The evidence of unplanned, uncontrolled growth was everywhere along the Strand – in the sprawling suburbs and crawling traffic and crowded schools; in the churned-up earth where new houses, malls, roads and golf courses would soon take root.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce liked to boast of the region’s 2,000-plus restaurants. Of course, 2,000 restaurants meant 2,000 flashing, blinking roadside attractions, offering All-U-Can-Eat seafood buffets, breakfast buffets, Chinese buffets, pizza buffets, Mexican fiestas, barbecue, pancakes, steaks, hamburgers, “World Famous Hot Dogs,” early-bird specials, golfers specials, catch-of-the day specials, as well as happy hours, karaoke, two-for-one margaritas, three-dollar pitchers and the “sexiest waitresses in town.”
And there were the miniature golf courses, punctuated by smoking volcanoes, pirate ships, dragons, jungle animals, dinosaurs, helicopters, airplanes, explosions and waterfalls. Perhaps most disquieting were the beachwear stores, with their pastel neon signs and facades and their tall windows displaying truncated female mannequins in skimpy bikinis and acres of Myrtle Beach souvenir T-shirts, towels, shot glasses, boxer shorts and hermit crabs.
Along U.S. 501 – the front door of Myrtle Beach – strip clubs competed for the traveler’s eye with strip malls, Triple-X video shops, fireworks warehouses, fast food franchises, convenience stores, branch banks, video casinos, used car lots and mobile home factory outlets. And everywhere – everywhere – the billboards lined up behind one another, promoting everything from massage parlors to churches.