Camp Davis, located between Wilmington and Jacksonville, NC, was built in 1941, as one of seven anti-aircraft training bases for the U.S. Army’s First Army, Fourth Corps.
Though there were originally five training sites as the reservation expanded, the Fort Fisher site — located 50 miles south of the main base — became the primary firing range for Camp Davis. And as Fort Fisher’s importance grew, so did its facilities.
Original specifications called for a host of features that would make the remote firing range a self-contained post. These included 48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building.
In addition to these facilities, the site featured a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach.
The crowning addition to these improvements was the construction of a large airstrip at Fort Fisher— an endeavor that destroyed a sizable portion of the once-formidable “land front” of the 80-year-old bastion. In these unstable times, national defense took precedence over historic preservation.
By the time anti-aircraft training operations ceased at Fort Fisher in 1944, the facility had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.
After the War
Camp Davis and its satellite ranges closed in October 1944, — with nearly one full year of war yet to be waged in both theaters of conflict. The government quickly sold off the buildings to locals – at fire-sale prices and many locals purchased them and moved them to locations, primarily in Kure Beach. Today there are quite a number of these buildings still standing, being used today as businesses and beach cottages.
Next Month: Fort Fisher – Part II
The Barracks Today
How many of the old Fort Fisher barracks can you spot before next month when we run a list drawn up by A. Kure, J. Batson and J. Dugan of the barracks that remain? Would you believe there are at least 49?
In the early 1970s, before they sold the Kure Motel, Punky and Jean began to build a house for their retirement years. Their house on Sixth Street South between J and I Streets, was completed in 1973. They moved in that same year.
Punky continued to work in the Chesapeake area of Virginia until 1981 when he retired from commercial flying. After that he had more time to spend on some of his favorite things and hobbies.
He was and still is devoted to Kure Memorial Lutheran Church. His family donated the land for the church and was instrumental in establishing it in the 1950s. Punky and Jean were both charter members before they were married. He helped build the chapel and later the brick church and was always lending a hand with projects along with ushering. Jean was very active, also.
Up until her death in March of 2018, she prepared the communion for each Sunday service for fifty years. Jean also sang in the choir and knitted chick covered Easter eggs for children and adults alike for many years.
Before the Covid-19 quarantine, Punky didn’t let being home bound keep him from attending services. Weather permitting, he rolled up the street in his hover round most Sundays and hopes to resume that again when it is safe.
Another organization close to his heart is the Fire Department. His father, Andrew, was the first volunteer Fire Chief at Kure Beach, so Punky was involved from an early age. When his father died in 1950, he took over as Fire Chief and remained in that position until he went to Louisiana for fish spotting.
In those days they had volunteer fire meetings in the Town Hall on K Avenue. (It was in a back room of the ABC Store which was in the building to the right of present-day Bud and Joe’s.)
Kure’s first fire truck was donated by Fort Fisher after WWII. It was a pickup truck with a 200-gallon water tank, a pump, and 200 feet of hose. Since there was no firehouse, it was parked next to Andrew Kure’s home on K Avenue. After the town was incorporated in 1947, fire hydrants were installed over the community.
The volunteer firemen held fish fries, bingo nights, and other fund raisers so they could build a fire station. By 1954, the four walls were up on Third Street across from Kure Lutheran, but Hazel came along and blew them down. They began again, and this time got the building completed. (It is now used as the Community Center.)
When a fire call came in, they would have to telephone the volunteers at home or at work. There were no cell phones back in those days. Only those who were not working or otherwise occupied at the time were available. Usually there would be at least two and sometimes as many as ten volunteers show up. Later a fire siren was donated which was installed on the water tower to call in the volunteers.
Kure Beach Fire Department operated as a strictly volunteer department until Harold Hagler was hired as Fire Chief in 2001. He had been the volunteer chief for over 30 years. The department has full time salaried firemen now, but still has several volunteer firemen. Punky still has an emergency scanner at his home to keep up with fire calls at the beach.
After the May to September fishing season came the Fall fishing in October and November on the Atlantic Coast. Boats would come from Louisiana and the Gulf region as well as from the Atlantic seaboard. Punky would start at Hatteras on Monday morning moving south about 10 miles a day all week down to Cape Lookout.
He would fly about 20 miles off shore in 200-300 feet of water. They would look for menhaden in schools that could be a mile across. Seventy-five boats would fish for a week on one school moving south and you could hardly tell there were any gone. The boats would take the catch to the five or six factories in Morehead City and two in Beaufort that processed the fish.
