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Interview with Bruce Cameron, July 3, 2001 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Bruce Cameron, July 3, 2001
Date:
July 3, 2001
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Interviewee: Cameron, Bruce Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 7/3/2001 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 58 minutes

Hayes: Today is July 3, just before the national holiday. We are interviewing Bruce Barclay Cameron Jr. and I am Sherman Hayes, university librarian and Adina Lack, university archivist from UNCW and we’re interviewing in Bruce’s office at Cameron Properties and Bruce, we thank you so much for a chance to hear your story and the story of Wilmington through your time period. We thought, if you don’t mind, we’ll start at kind of the beginning.

Hayes: What are some of the early Wilmington memories that you have, a different time perhaps than now, but when do you start thinking about Wilmington.

Cameron: Well I didn’t have much choice, I started out here, born at the corner of 6th and Wright, lived in Wilmington all my life except for four years at the Virginia Military Institute where I graduated in 1938, and then four years in Uncle Sam’s Army starting in February of 1941 and other than that, this has been home base for the rest of the 83 years.

Hayes: Well with so many people moving into the area, it’s harder and harder to find to somebody who says that about Wilmington, isn’t it? It seems like…

Cameron: They’re getting scarce (laughter).

Hayes: But in the book that you were showing us, the Cameron’s have been here for a long time, right? You've been here for a long time, but your family has been here.

Cameron: My great great-grandfather Cameron got here about 1799-1800. The other great great-grandfather was James Barclay and he got here in about 1792 and was in business here from that time on.

Hayes: Now what was that name? Is that a Scottish name?

Cameron: Both of them are Scottish.

Hayes: Was there, from your sense, a large Scottish community that they came to, was that a pretty normal immigration pattern?

Cameron: Well I think North Carolina, I read somewhere in the last day or two, that at the present time, there are more cities that have the maximum population of Scottish descendants in North Carolina than there are in Scotland which is hard to believe.

Hayes: Wow.

Cameron: So a lot of the Scottish people settled here during the 1740’s in there when the British and Scots had had a big fight and they almost eliminated a lot of the Scots. A British acquaintance and friend of ours and mine who is Sir Donald Cameron of Lochille, and he lived near Fort William in Scotland on a 125,000 acre estate…

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Cameron: He lives in what they called the new house which was built in the 1740’s and we visited him one time in Scotland and he’s been to Wilmington twice, he and his wife, each time going to Scottish games in Grandfather Mountain.

Hayes: So do you think he may even be a relative? Did you track…

Cameron: No, I have a picture of him on the wall.

Hayes: But the Cameron name is a common name in Scotland.

Cameron: And the Barclay name and the Bruce name, all three of them. All of them were Scottish clans.

Hayes: That’s right, Bruce as a family name you mean.

Cameron: Badclay’s name was his father. INTERVIEWER: So when you were growing up, what was the elementary school?

Cameron: I went to William _____ which was near where I live, 5th and Meares and the New Hanover High School, the same one that’s New Hanover High now on Market Street. That was the only high school in the county. So fairly recently in the last 20 years…

Hayes: So was it as a facility a tremendous high school for the time, wasn’t it? But didn’t have a sense of overcrowding?

Cameron: It was the largest high school in North Carolina at that time because it was the only one here. Of course it was only white, they had a colored high school and a white high school at that time.

Hayes: Was it Williston at that time…

Cameron: Yes, Williston was the colored high school. Of course that’s all changed since then.

Hayes: And you, your dad was a business person in the community. I'm trying to think as you’re growing up, you had the 20s which was, was that a good time?

Cameron: My father didn’t go to college, but things were pretty tight in those days. He was born in 1890 and it went on back further than that. The older generation, James Cameron and George Cameron, they lived here from the late 1700’s until the Civil War. And during the Civil War, yellow fever I believe made a lot of people leave here. My great grandfather was too old to be in the war, but he had family and had some fairly young children and when yellow fever set in, he moved his family to Anson County near Wadesboro and they were living there when my grandfather was, he was born here, but he moved there when he was 1 or 2 years old, he was born in 1861. He died, his father died in 1864 which he was about 3 or 4 years old and his wife was left up there with seven children, the oldest one was 15 and that was in 1863. Those people almost starved to death. They didn’t have anything and couldn’t get anything. They were really destitute and that went on for quite a few years. They finally moved back to Wilmington, she did and they lived here from then on. Things were really rough and I knew my grandfather well. I was 16 years old when he died and I've heard a lot of the stories about what they went through. It’s hard for us to realize what those people went through.

