Thursday, March 31, 2005

Finding a Fortune

Charlie Morris was buried today. His funeral was an extension of our island sense of history, tradition, and community. Family & friends gathered to remember Charlie, share stories and sing songs (his grandson, Aaron, is a rising young Ocracoke guitarist). After the church service we gathered in the recreation hall to enjoy the many delicious dishes friends and neighbors had brought by the home.

Charlie had left Ocracoke when he was 17 years old. He went to Philadelphia, as he told it, to find his fortune. Charlie averred that he never found his fortune. But, just as good if not better, he said, he found indoor plumbing. We will miss his quiet, impish sense of humour.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Charlie Morris

Charlie Morris O'Neal died early this week. He was 83 years old. He was another one of the old-time Ocracokers. We will all miss the twinkle in his eye and his impish smile.

I am honored that Charlie's family has asked me to give the eulogy tomorrow at the funeral. Charlie and my dad were buddies. In their later years they would meet down at the base docks with other O'cockers. There they would sit in their cars and reminisce, tell stories, and laugh. They both enjoyed a good joke, especially if they could tell it on their friends -- or each other.

Last summer Lou Ann & I visited with Charlie, his wife Lorena, and their extended family. Charlie told about childhood games they would play on the island -- King Stick, Annie Over the House, Spittle Spittle Spat, and Cat (a colonial era game much like baseball).

Ocracoke has lost one of its best. The good news is that Charlie's grandson, Aaron, is growing up to be one of our "tradition keepers." Aaron listens to all the old stories and relishes the retelling. As long as we remember to tell people's stories they continue to live....and we are the richer for the lives they shared with us.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005


After days of cold, rain, & generally unpleasant weather spring seems to have finally arrived. The temperature today is in the mid 60's (with forecasts of 70's for later in the week) under bright sunny skies.

Yesterday's gloominess kept many people indoors but today the village is almost bustling with folks. Almost. It's still quiet compared to July & August.

I spoke with Dallie about an hour ago. She is in good spirits, on her way to see the orthopedic surgeon once more, hoping he thinks her wrist will mend without surgery. We hope so as well.


Monday, March 28, 2005

A Stressful Day

Early this afternoon Miss Dallie (the creative & talented Village Craftsmen lady who makes our shelves & displays look so attractive) took a nasty spill outside the shop and broke her wrist.

There is no x-ray machine on the island, so she was transported to the Outer Banks Hospital. I called about an hour ago and was told that she was in good spirits and was just then going in for the x-ray. Our local Physician's Assistant was hopeful that they could set and splint the break today so she could return home this evening.

I'm sure Dallie will have a cast on her left wrist for several weeks. We're all sending her our best wishes for a quick recovery.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

Easter, as we know, is celebrated as a moveable feast day. Before the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. the date of Easter varied from church to church. Some used a fixed date and others tied the date to the Jewish lunar calendar, depending on Jewish priests to determine the start of the month of Nisan.

In 325 a third solution was agreed on and Easter was determined to fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

By connecting the date of Easter to both the lunar and the solar calendars (which requires fusing a 354-day lunar year with a roughly 365 1/2-day solar year) the bishops created an enormous problem. In addition to needing to correlate the phases of the moon with the orbit of the earth they forced even modern reckoners to confornt a complex and daunting astronomical problem, "one that must compensate for a complicated range of gravitational tugs and pulls from the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies; the slow degradation of the orbits of the earth and moon over time; the slightly elliptical orbits of the earth and moon; and the spin of the earth on its axis -- all factors that Christian time reckoners in the era of Nicaea had no inkling about when they devised their basic formula for Easter." *

Today Catholic astronomers use a 14-step algorithm to determine the true date of Easter, but even this complicated formula is never totally precise. For what it's worth, here is the algorithm (/=division neglecting the remainder, %=division keeping only the remainder, and *=multiply):

a=year%19 [maybe this should now be 20, since we've entered a new century]
Easter month=(h+l-7*m+114)/31 [3=March, 4=April]
Easter date=p+1 (date in Easter month)

I believe I'll leave the calculations to others! Nevertheless, regardless of your faith or worldview, we wish everyone a happy and joyous day. Though cool and overcast on the island today we know that springtime weather is "just around the corner."

(*Information & quotation about the dating of Easter was taken from the fascinating book "Calendar" by David Ewing Duncan.)


