In the tradition of online media’s “Throwback Thursday,” wherein people post photos of past events and wardrobes, I thought I would share this photo from (probably) 1926, when the Huyler Family lived on the island, and went out with Jane the mule to chop the Christmas tree.
Getting to the island with a tree still takes some logistical maneuvering, but Santa manages to find us anyway. These photos show the O’Leary family getting their tree to the island this week:
Jack Huyler left us his memoirs of living on the island. He remembers a Christmas Eve as a young boy, worried that Santa wouldn’t find them on Christmas (something my own children can probably relate to!) It’s easy to see Declan’s excitement in the above photo and imagine a youngster his age, frantic with worry when his family ran aground on Christmas! He writes,
At high tide the trip from Charleston to Dewees with building materials, furniture, and/or food took approximately an hour and a half; three when the tide was low. Twice that long for a round trip if we did not run aground. On Christmas Eve we ran aground!
The most exciting voyage of the season was the trip to Charleston in the V-V to fetch Dad that Christmas Eve.
I was in a dither. What if we were not back by the time Santa Claus came? … Off we went in plenty of time for Gwyn, Charles, Coulter, and Mum to do last minute Christmas shopping in the city, as well as for Mum essential grocery shopping. As you can imagine, we did not voyage to the city frequently, because of the 3-4 hours required just going and coming.
All of us were at the railroad station in plenty of time to see Dad step down from a Pullman Car. While all the hugging and kissing were going on, I danced up and down, “Dad! Dad! Let’s go! We’ve got to get to the boat so we can be home in time for Santa Claus, Dad!”
What was the matter with Coulter, Charles, and Gwyn: they didn’t seem worried at all. What’s the matter with them? “Dad! Dad! Let’s go!”
Dark was descending rapidly as the V-V left Adger’s wharf, crossed Charleston Harbor, and headed into the channel. I was beside myself! Santa might be coming right then, and we weren’t home. Things got a bit better when someone assured me that [the staff] would see to it that Santa left our presents… But we really ought to be there.
Mr. Moore at the helm puffed imperturbably on his pipe as he steered from one channel light to the next. Then it happened! The V-V ran aground. The grownups said that one of the channel lights had burned out. There we were; and we had struck ground on an ebb tide! It would be 12 hours before the V-V would float free on her own. If I was worried before, I was anguished now. Over the side into the cold water went Coulter and Charles and Dad. As Mr. Moore reversed the engines, the man and two boys pushed as hard as they could. Dad was a powerful bull of a man. Every minute there was less water as the tide carried it to the sea. The V-V was grounded at the prow; so Mum and Gwyn moved all the cargo and themselves aft.
By some miracle and every ounce of their strength Dad and those teenage boys managed to move that boat an inch or two; then six; then she floated free and the three men climbered aboard, [sic] wrapped themselves in the Army blankets which Mum always kept at hand for emergencies; and hovered over the stinking engine for warmth.
The spark of hope was re-ignited in me. Maybe– just maybe– we would reach home before Santa Claus did… We reached home shortly after midnight to a roaring fire, a hot dinner, and some tears of relief.