March Meeting – Leslie Bright on Growing up with Tobacco

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, March 19, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Leslie Bright who will talk about growing up in the Tobacco Culture, 1943-1963.

His program is intended to show, up close and personal, the way of life and experience of a small family on a tobacco farm in coastal eastern North Carolina before modern mechanization.

The sensitive nature of tobacco and the labor involved in growing it, from a tiny seed smaller then a mustard seed, to a flourishing plant averaging six feet tall, having approximately 26 leaves containing nicotine for the lungs and gums, will be revealed.

Leslie S. Bright spent 20 years on a tobacco farm in Onslow County. He attended East Carolina University for several years, and then worked for 35 years for the North Carolina Department of Cultural and Natural Resources at the Underwater Archaeology Lab at Fort Fisher. An expert SCUBA diver for the lab, he also taught diving for a number of years.

After five years of unfocused retirement he has spent the past 10 years on his farm in Onslow County growing hay, corn, soybeans and is now raising cattle for market.

Upcoming Events – Walk to Sugar Loaf and Walk of Fame

Walk the “Sugar Loaf Line-of-Defense” with Chris Fonvielle

Saturday March 17, 2017  – 2 pm to 4 pm

Donation $10.00

To register call 910-458-0502.

Including the entrenchments in the proposed “Ryder Lewis Park”



Don’t Miss the 2018 ‘Walk of Fame’ Ceremony

 Saturday March 24, 2018

1:00 pm

At the Carolina Beach Lake


President’s Letter – March, 2018

By Elaine Henson

The Breakers Hotel, Part III

After the Ethyl-Dow lease of the Breakers Hotel ended in 1934, the hotel was once again open to the public.

This ad from the Sunday Star News, dated May 27, 1937, shows a couple dancing in the moonlight and boasted surf bathing and fishing from the surf in front of the hotel.  Strangely, it also mentioned that they had hot and cold water. The hotel was operated on the American Plan which means that all three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided with the room rate.  The manager that summer was L. Gurkin.

The Breakers Hotel remained open during the war years that followed in the 1940s. During WWII, the coastal areas and 20 miles inland complied with blackout rules and regulations. Along our beaches residents used blackout shades in their homes, painted the top half of auto headlights black and the like.

We are fortunate to have an account of a stay at the hotel during war time.  In July of 2010 we had an inquiry at the History Center about the Breakers Hotel. I happened to be volunteering that day and took a call from Betty Jinnette Williamson asking about the hotel’s history.  After a little research from our archives, I emailed her a brief overview and she replied thanking me and giving an account of her family’s stay at the Breakers during WWII.

This is part of her reply:

This is wonderful! — how kind of you to give me such details about The Breakers Hotel history. My sister and I were there with our parents during W.W.II. Our mother had just recovered from virus pneumonia. The staff would bring a cot out on the sand in the mornings so that “Mother” could get her needed sun for healing.

Many officers’ wives lived there with their families during the war. I was a child and so enjoyed playing with the other children and sitting on the porch at night in the dark because of the “blackout.” It was also quite grand to eat in the huge dining room with a soaring ceiling. There were early seatings to insure enough light to see by. I recall either a kerosene lamp or perhaps a flashlight used to climb the staircase later at night – to our bedrooms on the upper floors.

You have really filled in the empty spaces in our memories regarding very special summers. Now we know where it was located! We came to Carolina Beach every year smiling in anticipation. However, when we had to leave it was hard to hold back our tears.

Mrs. Williamson graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1957 and moved to New York City after that and was living in Norwalk, Connecticut at the time of our email exchange in 2010. She was visiting her sister in Fayetteville that summer and they came to Carolina Beach for the day to “put our toes in the warm southern ocean”. They began reminiscing about their summers spent at the Breakers and wondered where it used to be located so they called the Town of Carolina Beach who referred them to us.

Not only were her emails wonderful pieces of information for our files at FPHPS, they were also an affirmation of how much our work is appreciated by our community and those who have visited our beach towns over the years. It also affirms how important it is for us to be here.

Next month:  Breakers Hotel Part IV

North Carolina & Tobacco

[excerpt from]

Tobacco and tobacco growers put North Carolina on the map.

Since the colonial era, the economy was fueled primarily by agriculture, and for the past century tobacco was North Carolina’s key product. Farming and industry in the state were built around the crop, and two of the four largest cities developed as company towns for the world’s largest tobacco companies.

Ironically, the innovation that led the state to become a tobacco-growing powerhouse came from a slave, a man named Stephen who worked on the farm of Captain Abisha Slade.

