Our WWI Soldier

Claude R. Pfaff – 1892 – 1983
2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army – 1918

[The History Center’s newest exhibit commemorating the Centennial of the United States entry into World War One opens this April. It includes the uniform of Claude R. Pfaff, generously loaned to us by member, Gerri Cohen]

Claude Pfaff was born in September of 1892, in Pfafftown, Forsyth County, North Carolina. Of Moravian heritage, he spent his formative years playing in the Bethania Moravian Band. After attending Bethania High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Class of 1918), during which he taught school at Mount Tabor as part of his matriculation.

On April 6, 1917, the United States formally entered World War I. Pfaff, like most young men due to graduate that spring, knew that he was likely to be drafted into the American military as soon as he was no longer a student. When the University offered to waive all final exams for anyone who volunteered for military service, he joined the United States Army.

Pfaff was sent to Camp Jackson, a major training and staging base established in 1917 near Columbia, South Carolina. Here, battalions were formed before being sent to join the fight in France.

As band Sergeant assigned to the 156th Depot Brigade, Pfaff played bugle for military ceremonial occasions as well as morale-lifting events at locations such as the large base hospital, the Red Cross Convalescent Home, the YMCA Hostess House, and the Liberty Theater, which seated 3,600 soldiers.

On September 26, he was transferred to Camp Sevier, Greenville, South Carolina, and in October, Pfaff was commissioned out of the ranks to Lieutenant.

With the armistice signed on November 11, 1918 the military quickly demobilized and Pfaff was honorably discharged on November 30, 1918 as a Second Lieutenant. Pfaff returned to civilian life, working first for the Colonial Motor Company and then as a salesman for the Realty Bond Company in Winston-Salem. He married Atha Wolff of Tobaccoville, NC, in June of 1919, and they had two sons, Harry and Bob, and one daughter, Geraldine. In later years Claude Pfaff worked as a retail coal dealer and then a dairy farmer before retiring to spend most of his time in Carolina Beach, fishing for king mackerel off the Fisherman’s Steel Pier.

The Local Connection

In the 1920s, when Pfaff was working for the Realty Bond Real Estate Company, the firm often sent its salesmen on vacation to Carolina Beach so that they would come back and tell their customers how wonderful the beach was – and, hopefully, sell more lots at Carolina Beach.

Throughout his years in Winston-Salem he most enjoyed coming down to Carolina Beach for the fall fishing season. His daughter, Gerri, says that Ellis Freeman “taught him how to fish and Ellis’s wife, Annie, taught Atha how to cook what he caught.”

In 1927, the grand Carolina Beach Hotel stood where the elementary school is today. Claude and Atha, who happened to be staying across the street one evening, sat on the porch and watched waiters mysteriously bring linens, silverware, and other valuables out of the hotel. The next night, as mysteriously, it burned to the ground.

In the early 1930s, Claude built a cottage near Carolina Beach Lake as a birthday present for Atha, who named it “The Lullaby” for the choruses of frogs that sang around it at night.

Gerri remembers that as soon as her school was out the family made the trip on Highway 421 from Winston to the beach and stayed the whole summer, until just before school began again in September.

Often during WWII, the Pfaff family ended up sharing the small cottage with a family of strangers. Because of the shortage of housing in the Wilmington area, property owners were required to rent out their houses in order to provide the families of the enlisted men due to ship out soon a week at the beach before they were separated. Only office space was exempt, so Atha designated one room an office.

In the 1960s, Claude and Atha retired from the dairy farm and spent from early spring to late fall at the cottage. Daughter Gerri says her father practically lived on the Fisherman Steel Pier, coming home only when his wife demanded he eat, and sleep at home.

In those years, he became a member of the Carolina Beach Presbyterian Church and an active member in the life of the local community, often sitting on the benches of the boardwalk and people-watching while Atha played bingo. Claude died in November of 1983, and Atha in September of 1986.

