A lot of black history found on Myrtle Beach's Carver Street

02/12/2013 9:44 AM

02/12/2013 10:26 AM

Prior to 1965, Myrtle Beach’s Booker T. Washington neighborhood was a bustling area, many who lived there in the ‘60s said.

There were a number of black-owned businesses in the segregated neighborhood such as restaurants, daycare centers, bars and a barber shop.

Legendary musicians including Jackie Wilson, Percy Sledge and Sam & Dave performed at establishments along Carver Street in the 60s, said Ella M. Thomas, owner of Friendly Barber Shop.

Her husband opened the shop in 1954 and she joined him as the only female barber in 1966. Her husband, Jerome, died in 2007.

“It’s a lot of history on this street,” Thomas said. “But you wouldn’t know it.”

Things have changed since then, said Frank Tucker, who also has worked as a barber at Friendly since 1966.

“A lot of the other businesses [on Carver Street] failed because of the integration,” he said. “Everyone moved to the waterfront. You couldn’t go before and do what you wanted to go do, now you could go.”

Tucker recalled a point in time when blacks could only go to the beach in Atlantic Beach.

“My first job on the beach was one block away but I couldn’t go down and put my toe in,” he said.

Blacks who worked on the waterfront had to provide identification showing where they were employed in order to go to their jobs, Thomas said. Otherwise, they were not permitted on the beach.

Thomas said the shop may have survived integration since Friendly was the only black-owned barber shop in Myrtle Beach for years.

Friendly Barber Shop has been around as long as Cosandra Minor, 59, can remember. She grew up across the street and said the Carver used to be full of black-owned businesses. She said she wasn’t one of the ones who ventured out of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood once the city integrated, though.

“We could never go there before, so I didn’t know what I was missing. ... We had to have everything in our area so we had our nightclubs and our restaurants because you couldn’t do it over there,” Minor said, pointing toward the beach. “It was against the rules.”

Minor attended the segregated Carver School through eighth grade before going to the integrated Myrtle Beach High School in 1967.

“There was a lot of hostility,” she said of her time at the integrated school. “We didn’t need cops to protect us [like in Little Rock, Ark.,] but the other students and the teachers would look at you and sneer – like you’re dirty. ... It was obvious they didn’t want you there.”

Minor said that made it hard to do well in school. Since black students weren’t able to take the honors courses, she said she felt like her education was subpar despite attending an integrated school. The fifth of 10 children, she said she felt as though her older siblings got a better education at the black Wittemore High School in Conway.

“They prepared them for the future,” she said. “They could take honors English and learn to write, they could take honors math. ...We never got classes that prepared you for the next level. We just got the basics to get you out of high school. They didn’t prepare you for college.”

Minor said although deep down she felt she wasn’t learning as much as she could, if an adult said it, you didn’t question it. Minor’s mother, Lossie Lewis – known as “Miss Flossie” in the neighborhood, said that was a time when many viewed white people as superior.

“At that time we thought white people – and some of them did, too – that white people were better than other people,” Lewis said, who moved her family to Myrtle Beach from Washington, D.C., in the 1950s.

But Lewis, who still lives on Carver Street, said not all white people treated blacks poorly, pointing out that many were raised with black maids in their homes and were taught people are equal.

Minor said she feels the education system is similar to the time she was in high school, but in a different way.

“It’s that parents are more aware now than my parents were,” she said, adding that many parents take an active role to ensure their children are prepared for college.

Lewis said she’s happy to see all of the changes since Myrtle Beach integrated and wishes that more people would take advantage of the opportunities they now are able to receive.

“It’s hurtful to see a young man whose family has sacrificed so he could go to school but he doesn’t want to get a decent job and wear decent clothes,” she said. “They can get a job but they’d rather be in the streets. Lord gave us health and strength and a mind so we could use it.

“It doesn’t matter how much you have, it’s what you do with it,” she said.

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