Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Today is the first full day of Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah), an 8 day Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends!

Today is also the last day of our 2011 Ocracoke Journal posts. Because of the upcoming holidays we have decided to take a short break so we can spend more time with our family and friends. This will be our last blog for 2011. We hope you enjoy our account of daily life on the island.

In the meanwhile, we wish all of our readers a very Happy Christmas...and all the best in the New Year!

A few other upcoming observances we want to remind our readers of:

-- The Winter Solstice (Dec. 22) This is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Because of the earth's tilt, the north pole will be 23.5 degrees away from the sun. The sun's rays will be directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn, south of the equator. This was often a day of celebration in age-old northern cultures because after this date the days begin to lengthen as the sun appears increasingly more directly overhead.
-- National Haiku Poetry Day (Dec. 22)
-- National Candy Cane Day (Dec. 26)
-- National Whiner's Day (Dec. 26...for all the folks who didn't get the gifts they wanted?)
-- National Chocolate Day (Dec. 28 & 29...I guess chocolate requires two days to celebrate)
-- Bacon Day (Dec. 30)
-- No Interruptions Day (Dec. 31)
-- World Peace Meditation Day (Dec. 31)

We will not be publishing a new Ocracoke Newsletter this month. Click here to view our latest Newsletter, the story of Ocracoke Island and the Lost Colony;

Please check in again on January 2, 2012.

We'll see you in 2012!

Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Lights

As usual, many Islanders deck out their houses in Christmas lights. Here are just a few examples of the display this year. Note the extra special "star" on the OPS tree.

Peace on Earth:

Sleigh Bells Ring:

Blue Christmas:

Santa, Stop Here:

Wahab Home:

OPS Christmas Tree:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Passing on Traditions

As we were looking through old photos, Amy and David were struck by how this one of my father and me made them think of Lachlan and David. So, they decided to recreate the photo. As they were inspecting the original to see what my dad was sitting on, Amy went running to her back porch and returned with the very wastebasket he had been using as a perch. The traditions, stories and even the stuff gets passed on for future generations to use and enjoy!

Lawton and Philip Howard, 1950:

Fiddler Dave Tweedie and Lachlan, 2011:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Regular visitors to Ocracoke, and frequent readers of this journal, may remember that "buck" is a common island word meaning "pal" or "friend." Ocracoke men use it frequently as a form of address, in sentences such as "Hey buck, how are you doing?" or "Thanks buck. I appreciate that."

To my knowledge, "buck" is not used anywhere else in the US in quite the same way as O'cockers use the word. However, some years ago I was told that "bach" is still used in Wales with much the same meaning.

This past week I was reading Ken Follett's novel, Fall of Giants. The story is set mostly in Europe from 1911 to 1924, and several of the characters are Welsh miners. Much of the action takes place on battlefields during WWI. I was surprised to read, on page 799, this short paragraph: "Farther along the trench he found Johnny Ponti. 'Deploy that Stokes mortar, Johnny bach,' he said. 'Make the buggers jump.'"

I did a little web searching and discovered that "bach" is in fact a Welsh slang expression meaning "little" or "wee"...but that it is also used to mean "love" as in "Alright, love, I'll be happy to do that for you."

So there you have it, buck -- one more confirmation of Ocracoke's Welsh roots.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and our connection with the "Lost" Colony of 1587. You can read it here:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good News

I recently received the Monthly Newsletter from the Ocracoke Foundation ( For some time the Foundation has been in negotiations with David Senseney and his family about purchasing the Community Square property. Here is their latest announcement:

"We are very pleased to announce that our [Ocracoke Foundation's] primary focus for 2012 will be the acquisition of the Community Square!!  Since 2008 OFI has been working with the Trust for Public Land and the Senseney Family to purchase the heart of the village's historic district to protect and preserve this important part of island heritage. It is the desire of the Senseney Family that community ownership ensure the preservation of the historic structures, long term waterfront access, maintain availability for public use and enjoyment, and provide a model for improved environmental stewardship, a space for community events, and a source of dedicated funding for island nonprofits."

As most of our readers know, the Community Square includes the Community Store (est. 1918), several other retail establishments, the Working Watermen's Exhibit (on the dock where Jack Willis' store used to be), and several wooden docks. The porch of the Community Store is a great place to sit and relax, and to visit with islanders and visitors...and the docks will provide public access for views of the harbor, the lighthouse, and sunsets.

We are looking forward to heritage and environmental improvements, more public and community events, and the preservation of an important cultural icon. Many thanks for the hard work and dedication of Robin Payne, the board and directors, and the Senseney family.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and our its connection to the "Lost" Colony of 1587 You can read it here:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Oyster Roast

For those who can make it, the Ocracoke Working Waterman's Association will be holding their 6th Annual Oyster Roast and Shrimp Steam on Friday December 30th from 2-5PM at the Fish House.To read more details, purchase a raffle ticket and/or become a supporter please click here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Early Morning Call

We awake mornings to the sound of ducks calling us from our sleep.  Most mornings about twenty Mallards "call" to me around 6:30AM - my "alarm clock". We live on the "Old Slough", it's right outside our door. The ducks are looking for breakfast and I accommodate them with handfuls of cracked corn.  They quack their appreciation and swim off to do whatever ducks do  in a day.  It's a good way to wake up.  The air is fresh and smells of the sea. The dew falls softly from the trees. Shafts of early morning sunlight illuminates the sand and warms it where my cats are bathing.  A steaming cup of coffee, the smell of bacon cooking, life is good on a December day on this island.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How To Get There

In June of this year I shared images from a mid-1950s Tourist Map of Ocracoke, published by the Ocracoke Civic Association. Tommy Drake, grandson of Capt. Gary Bragg, had saved the map, and loaned it to me. He also showed me a vintage paper with directions for getting to Ocracoke. Four ways "To Get There" are detailed:
  1. Mailboat from Atlantic, N.C.
  2. Mailtruck via ferry from Hatteras, N.C.
  3. Freight boat (weekly) from Washington, N.C.
  4. Charter plane by arrangement, from Beaufort, Buxton, Manteo,m or Washington, N.C.
You may have noticed that driving one's own vehicle from Hatteras is not included. Below is the "Special Note About Driving to Ocracoke in Private Car":

"The State of North Carolina is about to begin construction of a paved road on Ocracoke Island, but this will scarcely be finished in time for the 1956 season. When this road is finished, it will be possible for you to drive your own car via the Hatteras Inlet ferry all the way to Ocracoke. Until then, it is very hazardous to attempt to bring your own car south of Hatteras. Only drivers experienced in sand driving, or with four-wheel-drive vehicles, willing to deflate their tires to 15 pounds or less, should attempt the stretch on Ocracoke Island. There are 11 miles of deep sandy trail, with no road, no markers, and ho inhabitants, between the ferry and Ocracoke Village. If you do attempt it, be sure to get advice in Hatteras from the Ocracoke mail carrier, who drives the route daily, as to the state of the tides, beach, etc."

