Oral History – Ray Rothrock – Part 6: ‘Downtown Kure Beach’

by Ann Hertzler

There was also a Mrs. Davis‟ Restaurant in Kure Beach on U.S. 421, now S. Ft. Fisher Boulevard Avenue. It was across from the Lutheran Retreat. The building is no longer standing and is now an empty lot. That building was one of the old Army Barracks moved from Ft. Fisher Army Base. Her restaurant was in the front part and she lived in the back part of it. Mrs. Davis sold predominately local, fresh caught seafood and was only open for the evening meal. Her calling card was her Hush Puppies. She sold more Hush Puppies and Hush Puppy Mix than she probably did food. People would have fish fries at home and have someone go to Mrs. Davis restaurant to pick up Hush Puppies or get her Hush Puppy Mix, just add water (all the other secret ingredients were in the bag) and cook her Hush Puppies to enjoy with their fresh caught fish, oyster roast, or clam bake.

Canoutas Restaurant was at the southeast corner of the main intersection at Kure Beach. That corner is now Jack Mackerel‟s parking. Andy’s Dad, George, ran the restaurant and his wife, Lola had a Bingo Parlor and Beachwear Shop on the other side of it, toward the oceanfront. They later opened a Pool Hall in a building just south of the restaurant and they lived upstairs. Ray and friends enjoyed playing pool, especially in the winter time when it was too cold to be outside. Ray went to school with Andy, who was a couple of years older. Andy was Ray‟s Platoon Leader in Army ROTC in the 10th grade and Company Commander in the 11th grade at New Hanover High School.

The Kure Beach Post Office was next door to that. Just past the Post Office was Smitty‟s. Seems like Smitty put a little building in that was a tackle shop at one time and now is where Freddie‟s is located. Behind that building is where the Kure Beach Dance Hall was and everybody learned the jitter-bug and Shag while the Juke Box was blaring and blasting. Closer to the ocean was a restaurant and on the Oceanside of the crossover walkway, a large building sat on the oceanfront. The bottom floor was George Stathis Restaurant and rooms upstairs for rent. Hurricane Hazel just about took it away and it was moved over to the vacant land that is now where Kure Beach is building the oceanfront park.

In 1956, Ray’s Mother and Smitty’s brother (Ronald Smith) left Smitty’s and leased the building that had been moved from the oceanfront which was located between what is now Old Pier Restaurant and the ocean. They named it the R & S Restaurant (Rothrock and Smith). Ray’s mother was the cook and everything she cooked was delicious. She ran it until the early 60’s. It was a lot like Mr. & Mrs. Lewis Restaurant, opening at 4:30 in the morning, serving breakfast to the fishermen, specials for lunch and lots of different fresh, local caught seafood for dinner.

Kure_Beach_Bud_Joe In the early 50‟s, Mr. Fisher was the Chief of Police. Ray believes they had one other police officer, civilian clothes and only called upon when needed. Mr. Christmas was the Constable and back then with not so much crime, no more police were needed. Mr. Fisher was always walking around the main street of downtown Kure Beach, between where the traffic signal is now and the fishing pier. His black, private car with a red light set up with a siren was always parked just up from Bud and Joe’s [picture]. There was a sign, “Reserved for Chief of Police.” Ray does not remember Mr. Fisher having a radio to talk with Carolina Beach, the County nor the State. Later they did get a radio where he could talk to Carolina Beach Police and Emergency Ambulance Services.

Ray was a Kure Beach Volunteer Fireman when he was 16. On October 15, 1954, being young and perhaps foolish, when Hurricane Hazel made landfall, he and the other Volunteer Firemen watched all the piers and most oceanfront buildings destroyed or severely damaged. His family’s oceanfront apartment was one of those buildings that were severely damaged. It was rebuilt and ready for the tourist in the summer of 1955. They had a few Fire Hydrants, but not nearly enough, so the small water truck would have to be filled or run lots of hoses when they had a fire. Didn’t know about CPR but they did obtain a Breathing Machine.

On July 4th, 1955 Ray was a Mate on the boat Lewis Davis had bought. They headed out from The Basin Marina to bottom fish when, about 3 or 4 miles off the beach, a fisherman had an apparent heart attack. Thank goodness the ocean was flat, no wind, no waves and Lewis Davis beached the boat right next to Kure Beach Fishing Pier. They had no radio, no cell phone, no nothing. Ray was on the bow when the boat hit land, he was off and running to Canatouas’ Restaurant to get Andy, the lifeguard, and the keys to the Town Hall where the Breathing Machine was kept.

The Town Hall was the back of the existing ABC Store which is now the building where Bowman‟s Realty is. Andy came without the keys, so he rammed his fist through the glass to unlock the door and get the oxygen machine. In the meantime, the Rescue Squad from Carolina Beach came and took the man to the hospital. Thank goodness the fisherman recovered and continued to come to Kure Beach to fish, but not going out on a boat. They pushed the boat off the beach, turned it around and went deep-sea fishing as planned. In the summertime the only medical was an EMS, 2 Technicians stationed right behind Britt‟s, and an ambulance at Carolina Beach.

v18NO7 July FINAL PDF-003Ray and five others from Kure Beach and the Monkey Junction area went to the Navy Recruiter, then located in the Wilmington Post Office, to join the Navy on August 11, 1955. They had completed all their applications and that was the day they were scheduled to be processed.

Ray remembers the Navy Recruiter asking them, ‘What are you guys doing here today, don’t you know a Hurricane is coming?” One of them answered, “that’s the reason we want to get off the Island!” Ray was the youngest and said, he did not say that. All the others were older and subject to be drafted, so they were ready to go.

Little did Ray or the others know that the Hurricane Connie (August 12, 1955) would destroy most of the beach, Connie and Diane (August 17, 1955) took all of the oceanfront, two-story, four-apartment building Ray’s Mom and Dad had. It also did lots of wind damage to the cottages they had. They did not rebuild the oceanfront, because insurance did not cover the damages from the ocean. They sold the property in the late 60’s and that is where Admiral Quarter’s smaller building now stands.

Ray remembers Kure Beach being incorporated in 1947. Mr. Lawrence Kure was the first Mayor. Ray’s Dad ran for Mayor once but Ray does not recall who he ran against. Back then there may have been a big total of 175 – 185 voters.