From the President – January, 2021

By Elaine Henson

The Kupboard Grocery, Part I

Happy New Year!  We sincerely hope, with help from the vaccines for Covid 19, that we will be able to meet in person at our History Center sometime in 2021. As of now, we are open on Fridays and Saturdays, 10am to 4 pm.

Our topic, this first month of 2021, is the Kupboard Grocery at 901 Carolina Beach Avenue, North. This rare piece of commercial real estate is amid blocks of residential property on the North End of Carolina Beach. According to the New Hanover County Tax records, it was built in 1940 which makes 80 years that it has sat between the ocean and canal on the corner of Carolina Beach Avenue North and what is now Sandpiper Avenue.

The first owner was Cornelius M. Kelley, also known as Neal.  He and his wife, Mattie, opened the store as Kelley’s Kupboard carrying a full supply of meats and groceries.   Mr. Kelley was an industrial inspector for the Hartford Insurance Company so he depended on his wife and three children to help with the store during the week, especially during beach season. The  Kelley family lived over the store.

One of his children, Ann Kelley, later married James “Jim” Watters who grew up at Kure Beach and was first cousin to Punky Kure who always called him “Son”.  Ann was a tomboy and spent a lot of her summer days at Kure when she wasn’t working at the Kupboard.  She tagged along with Jim Watters, his two brothers, Robert and Hall Watters, and Punky Kure. Eventually, the Kelleys sold the Kupboard and moved to town. Ann and Jim enjoyed 60 years of marriage until her death in May of 2006 at age 81.  The photo on the right shows Ann and Jim in front of Punky’s parents’ house on K Avenue, Kure Beach, in the late 1940s.

The second or possibly third owners were Mary and Albert Newkirk from Warsaw, North Carolina.  The Newkirk’s owned it in the 1950s.  The post card that headlines this article shows the Kupboard during the Newkirk’s ownership.  That is his Cadillac Sedan DeVille parked beside the store. You can see the double screen doors on the front and another door on the side with the living quarters above.

Our late member, Eddie Capel, had fond memories of Mr. Newkirk as his family spent summers just two houses south of the Kupboard. Eddie collected glass soft drink bottles and took them to the Kupboard to collect the 2 or 3 cents deposit on each bottle. In those days, bottles were returned to a store and were picked up by the delivery man and taken back to the bottling plant to be sterilized and reused. Kids could make spending money for candy and such by collecting bottles and returning them. Eddie’s sister, Martha Breslin, remembers that one summer she helped Eddie fill his wagon several times with bottles enough to buy their mother a birthday present.  They bought her a new lamp with their earnings.  Martha also remembers getting phone calls from their home in Apex, NC, at the Kupboard.  The caller would hold on while someone ran down to their cottage and got them to the phone. She said that the Kupboard was a center of activity for the north end, not just a place to shop for groceries.

In 1954, the Kupboard survived Hurricane Hazel with some minor damages.  The day after Hazel hit on October 15, 1954, Luke Wilson Lancaster and his wife, Jessie, bought a house just 3 doors south of the Kupboard. They bought it from Glenn Tucker on a handshake and, most likely, a deposit since the sale was not recorded at the New Hanover County Register of Deeds until April 2, 1955.  The Lancasters would become the next owners of the Kupboard. 

Mrs. Jessie Lancaster stands on the front porch of what is now 815 Carolina Beach Avenue North on October 16, 1954, the day after Hazel. 

Next month: Kupboard Grocery, Part II

 

President’s Message – December, 2020

By Elaine Henson

Gilbert Henry Burnett 1925-2020

Gil Burnett in 2016 at the Burnett Cottage

Our Society lost longtime member and part time Carolina Beach resident on November 9, 2020. Gil was a prominent citizen of Wilmington and was retired Chief Judge of the 5th Judicial District.

He is known for his innovative work programs for juvenile offenders that later expanded to include adults convicted of minor crimes.  Programs modeled on his Community Service Work Program later were instituted nationwide and internationally.

He was the recipient of many honors including the Governor’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the Star-News Lifetime Achievement Award and the News and Observer’s Tarheel of the Week among other others.

Gil is best known to us for his lifelong love of Carolina Beach that began in early childhood for him and his seven brothers and sisters.  The Burnetts lived in Burgaw and would take day trips to the beach and visit family in addition to spending at least two summer weeks in a rented cottage.

