Hurricane Hazel – A Special but Evil Storm

By Nancy Gadzuk

hurricane-hazel-1954Steve Pfaff of the National Weather Service spoke at the History Center’s October 17, 2016 meeting. Originally Steve was scheduled to make a presentation on Hurricane Hazel. And then Hurricane Matthew happened on October 9th.

steve-pfaffDespite working long hours dealing with the aftermath of Matthew, Steve found the time to weave his original presentation on Hazel into a fascinating presentation that combined information on both Hurricanes Hazel (1954) and Matthew (2016).

paths-of-hurricanes-hazel-mathewHe began by sharing some information about Hurricane Hazel, a “special but evil storm.” Hazel became a Category 3 hurricane very quickly and killed over 1,000 people as it tore through Haiti, a pathway that Matthew would unfortunately follow as well.

He cautioned that we should not let radar fool us when determining how big a threat a hurricane may pose. Over-reliance on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale to determine hurricane strength and possible destructive effects has been problematic, especially with storms such as Hazel and Matthew, where storm surge and high water levels have been so destructive.

hurricane-hazel-impactsHe cited meteorologist Ryan Knapp’s apt example to show relative destructive impacts: I can breathe in 100 mile per hour winds, but I can’t breathe under 10 feet of water.

Hazel had what Steve called “good air”: high barometric pressure that allowed for a very large storm surge. High temperatures preceding the hurricane and a high lunar tide, along with unusually warm water temperature, all contributed to a powerful 18 foot storm surge that wiped out most of the oceanfront dwellings in Brunswick County.

byron-mooreByron Moore, long-time History Center member who lived in Carolina Beach during Hazel, shared some of his recollections of the storm and its aftermath. His family lived on Canal Drive and water went up to the speedometer of the car sitting in the driveway. He remembered seeing propane tanks floating down Canal Drive and 6 to 8 feet of sand on Carolina Beach Avenue North. Other audience members contributed their own memories of the devastation Hazel caused.

return-period-for-hurricanesSteve warned us that the return period for hurricanes along the North Carolina coast was 5 to 7 years. Also, since 1999 there have been five 500 to 1000 year flood events in the Southeast in case anyone has a notion to become complacent and let their insurance lapse.

November Meeting – Travis Gilbert on the Ladies Memorial Association

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, November 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month our program will be presented by Travis Gilbert. He will talk on the Ladies Memorial Association, which, just confederate-monument-wilmingtonafter the Civil War, made it their mission to inter or re-inter the bodies of  Confederate soldiers and to raise monuments in their honor.

The first Ladies’ Memorial Association sprang up immediately after the end of the Civil War in Winchester, Virginia, which had suffered significantly during the war. Mary Dunbar Williams of Winchester organized a group of women to give proper burial to Confederate dead whose bodies were found in the countryside, and to decorate those graves annually.

Within a year seventy such organizations had been founded throughout the South. The Wilmington Ladies’ Memorial Association was founded in the summer of 1866 to provide an honorable burial for the hundreds of Confederate soldiers buried in unmarked, often unidentified, graves across Southeastern North Carolina.

confederate-soldiers-moundFounded by women such as Elizabeth Parsley, Catherine DeRosset Meares, and Julia Oakley, the Wilmington Ladies’ Memorial Association organized bazaars, hosted entertainments, and lobbied their male counterparts to establish the Confederate Soldiers Mound in Oakdale Cemetery.

Confederate Mound Plaque:  This monument was dedicated May 10, 1872. / To perpetuate deeds of the brave and in grateful tribute to the memory of 550 honored unknown / Confederate dead at the Battle of Fort Fisher / who live buried here.

By the spring of 1868, the association facilitated Wilmington’s first Confederate Memorial Day, and in 1872, dedicated a monument above the Confederate Mound. The ladies’ endeavors were an unprecedented expansion of the traditional southern women’s gender sphere and would lay the foundations for Wilmington’s chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the city’s Confederate relic room, and New Hanover County’s three Confederate monuments.

confederate-memorial-alabamaTravis Gilbert received his Bachelors of Arts in history from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where he completed original research on the Barbara Fritchie Memorial Association and Maryland secessionist, Enoch Louis Lowe. In addition, Gilbert worked at public history sites such as Monocracy National Battlefield and the Barbara Fritchie House Museum.

