Monday, April 15, 2019

Honor and Morals

I recenttly finished reading Brad Melzer and Josh Mensch's book, The First Conspiracy, The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. I was reminded of some of the reason's Washington is so revered even today. Although our first president was at times embroiled in controversy (click here to read about the John Jay Treaty) he is almost universally regarded for his character and sense of honor. Melzer and Mensch comment on his "values of integrity, duty, and trust." For example, when Washington's name was proffered as a candidate for the command of the Continental army, he  simply disappeared. The book's authors report that he didn't "want it to look in any way as if he [was] hoping to win the position out of vanity or arrogance, or that he [was] somehow suggesting his own superiority over the others."

With that said, George Washington, can also be described as having feet of cay (see Daniel 2:31–33) since in his younger years "he seemed to have no problem profiting from [slavery], a practice we now regard as a moral atrocity." Nevertheless, "within a few years, [Washington] comes to believe that slavery is morally incompatible with the American ideals he and so many others fought for."

Reading these words reminded me of our 2011 Ocracoke Newsletter article about Slavery on Ocracoke. It explains the conflicted and complicated racial relationships on the antebellum Outer Banks, and illustrates changes in attitudes and behaviors over time.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Ghost Story?

Ocracoke native, Capt. Thomas Franklin Gaskins (1854-1948), was known for his sartorial elegance. In retirement he almost always dressed in suit and tie, then walked down to Big Ike's store every morning to socialize with friends and neighbors. Tom Franks, as he was known to everyone, dreamed every night...vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams of his wife and daughter who had died years before.

One morning Tom Franks explained that Annie, his deceased wife who was extremely thin, and his daughter, Julia, were tormenting him from under the house. They had even come into his bedroom during the night and frightened him!

"How did they get in?" one of the men sitting around the pot-bellied stove asked.

"They came right through the cracks in the floor," Tom Franks explained, as he cast a bewildered look towards his questioner.

"Hell," exclaimed the quick-witted Oscar Jackson, "Miss Annie could have done that while she was still alive!"

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Monday, April 01, 2019

Hatteras Ferries

I wonder if anyone has noticed the new electronic devices recently attached to some of the pilot houses on the state's ferries. It seems that the NC Department of Transportation, Ferry Division, has ambitious plans for the 2019 season.

According to the latest information, beginning next month, selected Hatteras Inlet ferries will be crossing with a state-of-the-art autonomous navigation system developed by Google.


As the director of the Ferry Division explained, "All of our ferries are already equipped with the latest navigational devices...compasses, radar, depth finders, and GPS." It was relatively simple to add autonomous capability."  And, unlike the complicated and ever-changing situations on our nation's highways, the route between Hatteras and Ocracoke is pretty straightforward. The channels are clearly marked, and the routes are already entered into the GPS database.   

The only serious issue was fully integrating the electronic data into the mechanical operation of the vessels, such as throttles and bow thrusters. This was critical for being able to properly dock the ferries, especially in windy conditions. 

It may not be too far-fetched to envision a time in the near future when the ferries will only require deckhands to tie the vessels to the docks. Even directing traffic on and off the ferries will probably be accomplished with electronic signs and traffic lights. 

For more information scroll to the bottom of the page.

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April Fool! Don't be concerned....Just kidding.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Ocracoke School Song

A few days ago, Sundae Horn, our local community librarian, sent me a copy of the sheet music for “The Ocracoke School Song.” Arnold Sundgaard wrote the words; Alec Wilder composed the music.













With the annual PTA Variety Show coming up, Sundae thought it would be fun for the kids to revive the song that she remembers hearing students sing once about fifteen years ago. Principal Leslie Cole located a copy in the school files and shared it with Sundae, who asked me, “Any idea who Arnold Sundgaard was?”

Not only did I have no idea who Arnold Sundgaard was, I had never seen or heard of the song.

As it turns out, the story is quite interesting. Sundgaard was a nationally recognized American playwright, librettist, and lyricist.Wilder was a prominent composer.

You can read the story of how two nationally known artists came to create "The Ocracoke School Song" and download the complete sheet music from our latest Ocracoke Newsletter at https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-ocracoke-school-song/.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Old Quawk's Day

Although tomorrow, (March 17) is St. Patrick's Day, today (March 16) has traditionally been more recognized on Ocracoke Island. This is Old Quawk's Day. Almost every year I relate the legend of Old Quawk. 