In 1936, his parents, John Henry and Ruth Deaton Burnett, built their own family cottage on 410 Carolina Beach Avenue North. From then on, the family would load up their Packard automobile after school was out for the summer and stay until after Labor Day when school started again.  They would often take two cars, one with the family and dogs and the other with clothes, food, his mother’s sewing machine and whatever else they could find room for.

The Burnett Cottage at 410 Carolina Beach Avenue North showing the back door.

The Burnett cottage was a large two-story house right on the ocean and about 3 blocks from the boardwalk, or downtown as they called it in those days.

The 1936, cottage had two bedrooms downstairs and four upstairs to accommodate eight children and occasional guests. It had a very large, shady porch facing the ocean which they considered the front.

The back door was the one you entered from the street. The kitchen was small by today’s standards, but living and dining rooms were large and inviting. The house was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel in 1954, but the family rebuilt with six bedrooms upstairs for a total of eight.  It is one of the houses on the beach with a plaque from FPHPS.

John Henry Burnett was an attorney and worked for the U.S. Government. Although he sometimes traveled, his summer office was in a corner of the cottage’s parental bedroom and so he was able to work from the beach.  His wife, Ruth, was busy with homemaking and the many children. Her sewing skills made her “best dressed” along with her six daughters.  She also sewed window treatments, pillows and other accessories for the cottage. (She once sewed a canvas sail for Gilbert’s row boat when he tried to convert it to his first sailboat.)  Both parents were very involved in their children’s lives and their friends.

Young Gil, center, at his stand. His sister, Susie Burnett Jones, is left.

It was Mr. Burnett who decided that young Gilbert could profit from some early business training and set him up with a snowball stand on a lot he owned on the boardwalk. Gilbert’s Snowball Stand opened on the boardwalk around 1941 when he was 15 years old.

His father had a simple stand built with a beach umbrella overhead for shade.  Gil’s mother made the syrup in flavors of grape and cherry.  It was contained in five-gallon jugs installed upside down over two spigots, one for each flavor.  They purchased V shaped paper cups which were filled with crushed ice and then topped with the flavored syrup of your choice.  In those days, an ice man named Charlie would deliver big blocks of ice to businesses on the boardwalk.

The ice at the Snowball Stand had to be chipped off and put through a hand powered ice crusher which was labor intensive. The stand was hugely successful and later expanded into an open-air building. Gil’s younger brother, Julian, recalls one Fourth of July when they made $104 selling snowballs for 5 cents apiece.  (In today’s dollars $104 would be $1,818.00) That was over 2,000 snowballs made and sold that day.

The stand was one of the stops on our Boardwalk History Tour which we hope to resume when it is safe.  Gil was very proud to be on our tour and helped with the planning. We will miss him!

 

President’s Message – November, 2020

By Elaine Henson

Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part II

In addition to being president of the New Hanover Transit Company, Mr. Alexander W. Pate was also in the hotel business. He owned a hotel in Florence, SC, two in Augusta, Georgia, and decided to build one in Carolina Beach. It would not only be for tourists, but also for the company’s salesmen.  He wanted them to have a grand place with a dining room to host prospective lot buyers.

In February of 1916, construction began on the Greystone Inn.  It was on Cape Fear Boulevard, 300 feet from the Atlantic Ocean with a large covered veranda in front. The exterior was blocks made of Carolina Beach sand with plastered walls and ceilings in the interior rooms. A 30×30 lobby had a large fireplace. The beautifully appointed dining room was also 30×30.

Behind the lobby and dining room was a two-story bedroom section with 30 rooms. Each room had all the modern conveniences including telephones, electric lights and steam heat.  In the summer, windows were opened to let in the cool ocean breezes.

By the 1930s, the Inn was managed by A.W. Pate’s son, Waddell Pate.  Just in time for the summer season of 1933, the Greystone opened a roof garden on the expansive flat roof over the front porch, lobby and dining room.

That summer Cliff Smith and his Ohioans were engaged to play at the Inn. The band consisted of 3 trumpets, 3 saxophones, a piano, brass horn, tuba, guitar and drums.  The Ohioans vocalist was Cliff Smith’s wife, Betty. Cliff and his band designed the roof garden like an outdoor nightclub.  They placed the bandstand on the part of the roof next to the two-story bedroom wing, the dance floor on the right and tables and chairs on the left.  There was a white lattice railing around the perimeter of the roof and they made it look like a garden with lots of potted palm trees and colorful tropical plants.

