A Trip Down Memory Lane with the Renowned Local Photographer and Artist
by Melissa LaScaleia
“I was born in Greenville, SC in the latter years of the Depression,” says Jack Thompson. “When I was thirteen years old, I would hang out with my friends in the back doorway of the local pool hall, affectionately nicknamed The Cat Dive, where we could listen to the older fellows talk.
“One day we heard them telling stories about Myrtle Beach— a place where you could dance with girls, and walk with them in the moonlight, and drink beer. Well, you can imagine how that excited a couple of thirteen-year-old boys.
“So the three of us got on a little two-lane highway with the intention of hitchhiking to Myrtle Beach. But it seemed only local farmers were traveling those roads.
“It took us two days to get there, and when we arrived, my friends went to the beach and I went straight to the Pavilion and asked the man running the photo booth for a job. He asked me when I wanted to start, and I said: ‘Right away as long as I can get a milkshake and a hamburger.’
“It was 1951. The year when three little runaway boys went off and found their place in history.
“Carol’s father came down the next day and brought him home; he grew up to be the governor of South Carolina. Freddie got severely sunburned and went home on the bus to go into business with his father, and wound up a multimillionaire. My parents sent my elder brother, Joe, to come get me the next day.
“When he arrived, he scolded me and told me we were leaving the next day. That night he came back with his arm around a beautiful girl and said: ‘I’m not going home. Can you get me a job here?’
So we stayed.
“It was God’s place; it was like no other place. It was a wonderful life, like what you could only dream about. When I graduated high school, I went to work for Pixy Pin-Ups, a traveling photography company that was part of JCPenney, taking portraits of babies and children.
“I traveled around the country for three years, and afterwards returned to Myrtle Beach and opened my own photography studio, Jack Thompson Studios, in 1959.
“I published the first news magazine in Myrtle Beach, Insight Into the Grand Strand, in 1969; then a magazine, The Grand Strand Golfer, in 1970; and a book, Memories of Myrtle Beach, in 2007.
“I’m in the process of publishing a new book right now, a photography book of billboards from the ‘50s. My father always told me, ‘Son, don’t hide your light under a basket. Get out there and create all you can, because what won’t kill you will make you stronger.’
“Because of my photography and other literary accomplishments, Coastal Carolina University granted me an honorary degree: I’m now Dr. Jack Thompson, Master of Fine Art. I’m still operating the gallery, and people are still moving here and wanting to decorate with my images of the way Myrtle Beach was.
“My favorite saying is: ‘Falling in love with Myrtle, she’ll sweep sand into your shoes that will seep into your blood and melt your heart, and you’ll never be able to leave Myrtle. And if you do, you’ll always come back.’
“My favorite place here used to be the Pavilion. And today, I’m still wandering up and down the Grand Strand, and all I can hear is my own heart looking for old Myrtle Beach, that is slipping away with the tide.”
Jack Thompson Studios
611 Broadway Street
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577