From the President: June, 2015

Big Daddy's

Tommy “Big Daddy” Lancaster

This summer Big Daddy’s at Kure Beach is open under new management launching a new chapter in its history.

This post card shows Tommy “Big Daddy” Lancaster in front of the original restaurant on the corner of K Avenue and Fort Fisher Boulevard that opened in 1963. The family’s living quarters were upstairs.

Elaine Henson

Elaine Henson

His traveling billboard Cadillac with a real longhorn hood ornament must have turned heads wherever it went enticing diners to try his fare.

Tommy Lancaster was from Pikeville, North Carolina, where there is a Big Daddy’s Road named for him.   He later opened another Big Daddy’s at Lake Norman near Charlotte, NC, which is still in operation, run by his grandson.



Oral History – Ed Neidens – Kure Beach Police Department, Kure Beach Development

Ed NiedensPart 2
Interviewed by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

In the early ‘70s we had a problem with finances with the police. They actually turned the police over to the sheriffs. Then there was actually no police in town. It was done by the County Sheriff’s Department. Then we had a problem with that because of speeders and different things. We activated or reactivated the town police to stop the speeding going through town. And we needed our own police department. For years police communications was done by Carolina Beach. Carolina Beach handled the police department, the radio communications and all.

Then when I was mayor, it became a problem with Carolina Beach because Carolina Beach wanted to have Kure Beach pay for one position in Carolina Beach for the dispatcher. Our budget would not handle that. They originally wanted $18,000 a year, the best I can remember, for us to pay for a dispatcher.

Then we had a meeting with them and then they wanted to increase it to $30,000 a year. We told them we could give them $12,000 a year which was $1000 a month. But at that time the administration at Carolina Beach wasn’t responsive to that at all. So I had a meeting with the Sheriff and he said they could provide the dispatcher for Kure Beach. And I said how much is that going to cost? And he said zero. So I went back to the council at Kure Beach and told them what we were encountering and all that. And they said “Let’s go with the County.”

The police station was a little room behind the old Town Hall which is now the Community Center. And the Community Center at that time housed one side was the town business and meeting room (the left), and had the fire department and 2 bays on the right. Behind the fire department back there was a little add-on room back there and that was the police department.Kure Beach seal cropped

I was Mayor of Kure Beach in ‘90 and ‘91 or ‘89 and ‘90. I was on council for 2 years and the last 2 years I was on council, I was mayor. That’s when the mayor was chosen from the council.

I was on the board of adjustments, chairman for 10 years and on Planning and Zoning end of it. So I was associated with the town for quite a few years. I felt like I would like to serve just as a town council person. I didn’t get on council to be a mayor. The first 2 years I was on council Frank Link was mayor. And prior to him, Red Doty. Everybody called him Red – probably because of his red hair.

Being mayor was challenging. We done a lot. There was a lot going on while I was mayor and on the council. Kure Beach Village was there but in the other part of Kure Beach, developers wanted to put like 700 units up there – high rise buildings. The economy done away with a lot of that. They wanted to divide it up into this and that and so forth. They had big ideas; 4, 5, or 6 stories. The large buildings they wanted to put up that the economy wouldn’t support. So those never got off ground.Kure Beach sign

Beachwalk would have been part of the area they were going to put high rises on. That was the original intent before I was on council. But this was back when they wanted to develop that, they wanted to put larger buildings, and condos, and units and so forth. But the economics at the time done away with that and didn’t support it. What the economics supported was single family homes. And we held the developers to the contract that they had with the town of providing the water tank, the lagoon, and other things, and sewer upgrades. We had a lot of meetings with the developers to get the developments to do what we wanted rather than what they wanted to do.