The food was light fare, mostly sandwiches with soft drinks, beer and sets ups for brown bagging*. The attraction was dancing under the stars to a live band near the ocean.  It was a huge success and by the next summer they had added a portable awning used to cover the roof garden on rainy nights. Eventually, the roof garden had a permanent roof of its own.

A June 20, 1935, article in the Wilmington News described the beach opening with the first dance of the season at the Greystone Inn with Bob Hubbard and His Philadelphians.  The Pavilion, which also had live bands and dancing nightly, had not yet opened.  The article reported on that night, 300 couples were turned away from the Greystone’s Roof Garden because they were full.

During the years of WWII, the Greystone was converted into a USO, serving the hundreds of servicemen who frequented the beach during the war years.

It continued to be a popular attraction into the 1940s and 50s. It had survived the devastating Boardwalk Fire of 1940, being just two buildings west of the Bame Hotel. The Bame burned to the ground along with two blocks of boardwalk buildings and businesses. But, in the wee hours of April 12, 1958, the Greystone became the victim of a fire of its own.

Waddell Pate had been at the beach supervising repairs and painting of the Inn for the upcoming summer season.  He left that Friday afternoon for his home in Augusta, Georgia, stopping over in Florence, South Carolina, for the night. Early the next morning, he got a call about smoke coming from the Greystone. Firemen from Carolina and Kure Beaches battled the fire from about 5am to 7:30 am, when they finally got it under control.  It was believed to have started in a closet where paint and solvents were stored.

Pate decided to have the remainder of the building torn down and planned to rebuild.  Instead, he opted to have a Greystone Motel on the top floor of the former Mrs. High’s Dining Room and Mack’s building that was just torn down last month (Oct. 2020).

After the demolition of the Greystone building during Oct. 2020, the site of the former Greystone building is currently (Nov. 2020) a vacant lot.

 

The Greystone Motel over the Mack’s Store and Mrs. High’s Dining Room on Cape Fear Boulevard c. 1950s

In those days you took a bottle of spirits in a brown bag to a restaurant and bought set ups, such as a glass of ice and a mixer and made your own drink at the table.  New Hanover County did not adopt ‘Liquor By the Drink’ until January, 1979.

 

President’s Message – October, 2020

by Elaine Henson

Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part I

Alexander W. Pate was born in Cumberland County in September of 1875.  He would grow up to become one of the principal developers of Carolina Beach.  In 1912, he and partners bought the holdings of the New Hanover Transit Company from Captain John W. Harper, who developed Carolina Beach as a resort in 1887.

Mr. Pate was the president of Southern Realty Company along with D. N. Chadwick as Vice President and J. J. Loughlin, Secretary-Treasurer.  The purchase included a steam train, dock on the Cape Fear River, a railroad to the beach, two pavilions, bath houses and 200 acres of land along the beach for two miles all for $30,000.  Later they bought an additional 772 acres from Robert Bruce Freeman to own controlling interest in Carolina Beach.  They had a long list of plans and improvements to make it one of the finest resorts on the east coast along with selling lots from their extensive acreage.

By 1914, Mr. Pate and partners had completed an electric light plant to provide lights to all the businesses, cottages and future cottages.  They installed a pumping station for two new artesian wells.  To encourage people to come on the weekends and look at lots, Captain Harper lowered the price for a trip down on the Steamer Wilmington as did the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads during the summer months.

A.W. Pate was a tireless supporter of Carolina Beach and had no end of ideas to promote the beach as evidenced by an article in the Sunday Star News of June 18, 1939, by none other than native son, David Brinkley, a writer for the newspaper at that time.  Among other projects Mr. Pate describes is one to reroute Highway 17 from going through Wilmington to going by Carolina Beach which never materialized.  Here are some excerpts from that article including his comments on dredging Myrtle Grove Sound to make the yacht basin:

Another ambitious project was to provide a trolley line from Wilmington to Carolina Beach.  He planned for it to begin at Greenfield Lake near Sunset Park and run parallel with the new hard surface road from the Masonboro Loop Road to Carolina Beach.  The Wilmington City Commissioners required a vote of the people in order to issue the franchise for the trolley.  On October 11, 1914, the Wilmington & Carolina Beach Railway Company franchise passed by a margin of 473 votes despite opposition from some factions.  One caveat was that three miles of the railway must be completed by August 1, 1916.

Mr.  Pate had a tentative agreement with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company to build the railway and scheduled an in-person meeting with them in Norfolk, Virginia, soon after the franchise was granted.  On the morning he was to leave for Norfolk by train, he received a call from them asking to postpone the meeting until the impact of the recent outbreak of WWI could be assessed. As it turned out, the meeting was never held and he failed to build the required three miles by the deadline in 1916, so the project failed.

