On December 23, 1944, I drove from Baltimore, Maryland to Ocracoke, North Carolina, which is now the southernmost end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. Driving was good and uneventful until arriving at Whalebone, a few miles south of Nags Head, where the hard surface road terminated. Stopping at Mrs. Midgett’s Service Station to deflate the tires to 15 pounds air pressure, I was advised not to attempt to drive further as five automobiles had been stuck the day before in sand and water before getting to Oregon Inlet. However, being a “Banker” with some experience in sand driving and with more time than money, I started driving. The beach between Whalebone and Oregon Inlet was flooded from a heavy rainfall. Motor quit about one mile from Bodie’s Island Coast Guard Station to which I waded for assistance which was promptly rendered, and I proceeded to the 8-car ferry which landed on the south point of Oregon Inlet. I knew it would be futile to attempt to drive through the sand inside of the beach wash. Fortunately, the tide was at low ebb so I could drive along the wash of the surf.
Everything went well until about two miles from Cape Hatteras Coast Guard Station, when I ran into a bed of gravel sand, lost two hub caps and was stuck. I found a net stake on which I tied a kimono belonging to my daughter who was along with me, placed this on top of the highest hill as a signal for assistance to the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard Station. The wind was blowing from the S.W., the atmosphere hazy which made very little visibility After waiting more than an hour, it was nearly dark without any response to our improvised signal. The tide was rising and water washing under my automobile. We decided it was time to adopt other means of attracting attention of the Coast Guard.
The beach in this vicinity was strewn with wreckage and debris from ships which had been torpedoed and sunk by the Germans. We picked up pieces of wreckage and piled on top of the hill where our signal was still flying unheeded. Being aware of the fact that the Coast Guard was constantly on the alert for the sight of fire, I said to Lillian, my daughter, “this will bring ‘em.” We had only three matches left. The wind blew my first and second match in an attempt to set fire to the wood pile, so I decide to replenish with more newspapers. The fire started on the third match and so did the Coast Guard with their Power Wagon and a jeep, reaching us in short order and towing us to Hatteras.
I relate this a s being one of the milder trips I have made along the Outer Banks during the past 50 years. I have walked many miles, ridden horseback, hitch-hiked, and recall one ride in an ox cart.
If you have ever wondered how the street you live on or vacation on got its name, or are just curious about other street names, take a look at this month's Ocracoke Newsletter. We have compiled a list of every official street in Ocracoke village, along with one or more paragraphs explaining how they came to be named. You can read the Newsletter here.