The 35 foot height limit has been there for a long time. That was written into the original ordinances. It came before the board of adjustments at one point. Ocean Dunes wanted to build that executive building three stories plus which would have put it over the 35 foot limit. They came before the board of adjustments. And the board of adjustments voted they can build 35 feet. They said we can do it with a flat roof, which is fine as long as you stay below the 35 foot level. So that executive building down there has three floors over plus the pilings underneath. But they had to stay at 35 feet. Because the ordinance reads that it shall not exceed 35 feet.


Oral History – Ethyl-Dow Plant – Part 3

by Howard Hewett  

Ethyl-Dow Plant in Kure Beach, NC
Lem’s recent Ethyl Dow recent post is one that I can add some additional history because the Ethyl Dow Chemical Co. had a direct impact on my family. My Dad went to work for Ethyl Dow in 1933 as a laborer helping clear the land for the Kure Beach Plant.

Aerial view from Cape Fear River outfall (lower) to Atlantic Ocean intake. .... [Click - for a larger image slideshow]
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As construction progressed, Dad continued to work at the plant site. When the plant started operations, he became a plant operator, then shift foreman, plant foreman and later Supervisor. After the war when the demand lessened for ethylene dibromide, the plant was mothballed but it was kept in semi-running condition. Dad maintained his role as supervisor of the remaining crew.

When the decision was made to demolish the plant, Dad & his crew were responsible for clearing all the equipment. Then most mechanical equipment was sold to potential buyers.

In 1953, our family moved to Freeport, Texas for a 1 year project at the Ethyl Dow plant there. Dad was somewhat an expert in the packing of the blowing out towers which had a special lath packing made of cypress. The project included purchasing the cypress, manufacturing the lath packing and installing it in the towers.

We returned to Federal Point in 1954 just in time for hurricane Hazel. By 1956, the plant was cleared and all equipment sold. Dad turned the key to the Office building over to a demolition contractor.

If you viewed the YouTube video – History of the Ethyl Dow Plant (Island Ecology for Educators-Final Project), produced by Johnny Reinhold in 2012 and recently posted on Facebook by Lem Woods, some of the concrete & brick rubble material from the plant demolition was later used at Fort Fisher to combat beach erosion. The article is a fairly accurate history of the Kure Beach plant.

In 1956, the Hewett family moved back to Freeport, Texas where Dad continued to work for Ethyl Dow until the shutting down of the Texas Operation plant in early 1970’s.  Again, Dad was given the responsibility for clearing the Freeport plant, selling the equipment and turning the plant over to a demolition contractor.

During Dad’s 47 year Dow career he worked in two Ethyl Dow plants, 1400 miles apart and had the distinction of walk out the front door and turning the front door key to demolition contractors which ended the existence of the Ethyl Dow Chemical Co.

As to the Ethyl Dow plant at Kure Beach, Dad was able to save some photo history of the plant. I have post some of the photos here with a comment attached to each picture.


Originally posted by Howard Hewett to: Carolina Beach Locals on Facebook – Tuesday, August, 19 2014

History of the Ethyl Dow Plant
   (YouTube video)
Produced by Johnny Reinhold


Gold From the Sea?   (great visuals of the Kure Beach Ethyl-Dow plant)
Popular Mechanics,  Jun, 1934



What is the Ethyl-Dow plant?
by: Ben Steelman – Wilmington StarNews – April, 2009

Chemical plant’s remnants removed to make room for homes in Kure Beach
by: Shannan Bowen –  Wilmington StarNews – Nov. 23, 2010

Ethyl-Dow plant to be commemorated (60 year anniversary)
by:  Jerry McElreath – StarNews – May 21, 1993

Dow Chemical Company – Early History – Wikipedia

Ethyl-Dow Operators–  Initial Meeting (Wilmington Star, 5-11-39)

Images of Ethyl Dow Plant – Google Images




Big Daddy’s

Featured Business of the MonthBog Daddy's #3
September, 2014

By Tony (Lem) Phillips

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is very proud to welcome Big Daddy’s Restaurant of Kure Beach, NC as a new Business Member. Gerald Huffman, manager of Big Daddy’s, sent the application in August of 2014.