While curing a batch of tobacco in a smoky barn, he let the wood fire go out, and quickly restarted it with charcoal. The intense heat cured the tobacco quickly, turning it a vivid yellow. When this “brightleaf” (or flue-cured) tobacco was sold, it proved appealing to smokers, and within a decade, flue-cured tobacco became one of the most common varieties in production. The rapid curing process was also particularly well-suited for tobacco grown in the sandy soil of the coastal plains. Suddenly, farms that were producing other crops turned to tobacco.

North of Durham, a small farmer named Washington Duke opened a small factory on his homestead, producing loose tobacco for rolling cigarettes. Through an intense marketing effort, Duke managed to earn substantial profits from a relatively small output of flue-cured tobacco.

With his son James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, he later moved the business to downtown Durham, close to the tobacco warehouses where small farmers  sold their crops. Duke’s biggest rival was W.T. Blackwell and Company, which marketed a popular “Spanish” blend of tobacco that later gained fame under the trade name Bull Durham.

Smoking began to replace chewing as the preferred means of consuming tobacco, and cigars and cigarettes came to be seen as stylish accessories. In 1880, manufacturers based in North Carolina produced 2 million pre-rolled cigarettes, each of them rolled by hand.

Each of the largest manufacturers sought to mechanize the rolling process, but met with little success until 1884, when Washington and Buck Duke signed an exclusive contract to use a machine designed by James Bonsack. Using Bonsack’s machine, the Dukes were able to produce more cigarettes than all their competitors combined.

Determined to broaden the scope of his business, Buck Duke invested heavily in advertising and promotion, cementing his company’s place as the market leader. By 1890, five firms accounted for 90 percent of the cigarette market. Duke persuaded his rivals to merge, forming the American Tobacco Company, which controlled the majority of the world tobacco trade until it was broken up under a Supreme Court antitrust ruling in 1911.

The five companies that emerged from that reorganization — R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco, Lorillard, Liggett and Myers and the British-American Tobacco Company — continued to dominate the market for decades.

Growing was still dominated by larger farms, but demand was so great that even small farmers were able to make profits with tobacco. Sharecropping and tenant farming became common among people who owned no land. Large numbers of African-Americans in the eastern part of the state farmed in this manner, paying a portion of each year’s crop as “rent” to large landowners. As late as 1923, nearly half of the state’s farmers were tenants.

During the Great Depression, farmers tried to compensate for lowered prices by producing more tobacco, leading to even lower prices. The federal government responded by providing subsidies for farmers. In 1938, a quota system was instituted, establishing strict limits on how much each farm could produce, and providing government-sponsored price supports.

Farming and manufacturing recovered quickly with the onset of World War II, as soldiers were once again supplied with cigarette rations. Postwar prosperity also boosted demand for cigarettes, which grew until the early 1960s, when concerns about the dangers of smoking became a major public health issue. The US Surgeon General issued a report in 1964 arguing that smoking caused lung cancer and a host of other medical problems.

Over the next four decades, as the number of American smokers declined steadily and restrictions on public smoking increased, the large manufacturers began cutting costs and laying off large numbers of workers and relocating their factories to less expensive areas.

American Tobacco left Durham in 1987, and R.J. Reynolds moved its corporate headquarters away from Winston-Salem in 1989. Both companies made steep cuts at production facilities throughout the 1990s. In 2000, the last cigarette manufacturer, Liggett and Myers, left Durham. The most profitable market for cigarettes in the past decade has been in Asia, and American companies have invested heavily in overseas factories to lower their costs.

As demand for domestically produced tobacco flagged, the federal quotas were also diminished, leading many farmers to cease growing tobacco. The quota system ended in 2005, as part of a $10 billion package to end federal price supports for tobacco growers.

The Tobacco Transition Payment Program (TTPP) provided farmers a series of annual payments, starting in 2005 and continuing until 2014. This program also ended all restrictions on tobacco farmers, but analysts predicted that the majority of growers will cease growing tobacco.


Society Notes – March, 2018

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

Help! Help! Help!

One of the things we want to celebrate this summer as part of our “Boardwalk: Then and Now” Exhibit is the role Bingo played over the years.

Does anyone have any old bingo cards, tokens, prizes? Please dig them out and  lend them to us for the Summer exhibit.


  • Jean Kure passed away on Sunday March 4. Our deepest sympathies go out to Punky and the extended Kure family.
  • The History Center recorded 47 visitors in February. We had 37 in attendance at the February Meeting.
  • The History Center was used for meetings held by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Walk Of Fame Committee and Step Up for Soldiers.
  • Thanks to this month’s volunteers. Cheri did refreshments for the meeting and Jim Dugan and Steve Arthur set up the History Center chairs this month. Jim Kohler helped Darlene and Cheri get the Newsletter ready for mailing. Darlene continues to spend a good deal of time keeping our accounting and banking up to date.  PS: We still need a treasurer!