President’s Letter — October, 2018

By Elaine Henson

Boardwalk, Part VI

The summer of 1978 opened without the iconic rides that had long been an integral part of the boardwalk’s charm. Looking back, many believe this was the beginning of a decline that led to dark days for the Carolina Beach landmark.

The 1980’s boardwalk was filled with many vacant stores and properties in various states of disrepair.  By the latter part of that decade there were 14 bars in a two block area which made for many problems.  The town spruced up Cape Fear Boulevard with new paving, landscaping medians and built the Gazebo.  In the early 1990’s they built a wooden boardwalk over the dunes, added new landscaping and lighting.  The town assigned a police officer to patrol the boardwalk and enforce ordinances nightly.

By 1993 there were 16 bars, two of them, Honey Bares and Roadies, featured topless dancers.

But the most troubled establishment was the Longbranch Saloon where on April 8, 1993,a fight broke out over a pool game that ended with one man being stabbed to death.  A few months later on September 22nd,a construction worker was hit with a chair at the Longbranch and died two days later.

A third death happened at the saloon that year when a man was beaten to death in a fist fight on November 20th.  The bar closed by November 30th after the landlords did not renew the lease. Dark days were here indeed.



Next month:

Boardwalk Part, VII


Carolina Beach Surfing Guide

Cape Fear Coastline, Carolina Beach is a favorite destination for East Coast surfers. This beach town features a wide range of beaches to choose from, as well as traditionally gentler waves in the summer months that are great for beginners.

As a result, visitors who’ve always dreamed about the surfing lifestyle – or who just wanted to see what all the fuss is about – will feel right at home at this vacation destination where daily life revolves around the beach.

Newcomers will likely want to head to the local lifeguarded beaches, (there are roughly 20 lifeguard stands in a three-mile long stretch of shoreline in the summer season), to ensure safety and to enjoy smaller waves that are perfect for beginners. Lifeguards are available from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and generally from roughly 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. or so, depending on the spot.

More experienced surfers who want a little more of a challenge – even if the overall terrain is flat in the Carolina Beach waters – will want to go to the beaches close to the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, which have become a hotbed for visiting and local surfing vacationers alike.

Regardless of where you go, Carolina Beach’s waves are generally optimal for longboard fans and surfing newcomers, although the area can experience a nice swell when a seasonal hurricane or nor’easter passes miles offshore.

Expect leisurely rides throughout the year and a little bit of competition for the good waves. Surfing is popular in this region of NC, and many Wilmington residents and inlanders will make a trek to the beach for the day if the waves are exceptional.

Surf Lessons in Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach is a fantastic destination for beginning surfers, thanks to a shallow and gently sloping ocean floor, generally small waves in the summer months, and ample wide beaches for preparation. As such, it should come as no surprise that there are a number of local surfing schools and instruction options available for people who want to learn.

One of the most popular local schools, the Tony Silvagni Surf School, has one of the best teacher-to-student ratios in the area, (with an average of “one teacher for every two students”), and as such, offers a wide range of classes that can range from adults who want to hone their skills, to kids who want to try a new adventure. Additional options, like Odysea Surf and Kiteboard School, or a number of private instructors that can often be contacted through local surf shops, are also available, making it easy to take a willingness to learn to the next level.

Instruction can range from 1-2 hours on the beach to full-day camps where all the fundamentals are covered (and then some). Surf lessons and camps are prevalent throughout the summer season, Memorial Day through Labor Day, and additional shoulder season options may be available as well – specifically in the spring and fall months – when swells can be bigger and more challenging. Most all equipment is accounted for at a surf lesson or camp, although surfers will want to bring along plenty of sunscreen for the adventure.

Surf Rentals and Surf Shops in Carolina Beach

There are a number of surfboard and equipment rental providers, as well as surf shops, which are dotted throughout Carolina Beach, and especially along its “main drag” of Business,US 421.

Local surf shops offer new boards for sale, as well as a suite of accessories that can make a surfing adventure easier despite the weather conditions, such as full wet suits or spring suits, surf wax, sunglasses, flip flops, and other must haves. In addition, visitors who just want to invoke the surf vibe will find a number of name-brand apparel and accessories such as Rusty, Quicksilver / Roxy, Reef, and more, which are all famed companies that specialize in apparel, footwear, and accessories that are perfect for life at the beach.