Big Daddy’s is located on the corner of Ft. Fisher Blvd and K Ave in Kure beach. They have been serving “Seafood at its Best” since 1965.

Big Daddy's #1 The Kure Beach location boasts a colorful and assorted history. The Eakes Family who owns the restaurant tried many ideas to serve the public in the early years.

Big Daddy’s property has been home to a miniature golf course, dune buggy rental and, “open-air” dance hall. They tried an ice cream parlor, breakfast house and, steak house. Now, the restaurant serves us the finest steak and seafood around. They are open every day from 12PM until…   Months are from spring’s opening day until the last week in September.

The History Society is very impressed with the history of Big Daddy’s and the stories it tells us of our youth and days well spent having fun in Kure Beach, NC. They continue to be a part of our history as well and an enduring part of our future. Welcome Big Daddy’s to the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

(FYI: Big Daddy’s also supports Ft. Anderson in Brunswick County)



Oral History – Howard Hewett – Part 2

Fishing off Fort Fisher in a Small Boat – in the 1940s and 50s

Submitted: August 22, 2014
Text by:  Howard Hewett  –  Growing up on Federal Point, NC

NOAA Coast Chart - Snow's Cut to The Rocks

NOAA Nautical Coast Chart
Snow’s Cut to The Rocks

Fort Fisher Coquina

Fort Fisher Coquina

Fairly close to Fort Fisher, there are some rocks (coquina) that jut out into the Atlantic.  I never asked Dad if he knew how long they had been exposed, but they were one of my favorite places to surf fish for trout and bluefish in the fall.

There were times when I gigged flounder with Uncle Crawford Lewis in the same location.

About half a mile to a mile out to sea from these rocks, there were a number of the blockade-runner wrecks that sank, leading up to the final siege of Fort Fisher in early 1865.  The powder vessel is also in this area.

One of Dad’s favorite activities was taking summer guests (men only) out to fish over these wrecks.   Now, this was not for the faint of heart, although it was truly an adventure.  You see, Dad’s choice of boats for these trips was about 12 foot in length, really no more than a small rowboat.

I was allowed to sit in the bow and the one guest would sit in the stern.  Dad would sit in the middle and do the rowing.

Fishing Boat Breakers - CB

Click – for larger image

Now, the trick would be to row across the bar and wait for the breakers to come to a lull, and then Dad would head to sea before the next wave broke on the bar.

Then he would row out to the wreck and we would fish.  Dad’s GPS system for locating these spots was pretty basic.  He would line up the Fort Fisher Monument and the Kure Beach water tank.

On one of the wrecks farther out he would line up the Monument and the Breakers Hotel at Wilmington Beach (current location of the ‘Sea Colony’ at Ocean Blvd. and 421 in Carolina Beach).

Fishing in a small boat in the open Atlantic was sometimes more than our guest’s stomach could manage.  It was not unusual for our guest to lose his breakfast.  Uncle Bubba Roebuck, (LTJG “Buck” Roebuck), liked to join us on these adventures, but I think he always got sick.

Our fishing tackle was low-tech.  We used a drop lines with only a couple of hooks and a sinker.  No fancy tackle!  Our boat anchor was also not high-tech.

Dad would put some bricks in a burlap sack.  After we had caught enough fish for dinner, we would prepare to head toward shore.  He would remove the bricks from the sack, put the fish in the sack, tie a cork to the rope and then tie the rope to the boat.  All this just in case we turned over crossing the breakers.

The return from one of these fishing adventures was also quite a trick.  Dad would sit just outside the breakers until he decided which wave to follow into shore.

Over the WavesCatching the wave was something like the technique used in surfboarding.  The only difference being that you rode the crest on the backside of the wave and maintained your position by rowing forward to stay up or place your oars deep in the water to create drag so you do not go over the crest of the wave.