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Ocrafolk Fundraising Concert

Our spring fundraising concert was tonight. We all missed Molasses Creek (they're on tour for several months), but the entire show was high energy even so. Many of the "Opry regulars" were there -- Martin Garrish, Marcy & Lou, Donald Davis, and I -- but we were sorry that others including Roy Parsons, Aaron Caswell, Cheryl Roberts, and Rob & Sundae couldn't be there. As a special treat though, several talented Ocracoke musicians joined us -- Jackie Willis, Jamie Tunnell, Molly Lovejoy, Emma Lovejoy, Jon Lee & Kevin Hardy. Long time island friend, John Golden, was back on stage and Phil Kelly, a friend of Kevin's treated the audience with several original songs.

If you weren't able to attend, we hope you will come out for a Wednesday evening Opry show sometime this summer. We feel sure you'll have a great time.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Retirement Party

Dozens of Ocracoke friends of our out-going postmaster, Ruth Jordan, met at the Pub Wednesday evening for a "farewell" party. George, the cook at the Pub, prepared a tasty parmesan chicken entree, and hostesses, Rosemary and Michaelyn, provided a delicious "We'll Miss You" cake.

Ruth assures us that she'll have more time to be involved in community activities, but now it will be from "the other side of the Post Office counter."

As promised, I'm sharing a photo of Ruth at the party (photo is courtesy of Frank Brown):

We'll miss Ruth in the PO, but welcome our new postmaster, Celeste.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

March Newsletter

We've published another Ocracoke Newsletter. If you did not receive our email notification, you can still read the newsletter at www/ This month I share photos & news of a number of changes in the village (houses on Howard Street and elsewhere being raised, businesses that are being remodeled, new buildings being put up, and even information about an island business that is for sale).

This is the second time in two months that our email server has unexpectedly disconnected while we were sending newsletter emails. Only about a quarter of the folks on our list were sent the email. Maybe it's time we got a different internet service provider.

We hope you enjoy the newsletter.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Signs & Signals

We knew it was coming. Enhanced 911 required it. But it's a bit disconcerting. Yesterday the state of NC began putting up street signs. It was just a few years ago that Ocracoke got official street names.

We still give directions something like this: "Turn left on the corner where you'll see an old skiff filled with seashells, go around the curve and turn right at the Coffee Shop. It's the first house on the left after the yard full of bowling balls."

The new signs are standard green with white lettering. We tried to convince the state to put up brown signs, but they discontinued that program several years ago. I guess we'll get used to the signs. They will certainly help the fire & rescue squad locate rental cottages, and I'm sure first-time visitors to the island will find them helpful. But they will take a while to get used to.

Now for signals. No, we're not getting traffic signals too. Don't worry. But I've been told that visitors often wonder which cell phones work on the island. To the best of my knowledge, only three signals work on Ocracoke -- Alltel, AT&T, & US Cellular. Cingular, Nextel, & Sprint will not work here. Just thought you might want to know.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Does Your Postmaster have Pink & Green Hair?

Well ours does. Sometimes. At other times it's blue, or magenta. Ruth Jordan has been at our post office at least ten years....and she's scheduled to retire at the end of the month. We will all miss her cheery smile, her willingness to give you her undivided attention, and especially her endearing quirkiness. Really, now, how often do you see pink & green hair behind a PO counter?

Tomorrow evening at 7 o'clock Howard's Pub is hosting a going away party for Ruth. Everyone I've spoken with is planning to attend, and I'm sure it will prove to be one of those defining Ocracoke moments. Maybe I'll even have photos to share!


Monday, March 21, 2005


Ocracoke native, Muzel Bryant, celebrated her 101st birthday on March 12, the day before I returned home from my off-island trip. I visited her last night for about an hour. She told me of the many neighbors who had stopped by for cake and ice cream. I asked her if she had a limo ride like she did last year. She laughed and shook her head.

Muze asked me how Amy & David & Lachlan were doing. I promised to bring Lachlan by when they get home in April. Muze wondered if I had heard anything from her friend Cristal lately. And she wanted to know how my Aunt Thelma is doing. Muze likes to keep up to date about friends and neighbors.

Later, talk turned to other, more remote, times. The winter of 1917-1918 when Pamlico Sound froze over, the 1918 flu epidemic, Ocracoke's short-lived Artist's Colony of 1939-1940, and Ocracoke during WWII.

When I left I assured her I'd be back for a visit before too long, definitely before her next birthday. She wondered aloud if she'd be around for yet another birthday and laughed when I reminded her that none of us knows if we'll be around for another birthday. We can only hope, and, meanwhile, enjoy the present. Muze agreed.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia.....

.....Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina (of course) -- these were a few of the license tags I saw around the village today. Not that there are lots of people here yet (I visited over an hour with another shopkeeper and not a single customer came by), but there were noticeably more folks (maybe a dozen) on the beach this afternoon when I went for my daily walk.

