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Tales Of Sullivan’s Island Past

By Susan Middaugh for The Island Eye News

Bryan Howell from WWII.

What was the government of Sullivan’s Island like before we had a Town Council and Mayor? When was Sullivan’s Island forced to prepare for a nuclear missile attack? Where did islanders go to enjoy an evening of roller skating? How did the IOP connector almost not get built?

For these answers and many other revelations about Township Government and civic life from 1955 to 1975, plan to attend this Battery Gadsden Cultural Center program on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. in the Fort Moultrie Visitor Center auditorium, 1214 Middle St. The event will include a video presentation of interviews with Bryan Rowell, created as part of the Battery Gadsden Oral History Project. The video will be followed by Q & A with our guest, Bryan Rowell. You won’t want to miss his island memories.

Bryan Rowell came to Sullivan’s Island after World War II and soon engaged in the political and civic life of the time. He served as a Sullivan’s Island Township Commissioner from 1963 to 1975 and recounts his work, as Civil Defense Chairman, to prepare the island for nuclear attack during the Cuban missile crisis.

He tells about the reenactment of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island that was staged in 1966 that included a mishap with gunpowder that led to the death of a local teenager.

 Rowell also recollects the conflicts with the State Department of Transportation over building bridges to Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. He remembers his efforts to keep horses as part of the island ambiance, his oversight of the skating rink at the old recreation hall, and local theater productions. Rowell also operated a “Variety Store” on the island that sold everything from food to clothing.

The personal and family stories of long-time residents are an essential part of the remarkable culture and history of Sullivan’s Island. The Oral History Project of Battery Gadsden Cultural Center, directed by W. Michael Walsh, MD, captures these stories in interviews of Island residents. These videotaped interviews are edited according to the standards of the Oral History Association.

This event is free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by The National Park Service & Battery Gadsden Cultural Center Preserving the culture of art and history on Sullivan’s Island. For information email batterygadsden@ or call 843.906.0091.

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