Hayes: So he would have been, his father would have been in the Civil War? I'm trying to get that connection to that time frame.

Cameron: He was not in the Civil War, his father was not in the Civil War. He was in Anson County when he died. His great-uncle, who was his favorite person, Uncle Buck, the old man sitting and that’s my grandfather standing by him. I've heard many tales about him. He was in the Mexican War and Peron in the Civil War. He went off to the Mexican War when he was a young man. He didn’t come back for quite a few years. He was married and his wife gave him up for dead (laughter) and remarried.

Hayes: (Laughter) Oh no, what happened then?

Cameron: When he got back finally, he didn’t have a wife. His name was, we called him Buck. He was quite a character.

Hayes: So your grandfather then, did he, at that point, move back to Wilmington?

Cameron: Yeah, he spent the rest of his life here.

Hayes: So this is the grandfather on the …

Cameron: Father’s side, his name was Dan Cameron. My brother was named for him.

Hayes: And so that was nice, that you could, through your youth then you had grandparents that you could see and…I'm trying to get a sense of….

Cameron: When I was born, I had four great grandparents living, but I never knew two of them. I know them pretty well, they were Trask’s, Daniel Webster Trask and his wife Harriet and I had visited them in their own home when I was a little boy and I remember that down at the Masonborough Sound and he was a farmer who shipped the first lettuce ever shipped out of New Hanover County to New York markets.

Hayes: Oh yeah, wasn’t there a recent newspaper article. That was a good article about…

Cameron: The Trasks, most all of them were farmers. There’s still some of them around.

Hayes: Now we called it a truck farmer. Did they call it the same thing at that time?

Cameron: Truck farmer, yes, which I don’t know where the name came from. It meant there was vegetables really, the term truck for some reason and that was the big crop around here for years. I mean up until World War II.

Hayes: So what was their labor pool? Was that locals or did they have to bring in people like we do now? Both?

Cameron: They didn’t import anybody. They had plenty of labor.

Hayes: You know now for those kind of crops, we bring in many people.

Cameron: They would come in and pick up a busload, day labor. They didn’t need to bring in labor all the time, needed some you know at harvest time and that type of thing, they needed extra hands.

Hayes: Now that we know that your father is in the automobile business of sorts.

Cameron: Started out, the first job he ever had was with the Independent Ice Company which at that time, you know, they weren’t refrigerators, you had ice boxes. That was when he was a grown boy and automobiles were just beginning to come out. He was born in 1890 and he got in to that early. He worked for Mr. MacMillan, W.D. MacMillan, who was one of the very early people, he had a livery stable.

Hayes: Oh MacMillan started with a livery stable?

Cameron: Yes, MacMillan did and when automobiles came out, the nearest thing they had to mechanics, you know, were blacksmiths. That kind of worked that in to when transportation and around here at least and probably pretty generally, the livery stable became the early automobile dealers and the blacksmiths became the early mechanics.

Hayes: Makes sense.

Cameron: And I guess locomotive engineers and that type of thing, that was mechanical. Anyway at about 1919 and 20, he and Mr. MacMillan’s younger brother started to go in business and they started in 1920 a company called MacMillan and Cameron, was formed, and that was in April or May, the spring of 1920 and then Mr. MacMillan died about October of the same year.

Hayes: And let me get for the record, this is the first I had heard of the older MacMillan. The father …

Cameron: That’s Henry MacMillan’s, the artist’s father.

Hayes: Henry MacMillan was the very first MacMillan.

Cameron: W.D. MacMillan, they were brothers.

Hayes: W.D. was… Oh they were brothers?

Cameron: Yes, Henry was the younger brother. My father worked for him and later was in business with the brother.

Hayes: With the brother and what was the brother’s name?

Cameron: Henry.

