Oral History — Jimmy Davis — Part 1: ‘Memories of the Boardwalk’

Interview by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Jimmy Davis was born on March 6, 1930 here on “the Island.” The only time he ever left was when he was in the service.

His most vivid childhood memories are of the boardwalk.

The “Old Boardwalk” before the fire [1940].  “I remember the bowling alleys, and the old Pavilion where they had concerts on Sundays and didn’t cost you anything to go to it.”

“The way I remember the boardwalk was like I said, in the early years, I’d say ‘38 or ‘39, there was a big pavilion and they had dances upstairs and on Sunday afternoon they would have a matinee with the guys that were just coming along starting the bands. And they’d play for maybe two hours up there.

They had rides on the beach area, right up to the ocean front. Mr. Mansfield’s rides – hobby horses, Ferris wheels and all that.”

He says, “I remember the fire”

“Me and my mother walked up almost to the boardwalk there the morning of the fire and watched the beach crowd.

I remember things like that was little arcades where you could go in there and have your picture made and stuff like that but they didn’t have these electronic stuff sitting there at that time.”

Jimmy loved that boardwalk. “Some were local people but mostly from Wilmington, and maybe Wrightsville Beach. You know they had a big pavilion over there too. I remember a lot of people going from here over to there to the dances. But it burnt down when the beach burned down.”

Food was also part of the allure of the boardwalk. “We’d eat hot dogs, and doughnuts, Britts’, that was the best place on the beach at that time. There were hamburgers, and French fries. You used to could get French fries. And they had a cup like this, but it was sharp. And they would dice onions – and put a little bit of onions on top of it.”

The local kids would look for money under the boardwalk. Sometimes you might find 25 or 40 cents a day, “Some times more than that. See it was all boardwalk and it had cracks. And you’d go along in front of these restaurants and stuff like that… See a lot of them was kind of like a take out. And you’d just go to the window and order a couple of hotdogs and a drink and you would get it. Well they would drop money.”

“Naturally when they dropped it it was gone under that boardwalk. A lot of them always said they used chewing gum on the end of a stick. But I never did.

I had a little stick about like this, and round, and I split the end of it about an inch up. I’d take the back side of the stick and stand that penny or dime or 50 cent whatever it was -stand it up – and turn your stick around and go right down on that split and pull it right up. See you couldn’t get it out.

I always told them you can’t get it out with chewing gum cause it’s flat and it wouldn’t come through the crack. You’d have to get it on its side to do it. And then a lot of times you’d drop it. And if it went that way under the boards, you couldn’t see it to know where it was at. But the sure way was to have a stick with the split and just stand it up.”

Oral_History-JimmyDavis_Pt4-1Jimmy’s grandfather was a carpenter and built what is the Columbus Motel. He says, “They had that and three little cottages.”

His grandfather came to Carolina Beach from Brunswick County and his mother from Rowan County.  His maternal grandparents were Ludwigs.

Of his grandmother he says, “That’s the reason I was born on the Island. She was a licensed Midwife. Jimmy’s mother worked for the Bame Hotel. “She was over the cleaning service.”