Oral History – Brenda Coffey – Part 6: ‘Hurricanes’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Coffey

Brenda finished high school and went to work at a finance company that required a business course through Harvard Business School . Then she worked for the town of Kure Beach and the State Department of Archives and History with archeologist, Al Honeycut. He was in charge of Ft. Fisher museum and writing a master’s degree thesis. That was quite a bit of fun. She worked for the Health Department from 1963 to 1969, first in the clinics and then with Medicare.

When she started with the health department, nurses were not paid for making home health house calls, but when Medicare was started, nurses had to be paid for home visits. The nurses were not happy about making a charge to patients. Brenda didn’t work for about 11 years and then went back to work in a permanent part-time position for the Health Department about 1980.

Then in 1986, when their daughter went off to college, she decided to work full-time with New Hanover County Emergency Management till she retired in 2000. Emergency Management was tasked with coordinating local, state and federal resources during hurricanes and other natural or technological disasters. This was definitely an interesting job—never boring!

The first hurricane she remembers is August, 1944. There were no warnings issued for hurricanes in 1944. A neighbor came to the house and told her mother and grandmother (her father and grandfather were working) that a hurricane was coming and the last bus was leaving the beach in an hour. Her mother and grandmother threw some essentials in a bag, got Brenda, and caught that bus into Wilmington . As soon as the hurricane passed they went back to the beach. The oceanfront house they were renting had very little damage, but others were not so fortunate. read more

Oral History – Brenda Coffey – Part 5: ‘Politics, Fort Fisher, Seabreeze’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

 

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Coffey

Politics: – could be pretty hot and heavy sometimes, but all seemed to be friends after the politics were over. Some longtime residents thought it was a bad idea to allow the construction of big houses. They thought it would destroy the character of the beach. Brenda’s father was definitely in favor of the 35 feet height limit to prevent another Myrtle Beach. Brenda and her father disagreed oven the height restriction but she is now glad buildings are not higher so you can still see the ocean. This whole area was a maritime forest that held the land in place during storms, a beautiful wooded area.

 

Fort Fisher: – When Brenda was about 5 years old and living on the ocean front, she would watch soldiers marching in formation from Fort Fisher. Her mother was tall and standing by the banister on the second floor. Brenda could barely get her head over it. Brenda would whistle a wolf whistle and then duck down and hide so anybody that looked saw her mother. Brenda came close to getting a spanking. Her father thought it was hilarious. Brenda did it every chance she got until her mother wouldn’t let her go out anymore. read more

Oral History – Brenda Coffey – Part 4: ‘Kure Beach Celebrates’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Brenda Coffey’s grandmother was secretary of the Progressive Action Committee organized to make Kure Beach a town. In 1947 when Kure Beach was incorporated they entered a Fishing Float in the First Azalea Parade in Wilmington. (see picture below). 

Brenda’s grandmother (Ma Fry) is in the middle with the fishing bonnet. Brenda’s grandfather (Pa Fry) is on the back waving. The picture shows the little children that were on the float – probably both of Margaret Ford’s boys and Doris Stathus. Brenda had the mumps and couldn’t go. The fish balloons hanging over the side were put on the float to look like they were catching fish.

Kure's Fishing Float in the First Azalea Parade in Wilmington.

Kure’s Beach’s Fishing Float in the First Azalea Parade in Wilmington.

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Oral History -Brenda Coffey – Part 3: ‘Family Meals’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Coffey

Brenda’s father was a big breakfast eater and normally cooked breakfast – eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, grits, toast, or cornbread. Her mother would make biscuits. It was always something totally home made. Lunch was kind of incidental – a sandwich or leftovers from supper the night before.

Dinner dishes were often fried fish, fried chicken, fried pork chops, or roasts, and sometimes baked chicken. When Brenda got married the only thing she knew how to do was fry food. Everyone drank sweetened tea, really sweet. They never had Cokes or Pepsi, unless perhaps at a restaurant. Teenagers drank a lot of soft drinks.

Hardly any food came out of cans (and certainly not freezers). Her mother had a garden as did her grandmother.  They grew vegetables – beans, butterbeans, field peas, green beans, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, carrots, collards, and potatoes which they mostly boiled. And they had chickens. Brenda had to clean the eggs. She had only seen grocery store eggs and thought all eggs were clean and white. She didn’t know they came out dirty. She didn’t enjoy cleaning eggs a bit and she didn’t like the chickens either. read more

Oral History – Brenda Coffey – Part 2: ‘Kids in Kure Beach’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Coffey

Brenda went to elementary school at Carolina Beach for grades 1 through 6. The children caught the school bus on the corner at Canoutas’ Restaurant which next stopped in Carolina Beach. All the Beach children, probably 25, were bussed to Sunset Park for 7th, 8th and 9th grade crossing over the swing bridge. Everyone sang. The children threw wadded paper but the boys always got caught. Brenda went to New Hanover High School graduating in 1959. The trip was 55 minutes into school and the same amount of time home at night.