Hayes: Henry. And then the artist is the son of Henry, because his name is Henry. Okay.

Cameron: He’s the one Dan probably told you about.

Hayes: Yes, he just said…

Cameron: Pictures are on the wall.

Hayes: Yeah and World War II artist. But I had the Henry and the Henry and I was getting confused of which…

Cameron: Well I have a very vague memory of Mr. Henry MacMillan, I wouldn’t swear that I had a memory, but I think I do because he died when I was 5 years old.

Hayes: Now you were a youth in the Roaring Twenties. Does that mean anything at all? I mean we’re looking back at the Roaring Twenties, does that…was it roaring for you (laughter).

Cameron: Pretty quiet I think (laughter). I’d go with my grandparents to Anson County about once a year and see the relatives that were still up there.

Hayes: Oh that’s nice.

Cameron: I remember crossing the Pee Dee River, there wasn’t any bridge there then. They had a float, a flat boat…

Hayes: Wow…

Cameron: And they had a ferry here, but there wasn’t any bridge here either, wasn’t any bridge across the Cape Fear River north to northeast. The ferry was at the foot of Market Street and they had two ferries.

Hayes: Now they would handle vehicles too.

Cameron: The Monock, there were two different ones, they going back and forth all the time. The road through Wrightsville was across from the same location as it is now.

Hayes: But would they handle auto traffic and everything on those ferries?

Cameron: Sure, they’d drive on and drive off the other side. That was up to about 1928, there wasn’t any bridge there.

Hayes: Kind of discouraged the development on the other side of the river, didn’t it (laughter).

Cameron: Well Brunswick County, wasn’t much over there. Most of the transportation, your water, merchants like Brooks building down there, they talk about brick buildings right on the water, built over the water actually at the foot of Dock Street. Mr. Brooks was a grocer, a wholesale grocery man and most of his stuff went up and down that river on boats. They’d load boats and they would go down to Southport and they’d go up Town Creek before you get to Southport delivering groceries and things. I remember going to my father one time down in Southport when I was a little boy, on the City of Wilmington boat, Captain Harper. It made stops at Horton plantation, it didn’t go up Town Creek, it was too big, but it went to Southport. Southport had boarding houses, Miss Kate Stewart. You probably heard of her. She had a famous boarding house there. We spent a night there and I remember she insulted the hell out of me, she looked at me, we were going to spend the night and she asked Daddy if she needed to put rubber sheets on the bed (laughter).

Hayes: Oh no, come on (laughter).

ADINA: You were young.

Hayes: Isn’t that funny that you would still remember that. She made an impression anyway. So you’re saying that up until some of those bridges and the boat traffic for just normal people was how you got around. That’s interesting. That’s a real…

Cameron: Yeah, come to town from Brunswick County and they came by horse and buggy or car, but with the ferry, of course, anything. They were going back and forth all the time. It wasn’t anything like the traffic that you have now. And from Southport, we’d go to Carolina Beach, that same boat would stop down by West _______ is now and they had a little railroad from there on up to where the beach was. That was a regular stop for that Southport boat there. That’s the way most people went to Carolina Beach then.

Hayes: Now you were in high school then in kind of the depth of the depression, right, I mean weren’t you.

Cameron: I went and got to VMI in the fall of ’34.

Hayes: ’34, you know that was from ’29 to ’34 was a tough time.

Cameron: It was right in the middle.

Hayes: Was there pressure not to go to school? I mean that was kind of unusual to go to even high school, isn’t it.

Cameron: Well I think most people had high school if they wanted. I don’t think there was any problem with that. Lots of people couldn’t go to college, but tuition now at VMI for an out of state cadet is around $20,000 a year. At that time, the first year, as I remember it, cost including uniforms because we bought uniforms and three meals a day for nine months and your uniform was like $900 a year for an out of state cadet.

Hayes: That’s still a lot though, I wonder what it would be if it was translated.

Cameron: In state cadet was around $700 a year.

Hayes: Oh so there wasn’t that much difference.

Cameron: A couple hundred dollars.

ADINA: That’s a lot of money back then for sure.

