What are the Seneca Guns?

Steve Plaffby Nancy Gadzuk

Steve Pfaff, Warning Coordinator Meteorologist at the Wilmington office of the National Weather Service, provided some insight and information to help answer this question at the History Center’s April 18, 2016 open meeting.

He first showed some short video clips on the Seneca Guns from a segment of The Unexplained Files, a TV series produced by the Science Channel. The clips included an audio recording of the “boom” most of the audience recognized as the sound of the Seneca Guns, as well as interviews with locals who described their experiences hearing the Guns.

Steve was featured on the video as the down-to-earth scientist who explained some possible causes of the Seneca Guns and served as an antidote to the show’s sensationalist presentation of the Seneca Guns as both terrifying and earth-shattering. (Two representative episodes of The Unexplained Files are “Voodoo Zombies” and “UFO Meets Missiles at Malstrom Air Force Base,” so the Seneca Guns were up against some stiff competition for high drama.)

Seneca Guns OriginsThe Seneca Guns got their name from James Fenimore Cooper’s short story, “The Lake Gun,” that featured similar sounds heard near New York’s Seneca Lake. Most occurrences are near water, as sound travels better through water than through air. They seem to be more common during temperature inversions, when cool, dense air near the ground creates a sound channel that sounds can reverberate against, creating the booms we hear at ground level.

Steve described some of the possible causes for the Seneca Guns, such as the collapse of underwater caves, distant thunderstorms, shallow offshore earthquakes, sub-marine landslides, undersea methane release, and offshore military operations—and then gave us scientific evidence and data that seemed to disprove most of these theories.

Seneca Guns - LandlidesCaptain Skippy Winner spoke from the audience about his own experiences in the past as a boat captain sending his observations and readings of sub-marine landslides and turbulence to the Weather Service to add to their data compilation.

Steve acknowledged the importance of input such as Skippy’s in documenting and understanding the realities of weather activity.

Did Steve ever give us the definitive answer as to what causes the Seneca Guns? Not really, but offshore military operations seemed the most plausible to me.

James Fenimore Cooper had his own explanation for the phenomenon:

“Tis a chief of the Senecas, thrown into the lake by the Great Spirit, for his bad conduct. Whenever he tries to get upon the land, the Spirit speaks to him from the caves below, and he obeys.”  

“THAT must mean the ‘Lake Gun?’ ”  

“So the pale-faces call it.”

Elaine Henson on Vintage Bathing Suits – May Program

postcard of suitsVintage Bathing Suit Exhibit

This summer the Federal Point History Center, located next to Town Hall at 1121 North Lake Park Boulevard, will host an exhibit called Vintage Bathing Suits: 1900-1970 which includes 22 suits from the time period.

The exhibit will be open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm during June, July and August.  There will be an opening reception for the exhibit on Sunday, June 12, 2016, 2-4 pm at the History Center.


Monday, May 16, 2016swimsuits  7:30 p.m. (past events)

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, May 16, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be our president, Elaine Henson, who will present The Bathing Suit in Vintage Advertising which looks at the evolution of bathing attire from early 1900s to the 70s.

Early suits were made of cotton or wool and looked more like dresses than the suits we see today.  The “dresses” had undergarments including bloomers below the knees and were worn with wool stockings, slippers and matching head-gear.  Men’s suits were wool knit tunics with sleeves and knee-length shorts.

Over time, the sleeves disappeared, the shorts became shorter, new fabrics appeared and suits became more athletic looking.  Suits became more stylish in many colors but still had little or no foundation features.  WWII brought the two piece with a brassiere like top and bottoms going from the waist to mid-thigh.  The post war years saw zippers, boning and other types of foundations in bathing suits.

 

From the President — May, 2016

kids on beachSince our program this month (Monday, May 16th) will be on bathing suits and our summer exhibit will also showcase vintage bathing suits, I decided to look at a few Carolina Beach bathers in their suits.

In the early 1900s salt water bathing was considered to be therapeutic and a very healthy practice much like going to a spa.  As trains began to crisscross our country, it was so easy for those who lived inland to get to the seashore. And get there they did!

This card (right) is postmarked 1926 and the writer has “been in twice”.  The ladies’ suits were made of wool jersey with matching knee length bloomers underneath.  They wore them with stockings, bathing shoes and caps. Men’s suits were very similar without the accessories.

Notice the one lady sitting on the sand in a dress and hat as if she had just left church.  The man to her right elaines men's suitsappears to be sitting on a tractor tire inner tube.  Some bathers at the water’s edge are also sitting in the sand enjoying the waves and they come in and go out.  Most people at this time could not swim.  The experience was more like being in a huge tub of salt water, hence the term “bathing”.

(left) This is a photo of two men and a boy at Carolina Beach in 1934 wearing suits they rented for Twins on beachthe day. They are all wool knit.  The boy’s suit has large cut outs under the arms.  The man in the middle rented his suit from the Pavilion bath house right on the boardwalk.  It probably cost him about 25 cents for the day and would have included a space for his street clothes and a shower after his dip.

The man on the right rented his from Batson’s Bath House just down the boardwalk from the pavilion.  In the winter these wool suits would have been packed away with moth balls adding that aroma to the wet wool smell the next summer.

This damaged but nonetheless wonderful photo (right) is of a father and his twin sons at Carolina Beach. The father’s suit appears to be a tunic over shorts, but is really all one piece made to look that way.  The twins in their straw hats are wearing suits that look like T-shirts and shorts.  Again they are one piece. All three suits have stripes and would have been made of wool knit fabric.