As for rentals, a number of local establishments, like Pleasure Island Rentals, offer a host of beach gear supplies which can include surfboards and extras like wet suits. Surf board rentals can be available for a few hours, a day, or even a full week, and can be ordered in advance online for extra convenience.

Surfing Events and Competitions in Carolina Beach

There are a number of surfing events which periodically land on Carolina Beach, and which have the potential to attract the “best of the best” surfers from all across the East Coast.

The Eastern Surfing Association, (or ESA), is dedicated to the sport of amateur surfing and has been attracting surfers from all over the Eastern Seaboard since it was first established in 1967. The organization hosts a number of events in the Carolina Beach region, which includes a HotWax Challenge in March, a 17th Street Shred Fest in August, and a Wahine Classic in the late summer / early fall. In addition, it’s not unusual for special events – which can include regional competitions – to be held in the Carolina Beach area if the conditions are right. For a full schedule of upcoming ESA events, visit

In addition, Carolina Beach is home to a new event that’s already gaining steam, the Carolina Beach Longboard Club Surf Contest. Held in the spring, and featuring a Guppies Division, an Amateur Division(s) and a Professional Division with a hefty Men’s Pro Longboard Cash Purse, this surfing tournament is poised to put a spotlight on local Cape Fear surfing at its best.

Regardless of a visitor’s surfing pursuits, the sheer number of tournaments that arrive on the Carolina Beach shores make it an enticing destination for visitors who want to join in, or just take a back seat and watch the action. Best of all, with steadily warm waters throughout the year, virtually any visit can be a great time to catch a surf tournament or two on Carolina Beach.

Surfing has always been hot on Carolina Beach, and with such a laid back atmosphere, as well as steady summer waves that are ideal for newcomers, it’s easy for new visitors to join in the fun.


President’s Letter — September, 2018

By Elaine Henson

Boardwalk, Part V

After WW II, life on the Boardwalk got back to normal.  Beachgoers were walking the wooden boards enjoying the arcades, bingo parlors, miniature golf, amusements and rides along with salt water taffy, snow balls, donuts and great short order food.  There were still soldiers, most from nearby Camp Lejeune, who came for some rest and recreation.  For soldiers that might have a little too much R & R, there was the steady presence of Military Police on the boardwalk that continued for many years.

Dancing was still an important part of boardwalk life with many establishments having juke boxes providing music to dance by.  There was also the Ocean Plaza, built in 1946, with a ballroom on the second floor to replace the pavilion and its dance floor that burned in 1940.

Hurricanes always brought damage that had to be repaired time and time again. Hazel was the worst being the only Category Four hurricane to hit our area in all of the 20th Century to the present day. It destroyed over 300 homes at Carolina Beach along with most of the boardwalk businesses.  But changes were coming.

The 1960s and 70s brought beach erosion concerns. They were addressed with berms of sand planted with sea oats that made the beach wider.  As a result you couldn’t see the ocean from the boardwalk which was now made of concrete.  Beach goers had to walk on ramps over the berm to get to the sand and surf.  Some of the boardwalk charm was gone.

In 1972, Mayor Richard Kepley proposed tearing down the boardwalk and replacing it with a three story complex.  There would be parking on the bottom, an entertainment mall on the second floor with a hotel on the top.  The proposal was not well received by boardwalk owners and town officials and soon faded away.

But, in 1977, another proposal became reality. Seashore Amusement Park announced that they would reopen in 1978 on Lake Park Boulevard as Jubilee Park leaving the boardwalk with no rides.

Next month Boardwalk, Part VI


August Meeting – Memories of Summer – Panel Discussion


The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, August 20, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our program this month is entitled “Memories of Summer; Growing Up on the Boardwalk.” 

Elaine Henson will run the projector and moderate stories from our long time members as they remember their teenage years.  Dancing, eating, playing, and working.

Join us for this unique oral history program which will include innumerable stories from the 1940s to the 1960s.



President’s Letter – August, 2018

By Elaine Henson

Boardwalk, Part IV

The May 19, 1941 edition of the Wilmington Morning Star reported 10,000 people at Carolina Beach over the weekend with most of the boardwalk businesses rebuilt after the tragic fire the year before.

