Thelma Does South Carolina


Remember Thelma?

After Thelma and Herbert (isn’t that his name? has to be, look at that picture!) got married, they lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho for six months. It snowed the whole time. And they got there in AUGUST. Herbert did his Navy nuclear prototype training there. Then they moved to Goose Creek, South Carolina, the current location of all the Navy nuclear power program training–from A school to Power school to Prototype school–that Ross will be completing (following in Herbert’s footsteps). It all takes place now at the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek.

Prototype training building at the Naval Weapons Station.

Ross finished A school in March and is about to start Power school. But way back when in Thelma and Herbert’s day, there was still a Navy base in Charleston, SC. All the training was done elsewhere and the subs refitted out of Charleston and King’s Bay, Georgia. Herbert’s sub was in King’s Bay, but that base wasn’t finished yet, so everyone who crewed a sub from there was based in Charleston.

By the way, Thelma got rid of that outfit, grew her hair out a bit, and I think she even managed to put on a few pounds.

Okay, I suppose to avoid confusion of anyone new here, I should admit that I’m Thelma, but it’s a little hard to identify with that picture.

I was 19 years old when we moved into these apartments in Goose Creek.

There’s something really weird about taking your kids some place like this where you lived when you were around the ages they are now.

It took some time to find the apartment complex even though Goose Creek isn’t that big of a town. The complex is a little off the beaten path on a secondary road and I didn’t remember the name of the road. Ross was game to drive around till we found it, though. I knew as soon as we turned on to the right road. Funny how you can remember certain snapshots of a time. I knew the certain curve of the road when I saw it. I knew the “fire” apartments to the right on the way there. (I always thought of them as the “fire” apartments because there was a fire there during the time we lived in the next complex down the road.)

We lived there for a year then moved to 8130 Blackstone Court in North Charleston, about 5 miles away, and I could find that one blindfolded. We lived in a townhome there for three years.

It was the first place I lived as an adult for a long enough period of time to “set up housekeeping” and make a home of my own. Most of the time I lived there, I lived there by myself because “Herbert” went out to sea on a regular basis. I learned to be independent. I cooked a lot. I sewed and did all sorts of other crafts. I “practiced” being a mother, taking care of my nephew, Caleb. (And taking him to church, even on Wednesday nights. Thelma was well-behaved.) I read and read and read books. I started writing a book in a sort of halfway manner because I didn’t really know how to write a book, but eventually that story did become a published book (many, many years and drafts later). I went back to school, working halfway through my degree. (I later finished at Texas Tech.) I kept the townhouse spotless. Thelma was an industrious little bugger. I also made my first stab at gardening there. And I dreamed of the three (yes, Thelma had already decided on THREE) children I would have someday in the life after the Navy was over.

It was an emotional feeling to stand there. I wondered what Thelma would think of me. Hard to say. Thelma didn’t know much about life, which probably made her a little judgmental. She had everything planned, and her plans always worked out. Did I mention she didn’t know much about life?

In any case, I think she would have been super impressed with (and possibly even intimidated by) these three–the Navy submariner Ross, the charming, vivacious sports fanatic Morgan, the National Merit Scholar Weston:

I took a lot of photos back then, but I only have a few that are scanned in and handy. Here’s what the porch looked like back then. I had flowers planted in front with flower boxes hanging from the rail. I loved to sit on this porch and read. I planted flowers every year and at some point would come a torrential rain and smash them all down, but I kept doing it anyway.

Inside the townhouse–where I mostly took pictures of my cats.

My beloved first cat, Shu-Shu. Okay, so Clover wasn’t the first animal I tormented by dressing up. Notice the Singer sewing machine. I wrote about it here when I dragged it out recently. I bought it while I was living in the townhouse. Remember the handmade dolls I wrote about in this post? You can see one of them on the table in this photo. That’s one of the doll bonnets I had on Shu-Shu here.

I spotted a shopping center that was built while I lived here. I worked in a store there for awhile. We drove by a theater downtown–I can remember going to see a play there. The Sheraton on I-26–we went to a party there one time and “Herbert” and I had a BIG FIGHT! Ross told me they still hold submariner parties there. There was the vet where I took my cats. My Piggly Wiggly grocery store. And so on. So many big and little memories around Charleston for me. Good, bad, indifferent. Mostly good. Ross said, “I’ve never been to a play downtown. We just go to clubs.” I said, “I know. Navy guys don’t get together and go to plays. There has to be a girl involved for that type of thing to happen.” This week I’ve dragged him tourist-hopping all over Charleston, making him see past the Naval Weapons Station and the clubs he goes to with his friends, and wanting my other two children to see the beauty and history here, too.

I watched Weston pull a rose off a bush as we walked a downtown street and put it in his girlfriend’s hair. New memories.