I can tell you that when the waves are big, doing this will get your heart rate up, a real adrenaline rush!  The men in the Hewett-Lewis family were skilled boatmen dating back to their whaling days.

Lapstreak Boat Closeup


Footnote on our boat:  I am sure there were boats that I do not remember, but the boat I remember well was built somewhere around 1948-1950.  I watched Dad build it in the garage.  It was made of cypress and was a lapstreak with a “V” bow.

The gunnels probably were not more than 2 feet high.  I remember Dad laying the keel and the stem.  The stem was shaped with a draw knife. (Dad’s draw knife is in my tool cabinet today and I have used it many times in my duck carving.)

After the stem, keel, ribs and stern board were in place, the sides were installed.  The bottom and bench were the last to be put into place.  The boat had a great shape and was easy to get into the water.  In the early 1950s, I was allowed to take it by myself and go out beyond the breakers to fish.  At that time I learned the technique of crossing the bar and riding a wave on the return trip.

Fishing off Fort Fisher- Hewett House & Boat - Kure Beach

Hewett Family House and Boat
1 block north of Fort Fisher Gate

This photo is the Hewett’s family home, one block north of the Fort Fisher Gate, and the boat in the foreground was the one used in most of our fishing trips.









Kure Beach Fishing Pier

Featured Business Member – August, 2014

By Tony Phillips

Kure Beach Pier - EntranceKure Beach Fishing Pier
Man… you should have been here last week!

Opens April 1st through November 30th

~ Open 24 hours a day ~



One Rod and Reel per Person $5.00 per Fisherman

King Fishing:      $12 * May 15th – Oct. 1st         * 3 Rods * 6 am to Sunset
Shark Fishing:    $12 * June 1st – Sept. 15th      * 3 Rods * 12 am to 6 am

What more can you say about Kure Beach Fishing Pier? Are you kidding?! You can talk all day about this, the oldest pier on the East Coast.

Originally built by L.C. Kure in 1923, it has been owned by Mike Robertson since 1984. It has been hit by several hurricanes, but since being raised to 26 feet and going back to three pilings, it has weathered the storms well including a Category Three Hurricane.

Many a family have discovered Kure Beach Fishing Pier and fell in love with it coming back year after year to visit the pier and the town of Kure Beach. With the Webcam on top of the Pier Store, you almost feel like you are right there from a thousand miles away. And, there have been many, many visitors who are proud to say that they did indeed drive a thousand miles to stay a week in Kure Beach and on the pier.

Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman’s Fishing Tournament

Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman’s Fishing Tournament

There is something that Mike Robertson does not draw attention to but, something we would be hard pressed to do without. This is the Charity Sponsored Fishing tournaments such as the annual Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman’s Fishing Tournament. Last May, almost 400 participants showed up and registered to fish on the pier before noon that day. Mike donates the pier, ice, support and much more to these tournaments each year with no fanfare.  These charity events take his whole business for almost a whole day. Mike just walks by and smiles.

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is very proud to have the Kure Beach Fishing Pier as a Business Member and we encourage all of our newsletter readers to go by and say thanks for your support.

Kure Beach Pier - Gift Shop

Kure Beach Pier – Gift Shop

While you are there, enjoy shopping in the Pier Store gift shop, enjoy a huge cone of ice cream at a very modest price, or just walk out to the end of the pier and feel the wind like no other place on the island.

See the Kure Beach Pier Webcam 24/7/365 on the Surfchex webcam






Fort Fisher Army Air Field

NC Historical Sites:Fort Fisher Army Field – During World War II

Much like the Civil War’s impact in the 1860s, America’s involvement in World War II brought profound social and economic changes to Wilmington, North Carolina. As the nation’s home front prepared to support America’s war machine, Wilmington and New Hanover County underwent a major expansion in the shipbuilding, chemical, and petroleum industries.   Thousands migrated to the Wilmington area pursuing defense work — and military personnel were not far behind.