About 200 years ago there lived on Ocracoke Island a fisherman of indeterminate provenance. He was a reclusive figure, preferring to live in a small hut made of driftwood and bullrushes about 5-6 miles from the village. No one remembers his given name, but folks called him "Old Quawk" because, they said, he "quawked" like an old night heron.

Old Quawk was a bold fisherman, often venturing out into Pamlico Sound in his sail skiff when cautious islanders stayed in port waiting for more propitious weather.

On this date, March 16, many years past, Old Quawk made his last voyage into Pamlico Sound. Storm clouds were piling up in the darkening sky.













Legend has it that Old Quawk defiantly disregarded the warnings of other islanders, raised his clenched fist to the heavens and dared the gods to thwart him, then set out in his sail skiff. A frightful gale churned the Sound into a wild turbulence and swamped Old Quawk's tiny craft. Neither Old Quawk nor his boat were ever found.

For many years Ocracoke fishermen refused to go out in their boats on March 16. Even today it's best to be prudent on Old Quawk's Day. There's no telling what the weather gods will dish out on March 16.

For another account of Old Quawk see https://www.ncpedia.org/old-quawks-day.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

A Visit to the Clinic

A few years ago a native islander walked into our local clinic and announced that she was suffering from the distemper. The receptionist, who had moved to the island from the mainland, duly noted the complaint as the islander took her seat in the waiting area. But the receptionist was troubled. "I thought only dogs were afflicted with distemper," she said to herself. Curious, she did a bit of research. Soon enough she discovered that distemper is, in fact, "a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs." But still, she thought, maybe it is possible for humans to be infected also. Who knows?

Some days later the receptionist met the islander and inquired about how she was doing. In the course of the conversation the receptionist discovered that her neighbor did not think she was afflicted with a canine malady. Ocracoke islanders, especially of the older generations, use the term "distemper" to mean any troublesome or serious ailment like a bad cold or flu. 

In fact, if you do a thorough search for the definition of distemper you will discover that "ailment" and "disorder" are also listed.

Coincidentally, I was recently reading about early American history. In early 1775 a deadly smallpox epidemic began to sweep through the colonies. By summer and fall this highly contagious disease was threatening to infect soldiers in the Continental Army. Founding Father, John Adams, commented that "The Small Pox is an enemy more terrible in my imagination, than all others. This distemper will be the ruin of every army from New England if great care is not taken."

This is one more example of  how Ocacoke's long isolation from the mainland resulted in the retention of peculiar words and phrases from the colonial period...some still in use in the 21st century.

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Monday, March 04, 2019

A Secret Plot to Kill the President

According to a new book by Brad Melzer and Josh Mensch, The First Conspiracy, The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, New York Governor William Tryon and New York City Mayor David Mathews conspired during the spring and summer of 1776 to kidnap and assassinate George Washington and his chief officers.

I had never heard of this, and I have not yet read the book, but I learned of it from a review in The Week magazine. Although there is some skepticism surrounding the allegations (one reviewer commented that there is "too thin a factual record," and another writes that "it's hard to know if Washington was ever even targeted for assassination.") I am looking forward to reading the book and learning more, especially because William Tryon, a Lieutenant General in the British Army,  had served as the 8th Governor of North Carolina (from 1765-1771) before being appointed to serve as Governor of New York.


















There seems to be no doubt that Tryon was a dedicated Loyalist whose policies have been described as savagely brutal. Towards the end of his tenure as NC Governor he was instrumental in suppressing the Regulator Movement (a popular uprising against corrupt colonial officials).

According to the jacket of The First Conspiracy, "This is the story of the secret plot against George Washington and how it was revealed. It is a story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters, and jailhouse confessors. It also shows just how difficult the battle was for George Washington -- and how close America was to losing the war."

Whatever is the truth about William Tryon, his legacy lives on in North Carolina. The town of Tryon is named for him, as is Tryon Hills (a prominent neighborhood in Charlotte), Tryon Road in Raleigh, Tryon Street (one in Burlington, another in Hillsborough), and of course, Tryon Palace in New Bern.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Etched Goblet

Back in the 1970s finding and identifying old bottles was a popular hobby on Ocracoke. For years, lacking village trash pickup or a community dump, islanders simply buried their trash or tossed bottles and other items behind their houses. It was fun searching for bottles, researching their provenance, and wondering about the lives of those who used them.

