Supply and Da Man at Edisto
We are on Edisto Beach, SC, in front a place which promotes its Ugly Fish Gift shop. The green roof and blue trim are new, but the gas pumps it covers are not. Behind this bright greeting is the old solid concrete block building from which Whaley's Store has been supplying islanders for many years.
In the days before the supermarket or convenience store came to the north end of the island, all things came from Whaley's. If you didn't bring it with you then you went to Whaley's. If your ran out if it you went to Whaley's. They carried everything from soup to nuts, from beer to ice, light fishing tackle to chicken necks and crabbing sinkers. If one had not been prudent enough to full the gas tank long before reaching the beach, it was fuel at Whaley's price or he could sell you some nice flip-flops for the long walk up Hwy. 174. Whaley even had some sort of weather station rigged up at the store which provided customers with more of a curiosity than forecast.
Pricing and policy were not set by remote home office. Marion Whaley was the man who made all rules, regulations and revenue. It was all well and good to stew over the higher prices at Whaley's, but there it was, take it or leave it. It came down to the simple economic principle on Edisto, " Supply and Da Man ". Da Man being Marion Whaley.
Folks tend to fall into partying ways once settled in at the beach. When more, beer, ice or tonic water was needed, Whaley's was the safest, the only choice when it came down to driving any distance under those impairments.
There was, of course, unrelieved grumbling about the high prices at Whaley's, but we all went there and we all got what we wanted ultimately admitting that we could well have brought what we needed. Whaley's was part of what beach life should be. A stay at the beach was, after all, a getaway. You weren't spending the weekend at a shopping mall. Implicit in any sane person's getaway is the removal from stores of convenience as well as from the general crush of urban life, traffic and people.
Those were the days when an old AM radio might sit on the kitchen counter and pick up mostly the sharp pops of static from distant lightning. The few TV's around were small black and white models with little aluminum flags flying from their rabbit ears. We had yellow anti-bug bulbs at the street side of the house to save people from tumbling down the steps. Folks sat in the dark on screened porches, rocked in chairs to the sound of the surf, fast melting ice clinking in raised glasses with the only light coming from cigarettes. You could see faces only when the smoker drew hard on their cigarette.
One of Edisto's primary virtues is the fact that it's just a little too far for uninvited guests to simply happen by. Brazen were those who would drive a minimum of 45 minutes from Charleston over largely rural roads and claim to have just been in the neighborhood upon darkening your doorway. So, in those rare sober moments of beach weekends at Edisto, folks generally agreed that Whaley's prices were small prices to pay for the peace and relative solitude we so enjoyed in the old days.
Besides, we often went down on the chance that we might see Mr. Whaley himself and extract some bit of wisdom, some opinion or some advice on fishing, weather or sports. Whaley was decidedly charming in a salty sort of way. There have been Whaleys on Edisto Beach almost as long as the sand has been there, but they are far less vulnerable to erosion.
Fortunately, Edisto Beach still has a Whaley Store, still has indigenous Whaley families and is still a full 45 minutes drive from uninvited guests.