Sunday, July 19, 2009

The 1920s

Late Friday afternoon I went to Annabelle's Florist on the back road to pick up a dozen pink roses for Lou Ann (her birthday is next week). Before I left, Chester, who is the florist, pulled out a faded newspaper clipping from the 1920s. The author had visited Ocracoke and was fascinated by the isolated and unique village he found here. He pointed out that there were no roads, just narrow footpaths that meandered from yard to yard. (Actually, there were a few sandy lanes wide enough for a horse and cart.) He mentioned that there were no dogs on the island, and commented on the hundreds of cats. He was fascinated by the lack of crime, and noted that no one locked their doors. He knew that most doors had locks, but learned that almost everyone had lost their keys. He enjoyed popular local dishes of fried fish, shrimp, clams, and vegetables from the garden.

Ocracoke definitely has changed (how could it not), but even though we now have paved roads, automobiles, and a few dogs, the essential spirit of this island still persists, a rare jewel of a community in a fast paced and fast changing world.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the second half of my father's short journal. I call it Remembering Growing up on Ocracoke. You can read it here.


  1. Wishing Lou Ann the happiest of birthdays! We visit the island several times each year and love the spirit of this "rare jewel of a community in a fast paced and fast changing world"....may it never quicken it's pace to match the rest of the world!

    Paula Ford
    Elizabeth City, NC

  2. What happened to all the cats? There were many in the 1980s and
    90s. I have photos of my children with lots of cats and kittens. My wife and I commented that there are few cats around when we visited a couple of weeks ago.
    Tom Nowel

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  4. Hi Philip & Lou Ann!
    Just wanted to wish Lou Ann a very happy birthday filled with much joy and laughter. Hope the arm is feeling much better, too!

    Linda Borneman
    Havre de Grace, Maryland

  5. Anonymous6:03 PM

    I would think most people that leave doors unlocked have a dog. An unlocked door in the panhandle of Florida allowed a gang to enter the home and end the lives of a couple that had dedicated their lives to adopting and caring for special needs children. this horrific crime took place and but for the fact a security system was installed the culprits er suspects have been detained by law enforcement. If you have a door with locks why not use them. if you have lost the keys hire a locksmith to re-key the entry for crying out loud. children could enter the home and borrow things and forget to return these items.

  6. Anonymous9:04 AM

    Ocracoke in the 1920s (or the 2000s for that matter!) is not Florida in the twenty-first century.

  7. Anonymous10:30 AM

    When I've vacationed on Ocracoke, the doors don't get locked and when I go places and turn off the car, I don't even take the keys with me.

    It's a wonderful feeling to be able to do that.

  8. Anonymous2:44 PM

    I am sorry but I find this rather amusing. For an isolated population to brag about unlocked doors and how safe it is today because the history is of Pirates at one time populating the coast. Pirates- it's Five o clock somewhere kind of guys pillaging hamlets left and right. were these just fun loving sailors running from the law, rum drinking, doing the plank walk and burying treasure every once in a while twice removed cousins? Was it occupational hazards i.e. sharks hurricanes , doldrums from climate change , or cheap imported cutlasses with dull blades, that drove them to change careers and settle down? Is the Customs House staffed with the Maytag repairman working a second job?

  9. Bobby Rondthaler3:25 PM

    I love the memory of the footpaths that wandered through our yards all over the village. They persisted into the late 40s, displaced by paved roads and cars. In the days of the footpaths, everyone went barefoot (except in church). Some of the men had such tough feet that they could strike a match on the sole of the foot.

    Bobby Rondthaler

  10. Anonymous4:14 PM

    That is a geat image of the barefoot men. Long live pathways and small villages who trust their neighbors. Lou Ann

  11. Anonymous7:47 AM

    In light of the recent news of the Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home-- a suspicious neighbor called and thus police responded to the call -- if one visits the Chicago sun times web site a columnist weighs in on the subject. The house was rented --this guy was renting the house. If I am visiting Ocracoke Island I don't think I would break in to the rented house-- I think I would call the rental agent to assist me and have a locksmith deal with it -- not break the door then call about the damage as is in this case according to the columnist.

    We have a Harvard professor damaging a rental property and I dare say failing to exercise judgment. If this were his personal property would he have resorted to a similar method of gaining entrance? I don't remember anything about a key not working -- perhaps the key was not involved. Yeah, you guys are right don't lock your doors --look at all the trouble losing a key can bring you. Don't bother knocking on a neighbors door asking for help or introducing yourself once you move into a neighborhood. BE the CHANGE you want to see in the World