Gerri Cohen, their last surviving child, currently lives in Wilmington, but still uses the cottage in the summer, sharing it with an extended family of children, grandchildren and cousins. A member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, she found out we were hoping to do an exhibit commemorating World War I and generously offered to lend us her father’s uniform for display.

To this day, many of Claude Pfaff’s descendants vacation at Carolina Beach, coming from such diverse residences as New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Florida.

 

World War I “The War to End All Wars”

In conjunction with our WWI exhibit, we will be publishing a short brochure on the causes and history of WWI.  The text is from American Political and Social History by Harold Underwood Faulkner, published in May 1937, by F.S. Crofts & Co., New York

Part III – WHY WE FOUGHT

While economic interests were tying the United States more closely to the Allied nations, organized propaganda was effectively used.  Propaganda agencies, both of the Triple Entente and of the Central Powers, exerted themselves to the utmost to influence public opinion, but in this the Entente were far more successful.

“Entente propaganda in the United States,” wrote Professor Hayes, “was even more general than that of the Teutons; it was also more adroit, more sympathetic, and more conformable to American prejudices and American wishes.”

Above all, it was more successful because Great Britain, through control of the cables and strict censorship, was able to color the news that reached America.  Honest, unbiased news largely disappeared from American papers after August, 1914.

With this great advantage to start with, propaganda was adroitly pushed through weekly reviews of the war distributed to hundreds of newspapers, moving pictures, articles in newspapers and magazines (written when possible by sympathetic Americans), contacts with influential men in all professions, speeches, debates, and lectures by American citizens-in brief, by every known method of influencing public opinion.

While the British talked of saving the world from barbarism and the French played up their contributions to American independence, famous men like James Bryce, highly respected in America, lent their names to the most incredible stories of German atrocities.

Against the skillful Allied propaganda the blundering efforts of Germany to subsidize the American press and influence American opinion made little progress and were eventually utterly discredited when, in 1915, President Wilson demanded the recall of the Austrian ambassador, Dumba, and the German attaches, von Papen and Boy-Ed.  These men had exceeded their official rights in pushing German interests in war time and were without doubt involved in plots to sabotage the production of munitions for the Allies.

That the presentation of the Entente case was far more efficient than that of the German, there can be no question.  This does not mean, however, that the United States was thus tricked into the war on one side.  It undoubtedly helped to build up sympathy for the Entente Powers and hostility toward Germany, but the continual blunders in the policy of the Central Powers were quite sufficient to accomplish that without other aid.

Furthermore, the traditions and culture of the American people were largely based on those of Great Britain; language, literature, and legal and constitutional institutions stemmed from the British Isles.  If this country was to enter the war at all – and there were many influences that appeared to be driving her inevitably into that course – the choice she made as to sides was the natural one.

Most Americans felt very definitely that they were fighting on the side of civilization and liberal institutions, an attitude enunciated by leaders in all walks of life and an attitude effectively and repeatedly expressed by Woodrow Wilson.

 

World War One – Part II

“The War to End All Wars”

In conjunction with our WWI exhibit, we will be publishing a short brochure on the causes and history of WWI.  The text is from American Political and Social History by Harold Underwood Faulkner, published May 1937, F.S. Crofts & Co., New York

WHY WE FOUGHT

Amazed at the blundering diplomacy that had made possible such a war, and confused as to the issues, the United States, following a century-old tradition, took an official position of neutrality.  In an appeal to the American people, “drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations at war,” President Wilson urged neutrality “in fact as well as in name during these days that try men’s souls.”

But the world was too small for this to be more than a pious hope.  At least four major influences were at work eventually to break down neutrality: (1) the heterogeneous character of the American population, (2) the increasing economic interest of the United States in the war, (3) the superior propaganda facilities of the allied Powers, and (4) the violations of neutral rights by the belligerents.