Hayes: Yeah, it would be interesting to see, it might be about $20,000 (laughter). I mean if you took the money back and translated it. Who were some of your high school classmates? Were there people who got involved?

Cameron: John Taylor is one that’s living. Henry Van Ossen.

ADINA: These are classmates from New Hanover?

Hayes: Right.

Cameron: Henry is a good friend of mine. __________ had the leading engineering firm here for years. Still living.

Hayes: Excellent. And the model was to stay in the community though. Did you have a sense that your class stayed and supported Wilmington or did they disperse?

Cameron: They went everywhere.

Hayes: Did they? Oh. Of course the war contributed to that as well.

Cameron: Oh yeah. I graduated from VMI in 1938. At that time, England had been in the war for I guess from about ’39, maybe somewhere right in there, and it was pretty obvious that something had to happen. While I was still out, it looked like England was going to fall and they came very near. About in the late 40s, General Marshall was put in. We really didn’t have any army. We had like 100,000 men in the military at that time.

Hayes: We were still reacting to World War I. Now did you have family members who participated in World War I? I mean was that a memory?

Cameron: No, my father was a little bit old and I did not have anybody close that was in World War I.

Hayes: I just wondered if that was still hanging over the city, the sense of World War I….

Cameron: No, nobody wanted to get in that war in this country, but Marshall, it was pretty obvious we were going to get in it. But General Marshall is one that really got things started. He started these camps, Camp Davis. The reason I went in early, they started building Camp Davis and they were all here, most of them at that time cause there wasn’t anything out there. I went in in February of ’41, see that was nine months before Pearl Harbor, that wasn’t until December. I was a Reserve officer. You kind of get the fever you know…

Hayes: You knew it was coming though, right.

Cameron: They had called the National Guard in September of ’40 and they were building up and they were training people just as hard as they could, building these camps. There were a bunch of them here and someone talked me into staying…

Hayes: We’d actually like to do World War II the next tape if that’s okay because what we have is a special program and we’d like to have that segment on another tape, but could you talk about the business community because we’re trying to get a sense, you know you’re one of the preeminent business people and I assume that it comes out of a heritage of working in business and watching business. What was Wilmington business like in the 20s and 30s. What was happening as far as business went?

Cameron: Well it was tight. You know during the 30s, there were a lot of people who were, I mean, really really destitute. People that had had pretty good white collar jobs hardly had enough to eat and people like that were working for $1 to $2 a day. Like building a road around Greenfield Lake, that was not government, that was local people paying for that to try to help out.

Hayes: And what was your family business in to at that time? What were you working on?

Cameron: My father, actually I’d have to say not in dollars, but he made his best progress during that time. He started out in the automotive business and then gasoline business. He never was a car dealer. He never was in that business. But with gasoline, he had service stations and later on automotive parts and that kind of thing. Also he was very active in the oil distribution business…gasoline of course for his own station to start, but then some major oil companies wanted somebody to handle it, the gas. They’d load a tanker in Texas and they would come here. One or two of the companies, Standard Oil, Exxon, had their own terminal. Texaco had their own terminal, but a lot of the other oil companies did not have terminals. In other words, they’d bring a tanker into Wilmington and they had to unload it somewhere and he started out with a bunch of oil jobbers or oil distributors around the state. They had, a bunch of them were going to build a terminal here to handle ships that came in. When it came around to putting up the money, well all of them backed out. My father’s side, he’d go ahead and try it on his own which he did. His first customer was the Pure Oil Company and he built a little terminal, still out in front of the ______ Street.

Hayes: One of those tanks is still from that time period?

Cameron: Well the terminal is. The tanks would be pretty old and probably most of them had been replaced. Same thing. He started and built it and the Pure Oil Company and pretty soon the Gulf Oil, they needed one, and he ended up with five or six different oil companies that he would handle products for.

Hayes: So that the person listening gets a sense of what this is, so he was a wholesaler of oil, would that be the right term?

Cameron: He was handler in most cases. He didn’t own it ever, but he would receive it in to his tanks, he would load it out to their tank cars or trucks, a barge or whatever method that he was paid to handle it.

Hayes: Well how did he make the money then as a fee?

