Oral History – Ray Rothrock – Part 2: ‘Kure Beach Rentals’

by Ann Hertzler

Because Ray’s Dad quit the Shipyard when WW II was at its peak, he was called to be examined for the Army. He was 33 years old and had seven children. Ray very well remembers that day his Dad got on the Cattle-Car in Kure Beach to go to Ft. Bragg. His Mother and all the children were standing with his Dad, all crying because they thought they may never see their Dad again. He got back from Ft. Bragg about 2 a.m. the next morning, having walked and hitch-hiked back to Kure Beach after failing the physical.

Ray’s Dad was a workaholic. When he left the shipyard, he went into the reupholstering and refinishing business. After the War Ray’s Dad bought half the Army Mess Hall at Ft. Fisher, a huge building. They took it apart, moved it to Monkey Junction area, and put it back together for the back end of his furniture business. It was across the highway from the Army Surplus Store and sat right where Sanders Road is now.

Ray’s Grandfather and Grandmother on his Mother’s side of the family had built the building which is now the Army Surplus Store and also lived in that building where his Grandfather refinished furniture. With this furniture business on Carolina Beach, his Dad and Mom had a total of 4 business locations, with the others being in Wilmington, all on Castle Street. Ray’s Mother was the seamstress, doing all the sewing for the furniture to be reupholstered in addition to making drapes and slipcovers.

His Dad, Ray, and his older brother Corkey looked after the cottages, staying at the beach all the time. His Mother and other brothers and sisters would come down and spend some time. Ray’s Dad bought an Army Surplus Jeep to drive around the beach which the children really enjoyed. There was no Buffer Zone while Ray was growing up, so the woods all the way to the Cape Fear River was a great place to play and hunt. Sunny Point wasn’t commissioned until sometime in ’55 or ’56.

In 1947, Ray’s Dad got a telephone. The number 5454 was all you had to dial. Ray will never forget when you had to start dialing 8 in front of those four numbers. Everybody complained about having to dial so many numbers. In 2010 you have to dial the area code and another eight numbers to talk to someone in the U.S. When Ray’s Dad passed away in 1987, Ray was able to obtain the 458-5454 number for the Charter Fishing Business he had purchased from his Dad.

Most of the people who came down to Kure Beach wanted to rent a place to accommodate their family to enjoy the beach and go fishing. They
shopped for groceries and cooked more than going to eat at restaurants.  After swimming and fishing during the day, all would go to Carolina Beach to enjoy the Boardwalk and Amusement Park. The Amusement Park was where the Marriot is today and included a Ferris Wheel, tilt-a-whirl, and all those things you find at an Amusement Park. The Boardwalk had lots of places to attempt to win something, Bumping Cars and, of course, Britt’s Donuts. Ray thinks they were a nickel a piece back then!

After the World War II, jetties were installed for beach stabilization and then it was learned they were not only unsafe for swimmers, they caused beach erosion to the south. The picture shows Ray’s mother Billie and jetties on the beach.

Ray’s family went to Kure Beach Lutheran Church – Sunday school, church, picnics and dinners. The island churches started a Boy’s Basketball League playing in the old City Hall Gymnasium at Carolina Beach. Ray doesn’t remember winning, but certainly enjoyed playing.

Ethel Dow Chemical was an operating plant that took water in from the ocean intake pipes and discharged into the Cape Fear River. They had a plant on the oceanfront and on the riverfront. The kids use to go there and play around just to see what was going on and enjoy the ocean waves coming in. Next to the Army Base at Ft. Fisher, it was one of the largest employers on the Island. Back then it was not known as Pleasure Island.

The pickup truck Ray’s Dad had for the furniture business had tall rack sides on the bed so as to cover it with a tarpaulin to keep the furniture from getting wet when it was raining. When evacuating for Hurricanes, his Dad would put the tarpaulin on the truck, load all the children and dog in the back, drive to Lumberton, and park in a metal tobacco warehouse until it was safe to go back to Kure Beach. Looking back, Ray feels it was one of the most unsafe places to be. They waited for hours, seemed like it was a day or two before they let traffic come back across the swing bridge over Snow’s Cut. Back then, they did not open schools in Wilmington to house families during hurricanes.