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The East Cooper area has grown from a suburb of Charleston into quite a metropolitan area in the last couple of decades. New neighborhoods have sprung up almost overnight, bringing wide new roads lined with shops and restaurants. There’s so much to do and see but when you tire of the everyday pursuits, here’s an idea. Take a little trip back in time. Visit some of the places that mean “Mount Pleasant and the Islands” to old timers and newcomers alike.

Charleston may be known as the Holy City, but there are plenty of historic churches to discover in Mount Pleasant. One of the best known is Christ Episcopal Church, which dates back to the early 1700s. Christ Church was one of 10 parishes created by the Church Act of 1706; a simple wooden building was erected for services. After the original church burned to the ground in 1725, it was replaced by the simple brick structure that still remains.

In the ensuing years, the church was burned by the British and, later, gutted by Union troops. Though it survived and was repaired, the congregation grew smaller and services ceased altogether in 1874. The church and grounds fell into disrepair, and it was not until 1923 that a restoration project began. Services began again in the mid-50s and continue to this day. The church and surrounding land is an oasis along busy Highway 17 North and well worth a stop. As you wander through the church yard, you may recognize many old Mount Pleasant family names.

Drive a little further north on Highway 17 and you’ll soon come across the “basket ladies,” whose families have been making sweetgrass baskets for generations. This art form, which has its roots in Africa, was brought to the Lowcountry by slaves. Using materials native to the region, including sweetgrass, pine needles and palmetto strips, these artisans create beautiful baskets in every shape and size. You might find these baskets a little pricey at first look, but go ahead and treat yourself. These baskets will last a lifetime, with proper care, and even increase in value. How often do you get a chanceto own a museum quality piece?

If you’d really like to take a trip to a time gone by, don’t miss Mount Pleasant’s Old Village, where old historic homes jostle with their modern neighbors. This is the kind of neighborhood where people walk or bike to the original “business area.” Though only a block long, Pitt Street is still a thriving business center, featuring an upscale restaurant/bed and breakfast along with little shops and galleries. Don’t miss the Pitt Street Pharmacy, where you can stop in for a hot dog and soda—a genuine fountain soda, for those who can remember such a thing! Pitt Street Pharmacy, Old Village Alhambra Hall Much of the Old Village area is along the waterfront, although it can be hard to get more than a glimpse here and there as you drive along narrow tree-shaded streets. A spectacular view of the harbor and the Holy City itself awaits you at Alhambra Hall. You can walk around the grounds and enjoy the breeze. It’s a popular place for events such as the annual Blessing of the Fleet and is much in demand for weddings and receptions. Take a peek inside and you’ll see why—vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and wide porches make this former ferry terminal a southern classic.

Not far from Alhambra Hall is another great spot where you can enjoy a different side of Mount Pleasant. The old Pitt Street Bridge was replaced many years ago by the Ben Sawyer Bridge, but the remains are still there.

This area teems with all sorts of wildlife, from tiny fiddler crabs to majestic water birds. It’s a favored fishing place, as well. From the Pitt Street Bridge, you can almost see another East Cooper icon. It’s well worth the trip to Sullivan’s Island to pay a visit to Chief Osceola at Fort Moultrie (map link). The Seminole Indian chief is buried on the grounds, at the entrance to the fort. Named for Colonel William Moultrie, the fort was created with palmetto logs and sand, and it dates back to the Revolutionary War. The current structure was built in 1809 and served as home base to likes of General Sherman, of Civil War fame, and Edgar Allan Poe, who used Lowcountry settings in some of his work. There’s quite a lot history to be enjoyed here, and you’ll want to take it all in.

For a slightly different East Cooper treat, pay a visit to Page’s Thieves Market. Almost on the edge of Mount Pleasant, before you get on the causeway, Page’s has an assortment of cool and funky things that you may or may not need—but there’s so much fun just looking around. It’s been a regular place for locals to buy and sell for decades. And, if you don’t find something this time around, stop by in a week or two for a new selection and to fi nd out when Linda Page’s next auction will take place. East Cooper? There’s so much to explore!

One Man’s Burden, Hurricane Hugo hit Sullivan’s Island

If ever Sullivan’s Island Police Sgt. David J. Price could erase a period of his life, he would most certainly eliminate the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October, 1989.