Cameron: They’d pay so much a barrel to just handle it. That’s all they did. They never owned oil at all.

Hayes: Did he have to always make sure that it was full or did the customers generate the oil into his pipeline.

Cameron: He didn’t sell it. He would send it to another distributor, to a distributor say in Charlotte, and all he did was unload that ship into his tank and then from the tank to a railroad tank car at that time or trucks, how ever the major oil company wanted it to go and it was up to them as far as collecting the product and he had nothing to do with it. He was paid on a per barrel basis.

Hayes: And covered most of the state you think? Did he supply a lot…

Cameron: Anywhere they wanted it to go. He didn’t have anything to do with selling. Be a distributor, major oil like Exxon, of course they had their own, but just an example. That was the cheapest way to get the product around. That was before they had the pipeline. He was very active later on. They put a gasoline pipeline in coming from the west and it never did get built. The war came along and he died during the war. He died in July of 1944.

Hayes: Was he a young man at that point?

Cameron: 54 years old. It was right after the Normandy invasion. Dan was there and I was in New Guinea when he died.

Hayes: So that was an innovative kind of move on his part in the 1930’s to (laughter) to …

Cameron: Yeah, he was that kind of fella. There’s a lot about him in this book.

Hayes: Good.

Cameron: He probably, of course I'm prejudiced, but I think he was by far the best man that’s been around here in my lifetime. If he had lived as long as I have, I don’t know what he would have done.

Hayes: Well we are glad to know because I think so often with business people, they work behind the scenes and no one thinks about how your oil comes or how your gas stations get built or any of that, so it’s a fascinating…

Cameron: The shipyard came in, he was mayor. He was mayor one time. We had 25,000 people working in the shipyard, had Camp Davis, Holly Ridge, Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville and they had the Air Force base out here in Bleedingthal Field, B47 fighter base there. The population was double what they were going to have room for, but he was mayor during all that and he was directly in the North Carolina shipbuilding company and they built 700 ships here.

Hayes: Wow, that was a private company that did that? I thought it, I just assumed it was a government program.

Cameron: No the shipbuilding company was the parent company and this was a subsidiary of Newport Jews.

Hayes: And those were like a container ship. What would we call them today?

Cameron: Liberty ships.

Hayes: Liberty ships, but they were to ship cargo, weren’t they.

Cameron: Oh yeah, all cargo ships.

Hayes: But they weren’t like a destroyer or something?

Cameron: They used them for all things._______ went across the Pacific in a Dutch freighter, 2500, it was just about like one of these ships, 2500 people.

Hayes: It wasn’t a luxury liner I take it (laughter). Let’s talk a little bit about high school. Was there a pretty set curriculum? In other words, kind of like today, you didn’t have much choice in your set of classes or was there something you concentrated more in than others.

Cameron: I had a number of choices, can’t remember exactly what, it was equivalent to liberal arts. Most of it was pretty well set up. You had some choices as far as courses were concerned, but not much.

Hayes: Not much (laughter), kind of like it is today.

Cameron: At VMI, I got a degree in civil engineering.

Hayes: Okay and why VMI? I mean how did that happen? It’s very military right? You knew it was a military type of …

Cameron: We didn’t have much choice. Daddy didn’t ask us.

Hayes: (Laughter) I see. So he had a connection or he had …

ADINA: Did he just like the idea of it.

Cameron: At Bingham Academy where he went for a couple of years, they had a VMI person up there, at a little school up in Devon, North Carolina and I think that man impressed him greatly.

Hayes: Oh that’s good. Well I think for your generation, just going to college itself is quite a compliment because very few people did.

Cameron: I’d say half of my high school class, most of them went to a place like state college, Carolina. I don’t know whether you know Dr. Bayer, but anyway his brother was my age.

Hayes: Yes, I've met Sig.

Cameron: We went to VMI up there together.

Hayes: I just saw Sig the other day, he was helping out with ….

Cameron: Yeah, Sig graduated from VMI.

Hayes: Did he?

Cameron: His brother went with me. He got sick the first year and came home and went back and stayed until Christmas the second year, his brother Sam.