Of particular interest to politicians, propagandists, and national leaders was the reaction of the foreign-born population to the war.  While the older stock had emanated largely from the British Isles, at least 9,000,000 of the American population had been born in Germany or had one parent born there.  About one third of our population was foreign-born or of foreign-born parentage.

Of greater significance was the increasing economic stake of this country in the Allied cause.  The most pronounced early effect of the war upon America was a tremendous economic stimulation.

This is of particular importance because the nation, in the spring and summer of 1913, appeared to be sinking into the downward swing of an economic cycle, a trend that was quickly reversed by the European war.  Just as during the Napoleonic wars a hundred years earlier, Europe was too busily engaged in destruction to provide sufficient raw materials, and the United States became a source of all types of commodities, particularly foodstuffs and munitions.

The value of wheat exports, for example, rose from $39,000,000 in 1913, to $300,000,000 in 1917, and the value of munition exports from $5,000,000 to $803,000,000.  Production of cotton, foodstuffs, and minerals jumped forward, while the value of the exports of domestic merchandise almost tripled.

The excess value of exports over imports for the year ending June 30, 1914, was $435,800,000; for that ending in 1917, $3,567,800,000.  All this meant a sudden and widespread prosperity.  The United States profited enormously during the early years of the war, and her profits came almost entirely from the Allied Powers.

As Great Britain tightened the blockade around Germany and extended the contraband list, it became increasingly difficult to export to the Central Powers.  While American exports gravitated inevitably to Britain and her allies, these exports, owing to the diminutive size of the American merchant marine and the fact that Germany’s great merchant marine had been driven from the seas, were more than ever dependent upon British ships.

In another important way American economic life was changed by the World War and her interests tied more closely with those of the Triple Entente.  To finance the large-scale purchases, Europe shipped during the war close to a billion dollars in gold to the United States, and private citizens in Europe disposed of American securities to the value of two billion dollars.  When the war broke out, foreign investments in the United States were estimated at over $5,000,000,000, while American investments abroad amounted to at least $2,500,000,000, leaving the country a debtor to Europe by over 2,500,000,000.

Although Secretary of State, Bryan, held to the view that “money is the worst of all contrabands” and that loans to belligerent powers were “inconsistent with the spirit of neutrality,” the administration very early conveyed the impression that it would not oppose short-term credits that American bankers might extend to the belligerents, and a year later (August, 1915) that it would not oppose loans floated here.  The charge has often been made that this attitude was influenced by the desire to maintain economic prosperity in the United States, but the position of the administration was perfectly legal and in line with every precedent of international law.  Any other position at the time was hardly to be expected.

Beginning with the Anglo-French loan in October, 1915, private loans to the Entente Powers were floated here to the extent of some $1,500,000,000.  After we entered the war, the United States government extended credits to European governments amounting to over $10,500,000,000.  From a debtor nation, the United States almost overnight emerged as the great creditor nation of the world.  It is of more than passing significance that while the Allies floated here $1,500,000,000 in loans, Germany borrowed but $35,000,000, of which only $27,000,000 was outstanding when we entered the war.

 

World War One “The War to End All Wars”

In conjunction with our WWI exhibit, we will be publishing a short brochure on the causes and history of WWI. 

The text is from American Political and Social History by Harold Underwood Faulkner, published in May 1937 by F.S. Crofs & Co., New York

 A WORLD POWER

…. As the nations of Western Europe became industrialized, they sought an outlet for manufactured goods in the less developed regions of the world.  Great Britain had obtained the lion’s share, but in the decade after 1870 other nations moved aggressively to obtain what was left.

Behind this imperialistic rivalry were France seeking to restore her national spirit after her defeat in 1870; Germany, with an amazing industrial development and with the most powerful army in the world, demanding “a place in the sun”; Russia in search of an ice-free port on the Pacific; and Japan looking for markets to support her teeming population; while smaller nations sought to pick up the crumbs of imperialism let fall from the feast of their more powerful neighbors.