During those four weeks, Price lost 99 percent of his worldly possessions, protected a devastated jurisdiction, shared the grief and sorrow of his fellow Islander’s losses, and worried about the well being of his estranged wife and three children who live in the San Francisco Bay area.

Another man would have said, “Enough is enough.” Price didn’t. He just went about his business.

“I’m not hunting for any glory,” he said during a routine patrol of Sullivan’s Island. I’m just an ordinary person who, like many others, lost everything during the hurricane.

The destructive powers of Hurricane Hugo, which struck the Charleston area on the night of September 21, were initially underrated by many locals, including Price.

“This was my second hurricane. I rode one out when I lived in Hawaii back in ’79, but it wasn’t as powerful as Hugo. I underestimated what it would do, but I guess we all did.” he said matter-of-factly.

The son of a Georgian minister, Price has lived in a number of states throughout the country. He came to the Sullivan’s Island Police Department after a two-year stint with the Estill Department. A member of Sullivan’s Island force for four years, Price is the only one (of the five officers) who lives on the island.

“We had a hurricane tracking map on the office wall, and we didn’t use it for show. We had been pinpointing it (Hugo), and followed it closely on the news. But on Wednesday (Sept. 20) we got the word from the Emergency Preparedness officials to evacuate the island.

“My immediate thoughts were of long traffic lines, the people who had been here for so many years and would be forced to evacuate, and those folks who couldn’t leave. I knew we would have problems.

“We then went through the streets and used the loudspeakers to say: Mandatory evacuation; leave immediately. I must have said that a million times.

“There were several senior citizens I knew that could not get off the island by themselves, so I went and helped them move to the Moultrie Middle School shelter. I was really concerned about getting them to safety.”

Thursday morning, Price and his fellow officers were positioned by the Ben Sawyer Bridge, informing travelers that they would not be allowed on the island. He later patrolled the area and convinced local surfers to depart the Station 22 beach, which was enjoying Hugo’s lone benefit – great waves for surfing. During his rounds, Price occasionally stopped by his apartment on Station 20 to pack several things into the trunk of his police car. He knew he wouldn’t be spending the night in the comfort of his home.

“We had plans to stay in the police station as long as possible (Thursday night) and then move into the I’ On Avenue bunkers. When the chief (Jack Lillienthal) and I saw the wind lift a truck , and then heard there was the possibility of a 30-foot surge, we left for Mt. Pleasant. By midnight, we were on the causeway after crossing a shaking bridge, but we couldn’t see in front of us. It was hard to keep the vehicle on the road. Chief made us wear life-vests before we left the island, and at first I thought it was silly, but I was glad we did. It was a great decision.”

Price eventually stayed with friends in Mt. Pleasant but recalled that he still couldn’t relax. The ripping sound of the wind, the cracking of trees, and the scratching of the roof shingles kept him wide awake, and he later went outside during the calm of the hurricane’s eye. He could see stars, but quickly returned inside when the wind began to pick back up.

“It’s just a job. I didn’t do anything heroic,” he said of his days following the hurricane. I just did what I was suppose to do, nothing special.”

Although it was still dark, Price, who was unable to sleep, made an attempt to return to the island. Boats, debris and fallen telephone poles blocked his path on the causeway, but he eventually got as far as Toller’s Cove. Price said he was “in a state of shock” when he witnessed the Ben Sawyer Bridge dangling in the Intra-coastal Waterway.

Several island officials were the first to take a volunteer boat to the island.

Chief and the fire chief were in the first boat and I’ll always remember them telling me, “You won’t believe this. It’s something.” I began to think of how long it would take for the island to recover, how the senior citizens would manage, and if most residents would pack up and leave.

“Late Friday afternoon, I went to look at my apartment. I was actually scared to open the door. My hand was shaking, and I couldn’t get my key in the door. I had to force the door to get it open. Then I saw it. I was dumbstruck. I saw everything turned over, mud everywhere. It was a hollow feeling to see all your possessions ruined. Things that I bought piece by piece. All of the rooms were trashed.

“I had a footlocker with photos of the kids and my paperwork in it. I walked over to it and hesitated before opening. After I lifted the top, and saw it was full of water, I began to cry. I literally bawled like a baby. It was bad enough to have lost my furniture, but to have lost those photos nearly killed me. I immediately left and couldn’t go back in there. I was glad to have my work to get my mind off what I had lost.”

