Sunday, October 03, 2010

Off Island Living

On Friday a reader asked if I have ever lived off the island. Yes, I have, although Ocracoke has been my home for about 40 years. My dad was born on Ocracoke, and this was the only place we ever came for our summer vacations (other than one year to visit Ocracoke relatives in Massachusetts, and another year to visit Ocracoke relatives in Florida).

I grew up near Philadelphia (like most island men of his generation, my dad moved to Philly to work on dredges & tugboats), graduated from Gettysburg College (where I lived for four years), spent the 1968 summer in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the rest of that year and the following winter on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in north central Montana (the temperature one morning was 52 degrees below zero, not counting wind chill!). I taught school in Maryland (Sandy Spring Friends School) for a couple of years, and spent several months living with a family in Quezaltenango (Xela), Guatemala.

Every place has its own charm, interesting history, and unique culture. And Ocracoke is one of the best!


If any of our readers would like a chance to win this beautiful Ocracoke quilt, just click on the photo below to purchase raffle tickets (please keep in mind that the photo and description on the re-direct page is last year's quilt; you will be purchasing tickets for a chance to win the quilt pictured below.)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke native Major General Ira Thomas Wyche. You can read the complete story here:


  1. Anonymous8:27 AM

    you are a sage voice indeed. to have the fortune of such experience your perspective on the human experience couched by living in many locales is a priceless resource. What is your fondest memory from college or what traditions from your college days stick with you from a heart warming perspective.

  2. Gettysburg is a beautiful, small, central Pennsylvania town...with, of course, an abundance of history. One abiding memory is walking across campus after a winter storm. Every branch of every tree was coated with a layer of ice. The world, that morning, glistened and sparkled like a magical wonderland.

  3. Anonymous11:11 AM

    Interesting! My question would have been - "were you ever a teacher-you seem like a natural".

  4. Anonymous3:40 PM

    You left out your college major and the subject you taught.

  5. My college major? Well, that was Philosophy. I kept looking in the "Help Wanted" ads for philosophers but could never find any I eventually ended up here on Ocracoke.

    In Maryland I taught English and math. I forgot to mention that I taught one year (1974-1975) on Ocracoke (that year's principal, who was seeing aliens landing on his lawn, was desparate). I was the one and only eleventh and twelfth grade teacher, and I taught English, American History, World History, Consumer Math, Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, & PE. The only thing I didn't teach was Home Economics.

  6. Anonymous6:00 PM

    You have such an interesting story! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. What made you decide to move to Ocracoke permanently?

  7. Anonymous6:48 PM

    And what was it about teaching at Ocracoke--or perhaps teaching in general--that led you to log just one year at the school there, since it would seem you're a natural and, in a way, have still been teaching--about life and about Ocracoke--for many years in this forum?

  8. Anonymous7:44 PM

    Impressive resume-I would have guessed the English & History. Are you starting to feel a little like a rock star? Hey, you don't play an instrument-do you?

  9. Re. teaching: I never had the first course in Education. I sought my first teaching job because I needed a job and was interested in being involved with a Quaker Meeting -- thus Sandy Spring Friends School. It is, of course, a private school, so I didn't need the Education classes. I had been enrolled in seminary prior to that time.

    On Ocracoke (and I moved to Ocracoke permanently for several reasons -- my family history on the island, the natural beauty, and the sense of community here) I taught simply because the principal was in a bind, and I needed the extra income. I really wasn't qualified to teach any of the subjects...let alone all of them!

    I'm not really a business person either, though I have owned and operated Village Craftsmen for many years (successfully, I might add). I never had any more business courses than education courses!

  10. I play about a dozen (maybe a few more) simple melodies on the harmonica. And the radio...I play that too.

  11. And don't forget the excellent percussion you provide by playing the little dancing man! :)

  12. Anonymous2:12 AM

    Phillip--A pleasure, as always, to see that you field our inquiries here with such a sense of... patience, indulgence, humility. Appreciate your giving us a glimpse into island life and history, as well as your own life and history, as it would indeed seem to be one and the same. Thank you.

  13. Philip,
    A few months ago, I was talking to a friend as we were standing on his rural horse farm in Fluvanna County, VA. Somehow the conversation turned to Ocracoke, as it seems to do with me, and he said "I had a teacher in Maryland from Ocracoke..." Through a series of question and answer, we determined that it must have been you, and now it's confirmed! (His name is Graham Bell, if you remember any of your former students.)
    Addison and I were just on the island 2 weeks ago (getting married!) and we didn't see you again after the Monday night show with Amy. I had wanted to ask you about it...such a small world!

    Heather & Addison

  14. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Did you also run the Community Store for a year or two before establishing the Village Craftsmen? When was that?

  15. We did own and operate the Community Store for a couple of years (late '70s). But the Village Craftsmen was already established. The Community Store venture was mainly an effort to protect and preserve the store. We sold the Community Store two years later to friends whom we trusted not to tear it down and develop the property. And is still a thriving business to this day.

  16. Anonymous8:06 PM

    Hmmm, Quaker. Philip, you are full of surprises. Perhaps that explains a comment you made several years ago about going to court in Swan Quarter for jury duty and affirming rather than swearing. My background is Anabaptist(Mennonite to be specific). Although I now attend a nondenominational church, I still consider myself Anabaptist, and affirming is one tenant of faith that I continue to hold on to. I enjoy the blog and the opportunities I've had to meet you at various times, esp. at the Ocracoke square dances!

    Steve, for Lynn & Steve

  17. Actually my view on oaths is quite secular (though it does comport with the Quaker testimony against swearing). In brief, my word speaks for itself. "Swearing" as I place my hand upon some holy book would have no bearing on my honesty. My simple affirmation is my committment to speak the truth. It's as straightforward as that.

  18. Heather & Addison, please give my regards to Graham Bell the next time you see him.

  19. Anonymous8:14 PM

    I know I am commenting on a old post (I was catching up....from a long time ago....)

    Anyway, just wanted to comment on you living in Gettysburg, PA. I live in Dover (near York, PA). Not to far from where you used to live.

    And I am also a teacher (Health and Physical Education.)

    We have recently gotten a bit of snow here (actually our first taste, kind of on the late side.)

    I really enjoy catching up with your posts and can't wait for our next visit. My parents brought me down every year with one or two other families in the late 70's through the mid-90's. I have just started to bring my friends and family in the last few years. My daughter had her first visit this past summer.

    Good job! Kelly (Walton) Reider