Not to be completely outdone, in 1939, he did buy a beach car from the Tidewater Power Company who was discontinuing their trolley line to Wrightsville Beach.

He placed it next to his Greystone Inn on Cape Fear Boulevard to use as a diner selling hot dogs.  That diner was soon taken over by Mrs. Lille Mae High and became Mrs. High’s Diner.

Next month:  Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part II

President’s Message – September, 2020

By Elaine Henson

Mrs. High’s Dining Room

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.

Next month:  Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Hotel

 

President’s Message – August, 2020

Federal-Point-History.org

By Elaine Henson

This month’s newsletter and my president’s letter are devoted to our amazing website, federal-point-history.org. As you Google search online for our history at Federal Point, Fort Fisher, Seabreeze, Carolina, Hanby, Wilmington, and Kure Beaches, notice that our FPHPS website is always there in the list and often at the top or near the top of the links.

That is due primarily to the dutiful labor of our web site manager, Andre Blouin. He has spent countless hours uploading our archives on the site for everyone to read, use to answer questions, and to do research. Our archives collection is not of much value if it can’t be accessed. Not everyone can come to the History Center and go through our files, but most can search online or get someone to do it for them. We hope this focus on our site will inspire you to use it in the coming months.

This is the 73rd letter I have written for our newsletter since I became president in July, 2014.  Looking back, there are some that stand out because they tell very interesting stories of our history and were such fun to research and write. Hopefully you will go to our website, find them, and click and read.

2017:  January, February, March and April President’s Letters: The Carolina Beach Hotel.  This is a fascinating story of a 1920s beautiful new hotel situated on the property where Carolina Beach School is now.  Its opening was attended by Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil and her husband from the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Its bright future was cut short involving multiple sales, arson, arrests, a trial, and eventually a school on its site.  A must read.

2018: January, February, March and April President’s Letters: The Breakers Hotel.  This is another promising 1920s hotel story; it doesn’t have visitors from a world-famous family, but it does include a relationship with Ethel-Dow, a fire, and even worse, a hurricane named Hazel.  The Breakers was located in Wilmington Beach which was annexed by Carolina Beach in 2000. It was on the site occupied by the Sea Colony Condominiums on South Lake Park Boulevard between North Carolina Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.

2018: May, June, July, August, September, October, November President’s Letters: The Boardwalk

These seven letters tell a condensed story of the boardwalk from its beginning in 1887 to the present. The boardwalk has lasted in some form for over a century and has gone through glory days, being the center of activity, world wars, numerous hurricanes, fires, and some dark days.  But it has survived them all and is enjoying revitalization and renewed popularity.  We hope it will survive this pandemic in the same way, and that next summer it will be better than ever.

Next month:  Mrs. High’s Dining Room on Cape Fear Boulevard

 

 

 

President’s Message – July, 2020

By: Elaine Henson

Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr.  – Part VI

Punky Kure, Marine

Punky has a lifelong hobby of collecting firearms and reloading ammunition. Growing up, he got his first 22 rifle at age 7. The men in the Kure family all had firearms and taught the younger ones proper use and safety procedures when using them. The men would often have target shooting on the beach, which could never happen today. Punky and his Watters cousins practiced with their 22s.

In the late 1930s, there were only 6-8 houses on all of Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. There were no houses between the Kure Pier and Walter Winner’s place next to the Confederate Monument at the Fort.

Kure Beach was fairly deserted with lots of sand dunes, sea oats and woods, so target practice on the beach was not such a strange thing back then. The boys also went hunting for rabbits, squirrels and other wild life at the beach, bringing home their kill for dinner. At that time there were no deer at the beach, so they would have to go to Brunswick or Pender Counties for deer hunting.

Later, in the Marine Corps, he was one of only three in his company to earn the Expert Rifleman badge which paid an extra $5 a month. He has devoted one room of his home to hold his collection of about 50 guns, pistols, and reloading equipment.  He still enjoys working in the Gun Room and garage on this hobby.

Collecting Civil War artifacts has also been a lifelong hobby of Punky’s.  Again, his father piqued his interest in this pursuit. When he was a boy it was easy to unearth treasures with a trowel or small shovel since they were not far from the top layer of sand.  He would often ride his bike down to the Fort to search, making sure he got back home before dark and supper. As an adult, he began diving on the many blockade runner wrecks right off our Kure and Carolina Beaches, Fort Fisher, and Bald Head finding many treasures. When metal detectors became available, he used those in his searches.