Hayes: You know we've talked a lot about your dad, but we haven’t said much about your mom, but she obviously had a tremendous influence on the family besides…what was the role, kind of leading member of the community, wife, did she have certain functions.

Cameron: Well my mother stayed pretty well to herself. She was a great mother. She was not a socialite, didn’t care much for that type of thing. She had five children and I was the oldest.

Hayes: So you’re the oldest and then who’s next after that?

Cameron: I have a sister, Hilda Eckles, and then Dan and sister Rachel and a younger brother, Bobby.

Hayes: And what was that spread from you down to Bobby? Was that 10 years, 15 years.

Cameron: 15 years, I'm 14, 15 years older than Bobby.

Hayes: That’s a long time to keep having a family.

Cameron: When I got out of the army Bobby was 10 years old.

ADINA: Did he go to VMI as well?

Cameron: He would have, my father was dead then. Otherwise I'm sure he would have (laughter).

Hayes: So tell us a little bit about those VMI years. Here you are in the depth of the depression and your dad has decided you’re heading for VMI and you’re shipped away. It must have seemed like a very long ways away, wasn’t it?

Cameron: It was then, about 340 miles, still about the same. The travel time is not much different. The roads are whole lot better now. You know mid-30 model automobile were pretty darn good cars. We have a lot of things now, better radios and air conditioning, things like that, big improvement as far as wondering whether you were going to get there when you left here in a car though, is not much different. It runs just as fast. Big difference in the price.

Hayes: So does it start in the fall? Does the whole group take you down to college and see you off down there?

Cameron: How did I go to college – well Sam Bear, Sig’s brother, Sig had a 120 Packard convertible and we had friends, David Oliver and David drove us up in Sam’s car and drove up to VMI and dumped us (laughter) and went home and there we were.

Hayes: And of course you didn’t have to take quite as many clothes because you had uniforms, right?

Cameron: Oh yeah, we didn’t need new clothes.

Hayes: Was it a dorm type setting so you…barracks I guess.

Cameron: We had three or four to the room. The room was not quite as large about from here over and they had these beds that would fold up. You’d roll the mattress up with a strap around them. It would roll about that big and stack those in the corner, there’d be about 3 or 4 of you and then the beds folded up. All together, you’d fold them up in the corners cause you had to get those out of the way when you got up. There wasn’t any room. I mean when you put the beds down, there was no room left, a table in the middle. A damn good place to be from, but a hell of a place to be at (laughter). Most loyal alumni anywhere in the school…kicking off a new campaign that was going to raise 150 million dollars. There were 700 students, about 1200 now. They were kicking off a campaign to raise 150 million dollars and Ray had pledged 100 million dollars to kick it off (laughter). Dan and I had been on all kinds of boards and things at VMI. I don’t know whether they told you, about Cameron Hall.

Hayes: That’s all right. Is it an athletic facility of some sort?

Cameron: Yeah, I have pictures of it in here. This is a picture of the oldest member of the family that I have any pictures of. He was born in 1797.

Hayes: Wow. You know, we breezed through that high school period without ever, we left the distinct impression that you just worked and studied, but was there any enjoyment during that high school period?

Cameron: High school?

Hayes: Yeah, I mean what was entertainment like? You must have had some, fast cars.

Cameron: I was glad to get out. I was 16 when I got to VMI, I was 16.

Hayes: 16?? How could you be so young.

Cameron: Well they didn’t have an 11th grade at that time.

Hayes: Oh that’s interesting.

Cameron: 12th grade ___________.

ADINA: How much did you work in the family business, did you work for your father quite a bit?

(A person enters the room)

Cameron: (Laughter). Hello, hey come in!

Hayes: Good to see you.

ADINA: You’re looking good.

(Other conversation).

GUEST: Good to see you. See y’all later.

Hayes: That was a visit from Dan Cameron from across the hall. Who knows the interviewers? high school…

Cameron: At that time, I spent most of my time with my grandmother who lived down on Masonborough Sound by herself. I stayed down there with her and rode the school bus most of the time.

Hayes: Oh that was nice. So you were an ocean person then, did a lot of boating?

Cameron: Oh yeah. From the time I was a little boy, I always loved the woods, hunting and boats and that type of thing. I have bought and owned a lot of woods type land. ______________________.

