By Everett Long III
In 1946, my father, Everett Long Jr. of Frankford, Delaware, started our family’s love for Ocracoke Island.
He landed his plane on Ocracoke for the first time in 1946. I remember him telling me that he landed on the flats on the beach and taxied up to a big block of concrete which used to be part of an old gun mount just north of what is now Howard’s Pub. I took that same plane ride many years later as it was quicker than taking all the ferries from the Delmarva Peninsula south to Hatteras Inlet.
I arrived on Ocracoke for the first time in 1950. My parents drove to Hatteras Inlet, and we rode a two- or three-car ferry driven by Frazier Peele who dropped us off just behind the north tip of Ocracoke.
Then we drove around the north tip and down the island to the flats where we crossed and went into the town.
We stayed in the Boyette Hotel, which is the Blackbeard’s Lodge today. Mr. Jake Alligood, who owned a small store close to the old firehouse, if my memory serves me right, picked us up very early each morning in an old WWII personnel carrier and took us to the beach. He brought us back each evening for a family-style meal at the Boyette Hotel.
Medicine was hard to get for some on the island. So, my dad always brought Mr. Jake his yearly cough medicine.
I am not sure, but I do not think that my dad bought the medicine in a pharmacy. The medicine had a black label and was named for a man named Jack. Regardless, it always took care of his cough which he got as soon as he heard my father was on the island.
When we checked into the Boyette Hotel, you were given a time (first setting or second setting) a table number and a seat number. If we missed the time, we went without a meal for the evening as there was no place else to eat on the island.
Many times, I did not want to go to the beach so I walked the dirt roads, and if I was lucky, one of the ponies would wander by and I would get a taxi ride to my next stop.
My sister and her girlfriends, sometime up to six of them, were taken to Ocracoke by my father and Mr. Babe Gum in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s. The girls really liked Ocracoke, but I am not sure if it was for the beach or the attention from the island boys each year when they visited.
When I got married, I wanted my bride to see and to know about Ocracoke. So we drove there for a couple of nights while we toured the Outer Banks. We stayed at the Pony and have stayed there many times since then with both my parents and my children. This past year my family’s fourth generation stayed at the Pony once again.
I remember sitting around the Pony and hearing Dave, Uncle Wallace and Dad talk about the old days one October day, a day when I caught a 50-pound+ drum. I wondered how the old days could have been any better than that.
I have tried to be on Ocracoke at least once each year since I first visited there. I was successful except for those years Uncle Sam thought I should be elsewhere.
Lately, I have visited the island every March with the N.C. Shell Club when we attempt to help kick off a good tourist season.
My father was not against a person having an adult drink, but I have heard him say many times, “That ABC store will ruin Ocracoke.” He knew that it would open up a different tourist trade and increase the number of visitors. He wanted Ocracoke to remain as he found it many years ago, but he knew he could not stop change.
In his late 80s, he left Ocracoke for the last time. He had moisture in his eyes for he knew it was probably the last time.
He would be shocked and hurt to see his beautiful Ocracoke as it is today after such a horrible storm. He always said the people on Ocracoke had an inner strength and fortitude like he had never seen before, and I am sure he would be confident that the people of Ocracoke will use that strength to bring Ocracoke back as she once was…for her citizens and for all of us who love her.
Everett Long and his bride, Nancy, avid shellers with the N.C. Shell Club, live in Cedar Point.