Oral History – Jimmy Davis – Part 4: ‘World War II on the Beach’

Interview by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

About World War II. I remember the soldiers being here. That was a little army base right there. And then Fort Fisher was the big base. And about … you know where the little test center used to be, the LeQue Test Center in Kure Beach. There was a base back off of there. The main purpose for the guys was a recreation. Guys coming from over-seas – that had served over there maybe 3 or 4 years and they didn’t have but about 2 or 3 months to get out. They sent them down here for R & R. That was recreation. And they would let them go to the beach every night you know. Or do whatever they wanted to. But they did have some that was in training. So it was a training base but it was really set up for these guys coming back from overseas. Read on ..

Oral History – Jimmy Davis – Part 3: ‘Up and Down the Beach’

Interview by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

Oral_History-JimmyDavis_Pt4-1Now my first memories of Kure Beach are the pier and the Greek restaurant there. It was right on the edge of the pier. Just as you started on the pier. I worked carrying the papers for a while maybe when I was 15 or 16 years old.  And we’d stop in there every morning and get a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. He had all kinds of pies and everything. It was a good little beach but nobody there. There was a grocery store there, and a little post office; and a little 2 lane bowling alley, and 2 or 3 little restaurants there.

On what is now the Sunny Point land, you could go back there any time you wanted. The only thing that was on that side of Dow Road, was the old Dow Plant. It was down toward Kure Beach almost where that bad curve is they made poison gas during the war.

Now Fort Fisher, there was a pier down there at that time. Now this was before the army moved down there. You know there was an army base to start with. The history place, we didn’t even know them mounds was there during that time. That was just all woods. After the army moved out they started the museum and all that and started cleaning it off. And that’s when they found all of the hills and everything. We never knew there was a hill there.

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Oral History — Jimmy Davis – Part 2: ‘Memories of the Boardwalk’

Interview by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie GordonOral_History-JimmyDavis_Pt4-1

[Jimmy Davis was born on March 6, 1930 here on “the Island.”  The only time he ever left was when he was in the service.]

I went to Carolina Beach School on the Boardwalk. It was a police station, city hall, and one big room, separated with sheets.

It was only about 3 classes – like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

And then when the beach burned down [the central business district, in 1940], so they transferred us to Myrtle Grove which is on the loop road. That was just one big room. All the grades were mixed together.

They had a sheet – like maybe some of them would be studying something here, and somebody else would be over there, but they didn’t change. One teacher taught everything. Well, I really didn’t care too much for it. I didn’t really hate it.

Like I said, we was raised up poor. And a lot of times, we’d get up and there wouldn’t be anything to eat in the house… Just didn’t want to go to school. I went there maybe till the 2nd grade and then the beach burned down. [1940 – central business district]

v20NO8August2013 FINAL PDF-006Then I went to Myrtle Grove.  Later, when the new Carolina Beach School was built, I came back and went to the Carolina Beach School for 5th grade.

After 5th grade we went to Winter Park which is in town until you went to high school.

I think it was when you left Winter Park you went into high school, but I didn’t go to high school.

School Bus 1930's

School Bus 1930’s

We rode the bus to schools off the island, the bus left about 7 o’clock. They had a cafeteria. I had to carry my lunch to Myrtle Grove and over here too. We had peanut butter and jelly or bologna. That was probably about it.

We had homework, but had just spelling, writing, and arithmetic. That was the biggest thing until I got on up to Winter Park.  And then we went into history and things like that.

My grandmother’s house was a big house and they had three cottages; and a little sidewalk and a double shower… The only air conditioning was when you opened the windows probably – that’s the way I grew up.

There was electricity and water in the kitchen and bathroom but I don’t remember anyone even having a telephone at that time. None of what was down here was air-conditioned at that time. We had a little radio we’d gather around over at my granddaddy’s at night and sit there and listen to the radio – Amos and Andy …

My grandfather was a carpenter. He built all of these places. He built that big house and 3 cottages. And he done carpentry work other places. I don’t know where all he worked.

My grandmother was a midwife. I grew up in that age when you stayed at home. Women weren’t allowed to work. But she must have gotten called out to do midwifery.

Our little house had just 2 bedrooms. From the time I remember my two older brothers was already in the service.  But I had 2 sisters that lived there, my mother and my father, and my 2 sisters and myself. I was the youngest. I’m the last one. And the last one living.