During my early adulthood, I probably lived in at least half a dozen different apartments/duplexes/townhouses across three different states, but this townhouse was THE ONE. The one where I lived the longest, the one where I came into my own in keeping a home, the one where I dreamed/planned my future, the one where I was the happiest, the one I look back upon the most fondly. South Carolina is one of my favorite places I ever lived. Among its many charms, I love the depth of its history, and I love that a teeny-tiny slice of that history is mine–and my kids’ now, too.

Charleston, South Carolina is a special place. And in the book of my life….one of my sacred ones.


  1. Lindsay says:

    That was such a lovely post, Suzanne. You are one lucky woman. Your plans worked out with the three kids, you worked hard and look where you are now! It’s good to see you all having such a great time in such a beautiful place. And that picture of Weston and his girlfriend is precious. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who takes pictures of their cats lol!

  2. Mike says:

    It’s good to share good memories with your children. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  3. CindyP says:

    Driving around until you found it. Love it!

    I’m pretty sure Thelma would be proud of what her dream of her 3 kids have become…

  4. Dianna says:

    I love this post! It was great to read your memories of Charleston. It is a beautiful city. My favorite line in the post was the one in which you said that “Thelma didn’t know much about life”. How true that was of my younger self too! Guess it applies to most all of us.

  5. Tracey In Paradise Pa. says:

    :snoopy: Thank you for sharing a bit more of your history.
    Loved your red hair Thelma..
    Hugs Granny Trace

  6. Glenda says:

    Great Post! How wonderful that you could show your kids where you and their Dad lived….I love family history. Great pictures and new family memories for everyone.

    I need to move to the South!

  7. Helen says:

    What fun to read this, as we just returned from visiting our daughter, who lives in Charleston while her fiance (FIANCE!) is in grad school at CoC. I hadn’t been there in almost 23 years, and since that time was with our son (who turned two on that trip), it was a bit more productive this time. Perfect weather, lots of walking, and the eating… oh, boy.

    Glad you were able to show your kids around your old haunts!


  8. Becky says:

    Love this post, Suzanne.
    I haven’t lived there, but I have beautiful memories of Charleston.

  9. Catherine says:

    Wonderful blending of then and now, Suzanne! My mother’s family was from Charleston, and you’re right, it’s like living in a dream. I always take my kids by the apartment complex where I lived as a young girl (like you, 19 and married) in Durham, NC. And they always say, “Is this a prison, mom?” Your duplex is much nicer : )

  10. Lynette says:

    I loved traveling down memory lane with you. It was neat to see, even though you were young, how much you liked to learn about keeping a home. What a wonderful post!

  11. Ramona says:

    Shu Shu is a different name.

  12. Mary says:

    I love this post. How cute you were. I bet your kids loved this too. I “went back” once and what a strange feeling that was, as you say. You feel it in the pit of your stomach..painful yet sweet. With tears in my eyes, I say, Thank You, Thelma.

  13. Tina says:

    Aww! That last picture got me, and the vision of Weston plucking a rose to put in his girl’s hair…how romantic and sweet! Now where, I wonder, did he get those qualities?? 😉

  14. tinamanley says:

    Charleston is my favorite city in the USA. My son is a tour guide there. He graduated from the College of Charleston and absolutely loves it. Go to Classic Carriage and ask for Tim. He will give you a great tour with lots of history.


  15. Foofee says:

    Guns Up! How in the world did you end up at Texas Tech? I love the Tech shirt. I work at TTU, btw.

  16. roosterrun says:

    Suzanne, Charleston is a favorite place of mine as well. All of these pictures and stories are making me homesick. I spent many a day at the Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island, Folly Beach too. I grew up in Summerville. I have been to plays downtown. Did you go to the Market? Such good memories. If you get a chance on your way home you should stop in Summerville. The azelea festival was in March but you might get some great photos in Azelea Park. It is right off of main street. My parents still live in Summerville and I miss it so much. It is a beautiful town. When I first moved there it still had a few dirt streets. It has grown a good bit but it will always be home. Thanks for all of the pictures of some of my old haunts. I have cried and missed my mom while reading your posts from there. I hope you and your children are having a wonderful time.

  17. roosterrun says:

    Oh, I forgot to say that I too was very very afraid of the old Cooper River brige. If you stuck your hand out of the car window and someone passed in the other lane you would lose your hand! Not to mention that that thing was steep and I swear when a good wind blew the car would go airborn. Thanks again for the trip down memory lane.