How well I remember traveling down the beach in our 1948 Plymouth! We came across Hatteras Inlet on Frazier Peele's four-car ferry. My father and the other drivers decided that if anyone got stuck in the sand, the others would not stop to help. The goal was to get at least one vehicle all the way to the village. If any of the others didn't show up the Coast Guard would be notified so they they could take their four-wheel-drive truck to pull them out (hopefully before the tide came in!). Getting to Ocracoke by car before 1957 was quite the adventure!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Warm December

We've had warm, spring like weather these last few weeks. It's hard to believe it's the middle of December. It's been lovely for beach walks, however the mosquitoes have been enjoying the weather too. Normally we have none of the pesky insects this time of year, but recently they have been swarming around the doors at dusk.

Here's also wishing our guest blogger, Bill a very happy birthday today.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is the time of year we have the chance to see whales migrating slowly past the island. Being on the beach in the right place at the right time depends mostly on luck. So far, I've not seen any whales this year, though I do keep a look out anytime I take my beach walk. Rumor has it that a baby humpback was beached on the north end of Ocracoke. I've not been down to see it yet, but apparently it's rather impressive. I've not heard a report of why it washed up, but I'll keep an ear out for more information.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Doings

One question visitors to Ocracoke often ask is "What do you do around here when we're gone?" The answer, of course, is "We miss you!" But here are some of the other things we'll be doing this week.

Thursday, December 15 - Ocracoke School's  Christmas program, 7:00, in the (new) gym. This is our school's annual "thank you" to the community.

Friday, December 16 - The Holiday Basketball Tournament beings (also in the new gym.) Games begin at 2 PM Friday and 11 AM Saturday with the trophy presentation at 5 PM. Bring staples and canned goods for Outer Banks families in need this Christmas.

Saturday, December 17 - Ocracoke Library's Cookie Swap at 11 AM. This will involve readings and singing as well as the exchanging of lots of delicious calories. And the Friends of the Library will be conducting a book sale at the same time.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

OPS Christmas Tree

We had several requests on a recent post for a picture of Ocracoke's community Christmas tree at the Preservation Society museum. Connie Leinbach took this shot on a beautiful, sunny Ocracoke day. Thanks to her for letting us share it with you.

And thanks to all the folks who showed up at the Museum for the Wassail Party, caroling and official tree lighting. If you are on Ocracoke this Holiday Season, be sure and come by and see the tree all lit up under a starry sky.

Photo by Connie Leinbach

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Fig Preserves

Over the years Ocracoke fig preserves have been enjoyed by many.  Magazine articles have even been written about them! This year we had an exceptionally large crop. Some say this was due to a colder than average winter.  Usually we would have sold out by now but thanks to the large crop and Hurricane Irene bringing business to a virtual halt on Ocracoke for a month and a half, we still have half pints in stock.  They make a great Christmas gift or are delicious in fig cakes for the Holidays.  Click on the photo of the figs to order yours.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Happy Birthday Blanche!

Cousin Blanche is one of the kindest, gentlest souls I have ever known...and one of the smartest, friendliest, and most gracious people, too. I feel blessed to have her as my neighbor. And today is her birthday!

This is a recent photo of Blanche with my daughter Amy. Aren't they are both radiant!

Blanche, we all wish you the Happiest of Birthdays...and many more to come!

Leave your birthday wishes in a comment, and we'll print them up and carry them over to Blanche.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

1917 USCG Station

Last month (November 9) I published a photo of the WWII era Ocracoke Coast Guard Station (the building that is now the NCCAT Center) with the 1904 station in the background.

Below is a photo of the 1917 station that was built on the north end of Ocracoke, near Hatteras Inlet. This station replaced the original 1883 station. The 1917 station washed away in the mid 1950s after a series of severe storms undermined the buildings. If you look carefully as you cross Hatteras Inlet you will see a row of pilings on the ocean beach on the north end of Ocracoke. That is all that is left of the 1917 US Coast Guard Station.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Ocracoke and the Lost Colony. You can read it here:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Some of Lachlan's cousins from his father's side of the family came into town to visit over the weekend. The boys had a great time swinging on the rope swing, chasing each other around the yard, playing pranks on their parents and, of course, running free on the beach.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Ocracoke and the Lost Colony. You can read it here:

Monday, December 05, 2011

Photo Shoot

Molasses Creek was hard at work this weekend posing for photos. They are starting a national promotion of themselves and needed some new photos to help convey the energy of the band and the place they come from. They had beautiful (but chilly) weather to work in. Keep your eyes out for these fresh new images of the band that brings a little bit of Ocracoke to wherever they play. 

Photo by Jennifer Kidwell

 To find out more about what Molasses Creek is up to, you can visit their website:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Ocracoke and the Lost Colony. You can read it here:

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Wassail Party

Ocracoke Preservation Society is hosting its annual Wassail Party this Wednesday, Dec. 7, 5:00 to 6:30 at the museum.

There will be plenty of hot Wassail (spicy apple cider) and delicious goodies to eat.

And we will gather around the Christmas tree for some caroling and a lighting ceremony. This is Ocracoke Village's outdoor Christmas tree. It welcomes all our mainland visitors as they exit the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries. And it's there for the whole community to enjoy. Thanks to the Civic and Business Organization for purchasing it, to Tommy Hutcherson and the Variety Store crew for delivering it, to Tideland Electric for helping get it upright, to Chester Lynn, and Pat and Rudy Austin for helping decorate it and to the OPS Executive Committee, staff and volunteers who help with all the preparations, decorating and post-wind repairs.

So come join the celebration; shop in the gift shop for Christmas gifts and catch a big dose of the Christmas Spirit.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Ocracoke and the Lost Colony. You can read it here:

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Ferry

This is Bill filling in for Philip today.

Lida and I spent Thanksgiving in Boston with our son and his wife. (We had turkey on the table and wild turkeys in the yard!) After a long two-day drive through NYC and down the Delmarva Peninsula, we finally pulled into line at the Hatteras Ferry dock. A few minutes before 2, we were directed on board. We set our emergency brakes and watched as the ferry backed out onto Pamlico Sound.

Lida looked over at me and said, "Wow, you look like a different person!"

I felt like a different person from the one who had battled bumper to bumper traffic across the George Washington Bridge and stared at miles of rain-soaked road through windshield wipers.
Whenever I get on the ferry to come home, it feels like my blood pressure drops about 20 points. All the stress of driving is replaced with seagulls and pelicans and salt air and a distant horizon of water meeting sky...and sometimes dolphins.

What a nice way to come home!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Ocracoke and the Lost Colony. You can read it here:

Friday, December 02, 2011

NC 12

We so appreciate all of you who care so deeply for Ocracoke and the Outer banks.  As most of you know Hurricane Irene, which struck our area August 27th of this year, caused catastrophic physical damage to parts of the Banks and tremendous financial damage to all of us.  We can't thank you enough for your prayers and support.  Rt. 12 North is our lifeline on these fragile barrier islands.  It was damaged substantially during the hurricane with most of us being cut off from the north for a month and a half.  Folks are still trying to put their lives back together.  We thought you would like to know that Public Workshops to discuss permanent solutions for NC 12 are being held in Manteo December 5th, Rodanthe December 6th and on Ocracoke January 5th.  Our Rt.12 Northern access is of critical importance.  Let us hope that a permanent solution is soon found and implemented. -- Jude

Thursday, December 01, 2011

December Already

We at the Village Craftsmen would love for you to check out our online catalog for all of your Holiday shopping needs.  Click on the "What's New" section on our home page to view some great recent additions.  Don't forget, until the end of December we are offering FREE SHIPPING on all "online" orders placed over $25.00.  Hope to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Faking Box

The US Life Saving Service employed an elaborate system of ropes, pulleys, and life ring to rescue sailors stranded on wrecked vessels. The keeper and six (later, eight) surfmen pulled the beach apparatus cart to the wreck. There they buried the sand anchor, positioned the brass Lyle gun, shot a line to the ship, then rigged the breeches buoy and conveyed the victims to shore.

