Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Meal Wine

Last week a reader asked about meal wine. I published the recipe in 2010. Here it is again:

Ocacoke Island meal wine recipe: Get a large crock, jug or clean trash can. Pour four gallons of water into the container. Add five pounds of sugar, four pounds of corn meal, three or four packages of yeast, a box of raisins, and some fruit (figs, peaches, blackberries, bananas, etc. work well).

Set the container outside where it can "work" for a week or more (it will work more quickly in the summer). Add a couple of pounds of sugar in a few days, and again a few days later. Eventually the solids will sink to the bottom and you will be left with a clear brew on top.

Meal Wine Brewing













You might want to strain your meal wine through cheesecloth (or an old lace curtain) to eliminate most of the ants. Fowler O'Neal always told me, with a wry smile, that sometimes when you get down to the bottom of the crock you might discover a drowned rat. A mainlander, Fowler said, might be tempted to pick the rat up by the tail and toss him into the woods before dipping another cup full of meal wine. An islander, Fowler assured me, would wring him out first, so he wouldn't lose any of his valuable product! Then he would toss him in the woods.

A visiting journalist who was invited to one of the Saturday night square dances at the old Pamlico Inn in the 1930s was offered a drink of Ocracoke meal wine. He described it as equivalent to drinking a lit kerosene lantern!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Island Inn

For months one of Ocracoke’s most iconic buildings, the Island Inn, has been sitting empty and neglected. A “For Sale” sign fastened near the front door announces that its future is uncertain. Now an ad hoc committee of four concerned islanders, Johnny Giagu, Ed Norvell, Bill Rich (County Manager), and Tom Pahl (County Commissioner), have put together a proposal that could save the building and make it available for community use.

In 1900 James and Zilphia Howard sold the one-acre tract of land to the trustees of "Ocracoke Lodge No. 194 Independent order of Odd Fellows" for use as a "Lodge room or such other purpose as they may deem proper." A two-story wood frame building, the center section of the current structure, was built in 1901. It housed the Odd Fellow's Lodge on the second floor. Soon thereafter two island schools were consolidated to create one public school which was held on the first floor.

Odd Fellows Lodge, OPS Photo, Earl O'Neal Collection















Over the next 117 years the “Lodge,” as it came to be called, was added to and modified. Over the years it variously served the island as a private home, inn, restaurant, coffee shop, WWII officers quarters, and gift shop. In the early to mid-20th century it was the center of community social life. Islanders gathered there for Saturday night square dances accompanied by the music of fiddle, banjo, guitar, and triangle.

On December 7, 2017, the ad hoc committee (the “Island Inn Preservation Committee”) secured a purchase agreement from the property’s current owner which allows the committee 150 days to negotiate additional agreements with adjoining property owners, the Occupancy Tax Board, the Tourism Development Authority, Hyde County, and the Ocracoke Preservation Society.

Immediately Tom Pahl and Johnny Giagu met with the Executive Committee of the Preservation Society to present their proposal. At the meeting on December 7, 2017, the members of the OPS Executive Committee voted to “support the plan brought by the ad hoc committee … and … to work with the ad hoc committee toward accomplishing the goals presented,” which included using $150,000 of OPS’s “Save an Old House” revolving fund as down payment on the property, to accept initial ownership of the property, and to transfer the property, with conservation easements, to “another community entity” in the future.

Still to be negotiated during the 150-day period are funding to pay mortgage payments, demolition of the two badly deteriorated wings, and stabilization of the historic center section. Sale would not be final, nor funds committed, until those details of the project were established.

Although the initial goal is simply to preserve the historic center section of the Lodge, future plans might include turning the building into a visitors center with public restrooms, space for community meetings and gatherings, and “green” areas for picnicking and other outdoor activities.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/.  

Friday, December 08, 2017

Business Directory, 1877-1878

Below are some interesting Hyde County statistics gleaned from Branson's North Carolina Business Directory for 1877 and 1878.
  • Ocracoke is listed as having the following organizations & services: 
    • 1 magistrate (there are 4 on the mainland)
    • 1 church (10 on the mainland)
    • 3 merchants (55 on the mainland)
    • 1 mill (11 on the mainland)
    • 1 post office (8 on the mainland)
  • The mainland has the following; Ocracoke has none:
    • county offices
    • hotels (5 on the mainland)
    • lawyers (3 on the mainland)
    • physicians (12 on the mainland)
    • schools (3 on the mainland; all private)*
    • farmers (52 on the mainland)
 *There actually were several small private schools on Ocracoke Island between the early 1800s and 1901, at which time a school was established in the building now known as the Island Inn. Perhaps there was no school on Ocracoke in 1877-1878.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Spanish Casino

In 1935, Ocracoke resident Stanley Wahab built an inexpensive replica of a Spanish style building on the island, near where the Back Porch Restaurant sits today, to be part of his larger operation which included the Wahab Village Hotel (later renamed Blackbeard’s Lodge).

