Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Question 5

Here is the final question posed by one of our readers: "Without the prevalence of amenities like air conditioning or insect repellant, what did you least look forward to [on trips to Ocracoke in the 1950s]?"

Mosquitoes were definitely a problem sixty years ago. I remember occasionally walking around the village after dark, and having a dark cloud of mosquitoes constantly attack us. During dry summers we weren't bothered much at all. There was no effective community mosquito control program back then, and we didn't have insect repellant (not that it would have done any good...there were so many of the critters), so we simply cut myrtle bushes with our pocket knives and used them to swish away the bugs. If you stopped swinging the branch you'd be covered!

When my father built our new house (the one Amy, David, & Lachlan live in) in the mid-1950s, he installed an indoor bathroom. I can't say I missed my grandparents' privy.

Until the mid-1970s all drinking water on the island came from rainwater collected in wooden, brick, or concrete cisterns. It always tasted the best...although it was a tad disconcerting to have to strain out the wigglers (mosquito larvae) with cheesecloth. We never did get them all. Cleaning the cistern in the spring was never the most pleasant task either, but it was interesting to see how many tree frogs were living in the tank.

Livestock continued to roam freely over the island until the mid-1950s. Even though there weren't many cows, I did step in a fresh cow pie one evening. Of course, I was barefooted. That was not the most pleasant experience!

Living without air conditioning never bothered me. In fact, remembering my grandmother's lace curtains gently moving in the summer breeze conjures up even more vivid memories of those wonderful lazy July and August days.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a list of traditional island remedies. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news032111.htm.


  1. Anonymous1:15 PM

    Patent No. 8080

    Life on an island needed a breeze, to keep away bugs thus and to live a life of ease

    Lounge in the shade and you have it made, but a man in Apalachicola, one you probably didn't know of, had a dream.

    It was a cool dream I say, to help those that were ill

    a Dr freeze if you please, the man that made ice on demand -- he took a stand and his machine-- the idea so noble, to ease the pain and discomfort of a bug in more ways than one.

    if you learn the story of Dr Gorrie-- if you are able to handle and learn the story and truth of what happened in the Florida panhandle

    you will agree that as he stands in the hallowed halls of congress his monument and tribute to improve the condition of bearing the heat it can't be beat He was the first but died penniless

  2. Anonymous11:21 PM

    You did it again, Philip: spawned more questions with your latest answers.

    We know from past posts that your father moved from Ocracoke when he was a young man and you first came to the island as a visitor.

    "When my father built our new house…" however, suggests that your dad returned to the island to take up residence again. Did that mark the start of your life as a year-round islander as well, or did that come later for you?

    Per your previous comment about so many young men leaving Ocracoke to make their living, it would be telling to know what brought them--or at least your dad--back to the island.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your stories.

  3. All of my life I never remember my father talking about moving back to North Carolina, or back to Ocracoke...it was always about moving "back home." I think this is the best explanation of why he came back. It was home.

    He built a house on Ocracoke in the mid-1950s (the house on the corner of Howard St & Lawton Lane...where Amy & Daivid & Lachlan live).

    When my dad retired in the 1960s he and my mother moved to Ocracoke. I moved back in 1970 (just for the summer for a couple of years...I had a teaching job in Maryland). The rest is history, as they say.