May 11, 2010 by  
Filed under DeSoto Beach Bums, Headlines, News


Each year in May on the last local’s weekend just prior to Memorial Day, Tybee Island celebrates a tradition started in 1987 when the original DeSoto Beach Bums played softball in the park.

Known as the Beach Bum Parade, all generations have shared the spirit of community, camaraderie and youthful bliss it brings, and why not? No one’s too young or too old not to cherish those seasons in life when good times, good friends and good will reigns.  This “bumstuff” makes life worth living, when everyone gets to play!

Visit the “Tybee Island Parade of the Beach Bums” Facebook page and rsvp to the event!

Read the ‘real story’ about the DeSoto Beach Bums here.

(Photo portraits by Nancy Heffernan at

The 2010 “Big Kahuna,” Tommy Solomon

This year’s Big Kahuna, Tommy Solomon, Sr. is a Tybeeite with deep native roots in the sandy dunes. “My family has been on Tybee for three generations. Tybee is all I know!” he says. “I like to tell people, I’ve been sentenced to life here –  I’ve served my term and I’m hoping to get off for good behavior.”

Tommy’s grandfather, A.P. Solomon ran Tybee’s first water system, and his great granddaddy bought the island’s very first fire engine as fire chief.

For years, Tommy has owned and operated a general contract, landscaping and tree service off Hwy. 80 East on Polk Street – Solomon’s Tree Service & Dock Work, LLC. Son Tommy. Jr. works with him.  You might notice a large billboard stands on the property that talks about the love of God, and Tommy’s proud to explain the reason for it. “My Momma always said that Tybee was God’s country, and she said that’s why the hurricanes have missed us – I agree with her.  I make lots of deals on Tybee, but the best one I ever made was the one I made with God – gives me a direct line with the ‘Big Guy’ – something everybody needs.”

Tommy says he’s honored to be named “Big Kahuna” this year, and says “good fun” is what it’s all about. “You see all ages out there grinning from ear to ear, and having a great time!”  But he’s also concerned with the safely of the parade participants due to the fact the crowd has grown to such large numbers. He says the best way to save the parade for future generations on Tybee is to get more control over it.  “Nobody wants to run over someone,” Tommy says, “but with all the activity and noise, it’s difficult for float drivers to always keep an eye out for everybody.”  Tommy adds he had a near miss, himself – just last year when suddenly a child appeared in front of his truck. “It really shook me up! Thank the Lord, I’d just stopped for something else, cause I’d have never seen that child.”

One suggestion Tommy has to make the sidelines more secure and still allow for plenty of fun, would be for the City to use the orange cones to create a ‘dedicated float lane’ just wide enough for parade vehicles to pass through it. “Folks behind the cones would still have access to shoot their “super soakers” and throw buckets of water, etc, but it might make it easier for Tybee law enforcement officers to ensure everyone’s safety.”

The Big Kahuna’s advice for this year’s beach bums? “Remember to have fun, but BE SAFE!  Parents, especially, WATCH YOUR CHILDREN in the parade, and we’ll have a bucket of water just for YOU!”

The 2010 “Beach Bum Queen,” Pam Smith

Our 2010 Beach Bum Queen, Pam Smith says she’s lived on Tybee,”virtually all my life. Up until I was fifteen, it was summers, only, but after that, year-round!” She’s been married to husband Tim Smith for nineteen years and has worked at world famous, Doc’s Bar on 16th Street (Tybrisa) for almost that long – 18 1/2 years.  Smith has two daughters, Beth and Stephanie – two grandsons, Stephanie’s boys, Boogie and Camryn, and three brothers, T.O. (Bill) Wilson, John Wilson and last year’s Big Kahuna, “Catfish” (Michael) Wilson.  Pam’s mother Helen grew up on Tybee, attended school on the island in her childhood days. She still lives here as do brothers, Bill and Michael.

Known for her big smile and friendliness, Pam’s job has allowed her to get to know many of the colorful characters from Tybee’s DeSoto “beach bum” days – sad to say many also who are now gone. In fact, she bartended at the Old DeSoto’s Ship Watch Lounge before she started at Doc’s, and also knows many of the musicians who played on that stage, and later at Doc’s – Ron Denning, Savannah Steve, Randy “Hatman” Smith and Charlie Sherrill, and of course, “Miss Sylvia” Gott who continues to play at Doc’s with Roy Swindelle and the Circuit Breakers, using the same tambourine that Charlie Sherrill handed her in 1998.

But Pam says her fondest and most vivid memories of Tybee are of crabbing on North Beach around the old steel gurters with a scoop net, and walking to South End via the Butler Avenue median to go to the old pavilion and the amusement park.  She also recalls riding the ‘Nancy Hanks, Jr.’ to the Tybee museum and all around the island. “In the winter,” she adds, “We used to walk down Butler Avenue with friends to go to ‘The Triangle,’ and for six blocks we’d never have a car pass us – of course, at that time there were less than a thousand year-round residents here!”

This year’s Beach Bum Queen says one of the nicest things about living on Tybee is that she’s always felt so safe, and appreciates everyone keeping that “safe” feeling alive. “We need to work together and be responsible,” she smiles. “Having said that – about the parade, I hope people have a good time and enjoy themselves, but remember to watch out for the other guy, and for those in your group!  Also, not everyone knows what’s going on, so don’t shoot water at people who don’t want to participate, or aren’t dressed for the occasion, or those in uniform.  Especially police officers!  Believe me,” she laughs. “That can get you into a whole lotta trouble!”

The 2010 “Parade Grand Marshal,” Burke Day

This year’s Parade Grand Marshal, Georgia State Representative Burke Day just arrived back on Tybee after a very long and exhausting congressional session…  also his very last…

After nearly 16 years of public service to our district, Day seems ready to kick back, and relax. Nice timing for a guy just chosen to be beach bum Grand Marshal!  Burke says he’s glad to be home and the evening these photos were taken it was evident his playful spirit thrives in the Tybee’s salty air.

We met at photographer Nancy Heffernan’s house and moved out to the beach for shoreline shots. The sun was sinking low and our figures were bathed in gold. I watched as the honorees posed for Nancy’s camera perched on the wooden crossover bench beside the dunes, as did Sally Day, Burke’s wife of many years, and high school sweetheart. Though the couple had just returned from Atlanta, and Sally was tired from driving and unpacking, she was at his side and seemed to enjoy the moment.

Tommy Solomon remarked to Burke how the Stephens-Day bill had brought such welcome tax relief for Tybee residents years ago. He said it had saved his home and how grateful he was. Burke says the reason he left Tybee to go into politics at the state house was to help fight corruption, and to make the island, indeed the state, more secure –  it’s also the reason he worked with the Homeland Security team after the September 11th disaster. Coming home to Tybee means a lot to Burke Day – and that’s another story.  Right now, just bring on the super soakers and the water buckets – this bum’s ready!

After we went our separate ways that night, I was again reminded why people who’ve lived on Tybee most of their lives have something very special to share. Not to take away from other unique and enriching perspectives that come to us from beyond the Lazaretto, but those who’ve been here a while know “home, sweet home” is more than a phrase on a wall placard, it’s getting to live where your heart is – a real blessing and something to protect.

This year’s Bum’s Coronation takes place on May 12th at Marlin Monroe’s to honor the Big Kahuna, Queen and Grand Marshal. There’ll be a few other surprises, too! Parade assembles at 6:15pm at North Beach on May 21st, so get your applications in to Jiggs Watson, and get ready for the fun!

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