Gilbert is a docent at the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society and a volunteer at the Battleship North Carolina Memorial. Currently, he is completing a manuscript narrating women’s contributions to the rise of the Lost Cause in Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1865 until 1924. Please visit portcityredux.blogspot.com for updates on the manuscript’s progress or follow Gilbert on twitter @_travisjgilbert or Instagram @travisjgilbert

 

From the President – November, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Most residents on our island consider 1954’s Hurricane Hazel as the worst hurricane ever to hit our area.  It was the only Category Four hurricane in southeastern North Carolina in all of the 20th Century or since. And, it came in on a lunar high tide. It is often the benchmark to which all other hurricanes are compared. 

Hazel’s reputation often overshadows the 1955 hurricane season which had three hurricanes impacting coastal North Carolina with two of the hurricanes hitting within 5 days of each other.

Hurricane Connie hit on August 12, 1955 as a Category Two with typical strong winds, high tides and heavy rainfall.  It caused heavy crop damage and 27 deaths in North Carolina.

Five days later, on August 17, Hurricane Diane made landfall in North Carolina as a Tropical storm with winds of 50 mph and gusts of 74 mph in Wilmington.  The waves were 12 feet, tides were 6-8 feet above normal and the storm surge caused damage to homes along the beach and coastal flooding on top of the rain-soaked area from Connie. hazel-cb This August 17, 1955 press photo of Hurricane Diane shows the 1600 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North featuring two flat top houses on the ocean front. Their porches are gone and waves are splashing at the front door. 

Lane Holt, whose parents Dan and Margaret Holt operated the Carolina Beach Pier on the north end, confirmed that these two houses were just a few yards south of the pier.

He remembers Connie and Diane well and reports that the post Hazel rebuilt pier held up through the two storms, but the tackle shop was destroyed again. Then on September 19, 1955 Hurricane Ione made landfall near Wilmington as a Category Two storm leaving more flooding, strong winds, storm surge, more crop damage and 7 dead in North Carolina.

Not only did Pleasure Island have to rebuild after Hazel in 1954, a year later it suffered three hurricanes in just 37 days and faced more rebuilding and repairs.  It makes one understand just how strong and resilient our residents are.

 

Seabreeze Part 5: The 40’s

By Rebecca Taylor

By the 1940’s Seabreeze had its own hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and dance halls.  Drawing crowds from all over seabreeze-warfNorth Carolina it became known as the “National Negro Playground.” Among the local businesses – many of them run by Freemans or members of other families linked by marriage – were bathhouses where visitors could rent bathing suits for the day.

Daley’s Breezy Pier Restaurant was a two-story covered pavilion at the end of a pier where bands played and people fished and crabbed.

An amusement park opened in the summertime with a Ferris Wheel, a hobbyhorse (like a merry-go-round), chair planes, a carousel, the Octopus, and the Caterpillar. A fellow named Charlie ran the gambling tables. A Native American known as the Snake Man set up a sideshow tent, and one of the attractions he offered was “the Woman with No Body,” which was actually his extremely short wife in a darkened setting that only revealed her head. He also ran a candy store and a small circus and mounted an impressive snake display.

Summers were especially busy when church groups packed buses for a day’s amusement along the waterfront, then turned the beach over to the juke joint crowd at night. Farmers from inland counties would ride dozens of their field hands, on flatbed trucks, to Seabreeze for a day off. Seabreeze was so well known that it even attracted people from all over North Carolina and South Carolina. Some years people would even come on buses from Philadelphia and New Jersey.”

seabreeze-cabinsDuring segregation, Carolina Beach police refused to allow Seabreeze visitors to pass through the town to visit the ocean side of the Freeman property, known as Freeman’s Beach, so the family bought a boat to haul people there, letting them off in the marsh leading to the beach. You had to walk over the marsh lands – get mud in your feet and everywhere else.

Later Captain Rick Wilson – who later became the first black party-boat operator to get a slip at the Carolina Beach marina – ran a speedboat out of Seabreeze, offering rides for 50 cents a head.   Others, including Margaret Green, ran ferries to take visitors across the sound to the ocean beach on the outlying barrier  island. As the local economy recovered from the Great Depression, the Seabreeze community and its’ recreation area were fully developed.

