Interview with Bruce Cameron, August 1, 2001 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Cameron, Bruce Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 8/1/2001 Series: Southeastern North Carolina (SENC)
Hayes: Okay, today is August 1st, 2001. We’re visiting again with Bruce Cameron, Adina Lack, university archivist and Sherman Hayes, university librarian.
Hayes: And today we’re picking up about 1945 and if you’ll just get us started, you told a story about being called back and finally coming home. What happened then? What did your life turn into after the war.
Cameron: Well when I got home, my father had just died a few months before and I was put in charge of his business which was the family business. Dan was still overseas, my brother Dan, and that was about the time, a few months after the Normandy invasion. European fighting everybody thought, including Eisenhower, said it was going real well and that the war would soon be over by Christmas and that was about the time the Germans decided that it wasn’t time for it to end and the Battle of the Bulge took place and it almost threw our complete invasion out of kilter and it did delay a good many months after Christmas of 1944. Where I was at home, I was trying to get things straightened out and business wise, things were still going on a wartime basis here, building ships. Things were still rationed. There wasn’t much changed as it had been locally. Of course the war was eventually over. In the meantime in spring, Germany was defeated in the spring of ’45. The atomic bomb was dropped in August of ’45 and the war of course came to a screeching halt then. That was it.
Hayes: So give us a sense of what, when you say the family business, what did that involve at this particular point in your history?
Cameron: The main most important part was the operation of the oil terminals here, Cape Fear Terminal which was probably mentioned before, the receiving and disbursement of petroleum products into Wilmington, Cape Fear Terminal at Market Street, the terminal that my father had built and operated which was engaged in receiving tanks, ocean going tanks with gasoline petroleum products and disbursing them into trucks and rail, whatever method, barge up the river.
During the wartime, river barge into Fayetteville was a normal operation, but during the war, the barges were used up and down the coast to carry products without going into ocean and receiving products. They had had such a bad time with tankers being torpedoed off the North Carolina coast. When the war ended, that relieved all of that and things began to settle back. Troops started coming home. Went through a period when as fast as they could, the country was trying to convert back from wartime footing to normal footing.
Automobiles, I don’t remember exactly, but within six or seven months began to having a new car show up here. At a premium, people, everybody needed a car. The ’40 Model really was the last car, a few ’41 Model cars, but …
Hayes: Yeah, you forget that, that was a lot of production.
Cameron: No new cars had been produced in five or six years. Tires, everything had been scarce. Gasoline had been rationed. Getting a new set of tires was almost impossible and that began to lighten up. Soldiers coming home…
Hayes: I wanted to ask you, I mean this is many years later and you’re an experienced business person, but what was your mindset, you hadn’t been in business per se. I mean you had been in the military, in college, I mean all of a sudden, you’re head of a pretty large business.
Cameron: I had been in business since 1938. I graduated and attended the military institute in 1938.
Hayes: So you had a couple years there that…
Cameron: Yeah, from that time until February of ’41, I had been in business, the same business and that was the only reason….
Hayes: So you were comfortable, this was something you had done. Did you also get pulled into the shipyard? I know your dad had been involved in that.
Cameron: No, I didn’t have any involvement in that because the shipyard had operated here for quite a while before Pearl Harbor and they were, they had launched the first ship, I believe, before Pearl Harbor and I was still in Wilmington then. Of course, the shipyard ran on for a while. It came probably as fast as they could curtail it, it was in motion. Of course, they had employed up to 25,000 people I believe at one time in Wilmington. Of course everything at the beaches had been full of people and stacked up on top of each other. Any place that would hold anybody was occupied. Of course all that was disbursing and things were kind of a real letdown as far as local business for a period of time there.
Hayes: Did you feel it? I mean your business felt it?
Cameron: Yeah, I'm sure. It didn’t affect things like petroleum overall, local conditions didn’t have much to do with that. Retail business we were in, retail business, McMillan and Cameron Company at the corner of Third and Chestnut was the main operating place and we had wholesale automotive parts and accessories and had several stores, branch stores scattered around New Bern and Lumberton.
