Tybee Island: The Quirky and Eccentric

Photography by Leeann ritch.

Tybee is the ultimate oasis to escape the normal routine and embrace the quirky and eccentric. Unmarred by corporate influence, the island is a place where beach bum is a lifestyle – while the waves may not be wicked, the good vibes certainly are.

In 1951, a Native American man by the name of Tony Hill, of Ocomulgee, Oklahoma, responded to then-Police Chief David A, McCutchen’s inquiry about the meaning of the word “tybee” – the namesake of the island town McCutchen devotedly served. As the precise origin of the word has been a longtime mystery to historians and linguists alike, Hill wrote, “You no doubt have forgotten that I promised to find you the meaning of Tybee.” He went on to describe that the word originated with the Euchee tribe as a term for “salt.”

photo by leeann ritch.

On Tybee, people have your back. They answer the phone when you need help and raise a glass with you when you’re celebrating. It’s where that down-home feeling meets gypsy beach bum. Here, communal respect and pride outweight big corporations and high-rise condominiums.

photo by leeann ritch

The mineral hangs in the air from the Lowcountry marsh and is carried off the waves in the sea breeze. It saturates the lungs and solidifies on sun kissed skin. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, doctors prescribed trips to the island in a practice called “taking the salts” as a remedy for various ailments, easing many afflicted patients’ symptoms. Tybee Island is the salt of the Georgian earth – to those who have been, Tybee is the picture of small town authenticity and coastal chill. So chill, the city hosts an annual Beach Bum parade that’s BYO-Water gun.

To Mayor Shirley Sessions, Tybee means community. “In addition to the obvious – being surrounded by the rivers, the creeks, the ocean – the spirit and soul of Tybee is the community, the residents who have chosen to make this their home. We have people who have lived here forever and people who have lived here for a year or a month and that spirit is, at the end of the day, Tybee’s greatest treasure. It’s just a fact.

photo by leeann ritch.

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