By the official opening of the summer season on June 6th, the new Hotel Bame and Palais Royal Hotel were open along with the new Wave Theater.  The midway had more rides, more concessions, larger stores and wider and longer boardwalks lined with benches.  The “South’s Miracle Beach” had indeed recovered and was on the way to even busier days and nights with the advent of World War II.

Wilmington and the surrounding beaches swelled with people during the 1940s, especially after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

New Hanover County’s population went from 42,000 to over 100,000 with the NC Shipbuilding Company, defense workers and military personnel.  Soldiers from Camp Davis, Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Fort Fisher flocked to our area on weekends when they had leave.

Many soldiers camped out with their regiments on the north end where Freeman Park is now. The Greystone Hotel on Cape Fear Boulevard became a USO and the boardwalk was filled with soldiers and military police, a trend that would continue even after the war years.

Carolina Beach Postmaster, W.H. Blair, reported an average of 25,000 cards a week were mailed in a 1941 article in the Carolina Beach Sun.  He said “I trace the main reason for this to the visit of many soldiers …. they send mail to every state in the union.” 

The August 2, 1941 issue of the Carolina Beach Sun shows an article on the 1,000 soldiers from Fort Bragg’s 36th Regiment that camped out on the north end of Carolina Beach.  Another article is about the 40, 000 visitors at the beach the previous weekend and another on the 25,000 post cards mailed from the resort.

Next month: Boardwalk Part V

We Made the List!

 From a CNN Travel post

19 Best Boardwalks in America

Full article at:

  1. Navy Pier, Chicago
  2. Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey
  3. Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
  4. Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California
  5. Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  6. Ocean City Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
  7. Venice Beach Boardwalk, Venice Beach, California
  8. Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
  9. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
  10. Old Orchard Beach Boardwalk, Old Orchard Beach, Maine
  11. Wildwood, Wildwood, N.J.
  12. Virginia Beach Boardwalk, Virginia Beach, Virginia
  13. Disney World Boardwalk, Walt Disney World, Florida
  14. Kemah Boardwalk, Kemah, Texas
  15. Mission Beach Boardwalk, San Diego, California
  16. Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Carolina Beach, North Carolina.  Appropriately located on Pleasure Island, Carolina Beach specializes in making you forget your cares. Mild breezes, gorgeous beach, and a sweet hospitality make this boardwalk a family favorite. 
  1. Hampton Beach Boardwalk, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
  2. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
  3. Sandwich Boardwalk, Sandwich, Massachusetts


Photos by StarNews

Sundial on the Boardwalk

On Tuesday, August 7, 2018 retired Judge Gilbert H. Burnett celebrated his 93rd birthday.

He also presented the town of Carolina Beach with a beautiful brass sundial on the boardwalk in a ceremony attended by his family, some of our members, Greg Reynolds from the Chamber of Commerce, Steve Shuttleworth and LeAnn Pierce from council and Town Manager, Michael Cramer.

The sundial is on the Harper Avenue beach access on the boardwalk and includes signage explaining how to read it and adjust for summer’s daylight savings time.

Judge Burnett dedicated the sundial in memory of his parents, John Henry and Ruth Deaton Burnett.  After a long search he found one in the United Kingdom and he received the bill for it in pounds.

The Burnett family lived in Burgaw but built a cottage in 1936 in the 400 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North.  Every summer they loaded eight children and the dog into vehicles piled high with everything from beach wear to Ruth Burnett’s sewing machine for the annual trip to the shore.

Young Gilbert ran a boardwalk Snow-Ball stand from age 12 into his teenage years. It was located where Wheel Fun Rentals keeps their surreys and bicycles now and was one of the stops on our summer Boardwalk Tour.

The Burnett Cottage was destroyed in 1954’s Hurricane Hazel but then rebuilt with the original pine paneling recovered from the wreckage and remains in the family today.

The Sundial is on the Harper Avenue beach access on the boardwalk.

Photo by Jasmine McKee from the Island Gazette.

Society Notes – August, 2018

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

We  did it!

2018 Boardwalk Tour

WOW! Our first season is over and there’s no question our Historic Boardwalk tour was a great success.

WE HAD 144 PEOPLE ATTEND 7 TOURS (one got rained out) and collected $520 in donations!

We want to extend a HUGE thanks to Elaine Henson for doing the research and writing the script and finding all the “what used to be here” photos! She bought the tote bags that the tour leaders used, as well.  Thanks, also, to Rebecca and Cheri who put together the tour tote scripts and pictures.

