Hugo a 'life-changing day' for pier, family

August 11, 2009 

Trent Collins turned 11 a few weeks before Hurricane Hugo turned life on the South Carolina coast upside down.

For Collins, whose grandparents owned the 2nd Avenue Pier in Myrtle Beach and whose parents owned the Tropic House hotel nearby, the memories of those days are still vivid.

Hugo took out the pier — a Grand Strand landmark since 1936, which had been damaged and rebuilt after hurricanes Hazel in 1954 and David in 1981. Collins’ grandparents, Nick and Lena Lucas, rebuilt the pier after Hugo. Trent, who will turn 31 in September, now runs the place.

The family leases out Big Daddy’s restaurant at the pier, while Collins and his brother run the tackle shop, arcade and gift shop, along with the 906-foot-long pier, where fishermen pull in flounder and sheepshead. His parents, Joy and Terry Collins, retired and sold the Tropic House a few years ago.

“It was a very life-changing day. I remember it was getting windy. I’m the baby of the family; my grandmother took me with her. We went to Conway to stay at a friend’s house (the night Hugo hit). The next day they wouldn’t let us cross the (U.S. 501) bridge. But my family knows everybody. We’ve been here forever. I was born here; I’ll probably die here.

“So we hitchhiked and somebody we knew with a truck picked us up. We all jumped in the back, even my grandmother. They took us to 2nd Avenue, but we couldn’t cross (U.S.) 17 in the truck because there were power lines down. We got out and walked. I remember my grandmother holding onto me. All of us were holding hands as we crossed over power lines.

“I remember looking at the debris (when this photograph was taken). I was a kid being curious. And there was a video game I loved (at the pier’s arcade) with a fake gun on it. I was looking in the debris for the gun — which I never found.”

Story by Megan Sexton / Video-slideshow below by Tim Dominick

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