Friday, October 21, 2011

November on the Banks

We have just published another of our Ocracoke Newsletters. This month I share an article written 57 years ago by my Uncle Marvin Howard (1897-1969). Entitled "There's Nothing Like the Glory of November on the Banks," Marvin shares his love affair with his island home while wondering what the future holds for Ocracoke.

Although Uncle Marvin never had more than a sixth grade education, he was a voracious reader and autodidact. He served as a ship captain in the Navy in WWI, and was commodore of a fleet of dredges sent to Europe in WWII. After retiring as a Lt. Colonel with the US Army Corps of Engineers he returned home to Ocracoke where he was active in civic affairs. In 1956 he established the nation's only mounted Boy Scout Troop.

Uncle Marvin loved to hunt...and the freedom he felt when he was outdoors. He was also an accomplished horseman. He had a deep emotional connection to Ocracoke and wanted to preserve and protect whatever made his island special. In the early 1950s Marvin knew there would be changes when the National Park Service established the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. He understood that change would bring more people to Ocracoke...and more economic security to its residents. But he also worried that it would bring more rules and restrictions.

He was prescient in many ways, but I doubt he anticipated the extent of the changes. I am certain he would be shocked at the number of people who visit Ocracoke every year. And he would be surprised at how many businesses his island community now supports. And, although there are more regulations today, he might see how necessary some of them are, while delighting in the establishment of the Working Watermen's Association and the continuance of hunting and fishing guide services.

When you read his article you will get a sense of life on the Outer Banks on the cusp of change.

In the interest of readability I have done some minor editing. You can read Uncle Marvin's article here:


  1. Debbie Leonard6:27 AM

    You are husband is on the island right now to fish and is going offshore fishing. Visitors are a mixed bag of good and bad, but it is great that the tourist industry makes it possible for residents of Ocracoke to live there.

  2. I think he would love the life and activity that his house has given to visitors. My children all stayed there this summer and had a wonderful time. It was full of life including lots of dishes and dirty towels.

  3. Anonymous10:03 AM

    I was just checking - we Yankees have a hard time finding out about our beloved North Carolina shore area. How is Hatteras Island - and also you on Ocracoke fairing with the opening of the new bridge at Mirlo Beach?

  4. You've had some stories about Arcade Williams. She is certainly an outstanding island character. What was her full name? Thanks.

  5. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Good stuff ! In the last part your uncle wrote "...a place that was first, but yet last."--what do you suppose he meant by that?

  6. To answer recent questions:

    -- In some ways Ocracoke is as isolated from the rest of the Outer Banks as Yankees are. However, I have heard reports from neighbors who have traveled north across the new bridge (I have not been up there yet). The news is grim. Much property damage, people left homeless, loss of business, etc. The psychological damage has been devastating as well. The biggest impact on Ocracoke has been economic. We lost weeks of normally profitable business. It is still very slow on the island, even though the weather is often beautiful (as it is today, with temperatures in the 60s!).

    -- Bob, apparently her full name was Arcade Williams. At least that's the only way I've ever seen or heard it. She was born in 1842. Maybe I'll write a Newsletter about her sometime!

    -- "first but yet last" - I also wondered what Uncle Marvin meant by that. By "first" I think he meant that the Outer Banks was the site of the first attempts at English settlement in America. Maybe by "last" he meant the last (or one of the last) places remaining in the country that was unspoiled. In 1954 Ocracoke was still largely untouched by the modern world.

  7. Anonymous11:24 AM

    Your interpretation of Marvin's words makes sense-- sincerely appreciate your reply. D.C.

  8. I truly enjoyed this story. I felt like I was walking with him.

  9. Beautifully written. We love coming to the Banks and especially look forward to our week on Ocracoke.