• Laurel Contributor

Daughter of the Dawn

by Luke Osteen

If you’ve spent any time on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, you’ve encountered Avary Hack Doubleday, even if you’ve never noticed it.

She’s served on boards for charitable organizations, she’s been a force in the cultural scene, and if there’s a worthy cause that needs wise counsel and energy and an indefatigable spirit, well, she’s probably somewhere in the mix. All of them bear her fingerprints.

But here’s the thing about Avary – she’s quiet, content to let others bask in the spotlight, while she turns her attention to another project. Her public face recalls something of La Giaconda, that enigmatic smile, an undeniable sense of joy radiating from those eyes. There are secrets there, and she reveals as much as she conceals.

She lifts that veil just a touch with the publication of “Daughter of the Dawn: a Child of Hilton Head Island, 1950-1956.”

If you know Hilton Head Island only as a resort destination, or a rarified retirement community or the site of second- or third-homes, Avary provides a portrait of an island barely removed from the 19th century.

“What were they thinking?”

That’s the question at the core of her memoir. Over half a century removed from the incidents recorded, she muses on her parents’ courage in moving with their two toddlers to this barrier Island off the coast of South Carolina. Loading their belongings onto a boat for the trip from the mainland, they took their family to a place without electricity, telephones, a doctor, or regularly scheduled ferry service. There was only one paved road and children attended a one-room school – with an outhouse.

As barefoot children, Avary and her brothers played in the creek, searched for deer and alligator eyes reflected in the dark, collected shells on deserted beaches, and watched loggerhead sea turtles and prehistoric horseshoe crabs in the surf. They were lulled to sleep by the sound of hoof beats as marsh tackies ridden along the road beside their house. Through a child’s eyes, she describes private hunting clubs on the Island, evacuating for a hurricane, and lessons learned in a one-room school.

As Avary recalls these days, she paints not only a child’s idyllic life but her parents stepping up to fill needs of the community, from teaching Sunday School to providing emergency medical assistance. Their stamp is on the dawning development of the Island.

There’s magic here. There are miracles here, yet they’re shadowed by the knowledge that the island that she comes to know and cherish is slated to vanish with the arrival of the outside world.

In a memoir class a number of years ago, Avary began writing her memories of the early years on the Island. Her intention was to describe for her nieces the way life had been for their father and her, so very different from the upbringing they had in the same place 30 years later. Over time, these vignettes developed into a well-researched memoir, which gives the reader a new picture of Hilton Head Island.

“Daughter of the Dawn is available at The Book Nook (The Toy Store) in Highlands, and at daughterofthedawn.com.

The Laurel Magazine

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