Oral History – Margaret and Bob Ford

by  Ann Hertzer

Margaret Ford

Margaret Ford

Margaret Newland finished high school in 1936 and came to live with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis T. Weinburg, at Kure Beach and go to business school.

In 1940 Margaret married Robert Goode Ford. They lived in a garage apartment in the 2nd block of Atlantic Avenue right on the water. Margaret’s sons were born at New Hanover Hospital – Bobby in Sept ’41 (Pearl Harbor was in December); Tommy in ’43; and Jim in ’46. Sometimes there was a doctor who lived at Carolina Beach; the dentist in Wilmington; and a drug store at Carolina Beach.

A garage that Mr. Kure started was across from Big Daddy’s.

The home demonstration club met monthly to talk about crafts, landscape problems, and different things.

Breakfast was mostly oatmeal or grits, just plain with butter and salt; biscuits or cornbread for supper or dinner; noon hour was leftovers. Liver mush was like scrapple; the hog’s liver ground with cornmeal – sliced and fried. Dinner was a meat, potato, and a vegetable – a lot of sweet potatoes and a lot of fish. We tried to have a little garden.

A grocery store at the corner of K was bought by the Lewis’ family. Then for about 25 or 30 years, almost to the 1980s, Bob and Margaret Ford sold groceries, tackle, bait, and fish for eating – flounder, mackerel. On Sunday night they often closed the store early to go to the Carolina Beach boardwalk dancing and the kids would do the arcades.

Bob Ford was a civilian employee of the Corps of Engineers and did construction work at the airbase and for families in the winter. A lot of the military were older men with families at home. They enjoyed the Fords’ boys and still keep in touch.

Bob at the time was working for the Corps of Engineers. He was a construction worker at Camp Davis (Holly Ridge) when they declared war. They packed all the equipment to ship overseas. Then he helped build the Seymore Johnson Air Force Base at Goldsboro and Butler.

Bob worked at Ethyl Dow where they made ethanol. Hourly bus service brought more workers from Wilmington. Ethyl Dow had an intake that drew the water in at Laquey where all the panels were and the colorful houses are now (2010). Water was piped to the plant on the river to make ethylene dibromide. After WWII, the plant moved to Texas.

In WWII, people were told not to go out. All of the windows had to be blacked out at night. You didn’t dare light a cigarette outside. This coast was a very sensitive area. You could see ships burning out there. German submarines were shooting at Ethyl Dow.

A ration book had a picture and number to tell you the kind of ration and the number of points. Shoe rationing was hard with growing kids. Food rationing for many shortages – mostly sweet stuff and meat. A lot of lamb was sent to the Air-Force base. The men wouldn’t eat it. So they gave it to Bob who was working there. A Greek friend of ours knew how to cook lamb. Our family loved it.

Hurricane Hazel: K Ave looking from the barber shop toward Smitty's and the pier.

Hurricane Hazel: K Ave looking from the barber shop toward Smitty’s and the pier.

August 1, 1944 No name hurricane came suddenly with no weather reports. The chopping block of Jim’s restaurant on K avenue ended up in front of the Ford garage apartment. A pier at Fort Fisher broke off in the storm. We watched big pilings go up in the air, come back down, and hit Kure’s Pier.

Civil Defense told every one to get out – no time to pack anything. Margaret’s uncle took her, the boys, a neighbor and her little girl across the swing bridge into Wilmington to a hotel with no light, no power. Two men from Raleigh gave them their sixth floor room. Bob came about midnight looking for them; but they weren’t registered. The next morning’s paper said everything below the intake was gone. They got on the bus but weren’t allowed across the bridge until Bob came for them. The apartment was still standing.

Mr. Kure owned an open-air bowling alley on K street catty corner from Big Daddy’s.

The community raised money to close it in as a first aid station in 1944. Everyone took a first aid course. If the bridge went out, no doctor could get here. The army corps offered to staff it if necessary.

In 1946 a bad nor’easter washed out 421 and Dow Road. Three in Kure Beach were ‘expecting’. Arrangements were made with the state highway patrol to take us back over Heneger’s Ditch, the drainage ditch on their property that ran to the river.

People bought materials to build rock and wooden groins on the beach that ran out in the water to break the waves. They are still there buried over. The coastal authorities don‟t approve of it now.

Hazel – 1954 We built our house on Second street in 1950 – cinder block with the holes filled in and extra insulation. Margaret did all of the painting. They moved in in February of 1954. Hazel hit in October. The house stood through all of the hurricanes. The water has never come up more than about half way the first block of K. And a lot of the older buildings survived better then. The garage apartment we were first living in would give back and forth. We were used to it. Nobody put in air conditioning. Air conditioning meant opening the windows.