Price was made responsible for helping to keep people off the island. Although there were no problems with looters, the police did have to contend with scavengers. Price exterminated four Copperhead snakes in one day, using “Old Betsy” (as he calls his pistol) and ran another one over with his car. He added that the National Guard did an excellent job, and assisted area law enforcement personnel. He was grateful for the Guard’s around-the-clock work.

By Tuesday, Sept. 26, officials began to allow residents to return to the island via ferry rides from a Shem Creek restaurant.

“I knew people would be frustrated, but many folks were cheerful and polite. I think they were genuinely happy to be back, and I’m sure many were hiding their actual fears. I just listened to them. Even if they complained, I just listened. Sometimes listening is the best medicine, and it was this time. In most cases, I could relate to what they were going through since I just went through it myself.”

Price came to grips with his personal losses and tried not to think about them. His new attitude was that the crying time was over and that you just have to go to work. He did.

“It’s just a job. I didn’t do anything heroic,” he said of his days following the hurricane. I just did what I was suppose to do, nothing special.”

During the weeks that followed Hugo, Sullivan’s Island began to slowly return to a state of “normalcy.” Then, on October 16, Price, like the rest of us, heard on the news of the earthquake in California. He feared for his wife and his three children (daughters of ages 23 and 13, and a son, 20).

“They’re okay, but it took me over an hour to get a hold of them. I was almost in a panic. When I finally got them, they were telling me what had happened, and I became speechless. I was almost ready to cry again, for I knew what they were going through.”

David Price, the policeman, is a hero for listening, being genuinely concerned, and simply doing his job. David Price, the survivor, has no choice but to take things day-by-day. Yet he sincerely wishes life came with an endless supply of erasures, so he could eliminate four long, hard and disastrous weeks.

Isle in the Eye, Hurricane Hugo

It was 8 a.m., Sept. 25, four days beyond Hugo. After an all night drive from Atlanta, my son’s evacuation home, I boarded the harbor-tour boat at Patriot’s Point for a return to the devastated Isle of Palms. In a pouring rain that added to the gloom, we were a rag-tag crowd gathered from all points of shelter.

Having run the curfew gauntlets, dodged fallen trees and avoided dangling electric lines, I tried to bring my weary brain back into balance. “No, this is not the Holocaust,” I told myself. “We are not bound for a concentration camp. We are only displaced persons on a mission of renewal and rejuvenation.”

This was the first boat to the island, and the first time anyone had been able to get back since the storm drove us away. To add another war-like dimension to the incredible scene, we, in effect, had to give our name, rank and serial number before boarding the boat. You had to have the proper ID to prove your right to take the “Isle of Palms Clipper.”

“Where are you taking us, Captain?” Another disheartening response. The only place the boat could berth was at the Wild Dunes Marina, a few miles from the other end of the island, where most of us wanted to go.

The rain blew across the deck. The man sitting next to me was an airline pilot who had just come to Mt. Pleasant from New York. He wore only shorts and a sport shirt, was protected only by an umbrella and was shivering. “Didn’t have time to find clothes,” he said. “I’ve rented out my house on the island for the winter, and I need to find out if the people can move in.” (It turned out he didn’t have a house remaining to rent.)

And then a voice of hope was heard:

“…the light house is still standing”
“……Stella Maris Church looks OK”
“…………Some places don’t look too bad”

My thoughts were strange. Why did this Biblical phrase flash through my mind: “Many are called, but few are chosen?”

We were on the river nearly an hour and had just passed Goat Island. It looked as though a water-going street sweeper had passed by, throwing docks and chairs, boats and chimneys , toilet bowls and bookcases upon the shore. For a mile the land was littered with household furnishings and debris, while in the background an occasional desolate and gutted dwelling raised its broken body.

The scene and the circumstances became even weirder. The ill-clothed and bleary-eyed group stood and stared at a crazy bridge, askew at a 35 degree angle, useful only for a wild, high-jumping water skier.

“How could wind blow down the Ben Sawyer Bridge like that?” someone asked. No answer, except one woman who spoke in a trembling voice, “It’s awesome.” An angry voice: “You can thank Sullivan’s Island for that. That lousy bridge should have been replaced years ago!”

As if foretelling the future, the man with the red beard and cowboy hat said, “The Corps of Engineers ought to be able to raise it and put it back on track.”

