If the tree-lined streets, cafes and boutiques of The Market Common could talk, it would whisper of the strong military history that was once grounded here.
The nearly 4,000 acres that today boasts our urban village, parks, ballfields and a smattering of residential developments once served as the Myrtle Beach Air Force base from 1956 to 1993, with prior roots laid down as early as 1940 as land used to train pilots for the Army Air Corps, as a military base for World War II, followed by service during the Vietnam War, Cold War and Desert Storm.
The good news is, you can actually hear all about The Market Common’s past life by way of a guided, talking Military History Trolley Tour & Reception, narrated by our own Kathryn Hedgepath on the marketing team, creator of the tour. I was able to hop aboard a Friday afternoon tour in September, and was blown away by the rich backstories, drama and fun facts that still live in every square acre of this land.
Spoiler alert: For instance, as the trolley turns down the streets, you’ll learn more about the street names with military ties, like The Market Common’s main thoroughfare, Farrow Parkway, named after Lt. William Farrow who flew with the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, was captured while flying over Japan and killed by a Japanese firing squad at age 25. Howard Avenue is named in tribute to James Howard, a fighter pilot who won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The one-hour narrated tour departs from the front of Grand 14 Cinema at Deville and Reed streets and includes a stop where you can disembark at Warbird Park, which displays three eras of fighter planes: the A-10 Warthog (retired Col. Joe Barton’s Dawg Hawg that flew during Desert Storm), the F-100 jet fighter, the A-7 tactical fighter wing. There’s also a brilliant Wall of Service that pays tribute to local veterans and plaques standing throughout the park.
Additional stops include the rec center that displays old photographs, flight suits and memorabilia, and the Norton General Aviation Terminal at the Myrtle Beach International Airport, where there are displays from the Base Operations building that once stood on that site. The Norton name comes from twin brothers from Conway who served in the Army Air Corp during World War II.
“They were killed in action when the plane of which they were the pilot and co-pilot was shot down,” says Hedgepath. “They were together every day of their lives.”
There are not only heartbreaking stories shared like this on our nation’s bravest patriots, but also heartwarming ones, like the one on our tour of a pilot who served here, married a French girl shortly after they started dating and, happened to be sitting in the front seats of our trolley celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
“On at least every other tour, there is someone aboard who served or lived on the base,” says Hedgepath. “I don’t usually find out until they are on the tour itself. I was told this couple’s story in advance and it’s by far the most compelling!”
The second hour of the tour will be spent at Tupelo Honey for a catered reception and appearance/speech by retired Col. Barton, who will share his fascinating living history here on the base that was once here.
The next Military History Trolley Tour & Reception events will be held Thursday, Nov. 8, 2-4 p.m. Tickets are $30 each, available online at Eventbrite.