HAROLD'S COUNTRY CLUB
My dad sent me a copy of an article that appeared in The Beaufort Gazette today about my grandfather's place, Harold's Country Club. So, I thought today I would veer from my normal ramblings about my kids and put something on my blog about my grandfather, Harold Peeples who passed away 4 years ago this past May. Although the pain of losing someone so special fades with time, I still feel an emptiness that will never completely go away.
Harold Peeples was a man of few words but when he spoke, people listened. He had a unique sense of humor and while he grew old, he never really grew up. He was a practical joker and got the biggest kick out of making others laugh.
On any given day, you could see him at his place, perched atop a stool at the bar. Newspaper spread open, cigarette in hand. If someone entered Harold's as a stranger, they left as a friend. So many people were touched by his kindness and generosity that even today after his passing, his spirit lives on.
The article that appeared in the paper is below. While it touches on what Harold's is, you will never truly know unless you visit.
Written by Becky Bunton Woods
Granddaughter of Harold Peeples
Harold's Country Club, acclaimed by many for its unique interior collectibles, genuine auto parts decor and down-home Southern cooking, is a favorite of local residents. It has even attracted the attention of famous visitors to the Lowcountry. Movie Producer Joel Silver, often stops by when he is at his Lowcountry retreat, Auldbrass Plantation. Several years ago, he asked Harold to go to the plantation and show Martha Stewart how to fry a turkey - but that's a story in itself!
Harold had a special friendship with Joel Silver, movie producer, who owns nearby Auldbrass Plantation. When he was in town, Joel would come to Harold’s on Sundays to have coffee with Harold. Recently, Joel’s wife told Mary, Harold’s widow, that Joel misses Harold very much and mentions him most every day. (Auldbrass Plantation was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Since his purchase, Joel Silver has completed Wright’s designs.)
In 1994, Dennis Hopper directed the movie, Chasers which was filmed at Harold’s. The business closed for several days to accommodate the filming as Harold’s was transformed into a “bikers’ bar.” In 2015, a group of movie students from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA, spent several days filming an original movie.
Harold’s features lunchroom-style seating in the former garage area with fascinating collectibles. Located in the small town of Yemassee, South Carolina, near I-95 exit 38 where Hampton, Jasper, Beaufort, and Colleton Counties join. It is only a short drive from Beaufort, Hilton Head, Ridgeland, Hampton, and Walterboro. Harold’s has been featured in many local and national publications including Charleston, Coastal Living, Esquire, and Southern Living magazines.
The family-run business has always been a gathering place for the community. Built in the 1930s as a Chevrolet dealership and purchased by Harold Peeples in 1973, it was an old-fashioned garage and gas station. In the late 1970s, friends and neighbors began gathering for covered dish suppers on Thursday nights. Eventually the group started cooking and eating in the garage to avoid unfavorable weather and insects. As this gained popularity and others wanted to join the group, Harold started doing all the cooking, charging a small amount to cover expenses. Later additions have been Friday wings and things, and Saturday steaks.
Often the cars had to be moved out of the garage to set up tables and chairs. The garage has a “stage” seating area because Harold opted to build over the “grease rack” (car lift) instead of removing it. Because the garage gradually became a bar and restaurant, the radiator hoses and fan belts still hung from the walls. However, a major fire on May 9, 1999, changed that. The entire bar area was destroyed. Although under-insured, Harold was determined to rebuild. Friends contributed various items to help restore the unique décor. A room for extra seating and private parties had just been completed at the back of the garage. This became the bar, and Harold’s was up and running within a week. It was two weeks before meals could be prepared. After missing the first Thursday potluck, Harold was contacted by several customers who requested that they be allowed to bring covered dishes so everyone could share a meal.
Harold was a lifetime avid player, coach, umpire, and supporter of baseball and softball. When the local school ball field was no longer available to the local softball team, a group, led by Harold, formed Yemassee Athletic Association, purchased land and built a ball field across the road beside his business. At that time the business was called Peeples Service Station. After the games, the announcer, Charles Jackson, started saying, “Now, let’s all go over to Harold’s Country Club for a cool one.” Soon people started calling the business Harold’s Country Club. On June 4, 2011, the ball field was named ‘The Harold Peeples’ Athletic Park” in his honor.
Harold’s Country Club is open Thursday through Saturday (additional times for private parties). It still sells fishing bait and tackle. Although Harold Peeples passed away in 2003, Harold’s Country Club continues to be a family-run business. His nephew, Ronald Murdaugh, has been involved in the business since it opened. Harold’s widow, Mary Peeples, is the owner and is still very involved in the business as is his grandson, Bobby Bunton, who says that his Pappy taught him how to cook steaks. Harold's children, Harold Peeples, Jr. (Red) and Joyce Bunton assist their mother with the business. Estelle Roseneau, a long-time employee, is the general manager.
Harold treated everyone the same—rich or poor. He went out of his way to help people, friends as well as strangers, including stranded motorists. He wanted everyone to have a good time. However, he didn’t allow things to get out of hand. If anyone caused trouble, he would bar them from the place “for life and a day.” Even those were allowed to come back after they offered a heartfelt apology.