The fish were larger in the fall and more plentiful since they were migrating south and spawning too. So, fall fishing was more lucrative for all involved.
In 1968, Punky left the Mississippi River and Gulf fishing for fish spotting in the Chesapeake Bay area. He was based in a little town called Reedville, Virginia, at the mouth of the Potomac River. Reedville didn’t even have a stop light but did have five fish factories and a row of mansions along the shore built by boat captains.
The boats averaged 200 feet in length and were now made of steel and had a refrigerated hold to store the menhaden. Each boat would have a crew of 30-38 and still used two purse boats and nets to catch the fish.
He spotted fish in the Chesapeake area from May to September and then October and November for fall fishing until 1981 when he retired from fish spotting and flying professionally.
During his fish spotting years, the Kures were managing several rental cottages facing the ocean just south of the Kure Pier. Those cottages had belonged to his Uncle William, also known as Cap, who died in 1948. After Cap died, Punky’s parents managed the cottages and lived in the largest one. Punky and Jean took them over after his parents died.
In the early 1960s, they were sold and moved to make room for the new Kure Motel. In 1963 the first building was finished as pictured in this post card showing the pier in the background.
There were 6 units with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room and bath. Punky, Jean and Linda lived in the #1 unit. Later they added a second building that faced the first 6 units. Then they built a two-story living quarters/office on the front of their lot facing Fort Fisher Boulevard. Downstairs was the office where guests could drive up and check in. Also, on that floor was their living room, kitchen and Punky’s hobby room where he kept his Civil War finds. Upstairs were three bedrooms and baths. During January through April, when he was home from his fish spotting, Punky was busy with maintenance of the motel.
In 1973 they sold the motel. Later owners added second stories on the first two buildings and have added a third 2 story building. It is still in operation as South Winds Motel at 109 Fort Fisher Blvd, S.
Punky in 1957 with a plane he flew fish spotting near Empire, Louisiana
After Punky and Jean were married in Kure Memorial Lutheran Church in 1952, they settled into a garage apartment his parents owned on K Avenue. It was behind where Bud & Joes is now. During Hurricane Hazel in October of 1954, there were whitecaps in the apartment’s washtub with a storm surge of 17-18 feet.
In 1957, Punky was working at Babcock & Wilcox as a welder making $100-125 a week. His cousin Hall Waters told him that a company in Louisiana was looking for a pilot to work as a fish spotter. That job paid $1,000 a week, plus a fish bonus, so Punky left for Empire, Louisiana and got the job.
Empire was on the Mississippi River about 50 miles south of New Orleans. It was a rough and tough little town full of men working on the fishing boats, oil rigs, two fish factories and a Sulfur factory. He flew over the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico during the fishing season from May to September, weather permitting.
He would leave at daylight and often land after dark. The planes generally had 2 standard 18-gallon fuel tanks, which meant he had to refuel sometime during the day.
As a fish spotter he worked with a 150-foot big boat and two 40-foot purse boats that were attached much like lifeboats. He would fly 10 to 12 miles offshore to find the fish in water about 40-50 feet deep.
After locating a school of menhaden, he directed the captain of the big boat to the fish by radio. Then the captain would get the crews and himself into the two smaller purse boats. Punky would radio them directions to the fish. Once the boats were there, he directed them and the nets around the school of fish.
The purse nets could be the size of one and a half football fields. Then they dropped the 800-pound Tom weight which closed the net at the bottom. Once the fish were in the nets, the big boat would come to the purse boats and pump the fish from the net into the hold.
The Singing River alongside its two purse boats, 1959
The menhaden, very oily and not good for eating, were processed at two fish factories in Empire. First, they would press the fish to capture the oil which would be later used in the manufacturing of goods such as paint, varnish, lubricants, margarine and lipstick. Next the fish were cooked and ground into meal used in chicken feed, dog food, cat food, fertilizer, et
Louisiana was scorching hot with green head horse flies that would eat you alive. Even so, Jean and their daughter Linda went down and stayed about a month that first summer. The next year he bought a little trailer for them to use which they did for a couple more summers.
After that Jean stayed at the beach running the cottages and Kure Motel behind where Jack Mackerels is now. He continued working there for eleven years before relocating to fishing the Chesapeake Bay area.