My mother had a little sha-wa-wa – a mean little sucker. It just didn’t never liked me. You’d go in the front door, the couch was setting on this side. And she’d lay right under that couch. And every time I’d come in she’d try to bite me on the foot. I bet I kicked her a million times. Not kicked her hard enough to hurt her, I just kicked her away. Cause she never liked me.

There was one policeman, and I guess there were volunteer firemen, there wasn’t any paid firemen. They didn’t even have a fire truck. They just had a two-wheel thing with hoses wrapped around it and it set right beside the school-house.

The first doctor I remember was name Dr. Jordan. I cut my leg or something. His office was right behind the drug store. And he sewed it up. I’m not sure whether it was a broken bottle or whatever. But I must have stepped on it and it come up and hit my leg and went in my leg a little bit.

As far as going to the doctor when I was young, I didn’t never have to go to no doctor. I was never sick. I did have measles one time but that’s when you had to stay in the house. They put a yellow sign on your door. The doctor had his office next to the drug store.

I tell you, around the beach at that time, you couldn’t afford to get into much trouble ‘cause everyone knew your parents. There weren’t that many people around and if you got into any trouble when you got home, everybody knew it.

We would do little things, like on Halloween, go up and knock on somebody’s door – and run; or maybe unscrew their light bulb, if they had a light bulb on the outside or something like that, but we never did anything destructive. I could get up anytime I wanted to and go up to the boardwalk in the summer time late at night if I wanted to go up there I could go.


Oral History — Jimmy Davis — Part 1: ‘Memories of the Boardwalk’

Interview by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Jimmy Davis was born on March 6, 1930 here on “the Island.” The only time he ever left was when he was in the service.

His most vivid childhood memories are of the boardwalk.

The “Old Boardwalk” before the fire [1940].  “I remember the bowling alleys, and the old Pavilion where they had concerts on Sundays and didn’t cost you anything to go to it.”

“The way I remember the boardwalk was like I said, in the early years, I’d say ‘38 or ‘39, there was a big pavilion and they had dances upstairs and on Sunday afternoon they would have a matinee with the guys that were just coming along starting the bands. And they’d play for maybe two hours up there.

They had rides on the beach area, right up to the ocean front. Mr. Mansfield’s rides – hobby horses, Ferris wheels and all that.”

He says, “I remember the fire”

“Me and my mother walked up almost to the boardwalk there the morning of the fire and watched the beach crowd.

I remember things like that was little arcades where you could go in there and have your picture made and stuff like that but they didn’t have these electronic stuff sitting there at that time.”

Jimmy loved that boardwalk. “Some were local people but mostly from Wilmington, and maybe Wrightsville Beach. You know they had a big pavilion over there too. I remember a lot of people going from here over to there to the dances. But it burnt down when the beach burned down.”

Food was also part of the allure of the boardwalk. “We’d eat hot dogs, and doughnuts, Britts’, that was the best place on the beach at that time. There were hamburgers, and French fries. You used to could get French fries. And they had a cup like this, but it was sharp. And they would dice onions – and put a little bit of onions on top of it.”

The local kids would look for money under the boardwalk. Sometimes you might find 25 or 40 cents a day, “Some times more than that. See it was all boardwalk and it had cracks. And you’d go along in front of these restaurants and stuff like that… See a lot of them was kind of like a take out. And you’d just go to the window and order a couple of hotdogs and a drink and you would get it. Well they would drop money.”

“Naturally when they dropped it it was gone under that boardwalk. A lot of them always said they used chewing gum on the end of a stick. But I never did.

I had a little stick about like this, and round, and I split the end of it about an inch up. I’d take the back side of the stick and stand that penny or dime or 50 cent whatever it was -stand it up – and turn your stick around and go right down on that split and pull it right up. See you couldn’t get it out.

I always told them you can’t get it out with chewing gum cause it’s flat and it wouldn’t come through the crack. You’d have to get it on its side to do it. And then a lot of times you’d drop it. And if it went that way under the boards, you couldn’t see it to know where it was at. But the sure way was to have a stick with the split and just stand it up.”

Oral_History-JimmyDavis_Pt4-1Jimmy’s grandfather was a carpenter and built what is the Columbus Motel. He says, “They had that and three little cottages.”

His grandfather came to Carolina Beach from Brunswick County and his mother from Rowan County.  His maternal grandparents were Ludwigs.

Of his grandmother he says, “That’s the reason I was born on the Island. She was a licensed Midwife. Jimmy’s mother worked for the Bame Hotel. “She was over the cleaning service.”