1941 Newspaper Ad


















Made of plywood strewn with gravel while the earth-colored paint was still wet, the 400 square foot Spanish Casino mimicked an adobe hacienda. The flat roofed structure had extended and crenulated exterior walls with gently curving main sections. Windows were topped with decorative trim, and crosses within circles painted near the roof line suggested a southwestern theme. An open porch on the ocean-facing side was supported by peeled cedar posts, adding to the Spanish motif.

OPS Photo, Mike Riddick Collection













The interior of the Spanish Casino was one large room with a raised platform on the western wall to accommodate a piano and musicians. Benches were placed along the walls, leaving a sizable dance floor in the middle. Island natives, Edgar and Walter Howard, brothers who had moved to New York City to play vaudeville in the 1920s and 1930s, came home periodically to entertain their fellow islanders. The popular music of the day included cowboy and western songs and ballads. Once in a while Edgar’s banjo and Walter’s guitar accompanied nationally popular entertainers who followed the Howard brothers to Ocracoke. At times, other island musicians played at the Spanish Casino. When live music was unavailable a jukebox served nightly to provide tunes for round dances, jitterbug, and traditional island square dances.

Stanley Wahab included a small canteen to serve his customers. Candy, cigarettes, and soft drinks were popular items. Eventually the Spanish Casino also offered hamburgers. Some years earlier, under the influence of Mr. Shaw, one of the Methodist preachers, sales of alcoholic beverages had been banned on Ocracoke Island. It was a rare night, however, when homemade meal wine did not flow freely behind the building or on the other side of the sand dunes.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Great Black-backed Gull

The Great Black-Backed Gull (Laurus marinus) is a common sight on Ocracoke's beach, especially during the winter months. According to local bird-watcher, Peter Vankevich, this is the largest gull in the world, with a wingspan of up to five feet.

Photo by Peter Vankevich













You can read more about this beautiful seagull in Peter's article in the Ocracoke Observer.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/.  

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Basket Making

A reader recently posed an interesting question about traditional basket-making on Ocracoke and the Outer Banks.

An article in NCpedia asserts that “Although the fragility of basket materials means that few related artifacts still exist, the Native Americans of North Carolina's Paleo-Indian period (13,000 B.C. to 8000 B.C.) probably used baskets that they constructed from native materials for transporting items and gathering food. Archaeological evidence confirms that Indians used baskets widely in the early archaic period (8000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.)…. 

“Once crucial to the agricultural and fishing economies of North Carolina, basket making diminished in importance during the twentieth century as inexpensive and readily available galvanized buckets, plastic containers, and paper bags became popular for gathering, transporting, and storing household items.”

Although handmade baskets were surely a mainstay of the early European households on the Outer Banks, I am not aware of any Ocracoke basket-making tradition, or surviving examples of colonial Ocracoke baskets.

Unlike South Carolina, whose distinctive sweetgrass basket-making tradition came to the state in the 17th century by way of West African slaves, North Carolina’s Outer Banks never developed that tradition. Although some of the materials for South Carolina baskets (sweetgrass, bulrush, pine needles, and palmetto palm) are available along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the West African technique was never established. The dearth of other available basket-making materials, such as white oak, probably means that baskets were brought to the islands from England, other colonies, or the North Carolina mainland.

Another indication is the Last Will and Testament of William Howard, 1776-1851, (see https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2017/03/last-will-and-testament.html). It lists kitchen furniture, livestock, boats, money, and land…but no baskets.

The only island handmade basket from earlier than the twentieth century that I am aware of is the one carried by midwife Esther Gaskins O’Neal (“Aunt Hettie Tom,” 1822-1899) and nurse Elsie Garrish (1915-2003) but I do not know if it was woven on Ocracoke or elsewhere. Perhaps one of our local readers has more information. 

Elsie Garrish with Basket



















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/

Monday, December 04, 2017

Christmas House Tour

On Saturday the Ocracoke Preservation Society sponsored their annual Holiday Homes Tour. Two local businesses (Over the Moon and Island Artworks) and four residences were featured.

Residences included the Amasa Fulcher House (built in 1904), the former Methodist Episcopal Church, North, Parsonage (built 1928), the Elisha Ballance House (built 1908), and the Della & William Scarborough House (built ca. 1912).

All of the houses were originally "story and a jump" houses.  These one-and-a-half story cottages with a central staircase were popular on Ocracoke from the mid-1800s through the early twentieth century. All of the houses on the tour had been been modified with later additions or modern conveniences. For example, a second story was added to the Amasa Fulcher house soon after it was built, and dormers were added to the parsonage after a fire several years ago.  Nevertheless, much of their original character of these homes has been maintained, as you can see from the photos below.





































This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/