Tuesday, January 10, 2012


A few days ago Lou Ann and I were invited to join friends for dinner and the viewing of some photos taken in the 1970s. The beach, dunes, Howard Street and the lighthouse looked much the same as they do today, of course. But we were reminded of changes over the last 40 years. In the '70s numerous wooden skiffs were tied to stakes in Silver Lake harbor and Northern Pond. Today, almost all of the island's small boats are fiberglass...and they are tied up at docks.

Several picturesque old net houses have been gone for decades. The same is true of the She-Don-Di, the Miss Miriam, the MoJohn, and numerous other shrimp trawlers that were frequently rafted up at the base docks and the fish house docks, especially in rough weather.

We were also reminded of native islanders, colorful, creative people, who have died in the last half century.

Yesterday morning I was sitting in front of my gas log stove and I noticed once again my grandparents' antique mantle clock. It was purchased new in the 1930s, and continues to mark the passage of time as it tick-tocks steadily onward. I was reminded of a line from that beautiful old hymn, O God Our Help in Ages Past: "Time like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day."

Maybe some of our readers will remember a few of Ocracoke's memorable old-timers who are no longer with us. Please leave a comment if you'd like...so they won't be forgotten.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.


  1. Betsy Wilkes Buckingham8:00 AM

    What I love about your column is the memories it evokes for. Your mention of the 70s and combined with your first cup of coffee toook me back to the corner tables in the Idland Inn and Pony Island Restaurants regulars gathered for coffee:Oscar Burrus, Jack Willis, Thurston, Doody (wearing waighters and fresh in off his skiff) just to emtnion a few - served by Helena Willis and Wilma Williams. What yars they could share!

  2. Betsy8:12 AM

    Ok, I need to learn to edit before I hit the Send button. Forgive my typos. What those Ocokers shared over coffee were 'yarns' and they definitely strung me along and had many a laugh at my expense!

  3. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Philip, so sad...but beautiful too. Your words conveyed the love you felt...and love has no ending. Of all the Ocracokers you have known,not counting your immediate family, who was the most unforgettable?

  4. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Why is it no one or have they-- embraced the sea plane? Do many sea planes fly to Ocracoke Island, and if so are there stories about the first pilot to land in the harbor?

  5. Anon 8:49 -- There are so many memorable O'cockers: Lawton & Connie, of course...Wilbur, Clinton, Oscar Jackson, Conch (I was off the island when he died recently), Uncle Stanley, Uncle Marvin (organizer of the Ocracoke Mounted Boy Scout Troop), Harry & Essie, Lum, Leonard & Jane, Cousin Elsie, Uncle Homer, Irving & Elsie, Junius, Van Henry & Bertha, Fowler, Old Jake & Little Jake, Danny & Monk, Charlie Ahmen, Bill Askrin...and so many, many more -- far too many to list them all.

    I just noticed that it isn't always necessary to list last names. Anyone who was born on Ocracoke, or who has lived on Ocracoke for a long time, will recognize them all.

  6. Every once in a while a sea plane will land in Silver Lake Harbor, but it has been quite a few years since I've seen one here. I have no idea who was the first pilot to land in the harbor. Maybe one of our readers knows more.

  7. Sittng in The Pony Island restaurant for breakfast. Hearing the clatter of dishes and listening to people share what they did yesterday or plan for the day and te fishermen talking about getting ready to go out, what thy were catching, etc, waching the early morning sun as it slants through the windows. For some reason that is one of my best memories

  8. I am a new-comer here without a shared history with most of the folks. I have, however, been coming here long enough to miss a special man. For me, it is Roy Parsons. I loved his music and stories at the opry. I loved visiting him at his house while he was making his model boats, of which we own one...and I miss his laughter.

  9. Anonymous11:20 AM

    In loving memory of dear, sweet Lanie Boyette Wynn. Lanie was an interesting and educated lady.

  10. Anonymous11:28 AM

    From 8:49...I so regret I never got the chance to get to know what must have been some very special people. Little Jake was my mother's 1st cousin, so I guess that would make him my 2nd cousin--or would it be my 1st cousin once removed? That "removed" part always confuses me. Thanks for the "memories" you've created for me through your blog. You must miss them every day.----DC

  11. A few more special folks to remember -- Elizabeth & Wahab Howard, Taft & Elizabeth Howard, Julius and his sisters Muzel, Mildred (Babe) & Annie Laura, Clennon Boyette, Ann & Alton Scarborough, Myra & Stanley Wahab....and so many more.