Hayes: So did that take off after the war too? I mean people had cars…
Cameron: Of course for a while, with all the old cars and no new ones, it was a good business. I’d say business was more or less normal around here. Nothing drastic had happened. My brother Dan had a whole lot to do, I think more than anybody else, in helping to locate things. He was mayor in the late 50’s and when the Coastline announced that they were going, I'm sure he told you the story of that…
Hayes: And did you, yourself, do politics? Were you involved?
Hayes: Never had an interest?
Cameron: No (laughter). One was enough.
Hayes: (Laughter) Well your dad too, I remember.
Cameron: Dan was always a lot better politician than I was. Dan did more to help us over the, getting over the Coastline leaving than I think anybody else. He was largely responsible for the Committee of 100 being formed. That outfit, along with a lot of other things, enabled us to acquire quite a bit of help from industries that had been here a long time, some of them leaving now like DuPont.
Hayes: Oh boy.
Cameron: But they've been here since…40 years.
Hayes: Now you’re…one legacy that obviously you bring to this area is as a developer. Would that be a fair statement? You know, you’re involved in real estate and building things. When did that start? What was the motivation, was that an early process or ….
Cameron: I don’t know that I would be known as a developer. I've always been interested in land and bought the first big tract of land. But really the only significant piece of land I’d bought up to that time was in 1950 I bought a tract of land in Hyde County, woodsland, timberland, sounded like all the land in the world to me. I never had thought in terms of more than 50 acres and this was a 6,000 acre tract.
Hayes: Wow, now where is that county?
Cameron: Hyde County, North Carolina.
Hayes: Give me an orientation, part of the state.
Cameron: Near Lake Mattamuskeet, it’s about 40 miles east of Washington, North Carolina. I still have that piece of land.
Hayes: Good, is that a tree farm?
Cameron: Well yeah, timberland. With that as a start, I've bought from there up to now, bought and sold land.
Hayes: Well you’re being modest about it because there’s an awful lot of things around here that if we trace back and we’re going to go over some of them, are Cameron developments or properties. Have you ever thought to yourself why you took that route? I mean your brother seemed to go in the television…you know he got interested in the television, but anything about that that was exciting?
Cameron: No, because I've been involved into anything that we've done practically, television, Pepsi Cola, I've always been involved in it. Dan, television and Pepsi Cola, had been the lead as far as the family is concerned. Since I was 7, 8 years old, I’d always loved the woods and had spent a lot of time for some reason wandering around, walking in the woods and hunting. I always liked to hunt. My daddy didn’t hunt, my grandfather didn’t, neither one of them hunted and from the time I was 7-8 years old, I’d been, still am, I guess that started me loving woodsland and still do.
Hayes: That’s great.
Cameron: And I've owned land in six states at one time, bought and sold cut timber.
Hayes: You had the family business and you kind of got out of that, right? Was that late 50’s…I mean McMillan….
Cameron: McMillan and Cameron…we sold out about 25, 28, 29 years ago that we sold McMillan and Cameron. At that time, we were into Pepsi Cola and into television and also into a number of other things. Land, we had started in development of some kind. I’d always had a tract that we’d develop on Shipyard and Independence.
Hayes: Now did that come from family? I mean that went way back as a farm. Was that in your family?
Cameron: Some of that land that we have now had gone to my great grandfather. His name was Daniel Webster Trask. And through my grandmother, she left it to me and that’s some of the same land that the museum is on, PPD is on and Barclay Commons.
Hayes: Yes, I was going to say, we might describe it for the people, it’s kind of…
Cameron: Pine Valley, that same tract of land, same man owned. See Trask, my grandmother Cameron was Rachel Trask and George Trask, her brother, and another one of her brothers and a sister had owned a larger tract of land and he left it to his children, Daniel Webster Trask did and Pine Valley was George Trask’s land and Elliott Trask, one of his brothers, ended up owning that and they developed Pine Valley. At that time, Pine Valley, their tract didn’t even touch Shipyard Boulevard. Along where the church is that would be Robert E. Lee Drive. I let Elliot cut a piece of land there to get through to start developing Pine Valley. But I didn’t do anything with this other tract until much, much later.
