Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Distemper

In February islander Kathy Ballance came down with a severe wintertime bug that had been circulating throughout the village. Fever, sore throat, coughing, and fatigue laid folks low for weeks at a time…and lingered for months.

Kathy called the Health Clinic and described her condition using an old-time island expression. “Jamie,” she told the receptionist, “I need to make an appointment. I’ve got the Distemper.”

Jamie is from the mainland of Hyde County and had never heard anyone refer to a bad cold as “the Distemper.” Curious, Jamie did some research to see if humans could really get distemper. When Kathy heard about Jamie searching the Internet re. the Distemper she thought it was hilarious. Kathy found it doubly funny that the doctor prescribed the same antibiotics that her son's dog was getting!

Just one more example of Ocracoke Islanders’ unique and quirky vocabulary!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:33 PM

    Interesting Newsletter . Do you know if they have vintage photos for sale? If not, I think this would be a good fundraiser for OPS. Their house is gorgeous . What is the date of the oldest house on OI?

  2. OPS might have the 1917 panorama photo of Ocracoke village (taken from the top of the lighthouse) for sale. At least they did at one time.

    I believe the oldest house on the island is the Capt. Elisha and Thurza Howard Chase house (later, the Soundfront Inn; now a rental property). It was built ca. 1838 if I remember correctly. It is located at the end of an unpaved road on Pamlico Sound, not too far from the lighthouse. A couple of houses on Howard Street are nearly that old.

  3. Anonymous6:05 AM

    Relieved to know Kathy didn't really have distemper, but what a funny story to share!

  4. Anonymous8:22 AM

    Thank you so much for the info.

  5. Anonymous7:37 AM

    Philip have you forgot that the original section of the Lighthouse Keepers quarters was built along with the lighthouse in 1823.


  6. Dale, thank you for reminding me! You are, of course, correct.