Hayes: I was just reading an article on the web when I was doing some background about 1500 acres out in the middle of the state that’s a tree farm. Do you still have that one? It’s a big one. What was that, Alamance County.

Cameron: Where did you see that.

Hayes: Just was a newspaper article or something, may have been several years ago, so I didn’t know.

Cameron: At one time, I had land in six states, most of it relatively large tracts of woodland.

Hayes: And that sense comes even from your youth. You mean you were just always interested in…

Cameron: Yep, I had 10,000 acres in West Virginia. I've got several large tracts in Tennessee, one is South Carolina. I sold off quite a bit of it, sold off big tracts in Virginia, Alabama. Still have quite a bit closer by.

Hayes: So did you have hunting partners? Was this like an activity that was a very common thing for guys to do?

Cameron: At that place now, about 8,000 acres in Hyde County that I've had for 50 years. I've spent 50 years going up there, turkeys, pine trees, that’s the biggest lot of knotty pine I've ever seen anywhere.

Hayes: Wow, that’s interesting.

Cameron: We've got bear (laughter).

Hayes: What county is this in?

Cameron: That’s in Hyde County.

Hayes: Golly, you are, well at another tape, that would be great, let’s talk a little about … Now did you take part in any sport or anything in high school because I would guess VMI was pretty physically grueling.

Cameron: VMI had a championship wrestling team and I was one of the people they practiced on (laughter). I never went varsity. Outdoors was mainly hunting and fishing, that type of thing is what I've been interested in. I never have been great, crazy about baseball or football. I’ll watch it, but really meaning anything to me or being a fanatic on the subject, it never has interested me in that way and still doesn’t.

Hayes: Did you feel like that outdoors helped going to college, I mean did that give you some lessons at all for…

Cameron: I don’t think so. A civil engineering background, I think, if you don’t know what you’re going to do, or any kind of engineering background, I think, if I didn’t know something special I was going to do like being a doctor or a lawyer and I was going back to college, I would take some type of engineering.

ADINA: I was going to ask before, did you work for your father when you were growing up in high school?

Cameron: Oh yeah. I used to be the motor on the elevator. They would get a trainload of batteries or tires or something heavy, and they had this freight elevator and it didn’t have a motor on it. It had a big wheel up top.

Hayes: Oh no.

Cameron: With a rope and (laughter) I was the motor on that one when I was about 12 years old, 13.

Hayes: But you probably didn’t rebel at working. It sounds like that was the normal thing to do, right? Today’s day, should you have a job, I think everybody had a job.

Cameron: I got paid. I got $5 a week.

Hayes: That was pretty good.

Cameron: I had another job. I got a dollar and a half a week for milking a cow twice a day seven days a week.

ADINA: How old were you then?

Cameron: My grandmother had a cow.

ADINA: Oh I see, at your grandmother’s.

Hayes: Now which grandmother was this that you stayed with.

Cameron: Cameron, the one I had a picture of.

Hayes: Oh good, good. And what was your bus ride?

Cameron: School bus?

Hayes: Yeah, that was a long ways, wasn’t it to get there?

Cameron: Well it was a long ways then, about 8 miles now.

Hayes: Well how long did that take you on the bus then?

Cameron: It would stop, you know, 20 times, there was always enough _____ on the bus, girls and boys.

Hayes: So were you part of the Lumina scene as a youth? Did you go over and take part.

Cameron: I remember going to Lumina way back when I was a kid, when you could park your car over on the mainland. There wasn’t any causeway at Harbor Island. In other words, you stopped at the waterway, there wasn’t any bridge and you’d get on a streetcar or beach car they called it and ride the rest of the way, electric cars. There wasn’t any bridge over to the mainland. The bridge over to Harbor Island, 1935, I was in the 2nd year at VMI when that bridge was built over to the beach. Up until that time, you parked your car then on Harbor Island. They had a big parking car garage there. Mother and father had a house about where the hotel was which was almost straight across the bridge. The liquor store wasn’t there then. It used to be a hotel there, but about where Stone Street, Station One went straight through to the ocean and they had a house there on the ocean side and the end of Stone Street.