Hayes: And your tract was along Shipyard both sides?
Hayes: And were your…what is the development, very nice houses, between the hospital and Shipyard, was that your property too?
Cameron: No, the corner of my tract of land was right in the center of what is now 17th and Shipyard. Wachovia Bank there would have been half on my land and then half at that time Mr. Hill, owned that other adjoining tract there. My land now runs out to Shipyard on the north side where that building is, where the doctors’ building, the new building built a couple of years ago, back of the Wachovia Bank. Neither of those buildings are on it, but the newest building adjoins my land. It runs on from there down to where the telephone building is.
Hayes: Going in that large, very nice housing development, I'm sorry, I don’t know the name of it, was that the boundary, did you develop those houses behind the kind of wall that goes on on Independence.
Cameron: Independence East are you talking about?
Cameron: That was part of my tract..
Hayes: I guess I should ask you to help us define, there’s a land owner who buys and sells land and then there’s a developer. So what would be the difference there? You've probably been both of those, right?
Cameron: I guess so. Barclay Commons is part of it, those four corners there where the apartments are now, that was part of it and then all of Barclay Commons and the stuff that’s over caddy-corner on the northeast corner there now, that’s part of it. Old telephone building on Shipyard…
Hayes: But what’s the role of a developer then? What does that mean where somebody is…
Cameron: I guess it could mean most anything. You usually think in terms of somebody that subdivided a piece of land and builds houses. Of course, he could be a commercial developer and develop shopping centers. David Swain, for instance, that’s his, he has developed Landfall Shopping Center in there. Both could be developers. Some are residential and some are commercial, they’re all different categories. They’re all developers really.
Hayes: And you've been all of those.
Cameron: To some extent.
Hayes: So give us a sense, you know this is kind of an eye opener for a future business student who says I want to be a developer. What is that, is it a dealmaker or are you a builder or are you….
Cameron: I guess either one of them (laughter).
Hayes: (Laughter) He’s letting me define it. I'm trying to get him to ….
Cameron: I think it could cover a lot of territory.
Hayes: So let’s take, kind of like a model like Barclay which is fairly recent, right? What would a development firm do? What’s the role then of your firm in something like that? You get the land, you had the land.
Cameron: Yeah, well I guess you’d decide, it depends a lot on your location, price of your land, amount of traffic, number of people in a radius of a half a mile and some distance. The desirability would be determined depending on what it was, residential, accessibility to where you wanted to go on a routine basis, where you went to shop. A lot of people, it depends on how close you are to the hospital, that’s a big point with a lot of older people, you know. They want to be as close as they can get to a hospital or a doctor.
Hayes: So first you have to decide what you think is the best use for it, right?
Cameron: Yeah. See in the case of Barclay Commons was the fact that I’d been negligent and hadn’t done anything with that land for 40 or 50 years. Everything around from Carolina Beach, there was a big buildup in population and otherwise and it left it pretty centrally located. With the roads going through the way they do, Independence and Shipyard and 17th Street, it made it routinely accessible to a lot of people going one way or another and normal daily activities would take a lot of people through or by, and it was convenient. As for downtown being more or less, in my opinion, changed from where it had been the center of everything, where things took place to what it is now, mostly night…restaurants. In other words, there’s not much real business there. One time Belk’s was downtown, Sears Roebuck was downtown, you didn’t have Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Really business of that type was…all your lawyers were there because they were close to the courthouse. Doctors were all in the Merkason Building downtown.
Hayes: So that was the center really…
Cameron: Yeah, but that’s all disbursed now.