In this scramble for markets and territories Africa had been carved up into colonies and protectorates, and there was every indication that the same fate awaited Asia.

While colonial rivalries kept the chancelleries of Europe on the qui vive and precipitated numerous diplomatic crises, serious European rivalries were a continuous menace to peace.

France had never been reconciled to the separation of Alsace-Lorraine, and the more warlike of her statesmen awaited only the right moment to regain the lost provinces; Russia, without an outlet to the Mediterranean, had her eyes fixed on Constantinople and sought to dominate the Balkans. Italy, since her unification, would extend her boundaries to include Italian-speaking peoples to the north and east; Austria-Hungary, cut off from expansion to the west, looked upon the Balkans as a normal region for expansion and thus came in conflict with Russia.

Obviously there was enough tinder here for a dozen conflagrations, and it is amazing that, with the exception of the Balkans, Europe maintained peace over a long period.  For this period of peace Germany was primarily responsible.  Wedged in between hostile nations and anxious to maintain the status quo in Europe, she constructed in 1882 the Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy.  To protect herself, France achieved an alliance with Russia in the early nineties and a close understanding with Great Britain, while the latter attempted to iron out her conflicting imperialistic rivalries with Russia and Japan.

With Europe indulging in an orgy of militarism, imperialism, and nationalism, it was unlikely that this balance of power could be indefinitely maintained.

It was finally upset in the Balkans, where racial hatreds and nationalist strivings were complicated by the conflicting ambitions of Austria and Russia.  One of the Serbian intrigues against Austria, encouraged by Russia, came to a head on June 28, 1914, when Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated while visiting the city of Sarajevo in the Austrian province of Bosnia.  Given a free hand by Germany, Austria was determined to punish Serbia, and Russia, similarly encouraged by France, mobilized for the defense of the fellow Slavs.

Mobilization, in the eyes of Germany, was tantamount to war, and, when Russia refused to order demobilization, Germany declared war (August 1).  Two days later she declared war on France, and, when the German army invaded Belgium, Great Britain entered the war (August 4).  Before many months all Europe, with the exception of Spain, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Scandinavian Peninsula, was involved.

Forsaking the Triple Alliance, Italy remained neutral until 1915, when she joined the Allies, followed by Rumania and Portugal (1916) and Greece (1917).

Turkey (1914) and Bulgaria (1915) were brought into the war on the side of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria).

 

Seabreeze Part 6 – The 50s

by Rebecca Taylor

The 1950’s

After World War II Carolina Beach business owners worked hard to present the beach as a “family friendly” resort. The resort continued to attract large crowds, and on holidays cars might line the road as hundreds of black patrons walked along the main highway to Carolina Beach. Sometimes on weekend nights in the summer, Seabreeze music was audible for miles, and sometimes Carolina Beach officials and residents pressured Seabreeze business owners to lower the volume.

In 1951, Frank and Lulu (Freeman) Hill sold their New York residence and returned to Seabreeze to invest their life savings, building a restaurant, beach pavilion, bathhouse, and a paved parking lot on Lulu’s inherited land – now part of Freeman Park. monte-carloThey called it the Monte Carlo by the Sea.

They came by bus, by cars, and whole churches. The Monte Carlo drew groups from  all over North and South Carolina. “We had a lot of groups who came up even as far as South Carolina…We had them come up in busses,” said Frank Hill who was proud of the Monte Carlo and believed it was the best beach facility available in North and South Carolina.

“The black people didn’t have any other place to go…there was that place down in Atlantic Beach, down in South Carolina, but I think they only had about half a block space that they could be on.”

The Wilmington City Directory of 1955 listed the following businesses at Seabreeze Beach: The Hotel Faison, the Daley Hotel, owned and operated by Richard Daley who also owned the Breeze Point Pavilion; the Edgewater Cafeteria, The Breeze Inn, and the Tavern, owned by Bruce and Bill Freeman. The Tavern was a lunch room but also had dining, dancing and facilities for private parties.

