Oral History – Isabel Lewis Foushee – Part 1: ‘Mackerel, Milk, and Mountains’

Oral History Committee – Ann Hertzer, Jeannie Gordon.
From the interview with  Isabel Foushee January 12, 2007

Isabell Foushe

Isabel Foushee

Ed and Gertie Lewis and their four children, Sis, James, Isabel (born 1930), and Judy, lived at the river next to the Fort Fisher base and had a shack down at the Ft. Fisher rocks.

Ed made his living rowing fishing parties of three or four, leaving from the river near the ferry and going over to Zeeks Island in a boat about 18 feet long (no motor). They went out via Corncake Inlet and trolled across High Rock usually fishing for mackerel.

The first time Isabelle went fishing in the ocean she was about five. They bottom fished, each with two hooks on their line. Before the hooks got to the bottom, fish were on each of them. Her Daddy kept busy taking fish off and baiting hooks. They brought home a big five gallon bucket of fish. Daddy cleaned them. Mother dipped fish in flour or cornmeal and cooked in a big old thick iron pan with three legs. She also cooked beans, collards, donuts, French fried potatoes, turnips, and rutabagas in the same iron pot.

The home had a wood stove, later a kerosene one, but no electricity until Isabel was nine years old (1939). They had candles and Aladdin Lamps with a little net that hung on to the wick. At night they’d catch lightning bugs, put them in a quart jar, set them on the table, and turn all the lamps out. They burned trash and had a well. They didn’t get a phone until moving to Kure Beach.

Their Ft. Fisher home had a small farm with horses and cows. Daddy put a dozen or more cows on a barge (a scow) to take out to a river island that had good vegetation and trees for shelter. The old bull, Booie, was a pet, a big old sweet heart. Daddy cut his horns off and put a ring in his nose. Isabel’s brother would sit on Booie’s head and ride him around. They played with Booie until Daddy put him over on the island with the cows.

Isabel and her brother milked two or three cows, no milking machines then without electricity. The ice truck brought big chunks of ice for the ice box two or three times a week to keep the milk cold. They sold raw milk in quart or half-gallon jars five days a week. Isabel’s sister washed and sterilized the used bottles. Heavy paste board caps were pushed down on the top of the filled jars.

In 1948 Isabell (4th from left) was Miss Carolina Beach

In 1948 Isabell (4th from left) was Miss Carolina Beach

They delivered milk on the horse with a big canvas saddle bag to nearby families at Ft. Fisher and at Kure Beach. The cream was 1/3 of the bottle. To make butter, cream was put in a half-gallon jar and rocked across your leg about 15 or 20 minutes until the butter formed. Her Daddy and sister drank buttermilk. Margarine came along later in the war in a clear plastic bag with a little bubble. They’d almost fight over who popped the bubble to color the margarine yellow.

Daddy drove the kids over the hills and mountains [the mounds] of old Fort Fisher. That was before jeeps. And Walter Winner, Carl’s brother, the fishing boat guy, had a place down at Ft. Fisher beach. He put his house on big old logs so he could roll his house back as the water kept eroding year after year. It would be in the water now.

Ethyl Dow paid Daddy every two weeks. They went into Wilmington for groceries to a big A&P store on the corner of Front and Dock. Each kid got a quarter for an allowance, a dime for the Bijou Theater, a nickel for popcorn, and 10 cents for the dime store, Kresses, McClellands, or Woolworths. The movie usually would be cowboy pictures and serials, such as Flash Gordon.

When Isabel was young, really young, she went to the old Federal Point Methodist Church. They had a really good youth Choir that was invited to sing at different places, which Isabel, her brother, and kids around on the beach liked.  Girls were not even considered being hired as a life guard. They had two or three well-known “jump joints” – little open air covered places with a jute box that all of the kids went to at Carolina Beach.