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Eight years late and 3 dollars short

I’m not good at names.


When I’m introduced to someone, the speed at which their name enters one ear is doubled by the time it exits the other ear.


Then there are times when I make an effort to remember a new moniker. In those cases, it only requires repeating the name three times before I stow it in my memory bank. 


That lasts until the next time I see the person: “What was your name again?”


There are people whose names become second nature to me because I see them often. But if I don’t see someone for a few years, I remember the face but the name sometimes escapes me.


It’s frustrating.


Some names, however, are stuck in my brain like super glue. I couldn’t forget them if I tried.


I’m not talking about names like Mickey Mantle or Cary Grant or Andy Griffith. They were celebrities with marquee names.


No, I’m talking about names like, oh, Mack Miller, for instance.


You remember Mack Miller, right? Never heard of him, huh?


I got to know Mack the summer of 1964. Well, actually, I didn’t really become acquainted with him. But I spent lots of time near him.


It was the summer before my senior year at Franklinville High School. To celebrate the end of summer, my friend Ken and I bummed a ride to Myrtle Beach with his uncle and found a room a block from the ocean. It cost us 20 bucks apiece for five or six nights, after which an aunt of his was to pick us up.


Our room had a fridge so we bought sandwich meats, mayo, bread and the like to tide us over until the last night when we splurged by going to a seafood restaurant.


With lots of time on our hands, we swam in the breakers, tanned on the beach, visited the amusement park and shopped at the Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, where I bought picture postcards to send home.


Ken really liked to body surf and could spend hours in the water. Meanwhile, I did lots of walking on the beach and up and down Ocean Boulevard. 


But there was one place that intrigued me. In an alcove of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion, a portrait artist named Mack Miller was drawing people’s likenesses. 


Mack did most of his work in the evenings after families had left the beach and finished supper. He had a large hand-held easel and used pencils to draw subjects sitting on a chair or stool. 


I would watch in amazement as he performed his craft, sketching an outline and then filling in the blanks until there was a complete likeness of the person. 

If I remember correctly, Mack charged $3 for black-and-white and $5 for color. 


I would stand there for what seemed like hours, scrutinizing his work as he turned a white sheet of paper into magic. I was a Mack Miller fan but was too shy to have him draw me.


About 30 years later, I was talking on the phone to someone at either the Myrtle Beach Convention Center or Chamber of Commerce. I don’t remember what it was about.


While talking to the person, I mentioned the fact that I had watched this artist guy named Mack Miller back in the ’60s. The man said something like, “Oh, Mack. Yeah, I saw him just the other day.”


I was thrilled that my hero was still in Myrtle Beach. 


When I was thinking about writing this column, I decided to do an online search for “Mack Miller, Myrtle Beach.” What I found was distressing.


The first entry that came up was “Mack Miller Obituary (2015).” The obituary was brief, just saying that he died April 30, 2015, at the age of 80. Then came the names of survivors, that he was born in Shelby, NC, and the memorial service was on May 2 at Murrells Inlet.


Nothing about his artistic talents. Not even a photo of him.


However, I did find an Artist Mack Miller Tribute Page on Facebook. It contains many of his portraits, a couple of photos of him and some newspaper articles about him from years past.

That’s all I could find.  


Now I want to kick myself for not spending the three bucks 59 years ago.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.