One of the more obscure pieces of life saving equipment was the faking box. Inside the box was a frame with three to four dozen 10" - 12" long wooden pins arranged on the periphery. The shot line (which was tied to a projectile that was fired to the wreck) was wound around the pins in an overlaid zig-zag pattern. At the scene of the wreck the frame (with the rope wound on the pins) was turned upside down, and the rope was carefully pushed off the pins. This arrangement allowed the shot line to travel without becoming tangled.

The photo below, courtesy of the Outer Banks History Center, shows the faking frame resting on the beach after the shot line has been removed.

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Fake is a nautical term meaning to coil (a rope). It is of obscure origin.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Ocracoke and the Lost Colony. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Yesterday we awoke to another beautiful and warm November day. There was rain looming offshore, so to take advantage of the good weather I decided to take a walk on the beach in the morning with a friend. When we walked over the dunes we looked down the beach and were met with a sight I'd never seen on Ocracoke before. A blanket of cormorants were standing at the waterline. They were about 30 deep and extending down the beach for a quarter of a mile or more. There were thousands of them. Usually we see cormorants flying in seemingly endless lines across the pink sky around dawn or dusk, but it's rare to see this many congregated on Ocracoke's beach in the middle of the morning. Of course I didn't have my camera with me, but there were so many, a photo wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the role Ocracoke played in the earliest English voyages of exploration and colonization in the New World. You can read it here:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shell Stand

Over 30 years ago, I ran a shell stand inherited from my older brother.

Now it's time to pass it down to the next generation. Inspired by the quantity of shells found on the beach after Hurricane Irene, Lachlan opened shop this week to test out the idea. We talked about the importance of helping local organizations, so 10% of his profits will go to the local library since books have always been such an important part of his world. He'll be ready and waiting to greet you when you visit next spring. Who knows, he may even tell you a story just like his Grandfather does!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the role Ocracoke played in the earliest English voyages of exploration and colonization in the New World. You can read it here:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas is Coming

The Ocracoke Preservation Society has scheduled its traditional early December Wassail Party for Wednesday, December 7, 5:00 to 6:30, at the museum. Those of you with excellent memories may recall that these parties are usually held on Tuesdays, but, as it happens, the first home basketball game in the new school gym is scheduled for Dec. 6 and the OPS Executive Committee wanted to be there! So let this post serve as a reminder of two upcoming events.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Our son, Geoff, and four year old granddaughter, Sydney, were recently visiting us here on Ocracoke.
On one beautiful and warm November evening, we went to the beach, watched the sunset and built a bonfire. We were practically the only people visible up or down the beach and were soon joined by Carol and Tom Pahl and Emmett Temple (a local 11th grader). We warmed hot dogs over the fire and as it burned down to embers, we made s'mores.
Geoff shined his flashlight outside the ring of firelight and we discovered we were being watched by lots of crabs. Sydney got a real kick out of that (from a distance.)
When we got ready to pack up, Emmett, who was barefoot, waded out and brought up buckets of water to cool the embers. We covered them with a bit of sand. We had built our fire below the high tide line, so during the night, the ocean erased all signs of our being there.
Making more memories on Ocracoke.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the role Ocracoke played in the earliest English voyages of exploration and colonization in the New World. You can read it here:

Friday, November 25, 2011


   The day of feasting is over.  We hope that everyone enjoyed the day with family and friends and that smiles,laughter,full bellies and immense gratitude filled your day.  It certainly did at our house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We will be taking the day off tomorrow. So today we take the opportunity to wish all of our readers a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

My maternal grandfather was born in Hungary. He learned the butcher's trade when he was just eleven years old. When he was a young adult he moved to the United States, where he worked as a butcher until he retired. At almost every meal that I shared with him he would look at his full plate of food and exclaim, "We eat good in America!"  How true.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Concert

Don't forget the Ocrafolk Festival fund-raising concert this Friday evening. Door opens at 7 PM, and the show starts at 7:30 PM. It's always a wonderful evening of lively music, great stories and good people. Come on out and enjoy our generous and talented local artists!

In our latest Ocracoke Newsletter, I share information about the role Ocracoke played in the earliest English voyages of exploration and colonizations to the New World. You can read it here:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ocracoke and the Lost Colony

We have just published our latest Ocracoke Newsletter. This month I share information about the role Ocracoke played in the earliest English voyages of exploration and colonizations to the New World. You can read it here:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living With Ferries

One thing that residents of Ocracoke and visitors alike learn to deal with is our dependency on the ferries. Those of us who live here depend on them to take us to dentists and doctors and movies and super markets, not to mention Interstate highways and airports and our families who live "off". And of course visitors depend on them to get here.
We wake up each day trusting that they will be there are us, and most days they are. But a strong wind, say 40 miles an hour and above, will stop them. Dense fog will stop them. There are days when the mail doesn't get on or off the island and neither do we.
One day this past week, I noticed how little traffic there was on the street. Eventually the word got around that a sailboat had run aground in the Hattaras Inlet. The ferry service shut down for a large part of the day until the Coast Guard could clear the way.
Just an example of living with ferries.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We Eat Good on Ocracoke

The Ocracoke Preservation Society recently held its annual Fall Membership Pot Luck Dinner and Membership Meeting. Folks were invited to bring "favorite Ocracoke dishes" to share at the pot luck table. It was (no surprise) an extremely tasty supper after which folks were invited to share memories and stories associated with "their favorite island food".
What followed was an amazing time of warm and evocative storytelling. People recalled some of their favorite island cooks, including Clinton Gaskill and his corn "flitters".
There were stories of Ocracoke's famous "old Drum" meal which involves boiling drum (the fish, not the percussion instrument) with potatoes, hard boiled eggs and crackling. It's a dish that is frequently followed by some good sleeping.
And we not only heard about but got to taste some island favorite desserts including blackberry dumpling and fig cake.
The stories were still going on the next day. At the bank I heard Judy Garrish remembering her father riding his bike to the Sound every Saturday, raking up clams, bringing them home in his bike basket and fixing Clam Chowder for his family.
No matter where we grew up, we all grew up eating; memories of family dishes and meals sure have the power to take us back.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Duck Weather

      Wednesday night brought some wild wet weather.  Thunder,lightening and pouring rain ( 2 1/2 inches per Dale ) raked the island during the overnight hours. Upon waking ( not that I got much sleep with all that racket! ) I saw that the yard, driveway etc. was flooded ankle deep.  "Duck Weather" I grumbled.