The weather clearly has something to do with it. It is sunny today, and in the low 60's, a near perfect spring beach day. Of course, schools & colleges are getting out for spring break, so we're seeing the first influx of visitors for the coming season. If you're coming to the island, be sure to bring sun screen. And don't forget to stop by Village Craftsmen and say hello.


Friday, March 18, 2005

The Clark

For thirty years few Americans were aware of how very close WWII German submarines were to the East coast of the United States. Ocracokers knew, because from their front porches they could periodically see huge plumes of black smoke rise up from the ocean after an attack.

In more recent years the situation has become more widely known.

From January to July, 1942 397 ships, mostly merchant vessels, were sunk or damaged off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States by German U-boats. More than 5,000 people, primarily civilians, were cut down, drowned or burned when their ships were attacked. The heaviest concentration of destruction was off the Outer Banks. This is generally considered the greatest single defeat ever suffered by the American Navy. The debacle has even been referred to as the "Atlantic Turkey Shoot."

On this date in 1942 the tanker "E.M. Clark" was "lost" offshore of Ocracoke.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

What Could I Have Been Thinking?

Yesterday I described our weather as truly miserable. It was wet, cold, and windy. Of course it was! Yesterday was Old Quawk's Day and I didn't even make the connection. For more than a century Ocracoke fishermen refused to go out on the water on March 16. Many years ago an islander had defied the gods and the ominous storm clouds on this very date...and never returned. His boat and his body were never recovered. You can read the whole story here.

Today, of course, is a better-known holiday. So we wish you all "Top 'O the Morning," and of course, "Erin go braugh."


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Miserable Weather

I know....I like to pretend that Ocracoke is so wonderful that we always have weather just like in Camelot. Not today. It's been wet, cold, and downright miserable. And the forecast calls for more of the same. Maybe it will feel like Spring again by the weekend.

Finally I got across the street to visit with cousin Blanche today. She's got to be one of the sweetest people in the whole world. We talked & laughed for more than two hours. Together we caught up on village news, folks in the hospital, new babies..... We shared island stories and talked about people long dead. It was good to spend time with Blanche. She's definitely a "keeper of tradition."

Maybe tomorrow evening I'll get by to visit with Muzel. She celebrated her 101st birthday on Saturday, but I wasn't back home yet, so I missed the party. What sort of a gift does one take to a centenarian? I suppose I could take some cookies.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Cathy Scarborough Elicker & her husband, Jason Elicker, are the proud new parents of Max Owen, born in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 12. Mamma, Pappa, and baby are now home on Ocracoke. Word is that Max is a cutie, and everyone is doing fine.

Many readers will know that Cathy is the owner of "Over the Moon," a fine shop on British Cemetery Road. Be sure to stop by and wish Max well on your next visit to the island.

Granddaddy Al, known to many as a likeable old codger (he is a few years older than I am, after all) & curmudgeon, can't understand why Max isn't speaking yet.


Monday, March 14, 2005

"The Gift Shop"

Kevin Cutler, editor of one of our island newspapers, "The Ocracoker," includes a column entitled "Ocracoke Yesteryear." Here Kevin quotes excerpts from the "Ocracoke Island News," which was published at the school years ago.

Last night as I was going through my mail I read the following in Kevin's column, from the March, 1960 issue of the "Ocracoke Island News:"

"Beach View Lunchstand is to be the new name of the former Island Lunchstand. The structure is the one opposite the Gift Shop."

"The Gift Shop!" Now that says volumes. It's just "The Gift Shop."

If I remember correctly, the Island Lunchstand was the small "hamburger joint" on the harbor. This site was later made into the Windjammer Restaurant (still later to be known as Captain Ben's). This building (on the dock) burned down in the 1970's. Joyce's of Ocracoke is located on that property today. I never paid any attention to the official name of the lunchstand. We teenagers just called it "Maude Ellen's" after one of the owners.

(The lunchstand's name was changed because Maude Ellen & her husband, Maurice, moved the business to the edge of town. Hence, Beach View Lunchstand.)

The Gift Shop was part of the Harborside Motel. This was the island's very first shop catering to tourists. I guess it didn't need a proper name. Not in 1960 anyway.

In the late 1960's Myrtle Doolittle established "Capt. John's Junque Shop" in Wabab & Elizabeth Howard's small building near the (then) Post Office. Down Point Decoys is in that building now. About the same time Noma Hardin, an art professor from Greensboro, NC, started a quality craft shop near Sam Jone's "Castle" (the Castle B & B today).

Village Craftsmen began in the summer of 1970, in a tent on Howard Street, where our parking lot is now.