During WWII Punky was a student at New Hanover High School. The war was much on his mind and he wanted to drop out of school and join the Marine Corps. It took ardent pleading with his parents but, they finally consented. It was 1944, and he was 17 years old. He did his basic training at Paris Island, S.C., and Advanced Infantry and Demolition training at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (his favorite). Then he was on to San Diego, California for Anti-Aircraft training.
Punky in his lifeguarding days, 1944, with the Kure Pier in the background.
By 1945, he was stationed on the light cruiser ship, USSBirmingham, in Okinawa, Japan. On May 7th, the Birmingham, with 38 marines among the 900 sailors on board, was hit by a suicide plane. Two of the marines and forty-five sailors were killed with 5 missing. Punky suffered a knee injury that would affect him for the rest of his life. After that the Birmingham went to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Three and a half months later, they were enroute back to Okinawa, when they received word of a cease fire. After that they sailed to Australia where the lady folks met the ship with open arms to the delight of the war weary men on board.
Then it was back to the states, first to San Francisco and then San Diego. From there he went home for 30 days leave before a three month stay at the hospital in Camp Lejeune and treatment for his leg injuries before being discharged. Coming home he went back to NHHS graduating in 1946.
He was glad to be back at the beach with his family and friends. One of those friends was Andy “Hose Nose” Canoutas. Andy’s parents, George and Lola Canoutas, had the Plaza Grill and Bingo on the K Avenue corner where Jack Mackerels is now.
Punky and Andy got certified at the Red Cross to be lifeguards with Andy being the first one at Kure Beach. In later years, they also went diving together with air tanks and scuba gear on Civil War blockade runners bringing up artifacts.
About this time, Punky decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and take flying lessons. His cousin, Hall Watters, who got his flight training in the Army Air Force during the war, was teaching at Pennington’s Flying Service at the airport then called Bluethanthal Field. Hall and his brother, Robert, were living with the Andrew Kures who were living on the highway which is now Fort Fisher Boulevard. The three cousins rode the Queen City bus to Pennington’s every day and back to the beach. Punky received a commercial flying license in 1947, but his intention was to just fly for fun.
L-R, Ed Lewis, Bob Orr, Judson George and Punky at The Carolina Beach Boardwalk photo booth.
Over the next few years he worked as a welder, fisherman, and a security guard at the Loran Station on River Road. He always had a good time and, as a bachelor he “played the field” with the ladies. He would take dates down to Fort Fisher and drive out on the Rocks over to Zeke’s Island for his own private parking space. But his dating days would end in 1952, when he married Jean Ammenhauser in the Kure Memorial Lutheran barracks church.
Punky Kure was born February 13, 1927, at James Walker Memorial Hospital in Wilmington. His parents were Andrew Emile Kure, Sr. (b. 3-30-1893- d. 3-3-1950) and Elizabeth Hall Singletary Kure (b. 5-1907- d. 11-28-1958).
When Punky’s grandmother, Ellen Kure, first saw him as a baby she said, “He’s a punky little thing” and the name stuck.
His family lived in Wilmington at 1504 Nun Street and spent summers at Kure Beach. In those days the only road to Carolina and Kure Beaches was the one completed in 1916 which is now called Dow Road.
To get to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk area you had to turn off this road onto Harper Avenue or Cape Fear Boulevard. It continued on to Kure and ended at the Kure Pier. Then it went for a couple of blocks along the ocean to his Uncle Hans Kure’s house, known as Kure Cottage, which is still there and has a FPHPS plaque.
His father worked at the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad as auditor in the freight department. As a boy his father would take him to see the dredging at Snows Cut during the Intracoastal Waterway project (1929-1932). He remembers the temporary wooden bridge over the cut being one lane.
He also remembers his mother telling him about her Grandfather George Washington Hall, who served the Confederacy being captured at Fort Fisher during the Civil War and taken to the Federal prison at Point Lookout, Maryland. The prison was known for its harsh living conditions. Point Lookout was on the Potomac River which flooded the camp at high tides daily. The prisoners were often fed rats, miraculously he survived and returned home to Elizabethtown.
Summers at Kure Beach in the 1930s were mostly spent with family since the 4 or 5 houses there were occupied by Kures and other relatives. The Andrew Kure’s first home at the beach was a two-story cottage on Third Street about where the gazebo is between Kure Memorial Lutheran Church and the parsonage. Their second home was at 217 L Avenue on the corner of Third and L Avenue and is still there. Their third home was in the first block of K Avenue near the corner of the main street now named Fort Fisher Boulevard. Punky had a great time playing with his cousins Son, Hall and Robert Waters. Their mother Mae Singletary Waters was Betty Kure’s sister.