Going to the kitchen to make coffee I glanced out at the screened porch.  Blinking a few times in disbelief, I walked slowly to the door only to realize I wasn't "seeing things".  There was indeed a Mallard drake on the screened porch eating cat food out of my cats' bowl.  I thought I must have left one of the porch doors unlocked and it had blown open but no they were both securely locked.  The only entrance available was the "cat door".  I had to laugh picturing that feat.  Apparently the weather was even too much for a duck!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

East Howard Street

About a week ago I published a vintage photograph of Howard Street. At least that's what most folks today call Ocracoke's last, historic, one lane unpaved street.  Many years ago Howard Street was just one section of the "Main Road" that ran through the village, from the "bald beach" all the way to the sound (near where the National Park Service Visitors Center is today).

In the 1950s the state of North Carolina paved a new road around the harbor (including the section in front of the Community Store), and out to the "beach" (where NC Highway 12 is today). In the process they paved what was then the western section of the Main Road. Shortly thereafter Stacy Howard (cousin Blanche's father) nailed a sign onto a tree near his house. It read "East Howard Street." Stacy thought that was appropriate because 8 or 9 Howard families lived along this eastern portion of the road, and their family cemeteries lined the lane as well.

Today, of course, one end of "Howard Street" stops at the School Road, and the other end joins Highway 12 as it wraps around Silver Lake. Few people remember that more than sixty years ago it was part of a once longer road. Nowadays mostly only old-timers and their children and grandchildren still call the road by it's "full and proper" name, East Howard Street.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ocracoke Methodist Episcopal Church, South

From 1883 until 1937 Ocracoke was served by two Methodist Churches. The Methodist Episcopal Church (Ocracokers refer to this body as the "Northern Methodist Church") met on the Back Road (where Zillie's is located today). The Methodist Episcopal Church, South (the "Southern Methodist Church") met on East Howard Street.

It is sometimes difficult to imagine a beautiful wood frame church with stained glass windows on Howard Street (the church sat where "Dicie's Cottage" is today). This photo might help:

You can read a complete history of the two churches here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Several days ago I mentioned Saltwater Connections, a regional initiative aimed at sustaining livelihoods, cultural heritage, and natural resources along North Carolina’s central coast.

One of our hardworking local organizations, Ocracoke Foundation, under the direction of Robin Payne, has partnered with Saltwater Connections to explore the possibility of providing public restrooms in Ocracoke village. Because Ocracoke was not originally a popular tourist destination there was no long term plan to provide services for visitors. Public restrooms have been a concern for a number of years. Several factors have thwarted efforts to provide them -- lack of an appropriate central location, cost of acquiring land, and health and safety regulations to name a few.

We are hoping a solution to this issue can be found. Follow the link below for more information:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article by my Uncle Marvin written in 1954. You can read it here:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rowladen Recipe

Here is my dad's Rowladen* recipe (from the Pennsylvania Dutch -- be careful, they might smell the aroma, break in, and try to cut off your beard!):

round steak cut real thin or a small "eye of round" sliced thin
bacon slices
onion slices
prepared mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Spread meat slices with a little mustard, add bacon, onion and seasoning. Roll up and fasten with a toothpick. Brown in fat in a frypan and then add some water and simmer, covered, about 2 hours until tender (tender enough to cut with a fork). If desired, add quartered potatoes for the last hour.

My dad had never cooked before my mother died. I was afraid he would waste away, eating TV dinners and canned soup. But he made a point of learning to cook, often trying new recipes and experimenting. He did great!

*normally spelled rouladen, from the French word "rouler" meaning "to roll."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ocracoke Foundation

Two days ago I mentioned the Ocracoke Foundation. Under the competent and creative direction of Robin Payne OF has accomplished some outstanding projects in recent years. Among them are the establishment of the Ocracoke Working Watermen's Association, saving our island fish house, WOVV 90.1 (our local radio station), and the Working Watermen's Exhibit on the docks.

Current projects include Oyster Restoration, Assessing Harbor Water Quality, and the Revitalization of the Community Square.

Please visit their web site for more information about exciting initiatives from the Ocracoke Foundation:
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article by my Uncle Marvin written in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kenny Ballance

Many visitors to Ocracoke know Kenny Ballance, our District Park Ranger. Kenny was born and raised on Ocracoke, and is a life-long resident of the island. He attended Ocracoke School from kindergarten through 12th grade. In 1977 he graduated from East Carolina University. Kenny has worked for the NPS since 1978, and has served as the Outer Banks Group District Ranger on Ocracoke since 2003.

Earlier this month Kenny was honored with the 2011 Southeast Region Harry Yount Park Ranger Award. According to a recent NPS press release:

Superintendent Mike Murray announced on November 8 that long-time Outer Banks Group employee Kenneth C. Ballance has received the 2011 NPS Southeast Region Harry Yount Park Ranger Award. The peer-nominated honor, named after the first known national park ranger, recognizes excellence in the field of "rangering."

Every year each of the seven NPS regions selects a Regional Harry Yount Award recipient whose "overall impact, record of accomplishments, and excellence in traditional ranger duties have created an appreciation for the park ranger profession on the part of the public and other members of the profession. The intent of the Harry Yount Award is to honor rangers who have consistently gone out every day and performed the traditional, generalist ranger duties of protecting the resources and serving the visitor and who have done it well in the eyes of their peers over time.

"Kenny is an outstanding ranger and very deserving of this recognition. We are very proud of his many accomplishments and fortunate to have him as an employee. As a dedicated National Park Service employee, he has assisted an untold number of park visitors in his 35 years of service. Park management and his coworkers would like to personally thank him and congratulate him on receiving this significant award" said Superintendent Mike Murray.

Kenny's leadership and involvement in his community is well known and widespread.

Kenny was recognized as Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by the NC Governor's Office in 1996. One of his favorite park endeavors, spanning three decades, has been the protection of the Ocracoke Pony herd.


Congratulations, Kenny! Kenny is an outstanding Park Ranger, a dedicated member of our community, a fine neighbor...and one of the funniest people I have ever known. He should be given an award for Quick Wit and Ability to Say Anything to Anyone...and Get Away With It!


Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saltwater Connections

Saltwater Connections is a regional initiative aimed at sustaining livelihoods, cultural heritage, and natural resources along North Carolina’s central coast, from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke and Down East Carteret County. I thought our readers might be interested in taking a look at their web site:

Saltwater Connections has planned several events of interest to Ocracoke residents and visitors. The Resource Team will be on the island for a Pot Luck Dinner on November 14 [earlier I had mistakenly written November 13], 2011 at 6:00 PM at the Ocracoke Community Center. Come out to meet the team. Meetings to discuss topics that are important for the sustainability of our island community will be held all day November 14 & 15, including evenings. There is more information here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sandy Lanes

Old timers and long-time visitors to Ocracoke will often refer to Howard Street as a "sandy lane." More recent islanders and visitors sometimes call it an "unpaved road" or an "oyster shell" road. For the past 40-50 years residents along Howard Street have been putting shells, stones, concrete pieces and asphalt shingles in the road to harden it. For the most part we have been successful in keeping Howard Street navigable. Cars no longer get stuck in the deep sand. But we pay for it with mud, pot holes and puddles.