Today Ocracoke has many unique, colorful, and eclectic shops with creative names. Forty years ago there was just one, simply "The Gift Shop." Oh how times have changed!


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Back Home Again

Hi. This is Philip again, back on the island later than I'd originally planned. I spent nearly two weeks in Indiana visiting my friend Lou Ann. You may have met her this past summer, helping out at the Village Craftsmen counter. I met her several years ago when she came to the island to participate in one of Donald Davis' summer storytelling workshops (Lou Ann is a delightful teller of tales). She's looking forward to being back on Ocracoke this summer, and in time for the Ocrafolk Music & Storytelling Festival. We had a wonderful (though cold and snowy) visit. Lou Ann was one of the star performers in Fort Wayne's version of "The Vagina Monologues," a theater production designed to raise awareness and funds to help combat abuse of women.

On the way home I stopped in the mountains to visit with my son, Stefen, and his family. It's always a treat to see Stefen and his wife, Snee, and my three off-island grandchildren (Zoe, Eakin, & Eliza). At their request I spent much of one evening sharing many traditional Ocracoke Island ghost stories. The children especially liked the one about the disembodied "ghostly heads" that float down the hallway of the old James Henry Garrish house. The creepy story of Alice O'Neal, who was buried alive and turned over in her grave, was a hit also. I think they slept OK that night. At least I did.

Then I went to Cary, NC to catch one of Molasses Creek's off-island shows. The Sixth String Cafe & Music Hall was packed with enthusiastic listeners as the band gave a stellar performance. It was good to see family & friends, but especially wonderful to see my other grandchild, Lachlan. He's an accomplished crawler now, and seems just about ready to walk! His smile is simply infectious.

Many thanks to Jude who posted several journal entries while I was gone. There were numerous computer and internet access problems in the last two weeks, so some of her messages, unfortunately, were lost. Maybe she'll write again now and then. We hope the computer issues have now been corrected.

Well, I'm going to sort through my mail, check my emails, listen to my answering machine messages, and settle down with my latest book, Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything." I'll keep you posted of any island news tomorrow (if there's anything to report).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Spring and Jaren

Well finally spring has sprung today but I understand it's going to wind itself up and go away again on Wednesday. It truly is like pulling teeth this year. Now I'd like you to meet Jaren, she's my niece, smart as a whip and she works part time at Village Craftsmen. She came to live with me and my husband Frank I guess it must be three years ago now. She's the only daughter of my youngest and most lovely sister Jeannie. Frank and I have two sons so it's been a real learning experience having a "daughter". Jaren met and now goes with an Ocracoke native by the name of Dale Mutro. I can't tell you how much fun we've had with those two in our lives. Dale can tell Island stories by the hour and he and Frank can argue politics by the day! Jaren and Dale just adopted two Border Collies from the Blue Ridge Border Collie Rescue.They're named Dugan and Dixie and with our Corgie Will in tow, as Dale would say, "them three's a pair". Jaren also works fulltime at the Anchorage and goes to school online. AH, the energy of youth! Anyway, she and Dale have been a blessing in our lives. Dale sometimes works here too in the summer. Be sure to say hi, when you stop by.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Miss Dallie

You should get to know the other folks who work at Village Craftsmen. Philip really doesn't do this all by himself. We like to kid him about that. Dallie is a second cousin to Philip. Her grandaddy and Philips' daddy were brothers. Dallie wasn't born on Ocracoke and she grew up all over the country. Just ask her about it sometime,she'll tell you about it. Dallie married and raised two beautiful daughters then moved to Ocracoke about fifteen years ago to work for Philip. She does the wonderful display work at the shop. How she fits everything in has always amazed me. Many of you will remember her as the lovely southern lady who has greeted you with a smile and a warm hello. In her off hours ( which aren't many in season) she enjoys sewing and making creative games for her five grandchildren. Dallie and I have had many "Thelma and Louise" adventures when we've taken trips "up the beach" together! But that's for another day. Say hi to Dallie when you come for a visit this year. Ya'll have a good weekend!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Storm is Over!

I'm sure many of you to the north and west of us had it much worse than we did on the Outer Banks but yesterday was a lulu. We had a Nor'Easter but thankfully one of short duration. Driving rains, wind gusts over 50MPH and temperatures in the 40's left us yearning for spring. As my husband Frank and I were recalling last evening we said we were going to have to pay for three weeks in January this year with temperatures in the 60's and 70's and we sure are. Today is bright and sunny but temperatures are still in the 40's and the wind is brisk out of the west. The weather has not deterred the robins. The Yaupon tree outside our bedroom window was decorated with them this morning and they were a sweet alarm clock.