The Kures cooked on a kerosene stove which was a big improvement over a wood cook stove. Their ice box was made of oak with a metal lining and held a large block of ice. “Big Charlie” came daily selling blocks of ice cut to order. Most of their groceries came from stores in Carolina Beach, but “Uncle Frank” and his wife rode the bus from Sea Breeze selling fresh fish, shrimp, crabs and seasonal vegetables.
The only phone was at the Kure Pier; it cost ten cents to call Wilmington which was considered long distance. Since there were only a few houses in those years, electricity was provided by generators. There was one for the houses and another for the Kure Pier and parking lot. They usually turned them on at dusk and off at bedtime. Crawford Lewis, who lived just before the Fort Fisher gates, would come up and get the one for the houses started. Uncle Lawrence handled the one for the pier.
Since the family lived in town during the school year, Punky went to Isaac Bear School for grades 1-8. It was on Market Street across from present day Brodgen Hall. He usually walked to school or rode his bike and took lunch until he was old enough to bike home for lunch and ride back to school. If the family happened to be at the beach on a school day, he rode with beach resident, Mrs. L. W. Fickling, to Wilmington. She taught at Washington Catlett School which served the Delgado/Spofford Mills area. In 9th grade Punky went to New Hanover High School.
L-R, J.R. Hewett, Robert Waters, Punky Kure, Son Waters, Jr., and Hall Waters at Kure Beach in 1936
Kure Beach – K Avenue Business District c. 1947-1953
By Elaine Henson
In 1937, Andrew Emile Kure, Sr. sold 40 acres of his land to the Dow Plant off what is now Dow Road. With part of the proceeds he bought a 1938 Chevrolet specially ordered with a heater and a radio, neither of which came with the car in those days. His new Chevy was black, the only color available at that time. After the car purchase, he built two houses and a garage apartment facing K Avenue west of the pier. Each cost $500 to build and $500 to furnish.
In the photograph above, the house with the black roof (3) was where his family lived. There was a living room and kitchen on the right with a bathroom behind the kitchen. There were two bedrooms on the left and a back porch behind them which was converted into a bedroom for Mary Rose who lived in to look after his wife, Betty Kure, who had heart trouble. Mary was descended from slaves at Orton Plantation. Her husband, Johnny Rose, built both houses and the garage apartment. Mary’s little daughter, Shirley, was born while she was caring for Betty and shared the room with her mother. Betty, dressed in her gown and robe, would walk across the street holding toddler Shirley’s hand to go to the Post Office. It was located between where the Arcade and Jack Mackerels are now.
Johnny Rose lived in town and would come on the weekends and sometimes weekdays. He was later in a serious brawl and lost his life. Their son, Emile Rose, is a retired longshoreman at Sunny Point. Andrew Emile Kure, Jr. better known as Punky, saw Emile about a year ago. Both men noted that they shared the same name and surmised that the Roses named him for the senior and junior A. E. Kures.
The second house was built with the same floor plan as the Kure home, but with an open front porch (4). It was used as a rental home. Behind that was the garage apartment (7). The downstairs had an efficiency apartment with bedroom, kitchen and living space. The upstairs had a kitchen/living room, bath, bedroom and a glassed-in front porch. Punky and Jean Kure lived there after they were married in 1952. They put in an oil heater and water heater. During Hurricane Hazel in October of 1954, there were whitecaps in the apartment’s bathtub. The storm surge was 17-18 feet.
Next to the rental house were two long buildings, most likely former barracks from Fort Fisher, that remain to this day. The first one (5) had John Flower’s Barber Shop in the back with Clarence Danner’s Fish Market in the front. Since 1972, it has been Bud and Joe’s Sandbar.
The second one (6) had an ABC Store in the front from 1949 to the mid-1960s and Kure Beach Town Hall in the back. East of those two buildings was the two-story white frame Ocean Inn (8) which had been moved there from its original location across the street after the Great Storm of 1944.
In 1947, Andrew Emile Kure, Sr. built a service station/café on the corner of K Avenue and Fort Fisher Boulevard (1). Punky Kure ran the station for two years which was on the left end of the building. The Café was on the right end. There was a garage (2) built at an angle to the service station. It was used for lubes and washing cars.
