Ocracoke's history & its people

Early Morning at the Community Store

 

September 2009

By LouAnn Homan

There are places where we all go to tell tales, to gossip and to share stories with friends. We find them whether we are fisher­men, sailors, storytellers, girl­friends, storekeepers or just curiosity seekers. I fall into the last category and I don’t mind admitting it.

I have one such place here on Oc­racoke Island and I want you to know it as well. So dream away with me all you curiosity seek­ers.

It is early morn­ing and the sun is just creeping up over the live oaks with dappled shadows and heavy dew. I toss on my Ocracoke festival t-shirt and black workout pants. There is no need to comb my hair or put on make-up since the salty sea air will have the final say in my appearance anyway!

Today I walk, although I often bike. Even though it is early, the fishermen have long since started their day…telling their own stories and working the sea. There are walkers and joggers, mostly tourists. My morning journey is not long since nothing is far here. A few more steps and the Community Store is in my view, the heartbeat of the village.

It was established in 1918 as a small grocery store by Amasa Fulcher. The weath­ered white clapboard has been painted more times than anyone can remember. It is trimmed in dark green, a traditional Ocracoke color. I walk up onto the long porch, and the scent of fresh coffee wafts through the air. I walk on in and am delighted as always with the charm and beauty. The wooden floors are scuffed and worn smooth from the footsteps of those who have come before us. In the center is a pot belly stove which is fired up in the win­ter when the stories move in­side. On Friday nights in the winter after the tourists leave when the Nor’easters blow down the coast there is local music there.

Susan and James manage the store now. She and her sweet baby are just opening up for the day. We chat about the weather, children, and the tourists as I pour coffee, adding packets of sugar and fresh cream. I look around at the store. It is stocked for the day. I usually can find what I need. If not? I just change the recipe!

I finally move back to the porch to read the large chalk­board that is updated every morning with islander’s birth­days or new baby arrivals. It is our daily newspaper. I next check the bulletin board that informs us of fish fries, baby showers, or someone wanting to sell a boat, or hitch a ride to Raleigh. I settle back into one of the wooden rockers. Red geraniums hang from the porch posts and small sailing crafts bob in the har­bor. Folks begin to arrive to pick up milk for cereal, cokes and peanut butter crackers for high sea adventures, dia­pers, cigarettes or strawber­ries from a North Carolina farm. Captain Rob stops by for coffee before he checks on his schooner. I notice he is barefoot, as are many oth­ers. There are no shoe rules on Ocracoke. Everyone stops to read the news, chat or gos­sip about the previous day’s events. I take it all in.

I drink my coffee slowly en­joying every moment. The day is full of so many events that I need to leave. I pop my head into the store to say goodbye to Susan and head on home.

I will be back later in the afternoon to buy groceries for supper and to find out what has happened that day. The old timers will tell stories then. Maybe I will get to hear the one about Ansley O’Neal who stuck his knife into his wooden leg when he was done whittlin’.

Iggie will show up as well on his electric wheelchair. He will sit at the end of the bench for hours smoking and eating berry pies. Iggie, with spiked hair and masses of jewelry, is an island treasure. The locals all stop and chat with him, some tourists as well. I al­ways take my seat right next to him…not wanting to miss a word that he speaks.

I finally hop onto my bike and head for home to share my news and gossip. It is good to know that there will be more stories tomorrow.