Oral History – Dorothy McQuillan – Part 2: ‘Family’

by Ann Hertzler

Dot moved on the Wilmington side of the swing bridge when she was about 8 or 9 years old. Dot and her cousins used to catch the school bus on the sound side of highway 421. White children went to Carolina Beach School. She went to a Black school with about 2 rooms. Oak Hill School was up the road as if you’re going into Oak Hill or Oak Grove cemetery. It’s been torn down and has a church and cemetery behind it. The nurses came to give injections. Miss Barnhill was one of the teachers. Miss Newkirk came down and helped sometimes. Now it’s still a school, but the name is changed.

Dot learned to cook at home on a wood stove watching her Mom and her husband’s aunt cook biscuits and such. Her grandmother kept her A&P “8 o’clock” coffee pot on the back of her wood stove. Her grandmother made Dot’s aprons, dresses, and a lot of her own clothes. Dot’s mom wasn’t into sewing too much. Lots of people had gardens.

Dot married James Kenneth McQuillan. When Dot first got married, they lived on her husband’s uncle’s property. Her first home was right behind her current address, 7809 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington, NC. Dot’s husband used to work for Dub Heglar in Kure Beach. Her uncle Ben had a truck to pick up trash from Carolina Beach.

Dorothy McQuillan

Dorothy McQuillan

Dot was married 52 years. Most of her children were born in the 50s in the community hospital which is now torn down. Dot went to New York for awhile where her kids started school. When Williston opened up, they had the big Williston band. Her cousin was the Drum Major who led the band. One of her girls went to college not too far from Virginia and one went to East Carolina. They were always into sports and basketball.

The family liked to do a monthly dinner at Dot’s house. Many would bring a certain meat or a vegetable. Dot said the best way to feed a big family is to cook a big roast or turkey or ham. Greens can be mixed many ways – turnips with kale or with mustard greens; fresh collards with a little sugar but no vinegar and no hot peppers. Dot uses smoked bones with greens but would rather use old fashioned fat back. Dot’s momma put corn dumplings on her greens. South Carolina people love rice. She cooked a lot of rice alternated with cream potatoes or macaroni and cheese – the kind that doesn’t come out of a box. Dot’s son went to culinary school. He loves to cook pig’s feet and pinto beans in his crock pot. He said, “Momma, you need a crock pot.” Dot said she didn’t need any crock pot.

Dot keeps her favorite recipes in her head – no drawer, no notebook. If the cake was good, she’d ask, how did you make that pound cake? And she’d remember how many eggs and how much butter and how to do this and do that. Dot loved fruitcakes, especially from the A&P in Carolina Beach. A fruit cake looks like an old fashion raisin cake with different fruits. Dot cooked the old-fashioned raisin cake in her iron frying pan and it came out so pretty and round. Lemon extract, a little bit of vanilla, two or three sticks of butter, beat the eggs up and put in there – makes a good pound cake.