Up the Intracoastal Waterway, passing Sullivan’s Island, the awful fury of Hugo became more and more visible. Roofs missing, houses sliced in two, one standing on its side. Where docks stood, I saw but a few sticks poking out of the water. “My God,” the lady in the blue jumpsuit screamed, “That’s where my friend lived!” Her voice died to a whisper. “No more. It’s broken to pieces.”

The landing in sight, we passed a graveyard of boats, maybe a hundred tossed like matchsticks onto the land across form the marina. We hugged our rain gear and lifted bags as we moved toward the gangplank. The captain’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “This boat will leave at 12 o’clock sharp. You don’t want to be left behind. There’s no food on the island, and no place to stay overnight.” A deck hand told one elderly lady that she couldn’t get off the boat. It was too dangerous for her.

An Isle of Palms city council member reinforced the warning. “Be prepared for the worst,” she said. “There are snakes, streets washed out, holes filled with water maybe 10 feet deep. Gas is leaking on the island. There’s raw sewage and dead animals. Don’t touch your mouth!”

The dreary group, soaked now, stumbled across the dock. Somebody said there may be no transportation. How could I walkfrom one end of the island to the other in an hour and a half? Under these conditions? I admit, I was ready to give up. “You’ve won, Hugo!” But JoAnn, my daughter-in-law, bolstered my sunken spirits.

“We’ve come too far to give up now. Let’s walk out to Palm Boulevard. Maybe we’ll find a ride.” And we did — a pick-uptruck pulling a flat bed trailer. The “last-mile gang” splashed through the muddy water and piled onto the truck. The life-saving driver avoided washed out streets by steering into yards and around scattered house furnishings. Sometimes the trailer caught obstructions, and amid shouts of “hold up,” we piled off and freed the trailer hitch. One man tried to relieve the tension by shouting to the driver, “Look out for the house in the middle of the street.” It had been carried 30 feet from its foundation onto Palm Boulevard.

An interminable time elapsed, amid “oh’s” and “ah’s” and “Look at that house. It’s a mess!” We came to my house at 4th Avenue. Across heaps of marsh grass, around jagged lumber, over a vagrant lawn mower, I came in view of it. “Hey,” I said to JoAnn, “looks pretty good — still standing.” We hurried in to question the appearance of normality. Boots flopping, raincoat dripping, vision dulled, the question was answered. The house had fallen off its foundation, six feet down and six feet over plants and bushes.

Trees were uprooted. The neighbor’s tall pine had crashed down on the fence. No more grape arbor. We entered the house over the broken deck and through the sliding glass door that slipped off its track. The fallen chimney was only a minor obstruction. Inside, a giant named Hugo had vented his wrath, tumbling furniture into muddy heaps of junk. A 4-foot wave of water had drowned the lovebirds in their cage, corroded tools and electrical appliances, destroyed cloth and clothing. Utter chaos! I was silent — feeling shock, numbness, disbelief. I was beyond fear or worry. I waited for the firing squad to send the final bullet into my brain.

We picked up a few things — and put them down again; stuffed a memento into the plastic bag. “There’s the old family Seth Thomas mantel clock. Let’s take that — and we may be able to clean up the photo album, and let’s go. There’s nothing more we can do now.”

Back on Palm Boulevard, people were struggling along the street carrying bags of salvage — refugees, hoping to get a ride back to the boat. One man came out of a ruin carrying a cat in his arms. “She was still in the house. All I could save. Glad my wife didn’t come. She’s pregnant and I couldn’t stand a miscarriage right now.”

We got back to the marina by noon. The boat didn’t leave as scheduled and we waiting in line for an hour, directly opposite a drain pipe that splashed rain water over us. Insult to injury.

Then we felt like celebrities. There were TV reporters asking, “What’s it like at your house? What did you find? How do you feel?” (Like Hell! — a little aside remark) Helicopters buzzed overhead, sort of like Vietnam. I felt fortunate not to be rocketed.

The voyage back to Patriot’s Point was uneventful, even a relief. One man said, “Now I know what ‘Come hell or high water’ means.” The same rag-tag gang rode easier now. We had seen the worst and survived. “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” the woman in the blue jumpsuit had said. One guy said he would go back and start all over again. Me? I’d cry tomorrow.

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.

Our Past on a Corner Sign Post

For the earliest settlers of Mount Pleasant, major routes of transportation included a multitude of harbors, channels, rivers, inlets and creeks surrounding the area. Many of the names that described these waterways originated with the Sewee and Wando Indians. For example: “Shemee” Creek, the “Wando” River and “Sewee” Bay. Other names of water passages spring from European origins such as the Ashley and Cooper rivers.