 

Seabreeze – A History Part 2 – Carolina Beach and Shell Island

by Rebecca Taylormap cropped

Because Sea Breeze was a leisure site, it has deep meaning for residents and former business owners, as well as for people who patronized it. The old resort has a remarkably wide constituency. All over North Carolina I have encountered people who have vivid and fond memories of Sea Breeze.”  – Jennifer Edwards, 2003

Through the last part of  the nineteenth century there was considerable cooperation between the Seabreeze and Carolina Beach communities.

  • From the August 15, 1891 Wilmington Messenger we find: “Professor Edward Jewell, the good-looking young aeronaut, left the earth in his balloon at 6 pm and was borne upward into the boundless space on the horizontal bar attached to his big canvas balloon inflated with hot air. He went up to 5,000 feet and came down in the ocean about one mile from shore. About 1,800 people, men and women, old and young, and many children had collected to witness the spectacle.
Seabreeze Resort

Seabreeze Resort

Bruce and Roland Freeman, with five men each,went to Jewell’s rescue with their whale boats. Professor Jewell, when about six feet from the water, sprang into the surf and against the tide and through the breakers swam one mile to the shore, as reckoned by the Freemans. The boats brought in the balloon and all was well.”

  • “Ellis Freeman, the well-known caterer, was prepared to furnish Myrtle Grove oysters at Carolina Beach. He was making a specialty of roasts. – Truelove’s Sauce, new delicious and appetizing.”
  • “It has been learned that Roland Freeman, one of the heirs to the Freeman estate, colored, which owns considerable quantities of land near Carolina Beach had practically closed negotiations for the sale of 250 acres of land owned by the estate and that he had also agreed to give options on a like amount of territory. The home of Roland Freeman was near the beach.”
  • “Real Estate Transfer – J. N. Freeman and wife transfer to A. W. Pate, trustee, for the Wilmington & Carolina Beach Railway, for $1 and other considerations, a 100-foot right-of-way through their lands in Federal Point Township.”
  • “On March 11, 1887, W. L. Smith Jr. bought a strip of land comprised of 24 acres for the amount of $6650. These acres were between the head of Myrtle Grove Sound and the ocean beach as recorded in New Hanover County Deed Book YYY, Page 578.”   Today, this land is located in the heart of the business district of the Town of Carolina Beach.

 

Shell Island Resort/Wrightsville Beach

In 1924, as Seabreeze was just beginning to flourish, Thomas H. Wright and Charles B. Parmele began to promote the Shell postcard of suitsIsland Beach Development Company. With an investment capital of $500,000 they planned to make Shell Island “a Negro Atlantic City.” A small island just north of Wrightsville Beach, it lasted only three summers before it mysteriously burned to the ground.

Shell Island Resort was destroyed by fire about 1926 and was not rebuilt. In the 1930’s Wrightsville Beach began enforcing ordinances that prohibited blacks from bathing on but one extreme northern section of the beach. They were also prohibited from wearing bathing suits and walking on the boardwalks in front of private white cottages.

Earlier attempts by blacks to develop resorts in the Wrightsville Beach area in 1883, 1902, 1904, and 1920 were either short-lived or never developed. In 1993 E. F. Martin took a ten-year lease on the Jim Hewlett place, at Greenville Sound, for a natural park and resort for the black community. Called Atlanta Park.

Bruce Freeman (one of Robert Bruce Freeman, Sr.’s grandsons) remembered that by 1929, after Shell Island burned, building had really begun at Seabreeze, and the resort was drawing crowds numbering thousands. Spending free time among one’s peers, away from the scrutiny of whites, is an implicit message emerging from oral histories of the people speaking about the early days of Seabreeze.

 

Calling all Members – Volunteers Needed

elains's men's suits

We are currently beginning to plan an outreach program that will put our members on the Boardwalk one or two nights a week, in June, July and August.

We hope to display some of our great pictures, pass out our brochure, and answer questions about Federal Point.

If you could take a night or two please let Rebecca know, 910-458-0502

 

Big Daddy’s

Featured Business Member
May, 2016

“They’re Open for the Season”Big Daddy Caddy

by Tony Lem Phillips

We are very proud to salute Big Daddy’s of Kure Beach as this months Business Member. Not only does Big Daddy’s support the History Center, they also purchased an entire case of our Local Flavor Cookbooks.

Since 1970 Big Daddy’s has been a Southern tradition for people who enjoy great food, fun times and friends! Big Daddy’s offers only the best in seafood, steak, and traditional favorites cooked to order. You will find inside dining as well as roadside.

Big Daddy's #1Right across from Kure Beach Pier, they are conveniently located next to Dow Road which can whisk you right back to Carolina Beach or Wilmington. Shop their gift store while there and don’t forget that they have a fully licensed bar.

Please visit them soon and thank them for being loyal supporters of The Federal Point History Center. Pick up a Local Flavor Cookbook while you are there.

Address:
206 K Avenue, Kure Beach, NC 28449
Phone:(910) 458-8622
Hours: 12–8:30PM

http://www.bigdaddys-nc.com/

Society Notes

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • The History Center recorded 70 visitors in April. We had 53 in attendance at the April meeting. The gift shop took in $140.34. The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the United Daughters of the Confederacy for their monthly meetings.

  • Membership continues to grow. Welcome to Jeffrey Stauffer of Carolina Beach, Ann Tinder of Wilmington, and Barbara and Michael McQuery of Carolina Beach.

  • School Visits: Elaine Henson talked to 85 second graders about the past and present of Federal Point at Carolina Beach Elementary School and Rebecca Taylor talked to 75 fourth graders about lighthouses, particularly the Federal Point Light.

Spring Clearance Sale – Throughout May

Gift Shop

FPHPS Gift Shop
Spring Clearance

      Entire Month of May

               

Gift Shop #3

 

Books         T shirts       Sweats    

Games Toys       Posters

 
 

      Many items as much as 50% off!