The Fort Fisher range ultimately became the main range for Camp Davis and the installation was given the name Fort Fisher Army Air Field. Because of the new range’s prominence, it was deemed necessary to make the range a self-sustaining post. This called for the construction of 48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building.

In addition to these facilities, the site featured a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach.

Fort Fisher WW II

Fort Fisher WW II

One of the more prominent features of the range was a 2,500 ft. unpaved runway. From a historical standpoint this is unfortunate as a section of the earthworks for the fort’s land face, known as Shepard’s Battery, were leveled to make the runway.

The Army was well aware of the historical significance of the old fort, but the necessities of the war outweighed historic preservation. Today, the parking lot and visitor center for Fort Fisher sit on the remains of the runway.

In 1944 the anti-aircraft training facility was transferred to another base and Camp Davis was closed.

At the time of its closure, Fort Fisher had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.



Oral History – Faye and Norris Teague – Part 2: ‘Sand Castle Hotel’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

About 1967 the Teagues moved to Carolina Beach. After leaving the bus line, Norris owned and operated a Gulf service station across from the First Baptist Church. A lot of service station customers were airman from Ft. Fisher which had about 300 airmen on duty. In 1967, they moved to a house at 5th and Hamlet.

Faye was working 2 or 3 jobs. One was at Monty’s Restaurant owned by Ed Brown serving mostly sandwiches and fries and shakes. Bowman’s Restaurant is there now. Herman Dingler who owned the Texaco Station owned the ambulance which answered wrecks. Families took members to the emergency room when such services were needed.

Sand Castle Motel

Sand Castle Motel

Sand Castle Inn

Sand Castle Inn

When Norris sold the service station, he went into real estate for about 2 years. He was in the process of selling the Sand Castle Motel when he ended up buying it about 1973. It had 32 rooms and the Teague living quarters with 4 bedrooms. Kure Beach had utilities, water, electricity, phone, trash, and sewer.

Norris Teague

Norris Teague

Jerry Bigley’s Store at the corner of K street was a convenience store for tourists. There was an A & P at Carolina Beach. Hurricane Fran in the mid 90s got into the motel and pool.

Faye decorated her home at the motel at Christmas time for 16 years. Their home was often on the Island-of-Lights Christmas tour. She especially liked Hallmark and Possible Dreams brands – unusual things.

Norris ran the Sand Castle motel for several years. Son Gary was the main help at the Motel. The motel was opened all year unless they needed to go somewhere.

Some fisherman cleaned fish in the bathtub. Fish scales stopped up the drain. What a mess. Most cleaned fish at the pier. When they first opened in 1973, rooms were about $22 a night. By 2005, many were getting $75 or $80.

Five rooms had kitchenettes. They built a gazebo out back where families could celebrate together. Two got married at the gazebo.  The Teagues had a lot of repeat business at the motel. It was easy to talk and become friends. The motel had overflow from those attending the Lutheran Center.

Norris is the only man on the island that has served on both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach councils. He resigned from Carolina Beach after they bought the motel in Kure Beach. Lee Wrenn was mayor; later it was Tommy Cosby. Norris was on the Board of Adjustment at Carolina Beach. Faye served on the Beautification Committee, the Community Center Committee, and the Tourist Development Authority (TDA).

In about 2000, there were 11 or more motels in Kure Beach – Nelsons, Tradewinds, Docksiders, Seashore, Sandcastle, Morans (Ronny Purnell). Six are now gone.

Faye Teague

Faye Teague

The Sand Castle Motel was sold and torn down. Teague’s moved across the street, right on the beach. Before this, they hadn’t been to the beach for 25 years. Faye looked at it from her bedroom at the motel. Now (2006) they have the largest yard of all with the ocean in front. Norris mows the whole block on both sides. Teagues say “Kure Beach is a good place to live.”

The Sand Castle Inn in it’s previous incarnation as <br /> Wrenn’s Motel

The Sand Castle Inn in it’s previous incarnation as Wrenn’s Motel