• From the President – April, 2017

    By Elaine Henson

    Carolina Beach Hotel, Part IV

    The Carolina Beach Hotel opened on June 4, 1926, it was destroyed by fire on September 13, 1927, and its’ owners were acquitted of arson charges on January 20, 1928. In a year and a half, the hotel’s story had come to an end.  The city block bordered by South Fourth and Fifth Streets, Atlanta Avenue and Clarendon Boulevard sat empty for the next ten years.

    In January, 1938, construction began on the Carolina Beach School in the same city block where the hotel had been.  Another similarity was that the builder of the new school, W.A. Simon, also built the hotel.

    Until 1916 Carolina Beach elementary students attended a school near the river in the area where Dow Road and Henniker’s Ditch are located. Katie Burnett Hines was the principal of that school that burned in 1916.

    After that the pupils were bused to Myrtle Grove School near Myrtle Grove Road with the promise that the school board would build a new school on the beach.  About 70 Carolina Beach students went back to the beach for the 1937-38 school year. They used a temporary school located on the boardwalk and called, appropriately, the Boardwalk School.

    Carolina Beach School – Class of 1937-1938

    Carolina Beach School – Class of 1937-1938

    There were two classrooms: one for grades 1-3 and the other for grades 4-6. The rooms were separated by a sheet hanging from the ceiling. It was located near Britt’s Donuts present location.

    You can see our late member, Ryder Lewis, in this photo of the fourth, fifth and sixth grades from that 1937-38 Boardwalk School.  He is on the third row, second from the left.  (click image) The late Juanita Bame Herring is on the same row, fourth from left.  You can tell this was post WWI, pre-WWII, and at a time when boys were crazy about planes from all the aviator caps in the photo.

    The new school on South Fourth Street was begun in early January of 1938.  It had an auditorium and four classrooms.  You can see how quickly it went up from this mid- February picture from the Sunday Star News.

    In April, 1938, the New Hanover Board of Elections made plans to move Federal Point’s polling place to Carolina Beach School since 70% of the voters lived south of Snow’s Cut.  Previously they had voted at Robinson’s Store on Carolina Beach Road.

    New Hanover Schools Superintendent, H.M. Roland announced that 105 students were enrolled when the school opened in fall of 1938. Mrs. Madge Woods Bell was principal the first year.  She moved away the summer of 1939 and was replaced by Mrs. C.G. Van Landingham who was still there when the first of several additions was added in 1941.

    Carolina Beach School celebrated its 75th birthday in 2013. [This is the only image we have of the early school.  If any of you have a photo we would love to scan it for our archives.]

    Carolina Beach Hotel:   Part I    Part II    Part III
    Oral History – Isabel Lewis Foushee: ‘School Memories’

    Our WWI Soldier

    Claude R. Pfaff – 1892 – 1983
    2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army – 1918

    [The History Center’s newest exhibit commemorating the Centennial of the United States entry into World War One opens this April. It includes the uniform of Claude R. Pfaff, generously loaned to us by member, Gerri Cohen]

    Claude Pfaff was born in September of 1892, in Pfafftown, Forsyth County, North Carolina. Of Moravian heritage, he spent his formative years playing in the Bethania Moravian Band. After attending Bethania High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Class of 1918), during which he taught school at Mount Tabor as part of his matriculation.

    On April 6, 1917, the United States formally entered World War I. Pfaff, like most young men due to graduate that spring, knew that he was likely to be drafted into the American military as soon as he was no longer a student. When the University offered to waive all final exams for anyone who volunteered for military service, he joined the United States Army.

    Pfaff was sent to Camp Jackson, a major training and staging base established in 1917 near Columbia, South Carolina. Here, battalions were formed before being sent to join the fight in France.

    As band Sergeant assigned to the 156th Depot Brigade, Pfaff played bugle for military ceremonial occasions as well as morale-lifting events at locations such as the large base hospital, the Red Cross Convalescent Home, the YMCA Hostess House, and the Liberty Theater, which seated 3,600 soldiers.

    On September 26, he was transferred to Camp Sevier, Greenville, South Carolina, and in October, Pfaff was commissioned out of the ranks to Lieutenant.

    With the armistice signed on November 11, 1918 the military quickly demobilized and Pfaff was honorably discharged on November 30, 1918 as a Second Lieutenant. Pfaff returned to civilian life, working first for the Colonial Motor Company and then as a salesman for the Realty Bond Company in Winston-Salem. He married Atha Wolff of Tobaccoville, NC, in June of 1919, and they had two sons, Harry and Bob, and one daughter, Geraldine. In later years Claude Pfaff worked as a retail coal dealer and then a dairy farmer before retiring to spend most of his time in Carolina Beach, fishing for king mackerel off the Fisherman’s Steel Pier.

    The Local Connection

    In the 1920s, when Pfaff was working for the Realty Bond Real Estate Company, the firm often sent its salesmen on vacation to Carolina Beach so that they would come back and tell their customers how wonderful the beach was – and, hopefully, sell more lots at Carolina Beach.

    Throughout his years in Winston-Salem he most enjoyed coming down to Carolina Beach for the fall fishing season. His daughter, Gerri, says that Ellis Freeman “taught him how to fish and Ellis’s wife, Annie, taught Atha how to cook what he caught.”

    In 1927, the grand Carolina Beach Hotel stood where the elementary school is today. Claude and Atha, who happened to be staying across the street one evening, sat on the porch and watched waiters mysteriously bring linens, silverware, and other valuables out of the hotel. The next night, as mysteriously, it burned to the ground.

    In the early 1930s, Claude built a cottage near Carolina Beach Lake as a birthday present for Atha, who named it “The Lullaby” for the choruses of frogs that sang around it at night.

    Gerri remembers that as soon as her school was out the family made the trip on Highway 421 from Winston to the beach and stayed the whole summer, until just before school began again in September.

    Often during WWII, the Pfaff family ended up sharing the small cottage with a family of strangers. Because of the shortage of housing in the Wilmington area, property owners were required to rent out their houses in order to provide the families of the enlisted men due to ship out soon a week at the beach before they were separated. Only office space was exempt, so Atha designated one room an office.

    In the 1960s, Claude and Atha retired from the dairy farm and spent from early spring to late fall at the cottage. Daughter Gerri says her father practically lived on the Fisherman Steel Pier, coming home only when his wife demanded he eat, and sleep at home.

    In those years, he became a member of the Carolina Beach Presbyterian Church and an active member in the life of the local community, often sitting on the benches of the boardwalk and people-watching while Atha played bingo. Claude died in November of 1983, and Atha in September of 1986.

    Gerri Cohen, their last surviving child, currently lives in Wilmington, but still uses the cottage in the summer, sharing it with an extended family of children, grandchildren and cousins. A member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, she found out we were hoping to do an exhibit commemorating World War I and generously offered to lend us her father’s uniform for display.

    To this day, many of Claude Pfaff’s descendants vacation at Carolina Beach, coming from such diverse residences as New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Florida.