By Rita Thiel
Ocracoke of yesteryear is a glint in the memories of those who have called the island home for generations, but it is lovingly preserved and skillfully presented in Jeanie Owens’ book, “Images of America…Ocracoke” (Arcadia Publishing, 2018).
A recent newcomer to the island and the fifth-grade teacher at Ocracoke School, Owens contacted Arcadia, which publishes books nationwide that present a “curbside view of hometown history and often forgotten aspects of American life,” and got the go-ahead.
“Last summer, I was thrilled to spend much of my time in the upstairs library of Ocracoke Preservation Society surrounded by old photographs and immersed in Ocracoke lore,” Owens said about the project. “Ocracoke children are in my soul along with their families. As a new teacher at Ocracoke School, I wanted to learn about and understand the rich history and culture of my students and their families.”
“Images of Ocracoke” is a photographic compendium of the changing tides of island life, including explanatory text, maps, census data, interviews and other resources.
These images capture the essence of the families who not only survived but thrived through the harsh reality of an isolated island environment that governed their daily lives.
Paging through this volume is sure to elicit long hours of fond reminiscing and storytelling.
Old timers will remember people and places, such as Pamlico Inn (at the end of Lighthouse Road) that housed a dance hall and had delicious food prepared by Miss Annie Gaskill, or Stanley Wahab’s Coffee Shop in the former Odd Fellows Lodge (now the Island Inn) or W.C. O’Neal’s store, where he churned ice cream on many a hot summer day (destroyed in the 1944 hurricane).
Chapters with pictures and related text (“Keepers of the Light,” “Just Getting There,” “O’Cockers and Gathering Places”) present a wide scope of information from which to weave an understanding of the precarious, hard-working and independent nature of this remarkable island.
“This book was written out of a love for the island, its people, and its heritage,” Owens said, noting that she spent time with Philip Howard, Vince O’Neal and Chester Lynn exploring the stories behind the history. “I could not have completed this book without their input and guidance. I am grateful to the Ocracoke community for allowing me to become a part of such a special place.”
Owens used archived materials from the OPS, the State Archives of N.C., the Outer Banks Historical Society, the Mariner’s Museum, published works about Ocracoke and local historians.
A portion of the sales proceeds from the book will help fund the annual fifth-grade field trip.
“Images of America…Ocracoke” can be purchased on the island at Books to be Red and at the Ocracoke Preservation Society gift shop.