One of the things that’s a little hard for me about loving a place is watching it change. I’ve never been one of those people who is able to view inevitable change with a detached sense of shoulder-shrugging acceptance. Of course we know time in its petty little pace never slows for anyone. We all age, and the places we love age along with us.
Still, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat sad when I recently began a drive down Myrtle Beach’s famed North Ocean Boulevard. Husband in tow, I found the place looked so far removed from what it once was that I had a hard time making sure I was leading him in the right direction. This was not altogether surprising. I’d last seen it in 2000, on spring break from my freshman year at Virginia Tech. I knew the Myrtle Beach Pavilion amusement park and the teen club The Attic were both gone, as was the Myrtle Square Mall with its giant neon ceiling clock and ocean-themed food court. But my ultimate goal on this drive anyway was to view the Cadillac Court, the three-building hotel where my family had stayed decades before.
As we got oriented on Ocean Boulevard and began looking for parking, I saw that the Pavilion’s spot is now a huge grassy field with zero sign of what it once was. I was really taken aback by how completely empty it was. I was sure someone would’ve taken advantage of this prime piece of real estate in some way since the Pavilion’s closing in 2006. Nothing of the once landmark park remains, except for what looks like an old staircase to one of the rides, looking out of place by itself on the far side of the lot from N. Ocean. There was a time when it seemed the Pavilion was destined to last forever.
The Boulevard was missing some other old favorites. There was no longer a Candy Castle, a giant globe or a larger-than-life jukebox. Some of the little mom-and-pop hotels and motels also seemed to be missing or were boarded-up and abandoned, having lost the battle against fancier resorts with elaborate mini-water park setups. But there were new points of interest taking the place of these old friends – a beach boardwalk, landscaped pocket parks, gleaming new stores and restaurants, a pedestrian skywalk, a cool painted mural of an insect band playing to a captive forest audience – complete with poem!, the towering SkyWheel, and miniature amusement parks. (“A pale imitation of the Pavilion,” I sniffed haughtily as we passed one.) Nestled between some of these things was the Gay Dolphin Arcade and souvenir shop, no longer offering rides to the top of the glass tower but still boasting the iconic old sign.
Eric and I continued our journey toward the address my smartphone gave as being Cadillac Court’s. I chattered a good part of the way for our stroll, telling Eric about its two oceanfront towers, funky little “hidden” murals, and stainless steel indoor swimming pool on the top floor. Ah, memories! Splashing my sister in the outdoor pool, learning to play shuffleboard in the grassy lawn area, my father crashing through a spider web (and huge spider) to retrieve an ill-thrown Myrtle Beach-branded Frisbee, rinsing off our seashell finds at the outdoor shower, the jovial desk clerk … We passed by newer, fancier hotels, but I was unimpressed. I just wanted to see my old yellow-painted haunt. I wondered if it would still be that same shade, with the same old signs, or if they would’ve spruced it up a bit. I hoped not, but I braced myself for it. We passed by the Schooner II and then a noisy construction site – something very recently knocked down, for another fancy new hotel, I guessed! “I think this is it,” Eric joked. “Har, har,” I responded. “That’s not funny.” I looked up and saw the Boardwalk – the blue hotel I remembered as being very nearby the Cadillac Court – next door, in fact. I froze. The Boardwalk – wasn’t that the same hotel where my father once spotted some kid leaning too far over his hotel room railing, goofing around, and made sure to give me a lecture about his stupidity as though I had done it myself? “Wait, we’ve got to be close,” I said, and kept walking. I must be remembering wrong; maybe it was on the OTHER side, not this side – no, it wasn’t. Where was it? It must’ve been renamed something else. I called back the address of the Cadillac Court –
“I really wasn’t joking,” Eric said matter-of-factly. “That was it back there.” That big empty lot full of dirt – that was my Cadillac Court.
Is “devastated” too dramatic for my feelings? At that moment, it didn’t feel like it. I was melancholy all the way back to the Gay Dolphin, where we played enough arcade games to win a few prizes. I pouted like I had never aged past those Myrtle Beach summers and let Eric help me nurse my gloom with by-the-slice boardwalk pizza and walk-up-window ice cream cones. Later, I did a little research and read that the Cadillac Court had recently been converted into lower-cost apartments called Beach View. Earlier that summer, the residents had received a month’s notice that their building was being knocked down and replaced with a new Hilton timeshare resort. The Schooner II staff has been posting a stream of photos on their Facebook page documenting the demolition process.
Nothing lasts forever, but sometimes I can’t help but feel there are some things that should. Such is the way of the world. Cadillac Court is gone, but my memories make it feel as timeless as if it were still standing, just waiting for me to come look out from a yellow-railed balcony at a sun shining as though it was never meant to set.
Fantastic satellite view – the two towers are unlabeled here (the last two on the right). Today the outdoor pool shown here is filled in with dirt. You can see the stainless steel pool area on the top of the far right tower – see the cover?
Words Are All That’s Left of Cadillac Court by Flickr user SkeezyWizbang (and now not even these words exist)
Check out a few old Pavilion rides (mostly kiddie rides) at the Pavilion Nostalgia Park at Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach Remembered – great old pictures and memories