After a lifetime of looking for artifacts, he has an enviable collection. It includes a Confederate rifle, Civil War uniform buttons, belt buckles, bullets (fired and unfired) and bomb shells just to name a few.

This picture above shows a haul of one day’s dig at the Battle of White Hall Ferry site in present day Seven Springs, North Carolina.  He is standing with the pier in the background on land where they would later build the Kure Motel.

At age 93, Punky is pretty much confined to home except for riding his hover round or adult tricycle in his neighborhood. He lives with his faithful cat “Motor Mouth” and some feral cats he feeds outside.

He has two granddaughters, Ashley Danner Frank and Amie Danner Harrison, and five great grandchildren, Danner, Sawyer and Porter Harrison, Hampton and Keegan Frank.  Ashley is his main caregiver making frequent phone calls, visits and driving him for appointments and outings.

Punky is the last living grandchild of Hans and Ellen Kure, founders of Kure Beach and the last to carry the Kure name.

 

President’s Message – June, 2020

By Elaine Henson

Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr.,   –  Part V

In the early 1970s, before they sold the Kure Motel, Punky and Jean began to build a house for their retirement years.  Their house on Sixth Street South between J and I Streets, was completed in 1973. They moved in that same year.

Punky continued to work in the Chesapeake area of Virginia until 1981 when he retired from commercial flying. After that he had more time to spend on some of his favorite things and hobbies.

He was and still is devoted to Kure Memorial Lutheran Church. His family donated the land for the church and was instrumental in establishing it in the 1950s. Punky and Jean were both charter members before they were married.  He helped build the chapel and later the brick church and was always lending a hand with projects along with ushering. Jean was very active, also.

Up until her death in March of 2018, she prepared the communion for each Sunday service for fifty years. Jean also sang in the choir and knitted chick covered Easter eggs for children and adults alike for many years.

Before the Covid-19 quarantine, Punky didn’t let being home bound keep him from attending services. Weather permitting, he rolled up the street in his hover round most Sundays and hopes to resume that again when it is safe.

Another organization close to his heart is the Fire Department. His father, Andrew, was the first volunteer Fire Chief at Kure Beach, so Punky was involved from an early age. When his father died in 1950, he took over as Fire Chief and remained in that position until he went to Louisiana for fish spotting.

In those days they had volunteer fire meetings in the Town Hall on K Avenue. (It was in a back room of the ABC Store which was in the building to the right of present-day Bud and Joe’s.)

Kure’s first fire truck was donated by Fort Fisher after WWII.  It was a pickup truck with a 200-gallon water tank, a pump, and 200 feet of hose. Since there was no firehouse, it was parked next to Andrew Kure’s home on K Avenue. After the town was incorporated in 1947, fire hydrants were installed over the community.

The volunteer firemen held fish fries, bingo nights, and other fund raisers so they could build a fire station.  By 1954, the four walls were up on Third Street across from Kure Lutheran, but Hazel came along and blew them down. They began again, and this time got the building completed. (It is now used as the Community Center.)

When a fire call came in, they would have to telephone the volunteers at home or at work. There were no cell phones back in those days. Only those who were not working or otherwise occupied at the time were available.  Usually there would be at least two and sometimes as many as ten volunteers show up. Later a fire siren was donated which was installed on the water tower to call in the  volunteers.

Kure Beach Fire Department operated as a strictly volunteer department until Harold Hagler was hired as Fire Chief in 2001. He had been the volunteer chief for over 30 years. The department has full time salaried firemen now, but still has several volunteer firemen. Punky still has an emergency scanner at his home to keep up with fire calls at the beach.

Next Month: Punky Kure, Part VI

 

President’s Message – May, 2020

By Elaine Henson

Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr.
– Part 4

After the May to September fishing season came the Fall fishing in October and November on the Atlantic Coast. Boats would come from Louisiana and the Gulf region as well as from the Atlantic seaboard. Punky would start at Hatteras on Monday morning moving south about 10 miles a day all week down to Cape Lookout.

He would fly about 20 miles off shore in 200-300 feet of water. They would look for menhaden in schools that could be a mile across.  Seventy-five boats would fish for a week on one school moving south and you  could hardly tell there were any gone. The boats would take the catch to the five or six factories in Morehead City and two in Beaufort that processed the fish.

