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Main Street in Ocean Drive—as it was known by the early shaggers, but is now North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, comes alive as thousands of shaggers along the east coast arrive in search of the wild life that is known as the SOS (Society of Stranders) Spring Safari.  Beach music lovers and shaggers from far away hit main street for the first SOS event of the year after a long Winter break, renting North Myrtle Beach real estate.

For ten days, April 21-30, 2017, the SOS Spring Safari on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach will be the place for you if you are an avid shagger or can’t get enough of that good, old beach music.  It will be a non-stop party with a wide variety of activities such as shag dancing, live music, tea parties, shagging exhibitions, shag lessons, and mingling with old friends that culminates in a huge parade on the last Saturday of the event.

Although there are lots of activities scheduled during the day, the main attraction is the nightlife on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach.  Fat Harold’s Beach Club, Ducks Beach Club, the OD Arcade and Lounge, Pirates Coves and the OD Pavilion rally when the sun goes down, and the shaggers come out to party along Main Street and Ocean Drive, just a short walk from their North Myrtle Beach oceanfront condos and rented beach houses.  They will shag the night away as they reunite with old friends and listen to the old beach music that gave North Myrtle Beach the moniker, “Home of the Shag”.

The North Myrtle Beach shaggers have landed in the Guinness Book of World Records when they achieved the “Largest Carolina Shag Dance”.  During the Society of Stranders’ Fall Migration, on September 24, 2016, dancers participated in a shag dance at the North Myrtle Beach Aquatics & Fitness Center in an attempt to be in the record books.  It was a great deal of work and an overwhelming success, since they only needed 250 dancers to dance the synchronized shag dance for five minutes and 744 shag dancers participated.  It was well-documented with videos, photos, and paperwork to submit to Guinness.  They learned just before the SOS mid-winter event that they had received the honor of being in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In case you are wondering how SOS began, it is a very entertaining story.  An ex-lifeguard from the fifties, Gene Laughter,  nicknamed “Swink”, used to entertain his family during the summer by writing notes on parchment, putting them in bottles and casting them into the ocean.  In 1978, this elaborate prank got out of hand when an antique bottle with a note written on parchment paper ended up in the offices of the Charlotte Observer. The note was supposed to have been written by sailors that had been marooned when a whaling vessel had been sunken in 1887.  The Charlotte Mint Museum authenticated it, and the news went out over the national wires.  When the news reach the Whaling Museum of New Bedford, Massachusetts, they promptly declared the note a hoax, because the whaling vessel in question had gone down 30 years prior to date of the note in the antique bottle.

Since no money had been paid for the find, Swink did not go to jail, but he became familiar to two columnists of the Charlotte Observer named Kays Gary and Jerry Bledsoe.  In 1980, when Swink decided to get the old beach bums together for a reunion, he convinced Jerry Bledsoe to feature the story.  Several articles were written on Swink’s efforts to get the beach bums together and the history of the Shag.  Swink also made great efforts to track down his old acquaintances.

About a month before the event was to start, another antique bottle washed up on the Carolina shore.  The Sumter South Carolina Daily News ran the story this time and the Associated Press picked it up.  Maritime archivists all over the country were trying to verify the authenticity of the note.

The note was actually a coded message with an invitation to Swink’s reunion.  Anyone familiar with the upcoming reunion or the history of Shag music would have been able to decode the note.  “Captain Earl Bastic and James Rick were rhythm and blues group leaders.  Bastic’s ship, “Flamingo” was the title of a hit record.  “Raven” referred to Jimmy Ricks and the Ravens.  Oak Tree was the name of the motel which had been donated to house a number of travelers, and September 11th was the kickoff of the beach party.

So that is the tale of how the Society of Stranders (SOS) began, and it has grown from to a membership of 10,000.  The party has also expanded from three days to ten days and the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs (ACSC) took control of SOS on April 1, 1989.

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