The first European settlement in Mount Pleasant, in 1680, was on a neck of land surrounded by Charleston Harbor, Shem Creek and Cove Inlet. The Indians called it“Oldwanus” Point, which was later anglicized to “Old Woman’s Point” and finally transformed into North Point—where Old Mount Pleasant is located today. This indian heritage is reflected in some of our current street names, such as Oldwanus Drive, Sewee Circle, Shem Street and Drive, Mataoka Street and Wakendaw Boulevard, to name a few.

As the population of settlers grew, so did their transportation needs. Some of the first roads were built as part of a long distance transportation system that included stagecoaches and ferries. Old Georgetown Road, still in existence, was an early travelers’ route between Georgetown and Mount Pleasant. This route led directly to the ferry-boat landing and from there folks traveled to Charlestowne across the Cooper River. It was the main passage for mail and travel to and from the north. (It cost passengers 33 cents, horned cattle 21 cents, four-wheeled carriages $1.75). This ferry-line route was used by George Washington when he came to Charlestowne in 1791. Andrew Hibben began the original ferry service in 1770.

The Revolutionary War and later the Civil War also increased the need for transportation of men and supplies. Rifle Range Road was probably the site of a Revolutionary War barracks shown as “barracks in ruins” on a plat dated 1793. This road later led to the U.S. Navy Rifle Range in 1917and was also used by Citadel cadets. The Coast Guard and U.S. regulars from Fort Moultrie traveled down the military sounding Rifle Range Road, as do regular in-town commuters today.

The names on many of Mount Pleasant’s streets came down to us today as a legacy from the town’s early inhabitants, especially in the Old Village area. There is a tradition of honoring those residents who have contributed to the town’s growth and prosperity, a tradition that continues even today. The original settlements or villages dating back to the late 1600’s, were all eventually incorporated to create the town of Mount Pleasant and Greenwich Village. Following is a listing of the original villages and names and origins of the streets that remain part of Mount Pleasant today.

The first settlement to become a village, prior to the Revolutionary War. The owner/developer was an Englishman named Jonathan Scott, and the street names reflect this.

KING, QUEEN and PITT Streets
Named for the English sovereigns and a prime minister.

After the village name. This area eventually was incorporated into the town of Mount Pleasant in 1837.

Purchased and developed in 1803 by James Hibben, the only son of Andrew Hibben, who came here from England in 1713.

BEACH Street
Prior to the building of the jetties, this street curved along a sandy beach.

Named for James Hibben’s mother-in-law, Mrs. William Bennett.

Named for Elias Whilden, a town planner during the 1837 incorporation. Descendant of original settler John Whilden (1696).

Named for a village property owner, Nicholas Venning. His father, Colonel Samuel Venning, defended the settlement during the Revolutionary War. This area also incorporated into the town of Mount Pleasant in 1837.

Purchased and developed in 1847 by Charles Jugnot and Oliver Hilliard.Prior to this the land had been swampy and uninhabitable.

FERRY Street
Built as a route to the new ferry company.

Named in the 1847 plan.

Named after H. L. P. McCormick, who bought out the ferry company.

Changed from “Common Street” in 1950. The Royall family were prominent planters and Robert V. Royall served as town surveyor in 1889 and mayor from 1898-1914. Many direct descendants of this family remain in Mount Pleasant today

Incorporated in 1872.

Named after James Hibben, whose father Andrew Hibben began the ferry service in 1770.

After Haddrell’s Point. George Haddrell was an original settler from the late 1600’s. Lucasville Incorporated in 1872.

MILL Street
Led to the mill on Shem Creek. Now the town of Mount Pleasant stretches from to Charleston Harbor to Shem Creek and beyond. These origins are some of the oldest and most historic streets, but the tradition continues with the ongoing expansion of the town up through modern times.

McCANTS Street
A prominent Mount Pleasant family of planters dating back prior to the Civil War. T. G. McCants was mayor from 1928-1933.

Mayor William L. Erckmann served the town as mayor from 1934-1946, during which, Mount Pleasant celebrated its centennial in 1937.

COLEMAN Boulevard
Francis F. Coleman, mayor from 1946-1960. Many improvements to transportation were made during his administration.