Juke Joints

The heartbeat of Seabreeze was its many juke joints.  At one point there were as many as 31 juke joints where jukeboxes (known as piccolos locally) supplied the “race music” that spawned not only rock-and-roll, but also the Shag, and Beach Music.

Those who vacationed there remember it well. Booker T. Wilson, who lives in Bolton, visited Seabreeze regularly as a young man. When asked what he remembered most about the place, Wilson promptly replied, “The dancing!” His favorite style of dance? “Swing. All of it,” he said.

juke-jointsThe music of Seabreeze drew people from miles around as live bands and jukeboxes exploded with the sounds of swing, soul and rhythm and blues brought to life by the voices of Little Richard, James Brown, the Platters and others. The area became known as a music mecca. Seabreeze’s music was so distinctive that many locals called the beach strand “Bop City.”

Clam Fritters

Recipes for clam fritters were closely guarded family secrets, and fritters varied from one eatery to the next. It would be safe to say that the basic recipe included eggs, milk, flour, and clams. Every restaurant specialized in seafood, fried fish, oysters, and soft shell crabs all gathered from the crystal clear sound shallows. Among the most famous was Sadie Wade’s place where hundreds of diners enjoyed the nickel apiece clam fritters; the recipe is still a guarded secret of those with Seabreeze in their heritage.

Arthur Ross once put together the batter for the cakes. He estimated they sold 3,000 of the 6-inch- wide cakes made up of clams, green peppers, onions, flour and other secret ingredients before being deep-fried.  The ocean breezes that blew through Seabreeze were no doubt infused with the smell of palate-pleasing dishes. Restaurants in Seabreeze served a diverse selection of food, but were renowned for their fresh and local seafood.

Hurricane Hazel

On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel came ashore west of Seabreeze, along the Brunswick County Coast. The Category 4 storm, with 140 mile-per-hour winds and an 18 foot storm surge wreaked havoc all along the North Carolina coast, but hit Seabreeze with a blow that it would never recover from.hurricane-damage

Because Freeman Beach was not listed as a Wilmington-area beach, it did not receive aid to rebuild.

When the storm departed, residents and property owners were tasked with cleaning, clearing and rebuilding. People who held land in common with other relatives found the job particularly daunting, as they were deemed ineligible for disaster relief loans.

Without financial assistance, many could not afford to rebuild. Those who were able, however, worked hard to bring Seabreeze back to life. Music, food and laughter did return; but the Seabreeze that once was, would be no more.

Frank Hill remembers, “It had taken away everything.” The severe erosion caused by Carolina Beach Inlet and Hurricane Hazel destroyed the majority of the sound side and ocean side businesses and homes. Few people at Seabreeze had insurance and though many salvaged what building materials they could and tried to rebuild, Hazel was followed by two category storms the next year; Hurricane Connie and Hurricane Ione.

Frank Hill continues, “We survived until that last one [Hurricane Alma] came through in ’62, and by them opening the Carolina Beach inlet it made it impossible because the beach was eroding so bad and it just put us out of business for good.” This damage was exacerbated by the Carolina Beach Inlet Development Corporation’s establishment of an inlet from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway claiming it would make access to the Atlantic Ocean easier.

Beach Music/Birth of the Shag

The R&B, soul, and beach music that played was notorious for drifting down streets and into other neighborhoods. Prominent musicians such as the Bobby Blue Band and Bo Diddley performed at Seabreeze.  Accommodations were also plentiful for overnight visitors, who by law, weren’t allowed to stay at hotels reserved for whites. Famous entertainers like Fats Domino, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner played for white audiences in Wilmington, but slept at the 25 room Loftin Hotel.

