Oral History – Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. – Part 2

Interviewed by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

My daddy had the house built from his World War II bonus or something. I think it was a $1000 and that pretty well closed the house in. So I was probably 2 or 3 years old when we actually moved into the house. That was part of the Lewis estate. My grandparents, on the Lewis side, deeded out parcels of land to their various children.

Their main activity was farming or fishing. And right across the street [from the History Center] was the main garden area, up until the middle 50’s or so, and now, when I got hold of it, it was classified as wetlands. Couldn’t do anything on it. But it used to be main farmland over there. Sweet potatoes were very important, a very important crop. Collards, a very important crop. They had watermelon patches, they had soy beans and they had other things for the animals.

Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr.

Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr.

Where we were living, out on the highway, was not in the town of Carolina Beach. The town of Carolina Beach started at the first street that goes across from St. Joseph Street. That went up there to that nursing home. That was the northern end of Carolina Beach.

My parents would not allow my brother and I, who was a couple years younger than I am, to go down there and roam around that beach, or to go up on the Boardwalk. That’s when we were young, unless we were escorted. You see, a lot of this stuff that went on, well like, Jimmy Davis and Milton Warwick, who came along later than I did, they were right there in town where they were involved in everything. I was in the country. And we had a big garden out back of our house, pole beans, sweet potatoes, pig pen. We had hogs, milk goats and milk cows and we did have a nanny goat.

The house that my grandparents lived in, I became the owner of it much later, but it was down where that first development is, just this side of the movie theater…Carolina Beach Village, isn’t it? All right, the first house there, as you drive in there, to the left, would have been right on the grounds where my grandparent’s home was. The sound was there, but at low tide you could not float a boat. You could walk out in the mud if you wanted to, but you might be up to your knees or further in the mud. There was no water. Eventually, the first thing that was dredged was a little 80 ft. canal on the other side and the fill dirt from that was used to help build Canal Drive. This was not made into a nice waterway area until about the late 50’s or whenever the town of Carolina Beach had the first berm project, planned on good sand underneath that mud out there. They dredged it out.

 

I don’t remember when we got power. I was probably 6 or 7 years old, or a little older, when we got electricity along there. We finally got a well with an electric pump on it. But we had the outhouse as long as I was growing up.

We had chickens. I remember one time Mom said, “that old rooster out there is getting after your baby sister, I want you boys, me and my brother, to kill that thing. We’re going to eat him Sunday. Well, we’d killed chickens before, but the way we did it was you had to hold the chicken with his head on a piece of wood and the other would chop his head off. You’d get blood on you and all that kind of stuff. Well, we’d seen some of these older people take one and wring his neck. We decided we were gonna wring his neck. So we did it. But the point was we just swung him around and when we finally turned him loose, he just started wobbling on off. Then we had to go catch him again and kill him the way we normally would have.

You didn’t take a bath every day, and a lot of times, one of the good times to take a bath was when my mother was washing clothes out in the backyard. We had an old iron pot out there, you had fire around it. That’s where you got hot water and that’s where the clothes were put in to clean them. And then you took them out and put them in these tubs for rinsing. Well, a lot of times we got our bath in there.

We had a little ole scooter, we got that for Christmas one time, and that was a big deal, just a little ole tiny two-wheeled scooter that we could ride on the highway—traffic was very, very little.

We did get to swim a little bit in the ocean and my daddy and my brother and I did a lot of floundering. But it was at night. He had a gasoline lantern, and we would go over to the river. There were plenty of places you could go to the river back then, Sugar Loaf was one of them. Just drive right there. And you’d go at low tide and the wind had to be the right way for you to do it. And you’d walk right along the edge of the water. The flounder would be bedded up right in the edge of the water and the only thing you’d see is his eyes. But that’s the way we did our main fishing, and we did a lot of that floundering. You had a gig and you stuck it through ‘em and then you took your hand and put it underneath and brought him up and put him on a string or line and we’d just drag them in the water behind us.