By Stan Welch
Bread and milk! Milk and bread! The sky is falling! We’re all doomed!
For the second time this winter, the Upstate faces extinction from winter’s wrath. Once again, only the wholesale consumption of bread and milk can save us. Oh, and saltines. If you have ever had the slightest doubt about which brand of saltine is the king, put your mind at ease.
Both the Powdersville WalMart and the Ingle’s supermarket were totally empty of Premium brand, except for a few boxes of the unsalted top variety, which as we all know aren’t, by definition, saltines at all. Of course, Zesta is a perfectly acceptable substitute, which is what I chose.
I also purchased a loaf of rye bread, two apples, two bananas, a backup jar of peanut butter, a half pound of deli ham, two quarts of club soda, (is there anything sadder than lonely bourbon?) and a twelve pack of beer. Bring it on, Jack Frost.
I have to say, milk and bread doesn’t really seem like proper emergency rations to me. I don’t know too many people, family or friends, who want to be snowed in with me for three days, trying to get by on milk and bread. I’m much more convivial on beer and chips and ham on rye. And I get downright testy when my club soda levels drop too low.
I moved to this area from the coast in prime hurricane country. I’ve owned a Coleman lantern and cook stove since I was twenty five years old. I used both shortly after moving here, when an ice storm passed through, knocking out power for three days. We made coffee and bacon and eggs and pork and beans and spaghetti noodles on the stove, using the gas grill for burgers and hot dogs and such.
We got along quite nicely, although Miss Libby did not care for the adventure of camping out next to her gas logs heater. But the cold that she so roundly cursed was indeed a two edged sword. Yes, it seriously constricted our living space to a ten foot circle around the gas logs. My son and I moved Mom’s recliner, where she often spent the night under the best of circumstances, close to the heat, while we slept on the floor further away.
But that same cold removed any fears we had about our food spoiling. We simply put it out on the screen porch. The temperatures hovered in the mid to high thirties for three days, so nothing was about to go bad. It was quite the opposite where we grew up as children. Once the hurricane, or tropical storm, passed, leaving tangled power lines and downed trees, food had a very short shelf life indeed. Ice was gold.
I recall many things about the days following Hugo, which swept the Grand Strand in 1989, when my wife and I lived in Windy Hill, at the north end. I recall asking a no neck state trooper blocking me from crossing the North Myrtle Beach bridge if he knew what a SC press pass was, only to be asked if I knew what a @$%# Smith and Wesson .357 was? I did then and I do now. Among other things, it is quite the attitude adjuster.
And I recall Raeford Vereen giving away free ice to anyone with a cooler. He owned the Myrtle Beach ice company and made the ice on the site, then distributed it to stores and restaurants. He made a lot of money doing that, but he paid it forward in the days following Hugo. As soon as residents were allowed back in by that no neck state trooper, Raeford opened the doors to his ice plant and let anyone with a cooler fill one up for free.
He had his employees working like the dickens chiseling huge blocks into smaller junks that filled the coolers and lasted much longer than cubed ice would have. They would give small slivers to young children who sucked them in the heat as if they were flavored.
As Raeford told me, “Stan, it ain’t going to do nothing but turn back to water, and we’ve got two feet of that everywhere already.”You can imagine how long the lines were when the word got out. They stretched out of sight, and they were there night and day until the last chunk was gone. Stores at the time were gouging people by charging five dollars a bag for eight pounds of ice.
In fact the post Hugo gouging was so bad from Charleston to Calabash that laws were passed against it. The back lash hurt businesses and ruined reputations, but they made Raeford an icon in North Myrtle Beach. When he died seven or eight years later, the crowd at his funeral would have done the Pope proud, and to this day, there are folks up around Windy Hill and OD who smile when you mention his name.