Below are two vintage photos (taken prior to 1960) -- one of the British Cemetery Road (near the old George Howard cemetery), and the other of Howard Street. As you can see, both roads are deep, soft sand.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Coast Guard Stations

Yesterday I shared the story of the wreck of the Cibao (the banana boat). This vessel wrecked at Hatteras Inlet in 1927, and the sailors were rescued by the crews of the Hatteras Inlet Station (on the north end of Ocracoke), and the crews of the Durants Station, Cape Hatteras Station, Creeds Hill Station (all three from Hatteras Island), and the Ocracoke Station (located in Ocracoke village).

I thought our readers would enjoy seeing the following photo. The station on the left is the most recent Coast Guard building (constructed during WWII and now used by the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teachers [NCCAT]). The building on the right is the original 1904 Ocracoke Station. It was used as an auxiliary building during the war, and demolished soon afterwards.

Click on the photo to view a larger image.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


The Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department cookbook, Hoi Toiders' Recipes and Remembrances, contains quite a few historical gems. On page 60, under the recipe for Frozen Fruit Salad, we find this paragraph:

"When a banana boat went aground near Hatteras Inlet, the high tide line was nothing but bananas. Every kid on Ocracoke had a belly ache according to Elsie Ballance who was the town nurse."

The year was 1927, the date December 4, and the vessel was the Norwegian steamer Cibao. My dad was sixteen years old. He often told me about all the bananas they had -- bunches and bunches hanging from pegs...too many to eat before they went bad.

The wreck...and the rescue...were quite dramatic. Newspapers from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Miami, and elsewhere, ran the story. The storm was so intense, and the water was so turbulent, that the US Coast Guard was unable to maneuver their power lifeboat close enough to the wreck. Even with their self-bailing surfboat, they were thwarted in rowing close enough to the stranded vessel. Finally the life savers succeeded in instructing each of the sailors to tie a line around his waist and jump into the raging breakers, one at a time. Each sailor, cold, wet, and exhausted, was pulled aboard the surfboat. It took three trips from the station to the wreck and back to the station to bring all twenty-four members of the crew safely to shore.

After the storm abated on December 6 the cargo, 17,000 bunches of bananas from Jamaica, were jettisoned, and the ship was eventually refloated and towed to New York City.

The officers of the US Coast Guard were promoted because of their bravery and courage.

Click here to read the report from the Miami Daily News, December 5, 1927.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Duck Blinds

A reader recently inquired about the "box-like structures" on pilings that are visible in Pamlico Sound. These are duck blinds...hiding places for hunters. Generally very simple structures, open at the top, and about four or five feet square, they are framed with two by fours and covered with plywood. Raised above the water on pilings, they have a "door" cut out of the plywood which is hinged on one side. A turn button keeps the door closed when not in use. There is usually a wooden bench inside, though upturned five-gallon buckets might suffice. Slits or holes are arranged in the sides to provide a view of the surrounding water & sky, and to allow enough room for the muzzle of the shotgun to project outside the blind.

Decoys are arranged in the water near the blind to entice ducks and geese. In use the blind is often covered with reeds and other natural materials for camouflage. 

Our OcraFolk School Sampler Class kayaked out to David Tolson's duck blind last month. I didn't take my camera with me, but I did find a photo on the web of an Ocracoke duck blind:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Most Interesting Beach!

I was just alerted to an article touting the "10 Most Interesting Beaches in the World." To qualify, the beach "had to have the kind of story you would want to share with your friends, but it also had to be the kind of place where you would want to lay your towel."

We were not surprised to find Ocracoke on the list. Ocracoke's eighteenth century history as an important commercial port for trading vessels traveling to and from the mainland, and the place of Blackbeard's final battle in 1718, provided the "story." And our beautiful, unspoiled beach is the perfect place "to lay your towel."

You can read the article here:
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Wind & OcraFolk School Photos

Friday afternoon the wind started blowing...25, 30, 35 mph, and it continued throughout the night, with gusts up to 45 - 50 mph. First the state suspended the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferry runs...then the Hatteras runs. It is another one of those times when living 20+ miles from the mainland and being unable to leave the island reminds us of how little control we have over nature. It can be exhilarating.

On to another subject: Even though I don't take many pictures, family and friends often do. Below are three photos from this year's OcraFolk School.

First is Cat Farley fixing something scrumptious in the cooking class. Because David was the teaching assistant, Lachlan showed up one day. He is examining the goods:

(Photo by Theresa Adams, a student in the photography class.)

Ann Ehringhaus, the Photography Class teacher, took the next two photos. The first is the Sampler Class relaxing on the porch of the Roy Robinson House at Portsmouth Island. First inhabited by the Coast Guard Captain Roy Robinson, this house originally stood near the Life Saving Station, and was moved to its present location with log rollers and a horse. Ann has leased the house for several years.

This next photo is the entire School standing on the porch and in front of the Soundfront Inn.

You can click on any photo to view a larger image.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Friday, November 04, 2011

Blackbeard's Cannon

As many of our readers know, in 1996 a research company located a submerged shipwreck in Beaufort Inlet (formerly known as Topsail Inlet) that was believed to be Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. At this date nearly everyone is convinced that this is, in fact, the ship which the infamous pirate deliberately ran aground in June of 1718, cracking the mainmast and many of her timbers.

Blackbeard then convinced Stede Bonnet (the "Gentleman Pirate" who was an involuntary guest on his vessel) to take Bonnet's own ship and crew, and sail to the West Indies to accept the recently offered pardon from King George. In the confusion Blackbeard marooned more than two dozen of his own pirates, then slipped away from the rest aboard a small sloop, the Adventure. With a much smaller crew Blackbeard sailed to Bath to seek the king's pardon from his friend, North Carolina Governor Charles Eden.

Just five months later Blackbeard was killed at Ocracoke Inlet.

Since 1997 researchers and archaeologists have been diving on the Queen Anne's Revenge, bringing up artifacts and pieces of the wreck for the state of North Carolina. Recently an eight foot long, 2000 pound cannon was salvaged from the QAR. You can read more here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Stiff Competition

Well, the scores are in. Charles had some mighty stiff competition!

I watched Jeopardy last night with a bunch of other folks, including Al. We play poker on Friday nights with Charles. Last spring, after Charles won $100,000 in the Teachers Tournament he missed the next night of poker...,but he surreptitiously left a bottle of expensive scotch on our table.

Last night Al had only one comment: "I guess we're back to drinking cheap beer."

We love you anyway, Charles.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


One evening during the Folk School one of the students was wearing a sweatshirt with this message: "I am the grammarian about whom your grandmother warned you!"

We stopped to chat about grammar...and began identifying standard forms that are often "misused": "between you and me [not "I"]," "I lay [not "laid"] down in the hammock," "may [not "can"] I borrow your book," "there are fewer [not "less"] people here than I expected," etc. In the course of the conversation I mentioned that Ocracoke has a unique grammar. Below are a few examples.

Several days ago on this blog I quoted something my father had written on the back of a photograph: "This was taken the night before Garland run us out." This was not a typographical error. Ocracokers routinely use the present tense to indicate the past. For example an O'cocker might say "I eat my dinner at 5:30 last night."

