Sunday, December 13, 2020

Ocracoke - Washington Freighters

Friends from Washington, NC, recently sent me a digital copy of the Newsletter of the Historic Port of Washington Project. One interesting article was "The Ocracoke – Washington Freighters: The Last of an Era of Maritime Commerce" by Blount Rumley. 

Rumley recounts a number of vessels, bug-eye sailboats and diesel-powered vessels, that plied Pamlico Sound until the mid-twentieth century carrying freight, animals, and passengers, as well as seafood, back and forth between Washington and Ocracoke. 





Those days are gone now, but you can read about them in Blount Rumley's article which he permitted us to reprint in our latest Ocracoke Newsletter. You can read the article here:

Monday, November 16, 2020

Things You Won't or Will Find on Ocracoke

Carl Goerch's 1956 book, Ocracoke, includes a chapter with a list of things you wouldn't find on Ocracoke in the mid-20th century. Of course, there have been changes. We now have a few of those things Goerch mentioned. Interestingly, however, we have had over the years several other things you might find movie theaters, a railway, a skating rink, and windmills!

We have just published our latest Ocracoke Newsletter with lists of those things you won't or will or at one time would have found on Ocracoke. You can read it here:

Although we have not allowed comments in recent months (it was getting too time-consuming to delete all the spam comments) we are allowing comments until the end of November, 2020, if you would like to add any other items to our lists. We would love to hear from you. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Wreck of the Sarah D. J. Rawson

One of the most remarkable rescues performed in the 44-year history of the United States Life-Saving Service occurred in February, 1905, at Cape Lookout, North Carolina.

Surfboat Launch 

Sick with the flu, nine surfmen at the Cape Lookout station rowed 18 miles in an open boat and endured bitter cold for twenty-eight hours to rescue six mariners from the schooner Sarah D. J. Rawson

You can read the story in our latest Ocracoke Newsletter:

Monday, September 07, 2020

Howard Street through Time

As much as some things change, other things stay the same or change very little. Ocracoke's historic Howard Street, one of the iconic and enduring features of Ocracoke Island, has captured the attention of photographers for decades. These images below document Howard Street's appeal for residents and visitors alike. 

The image below appeared on a vintage postcard from the 1950s:

This photo was on a postcard in the 1960s:


This image of the eastern end of Howard Street is from the late 1960s:

The following photo was taken in spring 2020 by Shane Claridge, a first-time visitor to the island from Canada:











There have obviously been a few changes, but the primitive beauty of Howard Street remains. Be sure to take a stroll down this lane whenever you are on the island.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Concrete Turtle

We have just posted another Ocracoke Newsletter article, this time a story about how islanders coped before we had official street names. It is called "The Concrete Turtle."

We hope you find the story amusing. You can read it here:


Saturday, July 18, 2020

House Raising and Moving on Ocracoke

If you've visited the Village Craftsmen in the last few days you surely have noticed that Amy & David's house is being remodeled and elevated. As I was walking around the site I noticed that 36 "C" clamps are supporting the entire weight of the house. I was amazed, so I talked to the house mover. He explained exactly how and why that could be.

David Tweedie's & Amy Howard's House

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter includes a few words about the history of moving and elevating houses on the island, more photos of Amy and David's house, and an explanation of how 36 clamps can support the weight of the house.

You can read the Newsletter here:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Checking the Septic Tank Before Showering

Life on a barrier island offers many rewards. Along with the other residents of our small village I cherish our sixteen miles of natural, undeveloped ocean beach, the wide, seafood-rich sound, and the palpable sense of community we enjoy relatively isolated from the outside world.

But island life also presents numerous challenges. We are three hours from the nearest hospital, have no dentist, and must rely on ferries to make the twenty-five mile crossing to the mainland. Fog, strong winds, storms, and mechanical issues occasionally disrupt ferry schedules. Hurricanes, tidal flooding, and other natural and man-made disasters periodically leave us stranded without power, telephone service, or internet connections.

For years we have managed without a major grocery, any franchised fast-food restaurants or home improvement centers, a pharmacy, or a movie theater. Although we now have a small hardware store and a number of skilled tradesmen and specialists, for years we simply learned to be our own carpenters, plumbers, electricians and handymen.

In many respects islanders are nearly self-sufficient, and incredibly resilient.

Several months ago I was in Asheville when the battery in my cell phone failed. I found the nearest Verizon store and picked out a new phone. Then it came time to decide on a screen protector.

“I want to make sure the material is strong enough to protect my phone if I drop it or roll over on it while I am crawling around under my house,” I offered.