A storied chapter in the history of Mount Pleasant ended on August 18, 1929. When the original Cooper River bridge was opened, it eliminated the need for ferries to Charleston, which had been operating for the previous 160 years. More major changes followed, such as the opening of the Mark Clark Expressway and the Isle of Palms Connector. Of course, the future holds even more changes.

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

I resisted the temptation to drive the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge the first day it opened to traffic. Well, I did until dinner time. My daughter, Sam, and I had gone out for a salad at an eatery around the corner. On that two-minute drive home, I said, “Do you want to drive over the bridge?”

A quick nod and we drove into history, along with thousands of other people eager to share our experience. I’d never seen bridges like this before I moved to Charleston in the ‘70s.

The Pearman was still relatively new,a modern marvel with a reversible lane and the signals to prove it. It seemed a pretty sturdy way to get to what was then advertised as “the tomorrow side of the river.” The problem with going to Mount Pleasant—or the beaches— was the return trip. The Grace Bridge both fascinated and frightened me.

Believe me when I say I found the trip truly heart-stopping. I sat, paralyzed, holding onto the passenger seat with both hands. I tried holding onto the door handles, but thought better of it. In the ‘70s, cars didn’t have safety features. To clutch the door handle was to potentially fling myself out of the car altogether. I didn’t dare breathe until we were safely approaching the East Bay Street exit.

My then-husband thought my fear was ridiculous. He shook his head as he zipped in and out of traffic on those two pitifully narrow lanes. I was scared beyond belief as I watched the railings flash by so close I could have touched them—if I could have opened the window.

“Just don’t look,” he said. “Close your eyes and it won’t be a problem!” It sounded like a good idea at the time, but this is even worse than eyes open. Much worse! I squeezed my eyes shut, sat back and relaxed for what I know was a small eternity. I carefully opened my eyes only to discover that we had moved forward perhaps 20 feet. That meant we still had about two-and-a half miles to go before I could breathe again.

Over the years, my fear of driving across the “old” bridge became legend. At first, only my family was aware—as in “Now children, Mommy is driving across the bridge, so we need to be very, very quiet so that we won’t accidentally drive off.”

Believe me, you could have heard a pin drop in that car. Other times I’d suffer panic attacks —is this how a stroke feels, I wondered? Even in the dead of winter, my hands were slick with sweat as I tried to maintain my grip on the steering wheel. Finally, a few years ago, I decided to give up driving on the Grace altogether. I became a laughing stock among my friends and co-workers when I requested they drive me across the reversible lane to downtown.

Funnily enough, it was only the Grace Bridge that bothered me. I actually loved driving over the “new” bridge, the Pearman. Just as high, with views just as spectacular, crossing that bridge counted as a great Lowcountry drive unless, of course, you were unlucky enough to be stuck in the rushhour traffic or the aftermath of a stalled car or accident.

When I first heard about the construction of a new bridge, I didn’t believe it would come about any time soon. Things move exceedingly slow, at best, in Charleston. Something as expensive and massive as this bridge could surely never be built during my lifetime. I was wrong. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge began to rise from the river bed.

At first, there was not much to see but before long, the towers were touching the sky as hundreds of workers toiled round-the-clock to close the gaps. It stood silently by—a masterpiece of man and equipment—as traffic continued to flow north and south a stone’s throw away. During the last few months, as the spans edged closer together, I could feel the excitement mounting. With each day, a few more inches were gained. I knew the builders, from the crew leaders to the lowliest workers, must have been bursting with pride at their accomplishment. I could hardly wait to get on the new bridge myself after watching the construction all those many months.

Though it was hot as the dickens, I rode the school bus up to the center of the bridge to join the thousands of walkers. I became one of the gawkers, marveling at the amazing views and snapping photos against the backdrop of the bridges, both new and old. For the first time ever, I looked at the top of the superstructure on the old bridges. And as I walked, I realized the bridge had been waiting, too—waiting for the people of the Lowcountry to breathe life into it. But, as it awakened that weekend, I couldn’t help but feel a tug of sadness for the two old ladies whose lives were ebbing away. I’ve been driving the “Cuzway,” as it is fondly known to locals, for about a year now and I can tell you one thing: it is a wonderful thing to behold.

The Ravenel is more than a beautiful gateway to Charleston—like the old bridges, it is a work of art. But the best part? It’s so big and wide, I never feel scared at all. I have finally conquered the bridge.