“My life is filled with memories — a bank from which I make withdrawals, some of which I share here. Memories smile and frown as they flicker through my mind, producing joy and sadness, all at the same time. A treasure stored…I am never bored as I reflect, reject and select what I want. Like jukebox songs, the tunes are what I choose, whether I win or lose, leap for joy or cry out loud — memories, the stuff life is made of. I reflect back in time.” — excerpt from “Growing Up Coastal: Life on the Georgia Coast” by Clay Sikes
Local businessman and author Clay Sikes recalls growing up in Liberty County during the 1960s and ‘70s in his new book, “Growing Up Coastal: Life on the Georgia Coast.” Sikes said that era was full of incredible changes.
The Hinesville Area Arts Council (HAAC) is hosting a book signing of Sikes’ book, released by Dorrance Publishing Company, on Thursday, Aug. 18, at 102 Commerce Street beginning at 6 p.m. Based on his personal volumes of journals, Sikes revisits the best and worst memories of his childhood and adult years as the grandson and son of the county sheriff, and the dramatic changes that occurred with the arrival of the 24th Infantry Division.
“I have been a copious note taker for years,” Sikes said. “And I initially thought to chronicle them for my kids and grandkids just to have a little picture of what life was like growing up on the Georgia coast back in those days, to give them a little of the experience of being here when the 24th Infantry Division was announced, what this little town was like prior to the announcement, and how incredible (were) the changes that took place — virtually overnight.”
Life was a bit more carefree during his adolescence. The author recalled how he and his friends took boats out to St. Catherines Island to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.
“There would be two or three boats out there,” he said. “Now, you go out there on the Fourth of July, and there are hundreds of boats and no place to park yours. What started really small has become a bit of a phenomenon.”
Sikes said he wants readers to be able to immerse themselves in the beauty of the coastal area where he grew up, “to experience the beauty of it, to experience the wonderful experiences of it. I mean the things that you can do there.”
Sikes was born and raised on the Georgia coast at Maxwelton Plantation. After graduating from Georgia Southern in 1971, he returned to the coast and found his way into real estate — a career that suddenly blossomed when the soldiers began arriving.
When the soldiers arrived, Sikes was the only realtor in town.
“We had no builders to speak of, we had no developers, we had no real estate people,” he said. “I was it.”
“Growing Up Coastal” recently reached the Top 10 on the Amazon Bestseller List for Travel Biographies and Memoirs.
“I never expected this,” he said.
Sikes said he’s surprised by the book’s reception and heard it has found its way into the hands of potential filmmakers.
He said he wants people to read his book but begin to draw from their own memories and experiences. He wants readers to retrace their own lives, from childhood to present.
Read more about Sikes’ book, his writing process and the Facebook group Sikes created that has since gone viral in the winter edition of Liberty Life Magazine.