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


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:

And you can read about the skipper, Capt. Teddy Charles, sailor and influential jazz musician, here:

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.’”