By the 40’s you had whites in their teens and 20s coming to Seabreeze to listen to the music. Then they’d go back to Carolina Beach and tell the club owners what was hot. Music at Seabreeze was a bit different from Wrightsville and Carolina Beach because it was black swing, rhythm and blues—in short, everything the white race rioters had so greatly feared a couple decades earlier. The dance moves seemed suggestive and the volume was cranked up to a level that could be heard for miles around.

The legend of Malcolm Ray “Chicken” Hicks is a local favorite. Hicks was a teenager in 1941 when he visited Seabreeze and picked up on the R&B music and dance, which he already knew from his upbringing in Durham. Jukeboxes, which were called piccolos, were in every jump joint, and Hicks had an appreciation for what was then called race music.

Hicks also had a connection with a fellow named Parker who loaded up the jukeboxes at both Seabreeze and Carolina Beach, and was able to persuade Parker to put some of the same records he would have heard in Seabreeze into the jukeboxes in Carolina Beach.

 

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.” 

Seabreeze Part 4 — Growth of Seabreeze

by Rebecca Taylor

In February, 1930, the Wilmington Star reported that, “Electric poles are now being set from Wilmington to Seabreeze, a colored resort, by the Tide Water Power Company for the extension of electrical current.” Then in July of 1931, the Wilmington News reported that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.seabreeze #1

By the Labor Day holiday of 1933, the Wilmington Star reported that “Ten thousand Negroes visited Seabreeze yesterday. They came by trucks, motor cars, buses, and, in fact, every mode of vehicle. Some trucks were loaded with as many as 75 to 100 men, women, and children all packed in these vehicles like sardines. Four large buses were employed in conveying the crowds to and from the resort. Trucks came from Fuquay Springs, Lumberton, Pembroke, Charity Cross Roads, and from numerous other towns in eastern and Piedmont North Carolina.”

By July of 1934, Dr. Foster F. Burnett, a local Negro physician who was a Harvard University graduate, constructed a convalescent home and recreation center at Seabreeze that would  accommodate up to 10 persons at a time. A pier was also constructed from the home to the sound. Dr. Burnett had plans to also build tennis courts, a golf course and other recreational facilities. That same month Dr. Burnett was promoting a request to the State Highway and Public Works Commission to improve the road connecting State Highway 40 with Seabreeze.

By the summer of 1935, the resort was so developed that the North Carolina Utilities Commission voted to grant a franchise to a Wilmington bus company to operate a bus line from Wilmington to Seabreeze.

In July 1938, the Wilmington Star reported the “purchase of a site at Seabreeze in connection with a development for colored tourists, to cost about $7,600 was announced yesterday by Ben McGhee. The pavilion is to be located off the Carolina Beach road near the entrance to Seabreeze.”

By the summer of 1938, C.C. Spaulding, President of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company of Durham, announced plans to purchase a lot and build a vacation home at Seabreeze. “Spaulding announced his plan following a weekend visit to the resort in which he was favorably impressed with the quietness of the resort on the southern side of Seabreeze as most conductive to rest and relaxation.”

Seabreeze #2By the mid-1930s, Seabreeze was in full swing. They had so many visitors that parking became a problem.  On summer weekends cars lined Carolina Beach Road for up to a mile. On holiday weekends the New Hanover County Sheriff assigned deputies to supervise traffic flow to and from the resort. At least 10 restaurants, including Barbecue Sam’s, served summer visitors. The area’s cooks quickly became famous for their clam fritters, often with finely chopped bell peppers and onions.

At some point in the 1930s, there seems to have been talk of incorporating Seabreeze as a municipality.  An editorial appeared in the Wilmington Star that advised them that it would be “Wise to go Slow” concluding with; “It is, therefore, our advice to our Negro citizens to proceed with caution. They should do everything possible to develop their resort, and for this they are to be commended, but corporate responsibilities may invite worries that are not compensated by such benefits as might accrue.”

Seabreeze Part 3 – With the Turn of the Century

Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

by Rebecca Taylor

The Freeman Heirs

In July 1902, Robert Bruce Freeman Jr., appeared in the New Hanover County Clerk of Court’s Office bearing his father’s will for probate.