Ocracokers also often use "weren't" in place of "wasn't." So you might hear someone say "He weren't no better at that than a small child."

Sometimes Ocracokers put an "s" on a third person singular verb. For example, "His children follows him everywhere" is a common construction.

These expressions are not "wrong" although they are non-standard. They simply follow a different set of (unwritten) grammar rules. Walt Wolfram, professor of linguistics, writes that islanders' dialect "reflects agreement patterns that used to be standard in earlier forms of English but [that] are no longer considered acceptable."

This variety is one more thing that makes living on the island so interesting. I will share more about Ocracoke grammar in the future.

PS: Speaking of grammar, don't forget to tune in to Jeopardy tonight to watch Charles, our high school English teacher, compete in the Tournament of Champions!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Jeopardy Tomorrow!

Be sure to tune in to the game show Jeopardy tomorrow evening! Charles Temple, Ocracoke's high school English teacher, will be competing once again, this time for a quarter of a million dollars. Charles is one of fifteen top players who will be vying for the grand prize in the Tournament of Champions.

Many of our readers will remember that Charles won the Tournament of Teachers competition last spring. This new tournament will air from November 2 through November 15. I understand that Charles will be competing tomorrow, November 2. If he wins, he will be back sometime the following week. We'll let you know the schedule.

In the meanwhile, check out this link (Charles is the man in the front row with the beard):

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Carnival

Ocracoke School sponsored its annual Halloween Carnival Friday afternoon. There was a children's parade around the circle in front of the school at 3:30 (do any of our readers remember "Rockin' Rhonda's" outlandish costume a number of years ago?). Hot dogs, Mexican food, and soft drinks were available for sale. At 5 o'clock the new gymnasium was opened for a variety of games (bean bag toss, duck pond, shooting gallery, quarter name it!). Later on the gym was packed with folks playing Quizo (just another name for Bingo!). I think a Spook Walk is scheduled for sometime soon (maybe one of our readers has details).

If you would like lots of information about Halloween click on the link below:

Happy Halloween!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article by my Uncle Marvin written in 1954. You can read it here:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Folk School

On Friday morning everyone who was involved with our 5th annual OcraFolk School gathered at the Soundfront Inn for a delicious breakfast of quiche (several varieties), scalloped potatoes, sausage, bacon, sweet potatoes, shrimp, several types of biscuits & corn bread, and cobbler. After breakfast we walked or biked to Deepwater Theater for a morning wrap-up session and "show and tell."

There were five classes this year, and each group shared memories and stories from the week.

The Music Appreciation class played two recordings that the students produced...professionally sounding CDs with guitars, vocals, and various percussion instruments.

The English Paper Piecing class (quilting) showed off their work, an impressive assortment of needlecraft that combined intricate designs and vibrant colors.

Our Ocracoke Sampler class entertained the school with poetry and funny comments as they told about sailing, Portsmouth Island, Ocracoke history, kayaking, clamming, & fishing. The entire school had an opportunity to see the fish we caught in gill nets, and taste our homemade meal wine!

Ann Ehringhaus's Photography class presented a slide show with many striking photos of pelicans, historic houses, people, close-ups, and nature.

The Cooking class provided not only the Friday morning breakfast, but the Thursday evening shrimp boil, complete with side dishes and scrumptious desserts.

Speaking of food, the entire school savored breakfasts and dinners all week long that were provided by the Cafe Atlantic, Pony Island, Jason's, and Flying Melon restaurants. The food was incredible!

Thanks to all the instructors, staff, and students who made the 5th annual OcraFolk School another rousing success!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, October 29, 2011


One the best Ocracoke cookbooks was put together by the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department. It is called "Hoi Toider's Recipes and Remembrances." What makes this cookbook so memorable is that it includes short vignettes about island life.

My father, Lawton Howard, contributed a recipe for rowladen which he and my mother learned about while living in the northeast. Below the recipe is this story:

"Lawton left Ocracoke when he was 16. He and Calvin O'Neal went to Philadelphia where Calvin's father worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. Lawton worked for a month on a tug as a temporary employee. Then he was transferred to another tug and mistakenly, his status wasn't changed. Lawton was a temporary employee for 18 years. However, the mistake was discovered and after taking a load of tests, his status was changed to make him a permanent employee. Things were not all bad during his years as a 'temporary;' he met and married Connie and together they raised two half-way decent sons."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Friday, October 28, 2011

House is Haunted!!

That's what the woman scrawled across the top of the guest book page in one of Ocracoke's oldest houses -- "House is Haunted!!"

Then she added the following:

"No kidding!! Seriously, the last night we were dad saw a tall gentleman dressed in an old fashion 3/4 piece suit (probably the 1900 or late 1800 era). He [the father] was in the bedroom upstairs.... He woke up at about 3 am to use the bathroom and as he opened the door...he saw a man dressed as described above. He froze! All the hairs on his arm raised and then the man just vanished!.... My brother, who slept in the very back bedroom (next to the graveyard) said he felt someone pat his leg/hip one night."

Ocracoke is full of ghost stories, especially related to old island homes and late night strolls along narrow paths & down Howard Street. The creepy stories add spice to the lives of residents and visitors alike.

If you look forward to encountering ghosts at Ocracoke, read no further.

On the other hand, if you would like to read the article, "Catching Ghosts," by skeptical paranormal investigator Joe Nickell, click on this link: As Mary Roach, in the last paragraph of her book, Spook, put it, “The debunkers are probably right, but they’re no fun to visit a graveyard with.”

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Freight Boats

Today, eighteen wheelers and other trucks bring groceries, gasoline, hardware, beer, store inventories, UPS packages, and all manner of other items to Ocracoke. Of course, they ride the ferries just like residents, visitors, Park employees, sales representatives, and anyone else coming to the island.

How did Ocracokers get supplies before the 1950s, when the first ferries began crossing Hatteras Inlet?

For more than two centuries Ocracoke's main connection to the rest of the world was across Pamlico Sound. By the mid-1800s, bugeyes, two masted, broad beamed, flat bottom sailboats about 60 feet long, served to carry freight and supplies (store inventories, building supplies, cook stoves, pony carts...and later, refrigerators, bathtubs, and automobiles) from merchants in Washington, NC to Ocracoke; and fish from the island to outlets on the mainland.

A typical bugeye, the Edna Lookwood, from the Chesapeake Bay (photo courtesy NOAA):

Prior to 1938 when Ocracoke village was electrified, 300 pound blocks of ice were among the most sought after commodities brought to the island by freight boats. Now and then dead bodies were carried off the island on the freight boats. At those times the vessel's flag was flown upside down at half mast.

The Annie was one of the first freight boats to serve Ocracoke. Later, the Nellie, the Preston, the Relief, and the Russell L brought freight to the island. By the time the Dryden took over the route, gasoline engines were being installed in the bugeyes.