The clean-cut, necktie-wearing, mid-twenty-year-old employee looked at this 75-year-old customer with a puzzled expression. “Why on earth would you be crawling around under your house?” he inquired incredulously.

I started to explain that I might have to repair a leaking pipe, run a new electrical circuit, dig a trench for a drain pipe, replace insulation, or do any number of other tasks. It soon became clear that he couldn’t fathom what it entails to live on an isolated island, so I simply picked out a screen protector and we completed the sale.

A few days ago I was enjoying dinner with my daughter Amy, her husband Fiddler Dave, and their 15-year-old son Lachlan. I am temporarily living in a small apartment above my business, Village Craftsmen, and they are living in my house because their house had been severely damaged by flood waters during Hurricane Dorian. Due to recent heavy rains that raised the island’s water table and the fact that three people are now living in my house, my seventy-five-year-old septic tank is at near capacity. I advised all of them to use my outdoor shower to avoid over-burdening the system.

As my grandson stood up from the dinner table, he announced that he was going to take a shower, and requested to be able to use the indoor shower. “The mosquitoes are terrible tonight,” he explained.

Without a moment’s thought Amy said simply, “Go outside, open the hatch, and look into the septic tank and tell me how full it is.” He dutifully proceeded to his task. “Just don’t fall in, or you really will need a shower!” she added as he was walking out the door.

I turned to my daughter. “Do you know how unusual that request was?” I asked. “How many other teenagers, do you think, are asked to check the level of the septic tank before they can take a shower?"

With that we all began laughing.

My grandson returned a few minutes later to announce that the tank was nearly full. He realized he had to brave the mosquitoes in the outdoor shower.

I walked home wondering what the Verizon employee would think.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Edgar Howard

We have published another short video celebrating the life of native islander, Edgar Howard (1904-1990), who played banjo in vaudeville with his brother Walter in the band, the Five Harmaniacs, in the 1920s, and who returned home in the 1970s to entertain us with his music and song.

Edgar Howard, 1981, courtesy Art Mines & Elizabeth Dyer

You can see the video here:

Monday, April 20, 2020

Ansley O'Neal

Several  days ago Amy and I walked through the Community Cemetery and Amy made a video of me sharing a story about Ansley O'Neal (1911-1968), captain of the mailboat Dolphin. This is one of several videos celebrating some of Ocracoke Island's outstanding citizens who are no longer with us.

You can view the short video here:

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Bill Askren

Over the years Ocracoke has been home to a number of interesting and colorful people, some native islanders and some folks who came from other places.

Today we are publishing an Ocracoke Newsletter article about one such person, Bill Askren, who lived on the island in the late 1950s through the early 1960s.

 You can read the story of Bill and his connection with Ocracoke here:

Monday, April 06, 2020

Theodore and Alice Rondthaler

Today we share the second in our series of chats about some of Ocracoke's notable residents who are no longer with us. Theodore Rondthaler was hired as the Ocracoke School principal in 1948. His wife, Alice, accompanied him as one of his teachers. They served the island for 14 years as educators, and later as valuable members of the community. They are buried side by side in the community cemetery.

You can view our video of Philip sharing stories of Theodore and Alice here:

You can read more about the Rondthalers here:

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Saturday, April 04, 2020

Marvin & Leevella Howard

Several days ago a close family member joined me for a much needed outing. Wanting to maintain social distance in this time of coronavirus, we wandered down to the community cemetery where we could visit old friends in safety. As we walked among the grave markers I was reminded of so many wonderful and colorful islanders who had contributed much to our island community but who were no longer with us. We strolled slowly, stopping at many graves as we recounted stories and history.

Amy joined me the following day to record several stories of family and friends. Today I share with you some recollections of my uncle, Captain Marvin Howard, my aunt, Leevella Williams Howard, and Leevella's sister Irene and her husband Kelly.

You can listen to this first story on YouTube by clicking here:
You can also read more about Captain Marvin Howard here:

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Saturday, February 08, 2020

First Time Clamming

A few days ago I was sorting through some of my parents' old papers, and discovered several interesting finds. After my dad died, in 2002, Capt. Rob Temple sent me a note. He wrote, "Although Lawton has departed from us physically, his gifts to us are alive and well, especially in the delightful memories that hundreds of us who knew and loved him will treasure to the ends of our own lives."

Lawton Howard

I also discovered a story about my dad written by part-time resident Warner Passanisi that illustrates what Capt. Rob was referring to. The story is titled "First Time Clamming - A Fond Remembrance of Lawton Howard." You can read it here.