Oral History – Dorothy McQuillan – Part 1: ‘Carolina Beach’

by Ann Hertzler

Dorothy Farrow McQuillan was born in Wilmington, North Carolina November 20, 1937 the third of nine children – 3 boys and 6 girls. She was born at home where they lived on the Carolina Beach side of the swing bridge up on the hill where Pleasure Cay is now. Dot’s people used to own that land. She was delivered by a mid-wife, either Lizzie or Miss Hannah. But her birth date was listed as the 27th, the day it was recorded downtown.

Dorothy McQuillan

Dorothy McQuillan

As children they played under oak trees down next to the water where they went to swim. Dot was not a water person. Her Momma used to tell them “Don’t y’all cross to Carolina Beach to the inland waterway.” People would swim in what they know as the canal where drowning most likely happened with the tides. Some of Dot’s Freeman cousins were drowned there.

They were just children back then in the 30s and 40s playing stick ball and doing kids stuff – run and play and hop and skip and jump and growing up. They had an old play house where they used old pots to pretend they were cooking. They had a big open field with yellow white sand. They called white sand their rice or grits, the yellow sand was the eggs, and the poke leaves were the collards. The polk berries were used to make “pretend” Kool Aid. They walked all the way down Old Dow Road and picked plums and briarberries (blackberries).

They made dolls with clothes from old material and rags. They platted or braided straw for doll hair with ribbons. They called the dolls their children. When grownups were visiting, the kids place was supposed to be outside. As the older generations started dying out, they sold their land. Dot would like to see the area stay just like it is because if someone were to come in and take over, it wouldn’t be like it is now.

Dot’s family had a pump, a well, and a big tin tub for bathing. The water didn’t have to be heated in the summer – just leave it out in the sun to warm. In winter, water was heated on the stove. With no electricity, they used oil lamps for light. Their first radio – an old Philco – used a battery. Windows were opened when it was hot so mosquitoes got in. Windows had big shutters. An ice man brought ice. Trash, boxes and stuff, were burned in a drum out in the yard. They don’t want you to burn trash now because of the fire hazard.

No one worried about anybody breaking in and stealing. If people came through your yard and wanted some water, they would help themselves and leave you a little note saying thank you. Now you have to lock up everything.

Dot’s mother loved the outdoors – oystering and clamming. She worked at Carolina Beach cleaning motels and cooking for restaurants. Dot started working at the Chinese Restaurant when she was about 12. It used to be David’s Restaurant on Carolina Beach going down to the dock, just before the gas station, right on that corner near Hardee’s.