The Bessie Virginia was the last freight boat to serve Ocracoke Island. She was a gasoline powered, 65 foot vessel that was capable of carrying ninety tons of freight. Van Henry O'Neal was captain; Powers Garrish was mate. The Bessie Virginia was retired in the early 1960s after the Oregon Inlet bridge was built, making car and truck connections to the north much more convenient.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in the early 1950s. You can read it here:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Photos...Too Funny

Several years ago, soon after my father died, Amy and I went through his pictures. He had written on the backs of many of them, with names and dates. Then we found this photo:

On the back my father had written "This was taken the same night."

Amy and I have laughed and told this story many times since. Luckily I recognized all of the people in the picture. From left to right they are my Aunt Thelma, Aunt Agatha (pronounced a-GAY-thuh, by the way!), Grandmama Aliph, Uncle Marvin, and Uncle Enoch.

Later on we discovered the following picture of Uncle Marvin fooling around with a mop wig and twig mustache. It was the same size photo as the previous one, with the same coffee table and vase in the foreground.

We looked on the back. My father had written, "This was taken the night before Garland run us out." 

I couldn't remember who Garland was, so a few days ago I stopped by to visit Blanche. I showed her the pictures. She not only reminded me that Garland was Aunt Thelma's second husband; she knew when the photos were taken...because she remembered when Garland ran them all out of his house!

It was 1947. My grandfather was in the hospital in Norfolk, and my grandmother and my uncles and aunts (and my father) were staying with Aunt Thelma and Garland. I guess they got too rowdy for Garland and he made them leave. Uncle Marvin does look like he was having fun!

Blanche told me that Aunt Thelma ran Garland out shortly afterwards!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by Uncle Marvin in the early 1950s. You can read it here:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Legged Lump

On October 18 I quoted a passage from Alton Ballance's book, Ocracokers, and it mentioned the Legged Lumps. A reader asked, "Where--and what--are the 'Legged Lumps'?"

First off, isn't that a great name!

And here is the answer. The Legged Lump (or Legged Lumps...sometimes even the Leggedy Lump or the Two Legged Lump) is a shoal in Pamlico Sound. It is 4 miles NW of Hatteras Inlet, and 8.8 miles NE of Ocracoke Village. For those of our readers with access to a chart, the coordinates are 35 degrees 11 minutes, 58 seconds N, and 75 degrees, 50 minutes, 30 seconds W.

Another way to visualize the Legged Lump is to start at the Pony Pen and drive 2 1/2 miles "north" (remember you are not actually driving north; you are driving northeast). From that point the Legged Lump is about 3 miles due north.

You can find the Legged Lump indicated on "The Complete Illustrated Map of Ocracoke Island" by Len Skinner and Debbie Wells (you can purchase this wonderful map from Village Craftsmen, although it is not listed in our catalog).

You can also search Google maps for "'Legged Lump' Ocracoke" to see its location. A word of caution: if you do a Google image search for "Legged Lump" be prepared for medical pictures!

"Lump" is a term used on the Outer Banks, especially from Ocracoke, south, for a small island, hammock, high piece of ground, or shoal. I suppose this particular lump was named for its shape.

Now, aren't you glad you asked! We are just full of obscure information about Ocracoke.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Until the Butter Melts"

As I mentioned yesterday, OcraFolk School classes begin today. I always include a study of early North Carolina maps in our Ocracoke Sampler class. I am particularly interested in John White's maps of 1585 and 1590 because they clearly show Wokokon (Ocracoke) and Croatoan (the island that includes the northern part of present day Ocracoke and the southern portion of present day Hatteras). The ships on Raleigh's voyages of exploration and colonization stopped at Wokokon and Croatoan (where they were befriended by Manteo). Croatoan is where the "lost"colony indicated they had moved, according to a carving on a tree on Roanoke Island.

I have always found it difficult to interpret those early maps even though at least one of them lists lines of latitude. Of course, all of the inlets except Ocracoke have changed (either opened or closed) in the last 450 years. But I wondered how faithful the maps were regarding the shape and length of the islands of the Outer Banks. In preparation for the class this year I asked Captain Rob how accurate he thought those early 16th century maps were. Without a moment's hesitation he told me that sailors of that period navigated across the Atlantic by just heading south "until the butter melts," then sailing west into the sunset.

I guess that answers my question, I said.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

OcraFolk School

More than 30 students from several different states will be arriving on Ocracoke later today to register for the 5th annual OcraFolk School. The School is a week long immersion in island life, handcrafts, group solidarity, and shared meals.

This year five classes are being offered -- English Paper Piecing (a form of lap quilting), Island Cooking, Ocracoke Music, Island Photography, and Ocracoke Sampler (history, culture, and seafaring traditions of Ocracoke Island).

You can read more here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin Howard in 1954. You can read it here:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jeopardy Redux

Most of our readers know that Ocracoke High School English teacher, Charles Temple, was the Jeopardy TV program's $100,000 winner of last spring's Teacher's Tournament (see our blog for May 14, 2011).

Just a few weeks ago, at the end of September, Charles flew back to Los Angeles for the taping of Jeopardy's "Tournament of Champions." He was competing in the program's ultimate contest of the minds for the top prize of $250,000.

Be sure to keep the dates open, so you can watch as Charles goes head to head with past winners this coming November 2 - 15.

As usual, Charles keeps a tight poker face. I saw him immediately after he returned home from the taping...and I have no idea how he fared.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article written by my Uncle Marvin in the early 1950s. You can read it here:

Friday, October 21, 2011

November on the Banks

We have just published another of our Ocracoke Newsletters. This month I share an article written 57 years ago by my Uncle Marvin Howard (1897-1969). Entitled "There's Nothing Like the Glory of November on the Banks," Marvin shares his love affair with his island home while wondering what the future holds for Ocracoke.

Although Uncle Marvin never had more than a sixth grade education, he was a voracious reader and autodidact. He served as a ship captain in the Navy in WWI, and was commodore of a fleet of dredges sent to Europe in WWII. After retiring as a Lt. Colonel with the US Army Corps of Engineers he returned home to Ocracoke where he was active in civic affairs. In 1956 he established the nation's only mounted Boy Scout Troop.

Uncle Marvin loved to hunt...and the freedom he felt when he was outdoors. He was also an accomplished horseman. He had a deep emotional connection to Ocracoke and wanted to preserve and protect whatever made his island special. In the early 1950s Marvin knew there would be changes when the National Park Service established the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. He understood that change would bring more people to Ocracoke...and more economic security to its residents. But he also worried that it would bring more rules and restrictions.

He was prescient in many ways, but I doubt he anticipated the extent of the changes. I am certain he would be shocked at the number of people who visit Ocracoke every year. And he would be surprised at how many businesses his island community now supports. And, although there are more regulations today, he might see how necessary some of them are, while delighting in the establishment of the Working Watermen's Association and the continuance of hunting and fishing guide services.

When you read his article you will get a sense of life on the Outer Banks on the cusp of change.

In the interest of readability I have done some minor editing. You can read Uncle Marvin's article here:

Thursday, October 20, 2011


It rained quite a bit Tuesday night and most of the day yesterday. Wednesday around noon I looked out my window, and the trees across the lane were dancing in the wind. Very suddenly the wind had picked up. Powerful gusts were pounding against the side of the house. "Has Irene come back to taunt us?" I wondered! I know the wind was gusting to at least 35 miles per hour, maybe even a little bit more. It did feel like a hurricane was descending upon us.