In 1973, while clearing the land for the Village Craftsmen, I was proguing* about near where my great uncle Wheeler and aunt Tressie's chicken coop had been when I spied a glass object buried in the sand. I dug it out and discovered a beautiful glass goblet etched with pintail ducks.



















At the time there were few resources for identifying the origin of the goblet. But recently, as I was sorting through boxes in the attic I rediscovered the goblet. It is signed "Richard E Bishop." In 2019 it didn't take me long on the computer to learn about Richard Bishop.

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1887, Richard E. Bishop  was a noted artist, painter, and etcher. He graduated from Cornell University and settled in the Philadelphia area where he was a member of various artistic societies and clubs. Bishop was internationally acclaimed for his wildlife prints and etchings. He was the original artist for the Federal Duck Stamp program when it was established in 1936. Bishop died in 1975, just two years after I unearthed the goblet, at the age of 87.

I can only speculate about how a Richard Bishop work of art came to Ocracoke. However, since more than 50 Ocracoke men worked in Philadelphia with the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 20th century, it seems likely that one of them brought the goblet home. At any rate, the goblet is a beautiful reminder of uncle Wheeler and aunt Tressie, and their appreciation for art.

*Proguing is the present participle of progue, which is a variation of the obsolete term "prog" (going back at least to 16th century England & Scotland), meaning to search, prowl about, or forage for food or plunder. On Ocracoke it can be used to mean searching for seafood, or more generally for just poking about or jabbing at something.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Early 2oth Century Marketing Strategy

In 1937, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, in response to a petition signed by 132 “citizens, taxpayers, and voters,” passed a resolution to ban the sale of beer on Ocracoke Island. It was not until 1978, when Howard's Pub opened, that beer was again legally for sale on Ocracoke. In the late 1970s an ABC store was established. And only in 2006 was the sale of liquor by the drink approved. Nevertheless, various alcoholic beverages were usually available from local bootleggers. I recently heard the following anecdote from about 1940:

An islander approached J......... B........., one of the local bootleggers, inquiring about purchasing a bottle of liquor.

"You're lucky," J......... replied. "There's been a run on liquor lately, and I only have one bottle left."

After a brief pause, J........... added, "What would you like, rum or vodka?"

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

East Howard Street

East Howard Street













This picturesque sandy lane is a portion of what was once merely a foot path, but then became the main road through Ocracoke village.

In 1835, petitioners requested permission to lay out a one-lane public thoroughfare on the North side of Cockle Creek, from “just North of Thomas Bragg’s House” (near the present-day School road) to “John Pike’s garden” (in the vicinity of where the OPS Museum is today) and then all the way to the Sound.

In 1957, when the state of North Carolina paved most of the island roads, the eastern end of this road was left untouched. Almost immediately Mr. Stacy Howard nailed a homemade wooden sign to a tree in front of his house and dubbed this "East Howard Street." At that time at least eight Howard families, all descendants of William Howard, Sr., colonial owner of Ocracoke, lived along this street.

Second-Generation Howard Street Sign


















In 1759 William Howard, Sr., purchased Ocracoke Island. He was the last of the colonial owners, but the first to call Ocracoke home. Descendants of his son, William, Jr., settled in this area. Five generations of the original Howard family are buried in the several small graveyards along East Howard Street, protected by simple wooden fences.

Eventually the lane became known simply as Howard Street. It is generally only the older generation of islanders who still use Stacy Howard's original designation, East Howard Street.

This past fall the Howard Street sign disappeared. In a spirit of community that is so typical of Ocracoke, several friends and neighbors immediately made new signs.

Howard Street Signs, 2019


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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Epitaphs

A number of years ago I came into possession of a 1976 manuscript that had been housed in the University of Iowa Library system. Titled Epitaphs for Voice Oboe & Harpsicord (or Piano), it was composed by Lewis Phelps, winner of the 1976-1977 Composition Competition of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors.

Phelps' preface to his compilation of twelve "miniature songs" explains that "Epitaphs, written to extol the virtues of the deceased, often reveal something about the survivors as well, and present an interesting commentary on humankind generally." His compositions use texts that are "actual inscriptions found in cemeteries from New York to Arizona," selected from "American Epitaphs by Charles L. Wallis."