Bruce’s Tavern was a two-story restaurant and dance hall with a fishing pier owned by Bruce Freeman. There was also Daley’s Pier with a restaurant and pier for fishing and crabbing. At Barbecue Sam’s, the proprietor raised pigs, butchered them, and smoked them on premises. Several bathhouses existed that seabreeze-womanallowed people to come out of the ocean, take a shower, get dressed, and go to the pavilions to dance.

There was a row of vine covered cottages which were used for overnight stays for people unable to drive and even an unofficial community jail. Photographers’ shops, where visitors could have their pictures taken as mementos of their summer visits to Seabreeze were scattered throughout the area.

William Freeman who was born in 1941 and grew up in Seabreeze says, “It was fun, it was fun, it was fun. For black people to be able to come to a place like this, they came and danced and kicked up and had fun the whole weekend. That had to be a great thing for us psychologically. All these places, blacks owned it all. It was far more valuable than we realized it was.”

WWII
In January of 1942 a meeting was called to inform “all negro citizens“ of the Sea Breeze area and to organize civilian defense units. The meeting was held at the Freeman church and Sheriff C. David Jones and the Mayor of Carolina Beach were the invited speakers.

In April 1942, the Federal Works Agency (FWA) allocated $12,800 for the construction of a bath house for the military. It included showers, locker rooms, and a lounge area.

In 1941, Camp Davis opened in Holly Ridge. It rapidly grew to include as many as 100,000 soldiers being trained in a variety of assault specialties. One section trained black soldiers in anti-aircraft artillery while an auxiliary base called Montford Point became the first training base for black Marines. wwii-marinesAs the war intensified the military presence became notable.

Black servicemen stationed nearby headed to Seabreeze on leave. There were even some training maneuvers that took place in the waterway. One long time resident reports that there were rumors among the residents that even the FBI trained along the undeveloped beach.

Black soldiers from the Fort Fisher training base would come up to Seabeeze. Some of the Freeman girls married some of the guys that used to be down at Fort. Fisher.

By the summer of 1943 a special “Jim Crow loading zone” was set up at the main bus terminal in Wilmington to handle the large crowds of black servicemen coming to Wilmington on leave. Another group was drawn to Carolina Beach, as well. Suddenly boys too young for the draft, but too old for parental supervision, flocked to Carolina Beach to work in the busy restaurants and hotels. White teenagers had learned to dance to ‘race music’ from blacks in the Hayti district of Durham.

While both Carolina Beach and Seabreeze owners were glad to cash in on the war boom, both beaches gained a reputation as somewhat “unruly.” As one white woman who was a teenager during the war remarked; “there was a general feeling that these boys were facing the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country and therefore deserved to cut loose before being shipped out.” 

Got-‘em-on Live Bait Club

Featured Business Member
November, 2016

By Tony (Lem) Phillips          

got-em-on-live-logoWho has not heard of the Got-‘Em-on Live Bait Club?  Since 1979, this organization has grown to over 300 members and has a renown stature in the community for their excellence in supporting tournaments and causes.

For example, the Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman’s Fishing Tournament held in May each year, and the East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament.

Got-‘em-on Live Bait Club is a not-for-profit organization that sponsors community service events and fundraisers to make donations to various charities.

They have supported and made donations to: The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, Carolina Beach School, UNCW, Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, the Fort Fisher Aquarium, Habitat for Humanity, Carolina Beach Police and Fire Departments, the Senior Center, Dixie Youth Baseball, the Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation Department, The N.C. Coastwatch, CCA-NC, needy Island children, and artificial reef projects. got-em-on-live-banner The Federal Point History Center is very fortunate and very proud to have the GEO Club as a friend and business member. We shout out to them this month and wish all the members and the folks that benefit from all they do much success in the coming year.

Contact them:
PO Box 6 Carolina Beach, NC 28428
http://www.got-em-on.com/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/49595563365/

Society Notes – November, 2016

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • Welcome to new members Ken and Nancy Purdy of Wilmington and Bene and Van Deacon of Cleveland, Tennessee.
  • The History Center recorded 62 visitors in October. We had 30 in attendance at the October Meeting. The gift shop took in $476.79.
  • The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the UDC this month.
  • Thanks to our active volunteers this month; Darlene Bright and Demetria Sapineza. Thanks, also, to Tony Phillips and James Kohler for manning our booth at the Primrose Marketplace. Tony Phillips and Juanita Winner brought the wonderful refreshments at the October meeting.