A Visit With The “Tybeeites!”
By Editor Cynthia Kinkel
Did you grow up on Tybee? Well, I didn’t. I’m from a small Georgia town just up the road, but I spent many a summer and holiday here, and I know a lot of folks who have always called this island ‘home’ – in other words, I know what this place means to the natives.
Last fall, I was sent a notice for the paper about a “dual book signing” for Ellen Lyle Taber and Polly Wylly Cooper – two Tybee women who have co-authored a couple of books about the history of Tybee. I didn’t get to attend, but I did place the notice, and being an avid history buff, also made a mental note to investigate the books.
Soon I learned from Tybee Times columnist, Sarah Pearson Jones that Ellen and Polly were allowing access to the documents used in these books to make copies for the Tybee Island Historical Society’s archives. A few e-mails and phone conversations later, I found myself over at the Lighthouse Museum visiting with Sarah, Ellen and Polly and taking my own photos of the documents. Sarah graciously gave up her column space in April’s printed edition so I could share a few and perhaps stir a memory or two of old Tybee. They’re posted at the bottom of the page.
But my photos surely won’t do the subject justice, so if you’re interested, pick up a copy of the two books written by Ellen and Polly – Tybee Days and Sand Between Our Toes to get a better look at a century of Tybee’s history. They’re jammed packed with the very essence of what made the island so wonderful, as seen through the eyes of those who have lived here and those who cherished every moment of Tybee’s yester years… when Tybee Time was much more than a state of mind.
We met at 2pm over at the Tybee Lighthouse Museum at North End. Sarah, Ellen and Polly were waiting in the lobby – Sarah sorted through the documents and Polly was quick to describe them. (The museum looks fabulous, by the way – new displays and beautifully focused). I photographed pictures of the early beach goers between the bath houses on South End; school children and soldiers at Fort Screven; the old Tybee amusement park’s carousel; a palm-lined Butler Avenue with the old DeSoto Beach Club in the background; the Marsh Hen engine turn-around off Chatham Avenue near Back River; and the old Tybee phone book with its ‘three-quarters of a page’ of entries.
The most impressive thing to me was the breadth of Tybee’s colorful past captured in the Taber/Cooper books. While Tybee Days describes the history and the timeline, Sand Between Our Toes captures the images of the island’s population throughout the years – the faces of its families and its changing times.
After our meeting with Sarah, Polly and Ellen invited me to the Sugar Shack where I spent a perfectly delightful afternoon with a group of old friends who simply refer to themselves as “Tybeeites!” I can tell you, I felt a part of something very special. Polly, Ellen and I were joined by Mola Chu Jung, Camille Miller Minchey, and Eleanor Knox Remidio, several of the locals who were instrumental in helping create the books.
Of course, I’ve heard many tales during my time on Tybee, but you haven’t heard anything until these gals get together to reminisce about growing up by the seashore. They call themselves “Tybeeites,” and they are part of the group of natives who grew up on the island in the 30s, 40s and early 50s who still keep in touch with each other. Such remarkable times produced remarkable characters and the stories of the individuals and families are heartwarming and often hilarious. (Note: They are not “Tybeenians,” but that’s another story.)
I really hope they’ll include me again in the future, and this time I’ll take a recorder.
Polly and Ellen sent a list of a few more names of Tybeeites who were helpful in providing memories and old photos for the publications including Helen Emlott Wilson, Dick Brunskil, Kilma Barfield Hutton, Joe Buckley, Arnie Seyden, Dan Fogarty and his sister Mutt Ellzey, Harry and Ann Wilson, Lucile Wilson Jackson – Polly says she could go on and on.
If you’d like to get your facts straight about our little island in the Southern sun and what’s gone before, grab a copy of each of these colorful Tybee ‘primers’ and get ready to enjoy. Both books are on the Savannah best seller list, may be ordered directly online, and are also available at Chu’s and at the Tybee Lighthouse Museum Shop.
Published by Kennesaw State University Press.
Tybee Days, ISBN 978-1-933483-25-2 $19.95
Sand Between Our Toes, ISBN 978-1-933483-26-9