August 2008

They Came in a van from Ohio

Author: Paul deVere

(Note on how stories happen. CH2’s graphic artist, Elisabeth Reed not only came up with the story idea about the typical family vacation on Hilton Head Island, she came up with the family. Kelly Schreck, Elisabeth’s good friend, and her family, had been coming to the Lowcountry since 1980, and there would be stories to tell.)

The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce did not make this up. The lead vehicle that pulled up to the large, oceanfront house on Dune Lane in North Forest Beach was a blue van with Ohio plates. It was the fourth week in June.

“We’ve been coming down here 28 years as family,” said Jim Day, now head of the clan that was first introduced to Hilton Head Island in 1975 by George and Martha Day, Jim’s parents.

“We just love it here,” said Elaine Day, Jim’s wife and the one who plans the annual get together.

There were three golfers in a group of 15. The rest were there to hang out by the pool, get out to the beach, ride bikes and, as Sharon McManus said, “We just come down here to relax … We’re always so busy at home, it’s just nice to come here and do nothing.” Sharon is one of the Day’s three daughters.

Of Hilton Head, oldest sister, Sandy Brielmair, whose husband and two children couldn’t make it this year, said Hilton Head is like another world. “It doesn’t even feel like you’re in the U.S. It’s also a very family oriented kind of place—there’s such a family atmosphere.”

Her youngest sister, Barb Dressman, added, “It’s a neat thing having all the cousins get together.”

“To me it’s the fun of getting together, living in one house, cooking together, partying together. We’ve gone from little kids playing on the beach to playing beer pong now,” Jim said, laughing.

Families. How many of them were on the island that week? Taking turns with the cooking, watching the kids, going out together in the evening for that big, family seafood dinner. Re-acquainting. Swapping stories. Remembering.

About that time in the conversation, a fax came in. It was from Christen Brielmair, Sandy’s daughter, who had just moved to Chicago and a new job. The fax was a child-like drawing of boats and the beach and read, “Wish I was there!”

“We didn’t plan that,” Sandy said, laughing.

Kelly Schreck, Sharon McManus’ daughter, brought up the many times the family went to see Gregg Russell entertain under the Liberty Oak at Harbour Town. That was when the family stayed on Turtle Lane in Sea Pines. Kelly was holding her two-year-old son, Cade, the first great grandchild. He would be the oldest of the fourth generation. Kelly said, “I remember standing up and singing, ‘My name is Peppermint Pattie and I’m from Cincinnati.’ What was I, eight, nine?” The family laughed, including Cade.

There were other stories, too. For several years, the family island hopped to Daufuskie and the old Melrose Club. “We were charter members,” Jim said. He remembered the kids decorating a golf cart for a Fourth of July parade and winning a prize. He also remembered being on Daufuskie Island when a hurricane warning forced the family to evacuate. “We ended up at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Pigeon Forge, and kept the vacation going,” he said, proudly.

Doug Dressman, Barb’s husband, remembered what Hilton Head was like when his family first came to the family vacation. “First time we came down here, I took my son from Sea Pines on the back of a bicycle to the bridge. There were hardly any cars and he fell asleep. He was two years old. Now he’s 27,” Doug said and suggested that going to sleep on U.S. 278 was no longer an option.

The greatest difference everyone noticed was the number of people on the island and how it’s grown and the traffic, the number of people on the beach that week. These were observations, not complaints. It was the things that were the same—the lush, tropical atmosphere, the camaraderie of the family that counted. “Those things,” said Jim, “they are what is so important about Hilton Head.”

The Candy Family
It seems the family that likes to play together likes to work together, too. In 1976, Jim Day bought the Esther Price Candy Company, which now includes five retail outlets in Dayton, Cincinnati, Centerville and Clayton, Ohio. The candy is also sold in department and grocery stores in the Dayton/Cincinnati area, and from the company Web site: Founded in 1926 by Esther Price as a family business, it has returned to its roots—to family.

Barb Dressman has been working on the retail side for 30 years. Sandy Brielmair and niece Kelly Schreck handle marketing and the Web site. Elaine Day handles the books. The sons-in-law are on the company’s board of directors. The entire family is involved in one way or the other with Esther Price Candy.

The family also got to know Esther Price and still uses some of her recipes. “We don’t use any preservatives,” said Jim, so you can’t leave them in a hot car.”

Sharon McManus added, “You treat it like butter.” Some of the candy is still handcrafted, just like Esther used to do.

“We’ve had so many family functions, including this vacation, that, in a way, have helped prepare us for working together. We’re a close-knit family, that’s for sure,” said Barb.

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