The fish were larger in the fall and more plentiful since they were migrating south and spawning too. So, fall fishing was more lucrative for all involved.

In 1968, Punky left the Mississippi River and Gulf fishing for fish spotting in the Chesapeake Bay area.  He was based in a little town called Reedville, Virginia, at the mouth of the Potomac River. Reedville didn’t even have a stop light but did have five fish factories and a row of mansions along the shore built by boat captains.

The boats averaged 200 feet in length and were now made of steel and had a refrigerated hold to store the menhaden.  Each boat would have a crew of 30-38 and still used two purse boats and nets to catch the fish.

He spotted fish in the Chesapeake area from May to September and then October and November for fall fishing until 1981 when he retired from fish spotting and flying professionally.

During his fish spotting years, the Kures were managing several rental cottages facing the ocean just south of the Kure Pier. Those cottages had belonged to his Uncle William, also known as Cap, who died in 1948. After Cap died, Punky’s parents managed the cottages and lived in the largest one. Punky and Jean took them over after his parents died.

In the early 1960s, they were sold and moved to make room for the new Kure Motel. In 1963 the first building was finished as pictured in this post card showing the pier in the background.

There were 6 units with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room and bath. Punky, Jean and Linda lived in the #1 unit. Later they added a second building that faced the first 6 units.  Then they built a two-story living quarters/office on the front of their lot facing Fort Fisher Boulevard. Downstairs was the office where guests could drive up and check in.  Also, on that floor was their living room, kitchen and Punky’s hobby room where he kept his Civil War finds. Upstairs were three bedrooms and baths. During January through April, when he was home from his fish spotting, Punky was busy with maintenance of the motel.

In 1973 they sold the motel. Later owners added second stories on the first two buildings and have added a third 2 story building.  It is still in operation as South Winds Motel at 109 Fort Fisher Blvd, S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current South Wind Motel

 

Next month, Part V


(read more of “Punky” Kure )

President’s Message — April, 2020

Andrew Emile “Punky” Kure, Jr.  – Part 3

By Elaine Henson

Punky in 1957 with a plane he flew fish spotting near Empire, Louisiana

After Punky and Jean were married in Kure Memorial Lutheran Church in 1952, they settled into a garage apartment his parents owned on K Avenue. It was behind where Bud & Joes is now. During Hurricane Hazel in October of 1954, there were whitecaps in the apartment’s washtub with a storm surge of 17-18 feet.

In 1957, Punky was working at Babcock & Wilcox as a welder making $100-125 a week.  His cousin Hall Waters told him that a company in Louisiana was looking for a pilot to work as a fish spotter.  That job paid $1,000 a week, plus a fish bonus, so Punky left for Empire, Louisiana and got the job.

Empire was on the Mississippi River about 50 miles south of New Orleans. It was a rough and tough little town full of men working on the fishing boats, oil rigs, two fish factories and a Sulfur factory.  He flew over the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico during the fishing season from May to September, weather permitting.

He would leave at daylight and often land after dark. The planes generally had 2 standard 18-gallon fuel tanks, which meant he had to refuel sometime during the day.

As a fish spotter he worked with a 150-foot big boat and two 40-foot purse boats that were attached much like lifeboats. He would fly 10 to 12 miles offshore to find the fish in water about 40-50 feet deep.

After locating a school of menhaden, he directed the captain of the big boat to the fish by radio.  Then the captain would get the crews and himself into the two smaller purse boats.  Punky would radio them directions to the fish. Once the boats were there, he directed them and the nets around the school of fish.

The purse nets could be the size of one and a half football fields.  Then they dropped the 800-pound Tom weight which closed the net at the bottom. Once the fish were in the nets, the big boat would come to the purse boats and pump the fish from the net into the hold.

The Singing River alongside its two purse boats, 1959

The menhaden, very oily and not good for eating, were processed at two fish factories in Empire.  First, they would press the fish to capture the oil which would be later used in the manufacturing of goods such as paint, varnish, lubricants, margarine and lipstick.  Next the fish were cooked and ground into meal used in chicken feed, dog food, cat food, fertilizer, et

Louisiana was scorching hot with green head horse flies that would eat you alive.  Even so, Jean and their daughter Linda went down and stayed about a month that first summer. The next year he bought a little trailer for them to use which they did for a couple more summers.

After that Jean stayed at the beach running the cottages and Kure Motel behind where Jack Mackerels is now.  He continued working there for eleven years before relocating to fishing the Chesapeake Bay area.

Next Month: Part IV