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Stumbling upon Shangri La

We returned from Mexico and nursed dad back to health. It was a long haul but he fully recovered.  I remember a list of prohibited foods he was not allowed to consume, I am not sure if chocolate was on that list, but I distinctly remember making chocolate chip cookies sans the chips which I ate out of the dough to spare dad any ill effects. I am sure this simple act of kindness on my part was the turning point in his recovery. By summer he we were ready to hit the road again.

There are definite benefits to having parents that work in the education system. It may not be the most financially lucrative field but that drawback is far outweighed  by the delight as a child to having ones parents available to play when you are. I was quite old when I realized most families did not get to spend months on end traveling like vagabonds but are instead allotted a week or two in the year to stag a trip to Disney.  We spent the early 60’s exploring the east coast from the cold wind-swept northern beaches of Nantucket and Provincetown down to the moss draped plantations of South Carolina. Not having obsessive/compulsive parents who dutifully logged  the miles, route taken and stops taken in the trusty station wagon chronicling each local with photographs I am once again left with just scattered memories of Boston, NYC, the Great Smokey Mountains and the magical sand dollar beach on the shore of South Carolina.

Some of my favorite travel memories are of those stumbled upon quite by accident; often en route to a final destination with no real agenda or schedule in mind.  That was the case with the Sand Dollar beach. We mostly camped in those days and were looking for a place we could pitch a tent. I believe it was mom that suggested we check out this campground. Not being campers of the trailer-variety nor keen on the KOA scene it was often hard to find our version of Shangri La but this came close. Miles of white sandy beach lay beyond the tree-shaded camp area. Gently rolling waves and shallow warm water going out for what felt like miles where we would spend the day diving for sand dollars, paradise. It was kid heaven and probably pretty close to perfect for parents as we were entertained for hours and worn out by all the activity. I also remember the fogger truck that ambling through the campsite as dusk descended spewing clouds of DDT to keep misquotes at bay. While a common practice in the 50’s and 60’s my only memory of playing in the DDT fog is at the Sand Dollar Campground.

It was supposed to be a one night stand  but instead we ended up staying a week. I have done many google searches hoping to find pictures other than the grainy home movies we have of this bit of heaven on earth. This vintage postcard The Sand Dollar Camp Ground Isle of Palmsas well as someones home videos posted on YouTube from ’73 are the only remnants I have found of the Sand Dollar Campground on the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston, South Carolina. After a few emails with the gentleman who posted his memories on YouTube I have learned the sad truth I suspected all along, the place no longer exists. Part of me wants to know what type of development could engulfed my Shangri La while the other part is happy to learn there are others out there that have equally happy memories of paradise. Our own Shangir La can not be so easily erased from our hearts.


  1. Rachel Hallam says:

    This is a great entry and I so agree w your
    last line. How can you remember all that
    stuff? Your memory is better than mine.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Karen says:

    I was reminiscing with my husband about my wonderful childhood memories of spending my summers at Sand Dollar Beach, SC, when I decided to look it up on the internet and came across your article. We lived in South Carolina from 1960-1967 and spent almost every summer in our travel trailer parked at the camp ground. We still have boxes of sand dollars we collected on our daily adventures along the beach. I even have the tiki necklace I bought at the little gift shop, along with the bottle opener I bought for my dad for Father’s Day. I forgot about the fog truck and running behind it, until you mentioned it. Thank you for sharing your memories…

    • Kelly Exline says:

      Karen, Thank you for the comment! The sand Dollar Beach almost feels like a lost mystical paradise as it is so difficult to find information about the area in this day and age. While trying to find pictures and research I came across an old home movie of the Sand Dollar a man had posted on Youtube…there are a few of us out there with wonderful memories of this piece of paradise that no longer exists!

  3. Barbara Lemon Telecsan says:

    My husband, son and I visited his brother and wife in Charlston, SC three years ago. I became interested when they mentioned we would visit the beach at Isle of Palms. I have vivid memories of a trip one summer when I was in 8th grade to the Sand Dollar Campground, Isle of Palms . I had the best time walking the beach barefoot every morning and evening, letting the tide wash over my feet, finding zillions of sand dollars washed up on the shore each morning, and swimming in the ocean with a friend I met there. It was such a beautiful place. The whole next school year, I remember wishing I could live there year round. I was puzzled when we came to the beach several years ago and there was no evidence of any campground. Years ago, I recall a number of hotels being built further up the beach when I would take my walks, so it does not surprise me to learn that the construction finally gobbled up this little bit of paradise. The postcard looks exactly as I remember the beach as I walked down the path from our camper to the ocean.

    I am very sad to learn that it is no longer there. I almost wish I hadn’t “googled.” But, it will be a memory engraved in my mind forever. Perhaps some day it will return!

  4. Barbara Lemon Telecsan says:

    What is the title of the youtube video about the Sand Dollar? What is the address? I googled, but could not find it.

  5. Monika says:

    I, too, was hoping to find that campground again, hoping to revisit it now that we’re retired. In June of 1971 when we were practically newlyweds, my husband and I happened across that gorgeous campground on the Isle of Palms. We camped under live oak trees and took long walks along the sand dollar-strewn beach. Although we had only a day, that glorious memory has always stayed with us! We’ve camped a lot over the years, but that campground was one of the most memorable.

    • Kelly Exline says:

      It is so wonderful that so many remember this piece of paradise! I wonder if Joni Mitchell was thinking of this place when she wrote “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

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