Jack Thompson, Myrtle Beach's unofficial historian, looks for new studio

If anything big happened in Myrtle Beach over the past half-century, chances are that Jack Thompson took a picture of it.

Long-gone local landmarks like the Pavilion and Ocean Forest Hotel live on in his studio.

But now, the lease is up on the building where he has set up shop for the past 15 years, the property owner wants to expand the building and Thompson has to be out by the end of this month.

"So I had a 30 day notice, but I have a 50 year photographic museum," Thompson said.

Thompson's affair with Myrtle Beach began in 1951, when he was just 13 years old.

He and two friends hitchhiked to Myrtle Beach from Greenville and when they got here, his friends headed straight to the ocean.

Thompson smelled photo chemicals.

"I stopped at the photo stand and I said, 'Do you need any help?' He said, 'Well, when can you start?' 'If I get a hamburger and a milk shake, I'll start right now,'" Thompson recalled.

Thompson has been photographing the Grand Strand ever since, collecting thousands of images, for which the future is now uncertain. He has owned a studio in Myrtle Beach since 1959.

Thompson says he has gotten offers for studio space in Surfside Beach, Garden City and other spots around the Grand Strand, but in the end, he is Mr. Myrtle Beach.

"I fell in love with Myrtle 55 years ago and I'm still in love with her, and I want to stay in Myrtle Beach and continue to promote Myrtle Beach as a beautiful, wonderful family vacation resort. And my images tell that story."

Thompson says his days of running a photo studio are over, but he still wants to have a gallery to display and sell his treasures.

He's actively looking for a new location and, with the help of friends, believes he'll find one.

"I'm still looking forward to working with them and enjoying what fate has in store for me."

Fate has shined on him before, Thompson says, and it will again.