East of the station, garage, houses, barracks buildings and Ocean Inn were two rows of little guest houses (13) built by Fred Futch. He and Mrs. Futch also had a home among guest houses. Fred was an Air Raid Warden during WWII and was killed during a black out when a car ran over him.
At the end of K Avenue was the iconic Kure Pier (9) which was built in 1923 by Lawrence Kure, A.E. Kure, Sr.’s brother. He also served as the first mayor of Kure Beach when it was incorporated in 1947. Across the street was the Smitty’s building (10). Smitty’s was a restaurant that specialized in seafood, no surprise there. On the end of that building near the pier was Taft Russ’ Tackle Shop.
Number 11 shows three little one story buildings. The one on the left was the 400 sq. ft. post office. The next was Fry’s Fundy Café and the third was a small grocery store run by Linwood Flowers at the time.
Building #12 was the Plaza Grill, owned and operated by George & Lola Canoutas. The Plaza Grill had a restaurant on the end near Fort Fisher Boulevard, which also served as a bus stop for school children and Trailways/City buses. The building also had a Bingo Hall and at Beauty Shop on the main floor with apartments and rooms to rent on the second floor. Their son, Andy Canoutas, is the attorney for the Town of Kure Beach and has held that post for many years.
Kure Beach founders Hans and Ellen Kure emigrated to Wilmington via Charleston, S.C. from Denmark in the 1880s. They had four sons, William Ludwig, Hans Adolph, Lawrence Christian, Andrew Emile and a daughter, Elene H. Kure Shands.
Their son, Lawrence, who built the Kure Pier in 1923, later built a two-story, white frame building he named the Ocean Inn and Café, south of the pier. The café took up most of the first floor with rooms to rent on the second floor. This early linen post card, c. early 1940s, shows the Inn and pier.
In 1944, our region was brushed with an unnamed hurricane referred to as the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944. The worst damage was sustained at the Outer Banks. At Kure, the pier suffered a lot of damage and so did the Ocean Inn. The pier’s pilings slammed into it and left the building sitting on the beach.
After the storm, Lawrence decided to move it just north of the pier facing the ocean. He bought the lot from his brother Andrew Emile Kure offering him $5,000 when most lots were going for a few hundred dollars.
Later he built an addition to the Ocean Inn that faced K Avenue across from Smitty’s, the Post Office and Arcade. It was named the Trading Center which housed three businesses.
On the end near the ocean was Mrs. Davis “Home Cooked Meals featuring her famous ‘Mrs. Davis’ Homemade Hush Puppies’.
Left of her restaurant was the Trading Center where you could buy beachwear, novelties and drug store items. On the other end was the Fishing Hole Tackle Shop with everything you needed to fish in the surf or on the pier.
Above the businesses were rooms to rent on the second floor of the old Ocean Inn. The little girl sitting on the bench on the far right is Linda Kure, daughter of A.E. “Punky” and Jean Kure. Linda later married Clarence “Sonny” Danner whose father had Danner’s Fish Market which was located a couple of doors left of the tackle shop in the card above.
June 26, 1955, members of the Church Council are pictured in front of the cross in the new church: L-R Oscar Wren, Merritt Foushee, Jason Lentz, Rev. David Johnson, Bob Ford, Lawrence C. Kure, Bob Hooker, Fred Schenk and Bill Williford. (The photo was taken by Bill Robertson, son in law of Lawrence Kure and then owner of the Kure Pier). These men had not only planned and raised the funds for the new building, but were also literally the driving force behind the construction and must have felt a great sense of pride on that dedication Sunday.
The church already had a Luther League for the youth and they sponsored a Boy Scout Troop. They also had a weekday church school on Tuesday afternoons, a Women of the Church group with 34 members and basketball teams for boys and girls that played the other church teams on the island. Rev. David Johnson left in 1956 and was replaced by Rev. William Johnson, Jr. who served until 1957. Rev. Corley Lineberger came next serving from 1957 till 1960.
In the 60’s, Kure Lutheran started a kindergarten that met weekday mornings during the public school year. In 1962, they built a new Fellowship Hall and air conditioned the sanctuary. There was a fire in the nave in 1964 that burned the back set of arches and part of the roof that had to be repaired. Two years later they remodeled and air conditioned the parsonage. Pastors during the 60’s were Rev. Donald Loadholdt, 1961-62 and Rev. Ronald Weinelt, 1962-1970.
Next month: Kure Memorial Lutheran Church, Part VI