After half an hour the wind died down to about 5-10 mph. Then came a downpour...with thunder and lightning. That continued for an hour before it settled into just a steady rain. By 4:30 the rain had stopped, but the sky was still overcast...with a hint of sunlight in the western sky. By 5 o'clock I even saw small patches of blue sky. What strange weather!

 But then, we're used to unpredictable and sometimes severe weather out here so far from the mainland. Nature, and nature's forces, help keep us connected to the real world.

For today and the next several days we're expecting steady sunshine to dry up the huge puddles all over the island.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skeeter Hawks

For several days now dragonflies have been darting through the air around Ocracoke in great numbers. Intrigued, I did a little research on these beautiful creatures. I learned that Alfred Lord Tennyson described the dragonfly as a "living flash of light." Definitely an appropriate appellation. Their iridescent wings make them look like creatures from a childhood fairy tale.

Pat Garber's book, Ocracoke Wild, relates folklore about dragonflies from Arizona, South America, and medieval Europe.

Dragonflies are insects belonging to the Order Odonata. I did not know that they are the oldest surviving order of flying insects. As Pat explains, "300 million years ago giant dragonflies with wingspans approaching three feet hovered over swamps and bogs, the largest flying insects of all time."

I also did not know that as larvae (called nymphs) they spend two to five years as aquatic beings, moving along the bottoms of marshes and creeks eating small creatures. They spend only a few weeks as flying insects, but as aviators they are amazing, sometimes reaching speeds of 30 miles per hour or more.

Ocracokers love dragonflies because they are voracious eaters of small "bugs," especially mosquitoes. Hence the local name "Skeeter Hawks." As larvae they also consume great quantities of mosquito "wrigglers."

You can read more in Pat's book.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Doctoring" on Ocracoke

An excerpt from Alton Ballance's wonderful book Ocracokers:

"Uriah [Garrish (1905-1988)] was stung [by a stingray] before drugs and doctors were so accessible to the island. 'The first time I got stung was the worst,' he recalled. 'We were fishing down on the eastern end of the Legged Lumps, and when the stingray stuck me he rammed it right through my heelstring and it came out the other side. He didn't leave it in me. Anyway, your Uncle William brought me home in the old Kingfisher. There was a doctor here for a while, and he took one of these small swabs and put Mercurochrome on it and pulled it through the hole on a string. Somebody gave me a fifth of liquor to kill the pain. He [the doctor] told me not to drink it, and he took the bottle and wouldn't let nobody in the room with me. Sometime later that evening after I woke up, he was there drunker than a bat. He had drinked all my liquor. I was laid up a month before I could walk. The other two times weren't too bad. I only missed a couple of days of fishing.'" (pages 71-72)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here:

Monday, October 17, 2011

History & Stories

I recently had the following question re. my post about the Spanish Raids in 1741-1748:  "Phillip, where do you get your information?"

My personal library includes more than 4 dozen books dedicated to history and stories about Ocracoke and the Outer Banks. In addition, I have accumulated numerous journals, pamphlets, doctoral dissertations, magazine articles, school yearbooks, newspaper stories, etc. I also have file drawers filled with snippets of paper, charts, maps, genealogical trees, and notes I keep while chatting with neighbors and relatives. Of course, I also have access to the Ocracoke room at our local library. It has many North Carolina reference books as well as old scrapbooks filled with photos, newspaper articles, letters, etc. The Preservation Society library also has an extensive collection of books, articles, and vintage photos.

Sometimes I use the Internet to research island history. This is especially useful when island history is part of a larger story (e.g. the Doxsee Clam factory, the life of Sam Jones, or the career of General Ira T. Wyche...see our Ocracoke Newsletters for more information).

Occasionally I discover mistakes and inaccuracies in my sources. Here are four examples:
  • One excellent book of local island history states that "approximately twenty-five surfmen" manned the nineteenth century life saving station on Ocracoke near Hatteras Inlet. In fact, life saving stations were manned by one keeper and six to eight surfmen. Because the surfmen typically brought their wives and children to live near the station there were probably about twenty-five people in a small community near the station, but only six to eight surfmen. This mistake probably resulted from a misunderstanding of a local informant.
  • A recently published book identifies the ship Blackbeard was captain of when he was killed at Ocracoke as the Revenge. Blackbeard's flagship was the Queen Anne's Revenge, but he scuttled her prior to his final battle. At one time another ship called the Revenge (originally captained by gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet) was among his flotilla. But Blackbeard's last ship, the one he was on during his final battle, was the Adventure.
  • The US Lighthouse Service specified a recipe for the whitewash used on lighthouses. A number of Internet sites list one of the ingredients as "one half pound of powdered Spanish whiting (fish)". Spanish makerel is a fish, as is whiting...but Spanish whiting is calcium carbonate (lime)...not fish!
  • My own book, Digging up Uncle Evans, includes a village map that shows the Big Gut, the Little Gut, and the old wooden bridges. I was relying on the memory and descripion of the guts and bridges by older residents. Just last year I discovered a 1939 US Corps of Engineers Survey map of Silver Lake Harbor. It clearly shows the configuration of the guts and bridges. I discovered that my map is close to being accurate...but not quite!
There are many vaulable sources for Ocracoke history, stories, and information...but be aware. Not all of the information is accurate. As you can see, we all make mistakes occasionally.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Deviled Clams

In several recent posts I have mentioned deviled clams. I thought our readers might like to have the recipe. This is from the old "green" Ocracoke Cook Book published by the Woman's Society of Christian Service of the Ocracoke United Methodist Church. It sold for $1.00 forty years ago. It included such classic recipes as Stewed Diamond Back Terrapin (...remove claws, cut off head."), Stewed Swamp Turtle ("boil it until it starts to leave bone."), Beaten Biscuits ("Use...blunt end of a hatchet...and beat until it blisters and pops....") and Snow Cream ("...add snow last, serve immediately.").

Deviled Clams Recipe, by Mrs. Hilda Scarborough [my mother's notes in brackets]:

24 clams -- large -- ground [about 2 cups of clams, with juice]
2 cups bread cubes (crust removed) [1/2 cup bread crumbs]
1/2 cup butter [3 tbsp butter]
1 small onion
1 tbsp [1 tsp] Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 [1] eggs -- slightly beaten
1 cup rich milk or light cream [no milk unless it is too thick]
[1/4 tsp mustard]
[a little salt, pepper, & paprika {my mother was Hungarian!}]
[celery & green pepper]

Melt butter in heavy frying pan, saute onion till soft. Remove from fire. Add clams, bread cubes and W. sauce, dash pepper, add eggs. Return to fire (medium, not too hot). Gradually add milk. It may not take all of it as you want it fairly thick. Keep stirring till cooked through.

Put in buttered shells or casserole. Sprinkle with fine bread crumbs and dot with butter. Put in fairly hot oven and brown (about 375 degrees) [bake at 350 degrees until brown].

If you have access to fresh clams, try this recipe. Deviled clams are delicious! Or...print out this recipe and bring it to Ocracoke on your next visit. Be sure to get some clams and try it out. You won't be disappointed.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here: