Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

There are so many stories here to be told

Story by Barbara Catenaci


LOCAL Life asked Hilton Head Island resident Barbara Catenaci to share her thoughts on what it means to be local. Catenaci is executive director of the Heritage Library Foundation, named one of USA Today’s top 10 places in the world to research your roots. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected].

Barbara Catenaci is shown with her dog, Max, who recently passed away. “We had the pleasure of exploring the beach and waterways with five Labrador retrievers over the years,” she said. “These dogs went boating with us, swam in the ocean with us and just were great dogs — they all loved the beach as much as we did.”

I grew up on the beach. I learned to swim, surf and body surf in the Atlantic Ocean. I learned to fish, crab, clam, and sail in and on Barnegat Bay. When it was time to relocate, there was no doubt that there would have to be a beach as close by as possible.

We found Hilton Head Island quite by accident. My late husband and I were looking for an area to relocate to, somewhere where he could slow down and build a couple of custom homes a year. My mother’s best friend since second grade had retired to Hilton Head, and because we were looking at areas close by, we stopped in to visit with my mother’s friend, and her husband. Marge and Jack Holcombe were the perfect hosts – we came for lunch, stayed three days, bought four building lots and never looked back.

U.S. 278 was one lane in each direction, traffic lights were few and far between, and you could go out on your boat and not see another boat for hours on any given Sunday morning. We would take the boat out early on a Sunday morning, anchor off some newly discovered little island, pour morning coffee from a thermos and watch the dogs swim with the dolphins.

On a really good day, dinner was reeled in before heading home. That was 1984, and I still love the beaches and waterways here and have learned to appreciate and respect a different and unique environment of marsh, creeks and rivers. Sinking into the pluff mud is really not such a bad experience once you get used to it. Fried or steamed clams are not as plentiful, but roasted or fried oysters are, and that is just Lowcountry good.

There is a cultural experience here that draws you in and makes you want to understand its diversity and many contributions. There are so many stories to be told, and the storytellers here certainly can keep you entertained. And there is a history that just makes you want to learn all that you can. Historic cemeteries, forts, Indian shell rings, tabby ruins – there is just so much to see and study. I came for the beaches, stayed for the magic, and one day, when I finally retire, I might even figure out how to throw a shrimp net. LL