Mr. Andrew Kure walked through the little alley way between Fundy’s Restaurant and Canoutas’ buildings and dropped coins for Brenda to find almost every day– a penny, a nickel, or a dime. That was a lot of money then. He would wait and see Brenda’s reaction when she would pick it up. She didn’t know he was dropping it until much later.

What did kids do? Brenda was allowed to go to the beach in the day time, but not after dark. Brenda loved to play miniature golf at Big Daddy’s corner as did all of the kids from the beach. They’d say, let’s all go to the beach and they would all go down carrying their blankets. You always carried a blanket. Nobody had chairs. No one had cars. They might go body surfing. Fishing was a main thing. There was always somebody to play with or some place to go. They’d play in the water, go for walks on the beach, look for shells, sit out on the pier, just talk, and be a teen. It was an innocent time. read more

Oral History – Brenda Coffey – Part 1: ‘Living at Kure Beach’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Lee Fry was named for her mother Mary Lee Tyler Fry; her father was Therman J. Fry also know as “Fundy”. Her grandparents were Charles Brover Fry and Ada Sesoms Fry, better known as Ma and Pa Fry. The families moved here in 1943 when Brenda was a little over 2 years old. It was war-time. Her father and grandfather worked in the shipyard in Wilmington and then moved to Kure Beach.

After the war they ran Fundy’s Restaurant. The restaurant was on the south side of the pier on K Avenue. Brenda loved being at the restaurant. Next door to Fundy’s was a little grocery store run by Linwood Flowers. Next door was the small post office. The first post mistress was Mitsn Saunders somewhere mid 1945 to 46. She heard that Mitsn taught school because she always corrected incorrect English.

Fundy’s Restaurant was open in 1946 and 47. They had a serving bar with stools and probably just a few booths serving 35 or 40 people. Fundy’s menu is shown. They prepared all the food – country-style steak, fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ, and snow cones. They had also operated a BBQ house in Lumberton. Brenda’s mother cooked all the delicious desserts including chocolate pies, fried apple pies, coconut cake and pound cakes. Her father had worked for an automotive parts distributor in Wilmington, and later owned his own automotive business for many years.

They first rented an ocean front house, about 4 blocks south of K Avenue. During World War 11, the rent was controlled by the government. Hurricane Hazel destroyed this home in 1954.

Fundy’s Restaurant 1946 - 1947

Fundy’s Restaurant
1946 – 1947

Around 1946 they bought lots at 109 and 113 South 3rd Street from L. C. Kure. The lots were all 50 by a 100 feet. Their houses were barracks from Fort Fisher purchased for almost nothing after WWII. But you had to pay to move the barracks. Brenda’s Daddy had three barracks moved to the lots – one was for a workshop. Her grandparents lived beside them.

The houses had 3 bedrooms, and a long open living room, dining room, kitchen and bath. They had an electric refrigerator, gas stove, kerosene heater, a septic tank and a well. They didn’t have TV until the late 50s. The phone came probably in the 50s – a party line. They washed dishes by hand.

The round, electric washing machines had ringers on the top. Brenda’s mother filled the washer from the house, the wash water and the rinse water. White sheets and other white things were washed first; and then all the heavy wet washed clothes were lifted up and put through the ringer. The water ran back into the washtub and the washed clothes went into the rinse water. The next batch of clothes was put in the wash water. You started rinsing and picking up the heavy wet, clean clothes and taking them outside to hang on the line. Brenda’s Mother wouldn’t let her near the ringer because Brenda might catch her fingers in the ringers.

Her Mother bought groceries from the A&P at Carolina Beach, located on the corner of Lake Park Blvd and Cape Fear Blvd in the building that is now called Ocean Variety. Later the A&P moved to Cape Fear Blvd where the Sea Merchant is located. It was the only place to buy groceries then unless you bought them from the little grocery store beside Fundy’s restaurant.

Brenda gave Kure Beach town hall a copy of minutes of the Kure Beach Progressive Association that describes their meetings in the 1940s and earning money to buy a fire hose and a fire truck (see our December 2011 Newsletter)

There was only one policeman in Kure Beach. The firemen were volunteers. The first permanent doctor Brenda remembers was Dr. Claude H. Fryar at Carolina Beach who moved to the beach 1952. She remembers Dr. Fryar making a house call to give her a shot when she had the flu.

Brenda remembers a passenger plane that crashed near Bolivia, NC on January 6, 1960, when a bomb planted on board exploded in mid air killing 34 people. Pieces of the plane fell on Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. The plane was a DC6, National Airline Flight 2511 from New York to Miami.