Hayes: And when did that start to happen, in the 60’s pretty much? Started to break out or cause even Pine Valley was way out here then, wasn’t it?
Cameron: Oh yeah, way out in the sticks (laughter). It was gradual I think. Branch banks started, all the banks that used to be downtown, that was it and now if I was a bank and building a main office, it wouldn’t be downtown. It’s been gradual, but the population has increased so much from say, really when you moved the wartime people out of here say in 1945 and 46, the population left and there was nothing but about 40,000 I believe in Wilmington.
Hayes: The whole county is over 150,000, isn’t it?
Cameron: More than that I believe. And it’s scattered everywhere. People that lived on down on the sound at that time, you were living way out of town, you know. It built up solid all the way. At the end of World War II, the only buildings on Oleander, on the south side of Oleander was the Oleander Court Apartments until you got to Winterpark and that road went up 300 yards, maybe a quarter of a mile going south and that was it. It was a dirt road from then on. I guess Shipyard was paved, probably came in there during the war. They did that to get to Shipyard, but there wasn’t anything in there and it curved and went on where it does now. Shipyard’s still the same, but nothing went further south on College Road going to Monkey Junction. There wasn’t anything…Monkey Junction on the Masonborough Loop Road, you know where I'm talking about, and the Carolina Beach Road, there wasn’t a half a dozen houses from there to Monkey Junction in 1945.
Hayes: And they probably weren’t very palatial houses either (laughter).
Cameron: The people lived back in the woods.
Hayes: Back to Barclay Commons, okay. So you've now decided as a company or yourself what you think is a good model, right, mix of what you want to put in here. And what’s the next stage, are you the builder or do you hire a builder or…
Cameron: We’re not builders. There is a map I showed you a while ago, the plans for the triangle in there between Shipyard, Independence and 17th Street, trying to let the PPD’s in at Barclay Commons and there’s an overall plan for that for a mixed use. We’re working on that plan. I think now they’re asking for a little bit of change, but basically it’ll be a mixture of some residential in there. More for families. There’s a day school planned to go in probably adjoining the PPD parking lot. A group of doctors has just entered the building that they own, they built the building facing Shipyard, I mean Independence now. PPD is expanding into the building next to this building, a good way from where their main office is. It’s not their building, but they’re still growing and they just leased a couple of floors. It’s a new building that hasn’t even been occupied yet. It’s on Independence and there’s another building right in back…The old building is on Shipyard and it’s going up now and it’s fully leased. A bank is going in on the corner of, the next corner on Independence going east from Barclay Commons. A bank is scheduled to go in there now.
On the other side, across the street, next to the Alzheimer's place is the credit union going in now. It’s been pretty well a steady thing. It hasn’t been real fast, but it’s developing along.
Hayes: Okay, I'm going to get you to tell me the secrets here…I'm still after this. As a developer then, you have the land, do you have to find people who want to build the building or do you build the building first and then find people?
Cameron: Some of both.
Hayes: Oh, some of both. See I thought it was one or the other.
Cameron: The PPD buildings were built especially for PPD, the Boney Building, Boney wanted to be there.
Hayes: But sometimes you own the building and sometimes another company owns the building.
Cameron: Yeah. In some cases, we sell the land and let them build their own building. The doctors’ building I was telling you about, they own that building.
Hayes: Now if you own the building, then you…are you intending then to be in the landlord business forever? Is that how you make the money?
Cameron: Not necessarily, but probably.
Hayes: So you could sometimes just be a commercial landlord. First you’re a developer and then you’re a landlord. Okay. And others you just, from the land, you just sell the land, but you’re not a construction company, right? That’s different. Because you contract with various…
Cameron: Contractors, not necessarily the same one.
Hayes: Are there developers who never become landlords, are just about putting up buildings and selling them? Are there those kind…
Cameron: Like I say, there are all different ways. Some of them build them themselves. It can be done most anyway. A lot of people buy a lot and build a house on it and sell it, you know. Buy another lot, might even build it themselves.