  12. Anonymous1:38 PM

    You have really jogged my memory. I recall in the 40s a couple (Lena & Dave Howard) stayed at our house briefly. Since Blanche was in school with Edith Garrish (my mom) they would most likely have been born in the 20s. I am pretty sure they came from OI...ring any bells?----DC

  13. DC -- I am not sure who you are thinking of. I do not know of a Lena & Dave Howard.

    David Williams (married to Arretta Fulcher) had a daughter named Helena. Helena was born 1910. I know she lived in Philadelphia for a while when she was young.

    Next time I visit Blanche I will ask her.

  14. Anonymous2:39 PM

    Only been coming to Ocracoke for twenty something years but I will always remember Sigma Willis. He could sure tell some stories about the island and the people with some of his war stories from his Army life thrown in the mix. 73 old friend

  15. Thanks Philip-that would be great! -- DC

  16. Anonymous4:40 PM


    Your post--and all the subsequent recollections--makes me think of the Lyle Lovett song "Family Reserve", reflections of loved ones and familiars who've gone before:


  17. Anon 4:40 -- You probably didn't know that one of Lyle Lovett's bodyguards/back-up singers lived on Ocracoke for a while. He is quite the interesting guy!

  18. Anonymous7:41 PM

    This NC Mainlander could read this blog for hours at a time. This entry is particularly special. Even though I don't remember or know all the folks personally, I recall some of the names and have seen these same names in some of my vast collection of cherished Ocracoke books. So, I just feel connected. That's Ocracoke....always a feeling of being connected to kindred spirits.

    Philip, really? Lyle Lovett's bodyguards/back-up singers lived on Ocracoke for a while? Well, I've learned quite another interesting Ocracoke tid-bit today!!!! Thanks for always giving us something to ponder!

  19. This is from my collection of poems,
    Knocking on a Glass Table

    Behind each picture is time lost-

    Open it up for flesh and blood and bones.

    Unseal the frame for the past to spill out naked and raw

    Burdened like a bride, except the new is gone.

    Old and blue weave memory tales lost in wood and glass.

    Seal it back up with a whisper and a sly look.

    No one will know as we reset the nail.

    (Was thinking about this today as we have spent the day in recollecting folks from both our families.)

  20. Re. Lyle Lovett's song "Family Reserve": I was not familiar with that song, but I liked it immediately. I was reminded of my father's brother, my Uncle Homer. He was an incredibly interesting relative. There are so many stories about him that I will share only a few -- one of his jobs, when he was a young man, was to beat the drum for the dancing camel in a circus; when I was a boy he would occasionally come to our house for short visits, and he would roll up his pant leg to show me his tatoos of naked women (and then he would flex his calf muscles to make them dance for me); he was killed by a hit-and-run driver while directing traffic in a rain storm in Philadelphia (no, he was not a policeman); at his funeral there was a wonderful congregation of family, homeless people, street walkers, and area youths.

    Ocracoke natives sure are a colorful lot!

  21. Anonymous9:34 PM

    Am glad you enjoyed "Family Reserve."

    Anon 4:40

  22. Anonymous8:00 AM

    Remember our school teachers - Miz Selma, Sherril Senseney, Theodore and Alice Ronthaler.

  23. Wallace & Rebecca Spencer, and Nathaniel & Coleen Jackson should not be forgotten. Nor should Barbara Gainey or Benjamin Early.

  24. Anonymous12:51 PM

    John And Veda Gallop...Archie Wahab...Irvin and Elsie...Earl Hill...

  25. Let's not forget the characters still alive on OI.

  26. with the hours we can indulge in detail, we can understand what life is made. time is limiting us. its night and day there is limited time. good article I like.

  27. DC -- Almost certainly the Lena & David that you remember were Lena (1880-1968) & David Summers (1875-1956) Williams. Lena was the daughter of James Nelson & Bell Scarborough Williams. David was the son of Millard Filmore, Sr. & Rebecca Spencer Williams. Lena & David had 7 children: Nasa (died very young), Nasa, Manuel (a close friend of my father's), Millard, Rebecca (Wallace Spencer's first wife), Lena Bell, & Virginia (David Esham's mother).

  28. Hi Philip,
    The Lena & David you mention are much too old to be the same couple. They were well under 40 yrs.old. My mom called her Lena Howard. Such a common surname tells me I must have been wrong about them being from OI. Thank you very much for your thoughtful efforts. Enjoyed the post soo much!

  29. Anonymous4:54 AM

    Philip, Your picture of our grandfather's antique clock brought back many enjoyable memories of visiting Grandma Aliph and Grandfather when I was young. I had bountiful energy,was naively free-spirited and loved Ocracoke. When the house was regrettably quite, I could hear the tick tock, tick tock of the cherised clock and it almost put me to sleep. I still hear it today and still love to visit Ocracoke. Love, your cousin Becky.

  30. I'm sure you had a great night looking at those old pictures.Its quite amazing looking at some old pictures right?