Oral History – Ray Rothrock – Part 1: ‘Kure Beach’

by Ann Hertzer

Ray Rothrock

Ray Rothrock

Ray Phillip Rothrock was born in Thomasville, North Carolina, July 26, 1938. His parents were Henry T. and Mattie (Billie) Rothrock. World War II was at the peak in 1943 when his Dad had to either get a government job or be drafted. So he left Thomasville Chair Company, moved to Kure Beach and went to work at the Wilmington Shipyard as a welder. Ray was 5 years old. His parents had 6 children and were expecting a 7th one. Of the 7, Ray was right in the middle. Kure Beach probably had more than 400 year-round residents.

The Rothrock family first lived on S. 3rd Street in one of the little cottages that still stands behind Moran’s Motel (118 Ft. Fisher Blvd. S. on the right). They lived in the small cottage closest to Moran’s Motel. The cottage had only two very small bedrooms, a little kitchen and a sitting room. The very small front porch is now closed in. Mom, Dad and seven children lived in this tiny cottage for a year before moving South of Monkey Junction.

His Mom and Dad bought the property from Sanders Road down to the south entrance to where Harris Teeter is now located. It had three small houses on it, but certainly larger than the very small cottage at Kure Beach. Back then they did not have running water, but a hand operated pump close to the house and an Out House way back in the back yard. They raised chickens and hogs and had a small backyard garden.

When Ray started to public school in September 1944, he went to Sunset Park with grades 1 through 8. When Ray reached the 7th grade, Sunset Park became a Junior High (grades 7, 8 and 9), so Ray went to Sunset Park for 9 years before going to New Hanover High School. Sunset Park School was then located 3 to 4 blocks past Seashore Drug Store between Carolina Beach Road and Burnett Blvd.

When Ray lived in Kure Beach, he caught the school bus at 7:15 at the traffic light in front of Canoutas’s Restaurant which is now Jack Mackerel’s parking lot. It was a long ride to/from Sunset Park School, picking up CB students at the Trailways Bus Station which is now where BB&T is located.

His Mom and Dad bought property in Kure Beach in 1946 on Ft. Fisher Blvd S, a lot 50 or 60 feet wide that ran from the street to the ocean where the smaller building of Admiral’s Quarters now stands. There was one two story ocean front house with parking underneath. His Dad made two apartments upstairs and two apartments downstairs for seasonal rentals. He then built three cottages between the oceanfront and Ft. Fisher Blvd.

His Dad did not hire anyone. He did all the electrical work and plumbing and would get his friends, the electrician and plumber, to inspect and sign off on the work. The three cottages were all two bedroom, one had two sets of bunk beds and the other had a standard size bed. There was a dresser, closet, dining room table and a kitchenette with a 4-burner gas stove and refrigerator. Linens and towels were provided. All the interior, the furniture, and trim was built by Ray’s grandfather, a carpenter by trade. Lots of Knotty Pine was used in those days.

Back then, Kure Beach did not have a sewer system, so Ray helped dig the large holes, lay the blocks, pour the concrete to build the septic tanks for those three cottages. Ray remembers the big mess when they put sewer in Kure Beach. The water lines were put in first, then the sewer. Ray’s Dad was a firm believer that you didn’t pay anybody to do anything you could do yourself.

Once his Dad got the cottages built, he rented them. A sign on the street advertised “Rothrock’s Cottages and Apartments”. People seemed to come back year after year. That was before TV. There was not any out of town advertising. People made reservations by telephone or just showed up looking for a place to stay for a few days. He would rent all the apartments and cottages and, if needed, the one that was the office next to the street where the family lived. The family would then go to Monkey Junction to stay. Ray cleaned on Sundays or whenever the people checked out – change the linen, sweep, mop, wash the dishes, clean the tub/showers because his Dad was very particular about that.