Monthly History Center Programs Are on Hold — Until It’s Safe to Gather at the History Center
The History Center remains closed, however, Rebecca, Cheri and Darlene continue to come in and work on a variety of items from keeping membership and the bookkeeping up to date, to cataloging our archival materials and subject files.
If you are interested in visiting or doing research at the History Center, leave a message on the phone: 910-458-0502 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you about making an appointment to come in.
Also, if there is something you want to purchase from the Gift Shop, just let us know and we’ll make an appointment for you to come in or it can be mailed.
Many old timers will remember Mrs. High’s Dining Room on Cape Fear Boulevard. It featured home cooking, great seafood of all kinds, steaks, chops, lots of fresh vegetables, and homemade pies. It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mrs. Adrienne Cole, who taught at Carolina Beach School, would often play the piano during meals.
The dining room was owned by Mrs. Lillie Mae High and her partner, Jesse Croom and his wife, Rose Croom. Judy Cumber Moore worked the summers of 1957 and 1958 at Mrs. High’s. She remembers the kitchen help shelling peas and butterbeans also cutting corn off the cob for creamed corn. There was no air conditioning back then, just very large fans on stands placed all around the pine paneled dining room. She also recalls that Mrs. Croom, who was in a wheelchair, sat at a table up front with Mrs. High or Mr. Croom at the cash register.
Ann and Tommy Greene remember that the Crooms and Mrs. High shared a house next door to his parents on Myrtle Avenue, two blocks from the dining room. Ann Greene also worked there one summer. After Mrs. Croom’s death in 1965, Mr. Croom and Mrs. High married and lived on the beach until his death in 1978 and hers in 1983. Mr. Croom and both Mrs. Crooms are buried in the same plot in Oakdale Cemetery.
I also worked at High’s during the summer of 1966 while in college. By then, Mrs. High and the Crooms had retired and the restaurant was owned by Charles and Martha Haas and renamed High’s Dining Room. The kitchen was very small and bustling with activity with fans blowing there and in the dining room. On the way to work, I remember riding over the new high-rise Snow’s Cut bridge that had opened in August of 1962. It seemed so big and modern compared to the old swing bridge.
Mrs. High’s had started out as a diner next to the Greystone Hotel. Mr. A. W. Pate built the Greystone Hotel in 1916, on Cape Fear Boulevard.
In the linen, hand colored post card, you can see the Greystone with its roof top dancing porch, just down from the Bame Gas Station and Grocery and Hotel Bame.
In 1939, the Tidewater Power Company was discontinuing the trolley line to Wrightsville Beach and put some of the beach cars up for sale. Mr. Pate bought one and put it next to the Greystone as a hot dog stand. You can see the white roof of the beach car diner; it is on the far-right edge of the card just above the half blue car.
We don’t know how long the hot dog stand lasted, but we do know that sometime in the 1940s it became Mrs. High’s Diner. Punky Kure recalls eating at the diner next to the Greystone. Mrs. High and Jesse Croom were partners early on as you can see in the restaurants list from a Sunny Carolina Beach brochure distributed in 1945 to 1949. It was put out by the Chamber of Commerce.
As business for the diner grew, the restaurant moved into the new cinder block building next door painted green in the card at the top. Its entrance was under the striped awing and round sign with an arrow pointing to the door.
The Greystone Hotel is above the Mack’s Dime Store with Mrs. High’s to the left of that extending into the flat roof addition.
Soon the cinder block building that housed Mrs. High’s will be torn down to make way for new retail on the bottom and condos on the top. What’s old is new again.
For those of you who are new in town, and those who enjoy a trip down memory lane now and then, here are some local sights that are lost, but not forgotten.
The Shoo-Fly Train
In 1887, when Captain Harper began bringing beach goers to the new resort of Carolina Beach, the road to Federal Point was a sandy wagon track. Instead, people took the steamer, Passport, and later the Wilmington, down the Cape Fear River from Wilmington.
But, it was a long, hot, buggy walk from the dock on the river to the beach, so he bought a small, three car train and constructed tracks across the peninsula from Sugar Loaf (and, later, Doctor’s Point) to the first ocean side building.