The surviving children (all sons) from Robert Bruce’s first marriage inherited most of the Old Homestead. Robert Bruce, Jr., Archie, Rowland, Nathan, and Ellis received fifty-seven acres each.

Dulcia, the widow of Robert and Catherine’s son, Daniel Freeman, were granted lifetime rights in fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead. Thereafter, the property was to be divided equally between Daniel and Dulcia’s children, Ida and Hattie. Lena was also given fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead.

Lena’s children were to “share and share alike” with Catherine’s children in all the lands outside of the Old Homestead while Lena’s children were not included in the Old Homestead division.”

Unfortunately, the vagueness of the bequest to Lena’s children would haunt the family into the 21st Century.  As early as 1914 “the court appointed a Board of Commissioners to determine the boundaries for each tract. They decided that the tracts would run west to east, from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean. This gave each heir access to the river, sound, ocean, and soil suitable for cultivation.”

After Robert Bruce, Jr.’s death, Ellis Freeman, youngest son by his first marriage, took over management of the family lands. “He obtained a $50,000 government permit to sell yellow granite, and created a profitable business carrying people out on the ocean fishing.”

The Beginning of Carolina Beach

In the 1880’s Freeman gave Captain John Harper, owner of the steamer Wilmington and a partner in the New Hanover Transit Company, the right of way to build a railroad through his property at Carolina Beach in exchange for free train passes for the black people of the area.

On March 11, 1887, W. L. Smith, Jr. bought a strip of land comprised of 24 acres for the amount of $66.50. These acres were between the head of Myrtle Grove Sound and the ocean beach. Today this land is located in the heart of the business district of the Town of Carolina Beach.

The following year, 1888, the New Hanover Transit Company sponsored a free excursion to Carolina Beach for indigent and infirmed colored people in Wilmington. About five hundred people took the trip including church members from St. Stephen, St. Luke, St. Mark, Mount Olive, Central Baptist and Chestnut Street Presbyterian churches.

In 1913, the Freeman heirs financed Alexander W. Pate and Joseph Laughlin a large tract with boundaries running from the end of the “old road bed of the New Hanover Transit Company’s railroad” to about 5,000 feet south of Sugar Loaf and then over to the beach.

Seabreeze Established

In the early 1920’s, Ellis Freeman, one of Robert, Sr.’s heirs, sold the first lots on the Seabreeze tract with full right of ingress and egress to and over any and all portion of the sea beach east of and across Myrtle Grove Sound.

Seabreeze managed to promote black ownership of recreational property and businesses – something other black beaches in the country had been unsuccessful in doing in spite of well-organized attempts.”

Seabreeze Beach ResortThe first beach structure called “Seabreeze” was built in 1922. It was about the time of the great boom in beachfront development. It was also a time of resurgent black pride and enterprise, the era of the Harlem Renaissance.

Victoria Loftin

Victoria Lofton

Tom and Victoria Lofton, a prominent black couple from Wilmington, completed construction on the Russell Hotel, a twenty-five room, three-story hotel, restaurant and dance hall. Peter Simpson and his wife opened Simpson’s Hotel and development began to spring up all around.

The Harlem-based, syndicated black columnist Geraldyne Dismond reported, to her surprise, cottages that resembled a “transplanted Seventh Avenue tea room, swank…bungalows and a sporting crowd dressed in linen suits and driving roadsters.”

Seabreeze

Daley Breezy Pavilion

In the spring of 1929, the Wilmington Star reported that at Seabreeze, the Negro resort, a new hotel is under construction.

According to residents of that section it will greatly facilitate the housing problem there during the season and an increase of the number of Negroes visiting this section is expected to result from the construction program.

Then by February 1930 the Tide Water Power Company was extending poles from Wilmington to Seabreeze. And, by July of 1931 the Wilmington News was reporting that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.