The composer's ninth selection is based on the epitaph (one commentator has called this epitaph a "convoluted tribute") found on the tombstone of Agnes Howard (1780 - 1857), located in the old George Howard cemetery on British Cemetery Road:

"She was!
But words are wanting to say what.
Think what a wife should be.
She was that." 

Agnes Howard Grave Marker on Ocracoke


















 The following two pages show Phelps' score for "Agnes Howard":




















Phelps explains that "Epitaphs is written for a small one-manual harpsichord with a range of four octaves, 8' and 4' hand-operated stops, with a lute on 8'. When a larger instrument is used, the registration may be adjusted slightly.... Dynamic markings which appear in the keyboard part are intended for piano."

Maybe some of our readers will enjoy playing and singing ("tenderly," advises the author) this song based on the epitaph of Agnes Howard from Ocracoke Island.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Hurricane Gloria, 1985

I was cleaning up and organizing a bunch of files and photos the other day....and found these two pictures from September, 1985, after Hurricane Gloria hit Ocracoke.



























As you can see from the next photo, the storm tide from Hurricane Gloria has only been exceeded twice since 1985:  Hurricane Alex (2004) and Hurricane Matthew (2016).


















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Thursday, January 24, 2019

1989 Award for Karen Lovejoy

From 1986-2010, The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation annually presented North Carolina citizens with the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards. The awards, which included a $25,000 payment ($20,000 to be donated to a charity of the recipient's choice; and $5,000 for the recipient) went to individuals in one of three categories –Race Relations (originally designated Community Change), Advocacy, and Personal Service. Recipients were unsung heroes who made an impact in North Carolina communities.

In 1989, Ocracoke resident Karen Lovejoy was honored with the award for Personal Service. The other recipients, pictured below with Karen, were Willie I. Patterson (Community Change), Lowery W. Reid (Community Change) and Leo J. Teachout (Advocacy). 












As part of Karen's nomination process, nearly two dozen island residents (colleagues, friends, students, and neighbors) submitted written testimonies to Karen's impact on our island community. 

The Z. Smith Reynolds website includes this tribute to Karen:

"Karen Lovejoy has made a difference in the lives of nearly all 700 of her fellow inhabitants of Ocracoke Island. When she arrived there 10 years ago, it was for a job: special education teacher at the Ocracoke Island School. Most would have scoffed at the daunting task of teaching each of the school’s exceptional children, from kindergarten to 12th grade, but Lovejoy has taken up the challenge with energy and devotion.

"Whether it be learning Braille so she could help a blind student, or teaching sign language to a deaf student and his family, Lovejoy has gone well beyond her job description. Students treasure her willingness to listen and her knack for imparting self-confidence.

"Outside school, Lovejoy's dedication to others does not end. She visits senior citizens and takes a genuine interest in their lives. She and her husband, David Frum, founded a running club that takes young people to meets all over the state. She organized a foreign-exchange program that has exposed students to experiences far beyond their small, isolated island.

"Then there are the tales about her uniquely personal service to her neighbors, whatever their needs. 'In all of her tasks,' says one admirer, 'she makes true the word "trust." She energizes the word "enable," and she makes vital and caring and promising the words of her own name - "love" and "joy."'"

Karen and her husband Dave live on Ocracoke to this day, and Karen continues to enrich our community with her enthusiasm for life and her concern for others. As you might guess, Karen is modest and does not advertise her award. As a result, many of today's island residents are unaware of this special recognition Karen received in 1989. When you see her, please let her know how much we appreciate all she's done for this community. (But please don't tell her I wrote this, or she will take me to task!)

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Population 492

On August 3, 1940, the Saturday Evening Post published an article about the Outer Banks titled "Cape Stormy" by Aycock Brown. Here is an excerpt:

"Suppose you were looking for the most remote, least visited inhabited spot in the United States east of the Mississippi. My nomination would be the Carolina Outer Banks….

"…From [Roanoke Island] south there are no roads. You can travel by boat. The beach is one long landing field. You may even drive, if you know the trick of getting through deep and treacherous sand, or ride the daily station-wagon stage which struggles through the sand from Manteo to Hatteras, there connecting with a ferry to Ocracoke Island [Brown must have been writing about a passenger boat; the first car ferry I know about commenced operation about 1950]. You may, but very few do it, and so Hatteras and Ocracoke are what is known as unspoiled.













