visit. Other shops in the Old Village include the Village Bakery, Expectations Studio, Out of Hand and the Old Village Post House restaurant.

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The Market at Oakland

The site of a former working plantation dating back to 1696, The Market at Oakland promises to be one of East Cooper’s most popular retail shopping districts. Following the design of Towne Centre and Belle Hall, The Market at Oakland is an outdoor, mall-type center anchored by a Super Wal-Mart and Kohl’s department store. In between will be a tree-lined pedestrian shopping village.

In addition to Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, a branch of Wachovia bank is already in operation. New stores include Goin’ Postal, GameStop, Bear N’ Friends Toy Shop, Rita’s Italian Ice, WineStyles and Tresses.

The Market at Oakland will cover approximately 75 acres and include about 415,000 square feet of retail space and about 36,000 square feet of office space. The remaining 225 acres of historic Oakland Plantation will be set aside as a conservation easement.

Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant

No article on shopping East of the Cooper is complete with a mention of Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant. Founded by the Ward family, the shop had humble beginnings in a former clothing store located in Moultrie Shopping Center. Assisted by daughters Lynn, Karen and Anne, Gwynn’s expanded from a small clothing boutique into the area’s first department store.

Today, Gwynn’s is located in the Village Pointe Shopping Center and offers a full line of designer wear and accessories for women, men and children, along with elegant housewares. Service has always been a priority at Gwynn’s, and current owner Marshall Simon has taken that commitment to a higher level, often holding trunk shows and other special events. Gwynn’s also offers online personal shopping via Webcam and will even accommodate fashion or gift emergencies.

Karen’s Korner Frame and Art Gallery, Mount Pleasant

With walls covered with beautiful interpretations of the Lowcountry, Karen’s Korner is a breath of fresh air. Twelve different artists are represented, each offering their own view of the beaches, marshes and landmarks of coastal Carolina. There are original paintings in oil and in watercolor, as well as framed photographs that reflect the many moods of the region. Other artists have produced sculpture and pottery.

Karen Boals, owner of Karen’s Korner Frame and Art Gallery, enjoys showcasing the work of local artists. She pointed out the fine photography of Marc Epstein and Scott Henderson, along with short anecdotes about each one, before moving on to a display of exquisite pottery.

“This is by Matt Hunnicutt,” Karen said. “He’s only 17 and has been creating pottery since he was 5. He’s very talented.”

Original paintings also are available in a variety of styles, from classic scenes to explosions of color. Artists include Carol Ann Curran and her son, Kevin Curran, who sometimes choose similar subjects to paint but who bring very different styles to their work.

But lovely discoveries are not all that is in store at Karen’s Korner; Karen and custom framer Terri Schlein take the art of framing to a higher level. With hundreds of moldings from which to choose, even a simple frame job can seem overwhelming. When asked what is most important at Karen’s Korner, Terri is quick to say “personal service.”

“We know how to manage the chaos,” Terri laughed. “We’re happy to help choose the frame or, if people have special requests, we’ll help them find whatever they want.”

Both Karen and Terri agree that a frame should enhance the art rather than compete with it.

“No one should say ‘that’s a beautiful frame’,” Karen said. “The frame and art should work together seamlessly.”

In addition to a large selection of moldings – from Roma, a premier molding, to frames suitable for your child’s artwork – Terri and Karen offer custom framing services such as French matting and shadow boxes.

“Art is an emotional thing,” Terri said. “There is often a story behind what is being framed.”

With nearly 50 years of framing experience between them, Karen and Terri take great pride in making customers happy.

That is an art in itself.

Karen’s Korner Frame and Art Gallery is located in the Gateway to the Beach shopping center at 1405 Ben Sawyer Blvd. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit

Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival, Mount Pleasant

The Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival provides an excellent opportunity to take advantage of great food and entertainment and a vast array of the Charleston area’s signature souvenir, all the while enjoying coastal Carolina’s near-perfect late-spring weather. But the event, held each year in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, also can be a learning experience, a chance to delve deeply into the history of a people and an art they have practiced for more than three centuries on two continents.

“The festival serves as a venue to educate locals as well as tourists about the heritage of the Gullah-Geechee people, their culture and traditions,” according to Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Project Director Thomasena Stokes-Marshall. “We also have entertainment, gospel songs, folklore, arts and crafts, and, of course, the largest display of sweetgrass baskets anywhere in the Lowcountry.”

For those who tire of eating, playing games, listening to music and looking at baskets, the festival offers another interesting option. Two films will be shown: “Grass Roots: The Enduring Art of the Lowcountry Basket,” and “Bin Yah: There’s No Place Like Home.”

“Grass Roots” follows Mount Pleasant basket makers as they harvest sweetgrass, weave their baskets and discuss the meaning of their work.

“Bin Yah” is a documentary that considers how growth and development have threatened historic African-American communities in Mount Pleasant. In the words of local African-American residents, the film “explores the culture, the history, the importance of land and the concept of home, giving a voice to those who seldom have a chance to be heard.”

The festival is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, but the festivities actually get underway Friday at 6 p.m. in the Cooper River Room at the Visitors Center. “The Real Taste of Gullah Cuisine,” in its second year, will feature the creations of some of the area’s top chefs, including Kevin Mitchell, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College. The evening’s activities include an unusual fashion show – featuring hats, evening purses and table vases made of sweetgrass. Musical entertainment will be provided by vocalist Zandrina Dunning, violinist Daniel D., Devon Gary on the saxophone and poet Samara Simmons. To complete the evening, world-renowned artist Jonathan Green, whose studio is on Daniel Island in nearby Berkeley County, will speak on Gullah culture.

The fun continues Saturday afternoon, but, in the morning, attendees will have the chance to listen to and talk with area scholars during a seminar concerning health, education and land issues in the African-American communities along the Gullah-Geechee Heritage Corridor. Established by Congress in 2006 to recognize the important contributions made to American culture and history by African- Americans originally brought to the Southeast coast as slaves and their descendants, the corridor runs from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida.

An important part of that history has to do with sweetgrass baskets. Through oral history, the technique can be traced from West Africa to the plantations in the South to modernday South Carolina. Though baskets were made to store food during and after the era of slavery, they were not sold commercially until well into the 20th century. As the story goes, according to an article written by J.V. Coakley, Ida Jefferson set up the first sweetgrass basket stand on Highway 17 in the 1930s after losing her job as a day laborer. The road had been completed recently and tourists had started to use it to travel from the North. Her immediate success spawned competition from other basket makers. Today, dozens of artisans sell their baskets along the stretch of Highway 17 that runs through Mount Pleasant.

For more information about the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival: visit