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Myrtle Beach Storm Bird Used to Weathering Hurricanes
Palmetto Scene spoke with Myrtle Beach native Caroline "Johnnie" Carmichael, 88, about her unique hurricane traditions in her bungalow on 34th Ave, Kings Highway.
Caroline Carmichael “AKA Johnnie” is eighty-eight years old. Her home on Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina may be one of the only ones with lights on in the coming days as Hurricane Matthew approaches, but like the lady who lives there, the quiet bungalow has it’s own special history.
“This house was built in 1947. For a good while it was the only house on this street. This house belonged to my mother.”
“My mother was a very glamorous woman. Everybody loved her. She was just a lot of fun to be with. Somebody named her Cosmo, because she was the most cosmopolitan woman at Myrtle Beach.“
“We used it as a vacation home after my mother passed away, but we moved here permanently in 1982.”
Hurricanes are nothing new to the Myrtle Beach native and her family.
“We’ve been through every one since Hazel.”
Over the years a tradition would form. The storms’ names and dates have faded from Johnnie’s memory but the atmosphere inside of her home in those times hardly every matched the dark skies outside.
“I just remember that we would have a hurricane party. Friends would come over here you know? And we just had a real, real good time. Nobody thought about being scared or anything, we just had a party.”
Have Caroline and her family ever regretted hunkering down, as they call it?
“No, never. Only left one time and that was Hugo. When we got back we hadn’t lost power. Everything was fine. I decided then and there we would probably never leave again you know? And the only reason we left then… a fireman came by. And he told us we needed to evacuate. And I told him we weren’t going to, that we’ve always stayed here. And he said, well how many people are living here so we know how many bodies to look for. And I thought, ohh, we better go. And that was Hugo. And that’s the only time we’ve ever gone.”
Now when Johnnie stays she always makes sure to go the beauty parlor before the weather gets too bad. Hurricane Matthew was no exception. A quintessential Southern lady, she wants to look her best should a reporter stop by.
“Jim Cantore came. Crystie came and told me he was at the door. I was cooking up everything, and she finally convinced me of who she was. And I said well get my lipstick. So I came to the door. There were beer cans, a pyramid of them on the porch.”
“He just wanted to know why we were staying here, that kind of thing. And I told him that we just always have a hurricane party, and friends came over to party with us. I think people, a lot of them feel like that because this house is as close to the water as it is, that’s it’s been here so long, that it must be a sound house. Probably built better than some of the houses today.”
Even at 88, Johnnie trusts in the strength of her home. Despite all of the storms she and it have weathered, the home has always stood against the winds and rain.
“Never a window out or anything. Never lost power.”
“I’ve never had any damage here. We just always are sure that we have plenty of food, and we cook up a lot of food so that if the power does go out we still can have things to eat and all that.”
“We don’t plan to go anywhere. We’re keeping a watch on the TV of course, but we don’t really plan to go anywhere. I always say, I don’t want to be complacent; I know there’s a first time for anything. But I feel like for all the hurricanes this house has been through that we’re safe to be here.”
Caroline Carmichael, a Myrtle Beach Icon, as strong as her home on 34th avenue.
For Palmetto Scene, I’m Kaitlyn Park.