"There are half a dozen villages on Hatteras with 1154 persons in all, by the 1940 census, the one village of Ocracoke, on the island of that name, population 492. The only other settlement south of Roanoke Island is the dying village of Portsmouth, on Core Banks, which once was to have been a great port. The Banks are the only region in the United States where no license is required for an automobile, North Carolina never having spent any of its road funds there."

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Monday, January 14, 2019

1976

My daughter, Amy, recently found these almost 43-year-old snapshots in an old photo album, and sent them to me. They were taken in April of 1976 aboard the 73-foot, two-masted clipper schooner, Mary E. Most of the people in the top picture are Ocracoke High School students. That is me, Philip Howard, in the bottom photo.



















As part of the 1976 Bicentennial Sail jointly sponsored by the National Park Service and "Sea Ventures," a New Jersey-based educational organization, the Mary E (she was built in 1906) was being used as learning motivation for students in schools near various East Coast Parks.

In April of that year, bound for Manteo, the Mary E made a stop at Ocracoke and was detained by bad weather for several days. While on Ocracoke Meryl Silverstein, the onboard educator, first mate, cook and deckhand, made arrangements for Ocracoke students to inspect the ship. But instead of giving them the usual 20-minute program, Capt. Teddy Charles invited them to sail to Manteo, 70 miles north. Within two hours, 13 Ocracoke high school students, three adult supervisors, Silverstein and the skipper were sailing out of the harbor with excited parents, friends and teachers waving.

You can read the history (and current location) of the Mary E here: https://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/visit/1906-schooner-mary-e/the-history-of-mary-e/.

And you can read about the skipper, Capt. Teddy Charles, sailor and influential jazz musician, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_Charles.

Maybe some of our local readers can identify the students in the top photo (I can only recognize a few!). Please leave a comment if you can.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Loaf, Swim, & Fish

The following is from a June 10, 1955, Collier’s article titled “20 New Budget Vacations” by Norman D. Ford:

 “If you’ve ever yearned for an escapist isle peopled by descendants of shipwrecked sailors, where life moves with the tides and time has stood still for the better part of a century, head for Atlantic, North Carolina. Garage your car ($5 a week) and take the daily boat to Ocracoke Island. Three hours later you bump alongside a jostling shrimp-boat fleet and clamber ashore in a new world of Elizabethan English, rolling porpoises, barefooted bankers, lighthousekeepers, skeletons of once proud ships and 16 miles of almost deserted beach.

Wreck of the Carroll A. Deering (Courtesy, M.R. Dixon)













"Beside the harbor, fishermen’s white homes rise picturesquely from the live oak and yaupon. Among them are small lodges, hotels and cottages. But there is no jail, no police officer, no bar, and you cannot buy a drink. What you can do is loaf, swim, fish (best channel-bass fishing in the Atlantic), clam, crab, slide down majestic sand dunes and explore wrecked ships. Don’t go with advance cottage reservations –accommodation is limited – and bring your own linen."

Friday, January 04, 2019

You Got to Go Out

I have frequently written about Outer Banks shipwrecks and the brave men of the United States Life-Saving Service.












The following excerpt from a 1941 Newspaper article relates one of the most widely acknowledged illustrations of the dedication of the US lifesavers.

“There are thirteen [Coast Guard] stations from the Virginia line to Beaufort; and there were twenty up to 1931. To be a great surfman, the natives agree, is the ultimate test of a man. In good weather and bad surfmen patrol the beach nightly, like sentries walking posts. It takes courage and knowing how, to walk this beach in a howling nor’easter with hissing storm tide threatening to sweep across the Banks into the sound, opening great gullies in their paths. It takes nine giants to launch a 3000-pound lifeboat through brawling breakers; brawn and skill, too, where the least hesitation might slam the heavy boat down upon their broken bodies.

“It was the Banks which gave the Service [formerly the United States Life-Saving Service, now the US Coast Guard] its unofficial watchword. One night when a vessel was breaking up on the outer reef at Hatteras and a crew was preparing to launch its surfboat, a rookie turned to the bos’n, saying: ‘I believe we can get out there, cap’n, but I don’t believe we ever could get back.’ “The bos’n spat away from the wind. ‘Don’t fret about that, Bub,’ he answered. ‘All the regulations say is we got to go out there. The regulations don’t say a damn thing about having to come back.’”