Hayes: So is that when you started your boating hobby then too. When you were that young, did you do much boating?

Cameron: We used to have a house on the sound, Masonborough Sound, south of Wrightsville Beach about 7 miles and we stayed there in the summer. That’s where my grandmother lived later. We’d spend the summer down there and they had boats there. They had row boats at the time I could almost walk. Duck hunting there, row that boat a mile across the sound over to the beach. Had some duck pond over there. There wasn’t anything between the Carolina Beach Road all the way to Monkey Junction and of course College Road was not there at all then, but this other road ran all the way to Masonborough Loop Road. In between, there was not anything.

This lady, they lived back in there in a house that they lived in for generations and there was a house back of K-Mart where some of my great-great-grandparents, Horn, their name was Horn, had a house there and a few colored houses, maybe half a dozen at different places back in the woods and there wasn’t anything else from Oleander Drive to Monkey Junction. And that was the case up to the end of World War II.

Hayes: That’s amazing, isn’t it, to see that development now.

Cameron: I live out there on ________ Road now, part of the same tract of land the museum is on, about a mile back from Oleander, but there was nothing in there at all. Nothing. Where the hospital is, I lived there for several years before the hospital built the same house I'm in now and there was nothing, 17th Street was not through. It was not through until 1970, 1970 I guess would be about the time that hospital built there. But up until then, there was not anything from Dawson Street all the way to Shipyard, nothing.

Hayes: Isn’t that something!

Cameron: 17th Street was not there. It was wood all the way to Greenfield Lake.

Hayes: There wasn’t even farming land, there was mainly just…

Cameron: That old Federal Point Road, which is 17th Street, or 16th, and the museum is on Independence, that was Federal Point Road and it ran right on to Monkey Junction, through the woods, but there wasn’t anything back in there at all. There was an old, old schoolhouse in there about in the middle so a few houses around there had to walk to school. That was it. That’s only 50 years ago.

Hayes: It’s kind of amazing, isn’t it, because you see what it is today and you kind of believe it’s always like this. We've just got a couple more minutes and then we’re going to finish up this session, but tell us a little bit more about VMI. Was it strict to the point of being brutal or was it enjoyable? I mean what was the feeling.

Cameron: No, I don’t think it was brutal. It was tough. Right glad to graduate. Dan and I still have a great interest. We are in the position now we’re going to be able to start in the fall of 2002, we’re going to have, depending on whether a whole or half scholarship, out of state scholarships, which are about $25,000 a piece, we’ll have either five or ten in perpetuity that will come from the first choice will be the Cape Fear Academy. That was one of my projects. I had a lot to do with starting that school. I guess I've always been the largest contributor. But anyway if Cape Fear Academy doesn’t use them, it will go to New Hanover County.

Hayes: Excellent.

Cameron: And if they don’t use them, it will go to anybody anywhere else in North Carolina. So that’s, we’re meeting with VMI next week to try to get it firmed up. We had, Cameron Hall, when we built it, we put up a certain amount of money. I think two to two and a half million dollars 20 some years ago and that money was invested. That was all the money that was put in from outside. Virginia had an arrangement that for school purposes, they had some pretty cheap loan money so instead of using that money to build a building, they elected to borrow the money at a good interest rate and invested the money that we had put in in the early 80s, about 1979 or 1980. In the meantime, the 20 years have elapsed and the last payment on that building is this year which had been paid out at the rate of $200,000 a year for the last 20.

Hayes: But your money is still there as an endowment then?

Cameron: And in addition to paying that, the fund is now like 6.5 million dollars.

Hayes: Those were great years for the stock market and everything else. It was a smart move on their part.

Cameron: So that’s VMI’s money, we have a say as to where it goes, what it’s used for, but we’re endowing professorships, scholarships and a few other things that the fund maintain, Cameron Hall.

Hayes: That’s great, that’s great, good investments. Well listen, I want to thank you for today and we’re going to take up next time hopefully with World War II if that’s okay, if you want to share some of those memories.

Cameron: I don’t have as much to talk about World War II except that I spent four years of my life (laughter).

Hayes: Okay thank you very much.

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