Good night Mrs. Calabash wherever you are

... at Myrtle Beach, that's where

from Jim Tierney

Sound familiar?? ... If it does, you’re older than you think you are. You’ll remember that this was Jimmy Durante’s signature sign-off on his radio and TV shows of a mysterious woman’s name, during the 1940’s. Longtime residents of Calabash, NC believe it was Lucy Coleman, the owner of a restaurant in town where Jimmy stopped one night for dinner, had a friendly chat with her, and said “goodnight Mrs. Calabash” as he left. She apparently left an impression on him and the rest is history.

On a recent visit to Myrtle Beach, the name Calabash was prominent throughout the town, not because of Jimmy Durante but because of the many Calabash seafood restaurants. Calabash style seafood refers to fresh seafood, lightly battered, deep fried to order, and never prebreaded or precooked. These restaurants follow the style of Calabash, NC, which prides itself as the “seafood capital of the world”. If you are into seafood, you can have an all-you-can-eat buffet of DOZENS of different seafood, including lobster, oysters, and mussels. The name Calabash, NC actually comes from a vine/tree grown in the area for its fruit, young as a vegetable, i.e. squash, or matured and dried to produce things like a bottle gourd, used for drinking. Aren’t you glad you asked?

We traveled to Myrtle Beach by bus, stopping overnight in Falls Church, VA, on the way and stopping overnight at Bear, DE (yes Bear?) on the way back, a total of close to 2000 miles. Four days on a bus is a little too much (never again), even though we traveled through six states along the way, including New York and the Civil War landmarks of Virginia. We stayed at a nice high rise right on the beach, with hotels up and down the beach as far as the eye can see.

Myrtle Beach was once destined to be the new Miami Beach as the place to go to get away from the bleak and cold New England winters. Apparently, the colder temperatures in the winter changed all that and instead it became the golf capital of the world where 4.2 million rounds of golf have been played. As a golfer, you have over 120 courses to choose from, 2000 separate holes, 4000 total putts (if you’re lucky), and 4000 swings to reach all the greens. You can walk 10 miles non-stop from hole to hole, for 333 consecutive hours, and for 14 whole days without a break. That’s a lot of golf. There are also 50 mini golf courses. Myrtle Beach is one of the five top travel destinations, by car, in the country, not only for golf but for many other attractions.

The Myrtle Beach area and Grand Strand are synonyms for a 60 mile stretch of Atlantic Coast that straddles the state line between North Carolina and South Carolina. Myrtle Beach was once known as Longbay, Withers, and Newtown. In 1900, after a contest among the residents and because of the abundant MYRTLE bushes growing in the area, it became known as Myrtle Beach. I thought you’d never ask.

We cruised along the Intracoastal Waterway aboard the riverboat Jungle Princess, enjoying the calm and scenic waters, the wildlife and the natural beauty of the south. We traveled the waterway for only a short distance but it extends, at least, all the way from Boston to Texas. “They say” that you can travel all around the country on the Intracoastal Waterway, going into ocean waters only a few times. “They also say” that George Washington helped finance expansion of the waterway in Virginia for faster and safer shipment of goods and materials, rather than over land. Don’t quote me on this unless you refer to me as “they”.

Myrtle Beach has over 1700 restaurants (including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville), 460 hotels, 300 outlet stores, and other attractions, including many theatres. In one of the theatres, we saw Le Grande Cirque (the great circus) which was a spellbinding, breathtaking, enchanting experience with an incredible array of  talent, including 40 world champion artists, and a dazzling display of pure entertainment. Some of it was beyond belief with mesmerizing costumes, spectacular lighting, 12 Russian poodles doing doggie gymnastics, and bungee jumping right over the heads of the audience. Barnum and Bailey it is not. In another theatre, we  saw the Carolina Opry with two hours of non stop, high energy, musical variety entertainment, blending comedy, singing, and dancing to country, rock and roll, jazz, and gospel music. Grand Ole Opry it is not.

Another attraction, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, gave us more comedy, singing, and dancing in a rodeo setting, with 32 magnificent horses performing and reenacting union and confederate friendly and fun rivalry. The show included a breathtaking acrobatic display of an aerial ballerina soaring from horseback across the 35,000 square foot arena. The setting had a backdrop that appeared to be a replica of the “Tara” house from "Gone with the Wind". Stampede of the buffalos, world famous pig racing, and hilarious ostrich races were also featured, and during the show we were enjoying a barbecue meal in our seats, giving new meaning to “finger licking good”, eating with our fingers with no silverware.

Charleston, with its southern charm and hospitality, is only 90 minutes away from Myrtle Beach and features many historic landmarks, including 18th century homes and plantations, Battery Park, museums, churches, and the City Market. A visit to Fort Sumter is a moving experience where history attributes the beginnings of the Civil War, although the issues of states’ rights, slavery and sovereignty had been stirring since the Constitutional Convention. Another must visit is Patriots Point, location of the Navel/Maritime Museums displaying the Aircraft Carrier, USS Yorktown, a Submarine, Destroyer, Coast Guard Cutter, and vintage military aircraft.

Myrtle Beach and South Carolina have much to offer and we recommend you visit there sometime. If you do, y’all have a grand ole’ time, y’ hear.

August 3, 2007



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