Folks are always asking how we got to Myrtle Beach.
All their worldly possessions, me in a baby-blue bassinet, wedged into the back of a two- tone Lasalle, we were migratin south from the shuttered shipyards of New Port News. Snakin down two-lane Ocean Highway 17 on our way to the Florida boom when the Greek meat-balls and feta cheese ran out and we pit-stopped for gas, lunch and a diaper change in a tiny resort crossroads called Myrtle Beach.
We pile out the car and push through the art deco door of the Kozy Korner Cafe.
A Broderick Crawford lookalike in french cuffs and an expensive suit, uglied up with a wide amoeba tie and fake gold tie clasp, gives me a cute-baby poke and escorts us to an aluminum booth with flip-down seats.
Broderick turns out to be the owner, a Charleston-born, cigar-chewin geechee-accent Greek who goes by the not-so-Greek name of Tom Haley.
He introduces hissef to my Cypriot-born ole man who goes by the not-so- Greek name of Tony Thompson.
“Where y’all headed?” asks Tom, napkinin off his two-tone shoes.
“On our way to Florida,” Tony says.
“Whaddayou plannin on doin down there?”
“Find a business, start a new life. We heard things were good there.”
Tom waves his manicured hand. “Gotta goin business right here. It’s for sale.”
Tony glances around. “I only have fifty two hundred dollars.”
Tom smiles, slaps the table “Whaddayou talkin? Thas the price.”
“Any other Greeks live here?” asks Tony.
“Yea. . . there’s Papa Chris, George Anthony, Louie Achilles, John Gravis, Baroutsos, Charlie Kordas and . . . plentya Greeks.”
“Mind if I look around?” Tony says, as a red lipstick’d waitress packed in a snug uniform and a toothy hey-how-yall smile, slips the pencil from behind her hairnetted ear to take our order. An hour and a handshake after meetin Tom Haley, Tony’s introducin himself to the waitresses and cooks. “Hello, my name ees Tony. I’m the new owner.”
Tony informs my mom who's spooning some green goup into my mouth. She slaps her head, crosses herself. “What d’you mean you bought this restaurant? I don’t even know the name of this town. There’s nothing here. No customers, no nothing.”
Tom points a manicured finger out at the deserted street. “Whaddaya mean nothin here? We got four restaurants, two gas stations, a movie theater, drugstore, dimestore, bingo parlor, auction house, train depot, the Lafayette Manor, and don’t forget the Pavilion. . . In the summer the town’s fulla people.”
Mom’s suckin air, tryin not to cry. “Where are we going to live?”
“Upstairs apartment comes with the deal.”
So an hour after lunch, mom’s upstairs throwin out the last tenant’s trash, knee-scouring the apartment with Ajax and tears, movin us into what’s gonna be our Myrtle Beach home for the next thirteen years.
That's how we got to Myrtle Beach.