January 14, 1887: The Carolina Beach Company, recently formed, had begun work on a railroad which was to run from near Sugar Loaf, about 13 miles below Wilmington on the Cape Fear River, across the peninsula to the Atlantic coast, near the head of Myrtle Grove Sound, and just below old Camp Wyatt. The iron rails have already been purchased and the rolling stock provided. The railroad work was to be completed in about two months, and the line was not to be more than two miles in length. At the terminus of the railroad on the ocean side there will be a “playground” for the excursionists where they can go and enjoy themselves. WILM.STAR 1-14-1887
May 1, 1887: Capt. Beach was to have charge of the hotel which was to be erected at the new summer resort being developed south of Wilmington. The building was to be put up as soon as the railroad from the river to the beach was completed and made available for the transportation of building materials received from Wilmington. WILM.STAR 5-1-1887
May 4, 1887: A locomotive for the railroad extending from the Cape Fear River to old Camp Wyatt and then to the ocean beach was sent down from Wilmington. WILM.STAR 5-5-l887
May 5, 1887: Three railroad cars, intended for use on the railway from the river to the beach at Carolina Beach, were taken from the shops of the builders, Messrs. Burr & Bailey, to the wharf at the foot of Dock Street, for shipment. WILM.STAR 5-6-1887
Did you know?
You can still see where the old tracks ran in places in the Carolina Beach State Park.
You can also see them very plainly, right down the middle of Harper Avenue, which is why it curves as it approaches Dow Rd., instead of running exactly perpendicular from the ocean to the river.
Fort Fisher Radar Base
Fort Fisher Air Force Station was opened in 1955, on part of the Fort Fisher AFS installation as USAF Permanent System Radar Station “M-115” during a $1 billion increase for US continental defense after the Air Force approved the Mobile Radar program in mid-1954. It was assigned to Air Defense Command as part of a planned deployment of forty-four Mobile Radar Stations. Fort Fisher AFS was designed as site M-115 and the 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned on August 1, 1955.
Initially, the Air Force Station functioned as a Ground control intercept and warning station to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the squadron’s radar scopes.
During 1962, Fort Fisher AFS joined the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to Fort Lee AFS, Virginia. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 701st Radar Squadron on July 1, 1962. The radar squadron provided information 24/7 to the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction, altitude, speed, and whether or not aircraft were friendly or hostile.
The 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) was inactivated and replaced by the 701st Air Defense Group in March 1970. Just before inactivation, the squadron earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service for the period from December 1, 1968, through February 28, 1970. The upgrade to group status was done because of Fort Fisher AFS’s status as a Backup Interceptor Control (BUIC) site. BUIC sites were alternate control sites in the event that the SAGE Direction Centers became disabled and unable to control interceptor aircraft. The group was inactivated and replaced by 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) in January 1974, as a reduction to defenses against manned bombers. The group and squadron shared a second Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period January 1, 1973, through December 31, 1974.
Fort Fisher AFS came under Tactical Air Command jurisdiction in 1979, with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command.
The base closed on June 30, 1988, and the USAF retained the housing complex and converted it into the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area. Supervision of the Recreation Area was transferred to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base when Myrtle Beach AFB closed in 1993.
Ground Equipment Facility J-02 continued use of the USAF radar in the Joint Surveillance System and “in 1995, an AN/FPS-91A performed search duties.” A portion of the base was returned to the State of North Carolina, which turned much of it into the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and historic site.
The Fort Fisher site is used by the National Guard as a training area and also hosts the Annual Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival.
Combine all ingredients but cornbread mix in a large bowl. Add in cornbread mix. Beat well with fork. Grease iron skillet or a 9×13 inch dish and add mixture. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes.
According to a clause in our bylaws, the Board of Directors voted at the July 13, 2020 meeting to approve the Nominating Committee’s proposed slate for the 2020-2021 Board.
President – Elaine Henson Vice-President – Lauren Gibbs Secretary – Katherine Schultz
Treasurer – Eddie Capel
We Now Have Autographed Copies of Chris Fonvielle’s Newest Book For Sale
We now have Chris Fonvielle’s newest book, the Glory at Wilmington: the Battle of Forks Road, available for purchase at $19.95 (+ $1.40 tax) for each copy. Chris says it’s a limited edition, and has signed each copy. He printed only a few hundred copies, so when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Since the History Center is closed, you may mail us a check (for $21.35) or leave a message on the answering machine at 910-458-0502, and we’ll contact you for your credit card information or send an email to: Rebecca@Federal-Point-History.org.
By Darlene Bright, History Center Director
The History Center was closed all month due to Covid-19.