My memories of Tybee Island are bathed in black and white and awash in happy times spent with my Atlanta cousins. We were in elementary school in the 1960s and our Tybee tales consisted of a week or so every summer when we all would vacation at the family’s apartment house.
Our territory was framed by only three or four blocks, an area in which we managed to squeeze in plenty of daily adventures. Those few blocks were enough for us, except of course, those times when we paid 25 cents to hop on the Nancy Hanks Jr., a motorized miniature train on wheels that took its name from the railway that ran for years from Savannah to Atlanta and back.
The NH Jr. dared to take us outside of our comfort zone — all the way over to the north end of the island to what was left of Fort Screven, where we would explore the ruins before catching a ride on the train back to 17th Street.
Typically, by day, we’d sidestep the dreaded sand spurs and scamper to the beach on the cracked asphalt sidewalk. Once we arrived at the seawall, we’d hang our towels along the rail and carefully navigate the wooden steps to the sand and the waves beyond, always staying away from the barnacle-covered jetties.
After a few hours of swimming, we’d head home, wash off with the hose and pull on our shorts and shirts for a string of activities, such as picking up the mail at the post office inside Strickland’s Market, grabbing a hamburger at the Triangle Restaurant, or seeing what souvenirs we could inspect at Chu’s Department Store.
At night, we’d stroll to the pier and pavilion for a snow ball and then to the rides next door, though we never mustered the courage to strap ourselves in the Tunnel of Love. The thrill of the Ferris wheel was enough for us.
If you’d like to share your Tybee memories, you’ll have the perfect opportunity at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne St. Presented by the Tybee Island Historic Preservation Commission, the free one-hour event will include:
• Historic preservationist Jane Coslick’s story and slides of island cottages.
• Businessman Bobby Chu’s sharing of the Chu family’s legacy, starting decades ago when the family arrived from China.
• Tybee Light Station director Sarah Jones, who will have slides and stories about the historically significant buildings and the recent survey of 850 historic properties.
Coslick has restored numerous Tybee cottages and has told their stories far and wide. Pictures of the island houses have appeared in dozens of national and regional magazines. In a post on the blog “Talk of the House,” Coslick is described as a “beach house superhero.”
“She takes on ramshackle beach cottages that no one would look at twice and uses her talent to turn them into treasures that everyone now loves,” according to the blogger.
The Chu family has been synonymous with Tybee since the 1930s, when T.S. Chu came to the island to open a department store on 16th Street (now Tybrisa Street). The store, with its pagoda-style exterior décor, is a mainstay on Tybee.
Dottie Kluttz of the Historic Commission said tomorrow’s program “hopefully will be the first of many” during which people can share their memories and photos of Tybee.
“We really want to revisit how unique Tybee is,” she said, adding that, people are encouraged to bring their own stories and photos. She also pointed out that though the island is only three miles long, it is home to three national historic districts.
Contact Polly at 912-657-3877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.