  18. roosterrun says:

    I know, I am rambling on but you should go see the Angel Oak tree. I can never remember if it is on James or Johns Island but it is very close to where you are. It would also be some great photography. I used to go there before it got the fence around it. I think it is still free. I took my kids there when my daughter graduated high school. The kids were impressed and that is hard to do sometimes. I’m done now. Maybe not, Guerrens Pharmacy on Main Street, Summerville used to have an old soda fountain in it. I haven’t been there in a while. I know the store is still there and I can’t remember if I spelled it right or not. It has been there forever although hurricane Hugo did do some serious damage to the town. Have fun.

  19. Miss Becky says:

    thanks for the lovely tour of your Charleston memories Suzanne. It’s fun to take a trip down memory lane with you. the time goes by in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it? :yes:

  20. Nancy Stickler says:

    That was beautiful, thank you for sharing. You answered my question as to where he’d be going for prototype! I didn’t realize it was all done there now.

  21. leah says:

    awe i love this post enjoy the reat of your vacation!

  22. Lanette says:

    As a Navy Wife, this post hit home. Although I am reasonably certain we will NEVER get stationed there, your memories of Charleston are very similar to my memories of Newport, RI.

  23. Carrie Johnston says:

    I was going to say nice work on tormenting your cats with the clothes…but you already mentioned it :). That makes me want to go to Charleston. But, first, I need to see W. Virginia!

  24. Nita in SC says:

    If she could’ve looked into the future, I think Thelma would’ve been pretty dang impressed with herself.

    When I was pregnant with my now-16 yr old son, I drove over the old Cooper River Bridge in a sudden, blinding hail/rainstorm. The only thing I could see was my husband’s car’s tail lights in front of me. Scaredest I have ever been!

  25. Ginger L. says:

    Even though left Charleston three years ago, when my hubby left active duty Air Force, I still get homesick for Charleston. N. Charleston and Summerville. I hope y’all have a safe and wonderful visit while you’re there. If you get a chance go to the corner grill in downtown Summerville – awesome Greek food!

  26. JeannieB says:

    I haven’t been to Charleston in a couple of years and it is so close. It is a beautiful Southern City and in my dream world, I live in a small apartment over a bookstore. It is owned by a very rich man, who never visits and gives me a very large allowance to manage his store. Oh yeah, it is SOB– South of Broad in the historic district. In real life I live in a very small town outside of Columbia and have to work everyday, but I do work for the World’s Greatest Boss!!

  27. sophanne says:

    For different (obviously) reasons and stories that will never be shared, I understand the Charleston thing and share it with you as I live in Western PA

  28. Cobby says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I actually live in hanahan, SC( a hop and skip from the creek),… Go hawks! My son was the QB for the football team 2010-11
    I live off of North Rhett in tanner plantation. Im sure you had to see it if you went to the weapons station.Its across the woods from the weapons station. This is the most amazing place! The History is awesome and the people are some of the nicest and the southern food.. well, no more needs to be said! I can’t think of a better place to call home.
    Enjoyed your post!

  29. Myboysmom says:

    I live in Summerville and have been here for years now. I think when you live here, you don’t appreciate Charleston the way that others do. It is beautiful. Glad you could make so many wonderful memories with your kids 🙂

  30. Yvonne says:

    Glad you all are having such a great time, but don’t forget about us back here in WV! :wave:

  31. Michele says:

    Shu-Shu is cute-cute! :sun: :sun: :sun: :sun:

  32. Valerie says:

    Lovely post. Never been there, but this post touched me deeply. Your writing is so beautiful, thank you so much for sharing your private life with us.

  33. Linda says:

    I love this post! Reminded me of the time I was a military wife…with cats and a sewing machine as my main sources of entertainment! Your children are awesome!!!!!

  34. Debbie L says:

    Oh you are making me wish I was in Charleston again! I lived there in 1987-1989 and we lived in Goose Creek, both just off and then on the weapons station. We had to have one more baby to qualify for base housing because my then husband was just a peon. I loved Charleston, and dream of maybe one day living there again.

  35. judyh says:

    Ross sure looks like “Herbert”.

  36. Diane says:

    We lived in Charleston many, many years ago when my husband was in the Navy and LOVED it! We lived in N Charleston also, somewhere off Dorchester Rd. (Can’t remember)I worked at an insurance company right downtown on Meeting street and although we all made very little and usually brought our lunch, every Friday we splurged and went to a different place downtown to eat. We were mostly all navy wives from all over the country and so enjoyed those lunches. Have a wonderful time!

  37. MousE says:

    Thelma sure was a thriver! And I love her red hair. Good to know some dreams came true, and more you didn’t know you had, Suzanne. Thanks for sharing part of your herstory here. Great reading as always.

  38. MountainView says:

    I so enjoyed this post. Charleston is also one of my sacred places, having spent nearly ten years there and in Summerville as a young adult. My dad worked at the shipyard and the weapons station. Life in its twists and turns deposited me with my family back in rural West Virginia after a short exile in NC.
    Love your candid style!

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