Oral History – Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. – Part 4

Interviewed by Ann Hertzler and Jeannie Gordon

The 1940s – 1950s

As I grew up, they built two cottages next to our house and in the summertime, she [mother] did a lot of boarding, too. She’d fix meals for people who were working. So we did a lot of boarding and a lot of renting rooms in the summertime. Then about 1940, there were six cottages built just below us, two on the road, then two, then two, back towards the woods. My parents bought them. At the beginning of the War the tourists weren’t coming down here much so the folks that had them built sold ‘em to us.

Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr.

Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr.

When the shipyard started in Wilmington and the military came down here, you couldn’t find a place to live, period. This place was very crowded and so little ole cottages were even rented during the winter. There was a camp down here. A camp down at Ft. Fisher and there was one right back over just beyond Cape Fear Blvd. There was a big one back there. It was just a summer camp. It was there just during the war, let’s put it that way. And after the War, there were a lot of the old barracks that were moved various places and there’s still some old barracks on this island that people live in.

Ethyl-Dow Plant, Kure Beach

Ethyl-Dow Plant, Kure Beach

After I got out of high school, I worked the summer at the Ethel Dow Plant until about a month before my birthday came along. I got terribly sick one night. My oldest sister took me to James Walker Hospital and they wouldn’t even let me come back home. They said he has an attack of acute appendicitis and we’ve got to take it out. So they took my appendix out.

OK. Well, to volunteer for the Navy, you had to get a physical prior to turning 18.

I had to go to Raleigh to get it. When I got to Raleigh, the doctor said you need to go back home and recuperate from that operation more. So, I had turned 18, shortly thereafter, I had to go sign up for the draft. And it was March of ’45, they drafted me into the Army. I’m about as young a World War II veteran as there is. I was sent to the Pacific. And they put us on a troop ship and sent us to the Pacific.

Corps of EngineersI graduated from State in ’52, went to work for the Corps of Engineers in Savannah, Georgia, and I went to the Jacksonville District and worked down there for 6 months, Corp of Engineers. I left the Corp and came to Polk Air Force Base and worked there about 2 years. At that time, just my mother and father were in the house and my father was sick. And I was trying to get back, close to Wilmington. I was still single, and it was 1957 before I got back. Was transferred to Wilmington with the Corp of Engineers. And I was single and I stayed right with my parents, to help them.

My dad passed away but my mother was still in the house and I stayed there with her until I fell from grace in 1966 and married a young Vietnam War widow who had 3 little girls. And then that’s when we moved to Pine Valley. I was still working for the Corps during that time. And then we had 2 little girls, and I had a female dog in the back yard and I said, My Lord, change the recipe and with all these girls, we’d better quit.

And so with 5 girls and a female dog, I had to be a benevolent dictator.