Special thanks go to Erin Whitman from Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation for designing the rack card that got the word out to the tourists.  A huge thanks to Jasmine McKee and the Island Gazette for including an article about the tour in every paper throughout the summer. We asked people where they heard about the tour and the most people told us they found out about it in the Island Gazette.

The Star-News sent reporter Eva Ellenberg and photogrpaher Matt Born to cover the tour. You can see their article and pictures at  And finally, thanks to Randy Aldridge from WWAY who did a great interview with Elaine.

We couldn’t have done it all without our volunteer tour guides! Elaine Henson, Leslie Bright, Darlene Bright, Jim Dugan, Doris Bame, Byron Moore, Judy Moore and Steve Arthur.

No question, we’ll do it again next year from mid June to mid August!


  • Welcome to new members Jan Davidson of Wilmington and Al and Donna DePompeis of Carolina Beach
  • The History Center recorded 103 visitors in July. We had 45 at the July Meeting. The History Center was used for meetings held by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the UDC Board.
  • Darlene and Eddie Capel have spent a good deal of time preparing the budget for 2018-2019 which was approved at the August 6 board meeting.


By Request here is Brenda Coffey’s recipe for:


 3 cans cut green beans, drained                   2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar                              1/4 teaspoon salt

6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled                  1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons minced onions or dehydrated onions

Mix the vinegar, onions, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a pot and bring to a boil. Add drained canned green beans. Heat thoroughly, stirring to mix, and let stand 2-3 hours. Heat before serving and add crumbled bacon.

President – Elaine Henson
Vice-President –Juanita Winner
Secretary –
Treasurer – Eddie Capel
Cheri McNeill
Jimmy Bartley
John Moseley
Steve Arthur
Jay Winner
Leslie Bright
Brenda Coffey
Jim Dugan
Barry Nelder

President’s Letter – July, 2018

By Elaine Henson

Boardwalk, Part III

By 1940 the Boardwalk was truly the Carolina Beach town center.

Not only were there hotels, eateries, bingo parlors, arcades, bath houses, the pavilion, a movie theater, bowling alley, amusements and other summer businesses, but also, essential services that were open year round. Beach residents shopped for groceries at the boardwalk A & P and spirits at the ABC store.

City Hall was located there along with the police station and the fire department.  At one time, the grammar school was on one side of City Hall separated by a sheet from those who conducted the town’s business.

In this Louis T. Moore photo from the NHCPL collection, the back of the pavilion is on the left with a new fire station and fire truck on the right.  Behind the fire station is City Hall.

But, all that was to change. In the early hours of September 19, 1940, a fire in the pavilion was discovered by CB Police Officer Mosely on his nightly rounds.

The pavilion, near the northern end of the boardwalk and Harper Avenue,  was described in a Wilmington Morning Star article as  “Old, unpainted, dried and fattened for the kill by 30 odd summers in the sun, the structure exploded with uncontrolled furry before police Officer Mosley, who discovered the fire, could turn in an alarm.”  A fierce wind blew the fire in both directions but mainly toward the south. It swept down two blocks of the Boardwalk destroying everything in its path ending at the Bame Hotel.

The Bame was located just south of the present day boardwalk gazebo area on the vacant lot where some of the summer rides are located. So, the fire covered the area between today’s Hampton Inn and Marriott Hotel.


This photo from the boardwalk looking west shows some of the devastation caused by the fire.  In the left background is the blue building that faces Cape Fear Boulevard in front of the Gazebo.  Photo from the collection of the late Bob and Fran Doetsch.

Undaunted by their losses, the business owners vowed to rebuild in time for the 1941 summer season and they did.  Having accomplished that, Carolina Beach was billed as “The South’s Miracle Beach” on post cards published after the fire and rebuilt.


Next month:  Boardwalk, Part IV


Historic Boardwalk Tour

Coming this Summer!

Guided Tours

Historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk

10 am every Tuesday!

June 19, 2018 – August 7, 2018

40 minute walking tour

Meet on:  the Boardwalk at the foot of Harper Ave. just south of the new Hampton Inn

Park at: the Municipal Parking lot across from the Town Marina, as close as you can get to the Hampton Inn. Donation requested: $5.00 per person.

Star-News Article on the Boardwalk Tour