MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Jack Thompson has photographed Myrtle Beach for 55 of the 75 years of the town's existence.
If you see a historical photo of the Grand Strand, chances are he took it, and there's a pretty good chance he remembers a story behind it. But one of Jack's best stories is the one of how he came to be a Myrtle Beach historian.
"It's quite a story, been told many times," he says with a happy look in his eye. "The older guys would come back to Greenville and talk about the shag dancing, the beach music, the pretty girls. We decided that we had to go down to Myrtle Beach and see what it was all about."
Thompson reminds me that back in 1951, not many people even knew where Myrtle Beach was and most of the people on the road were farmers only going a few miles down the highway. After two days of hitchhiking, the teenage Jack Thompson finally made it to Myrtle Beach with two of his buddies.
"Half starved to death we got here, ran in the Pavilion. I stopped at the photo booth and said 'do you need any help?' He said, 'When can you start?' I said, 'If I can get a hamburger and milk shake, I'll start right now.' My first day, my first hour in Myrtle Beach, I became a professional photographer."
Jack's older brother Joe came to bring Jack back home, but after meeting a beautiful Myrtle Beach local, neither of the Thompson boys left the Grand Strand. Jack finished high school in the Grand Strand taking pictures every weekend. He has photos of boardwalks and dance halls that don't exist anymore.
Through his lens we can see Myrtle Beach nostalgia that we can never get back. It's not just the happy times either.
He had documented the destruction of Hurricane Hazel and Hugo as well as the demolition of the grand Ocean Forest Hotel. While he admits he has had to step away from photography a little as he gets older, he is still staying very busy curating the 55 years of photos in his collection for exhibits, museums and books.
You can sign up for Jack's newest book coming out about the history of Myrtle Beach at City Hall, and while you're there, stop by his studio just down the street and browse through his photos. Just make sure to set aside plenty of time. I don't think he has thrown away a single print or negative over the past 50 years.