Hayes: And they’re a developer.
Cameron: Yes, there are no set rules.
Hayes: Oh, okay, well that’s good. I mean I think people hear the definition of developer, they don’t understand…
Cameron: I’d rather not have the whole thing, not to own every building. It’s better to have a mixture on the thing.
Hayes: Now what about something like an apartment complex.
Cameron: Well a lot of people would do it for investment. In that case, most of the people would own apartment buildings. Of course, they could build them and sell them. A lot of them in recent years, they condominiumized them. They’d build an apartment, if they changed their minds, if they built it right, then they could sell condos and units in the apartment and form their own organization of some kind to manage it. Independence East for instance, that’s condos. People own those houses.
Hayes: Across the street from Independence East, is that a set development or was that just individual houses that came up?
Cameron: Well right across from Independence East, there’s not anything now.
Hayes: I'm confused here. I'm thinking of the really nice houses that…your house is in that kind of lot and Dan has a house in there…
Cameron: Oh, that’s not Independence.
Hayes: It comes up to Independence, that kind of area.
Cameron: Same piece of land, but Independence East is on Independence Boulevard.
Hayes: Right and it’s kind of a small condo type place. But is that other development called something?
Cameron: I don’t know which one that is.
Hayes: I mean where all the regular houses are at, is that neighborhood called something?
Cameron: That’s not part of my land. You’re talking about, it’s got a brick wall around it.
Cameron: That is not part of my land, it adjoins me.
Hayes: Okay, all right.
Cameron: Oh what do they call it, it’s really nice in there. Dan lives there.
Hayes: Right, so I figured if he lived there, I thought maybe that was yours.
Cameron: His house was not part of that development, but adjoins it on the other side.
Hayes: I'm sorry, I jumped to thinking if Dan lives there, it must be something you guys developed.
Cameron: No, but it does adjoin us. McCrae did that and McCrae adjoins Independence East going toward the shopping center there.
Hayes: Is that, from the high school back to the Bell Telephone building…
Cameron: Bell Telephone building is on my property line.
Hayes: And then what about that land that goes up to the high school?
Cameron: That’s not, there’s a lot of different owners.
Hayes: Okay, okay.
Cameron: Vacant land in there.
Hayes: And do you see that eventually getting developed for something.
Cameron: Well what I'm thinking about doing to the high school, is already developed, most of it, a lot of it is, but bowling alley…
Hayes: Right, bowling alley. But there’s still quite a bit of land.
Cameron: Yeah, McCrae I suspect owns some of that frontage there. I'm not sure who owns the rest, across the street from Pine Valley.
Hayes: What are, you know famous development that is still going is Figure 8, right, that’s you or was you.
Cameron: Yeah, a long time ago.
Hayes: Well tell us a little bit about how that happened and how it fits in this little scheme of development. I think it will help people to understand the history.
Cameron: Okay. I bought that island in about 1955 I think. It belonged to a number of people, but the Foy family who were generally in the Scotts Hill area, the old Foy houses are there now. You probably know about them. Well anyway they owned the north end, one group of Foy’s owned the north end of Figure 8 Island, up at Richianna going south which they had acquired about 1795. And before that, it belonged to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Hayes: Wow, it wasn’t Hooper was it?
Cameron: I’d have to look it up, I've forgotten. Anyway, that one group owned that and then another group that had acquired the adjoining land going south and a number, a far lesser number, owned that piece of land and then there had been an inlet dividing the properties way back, but it had been closed for a number of years. The remainder of the land belonged to the ?Hutaff family. I made a deal with the Foy’s and bought the Foy land and then Dan, my brother Dan, and Raeford Trask decided later on, about 10-12 years later, that we do something with it. We hadn’t done anything with the island.
Hayes: So in ‘55 you bought half?
Cameron: Yeah, we bought half of what is now Figure 8.
Hayes: And what about the other half?
Cameron: Well we didn’t own that.
Hayes: Hutaff still owned it.
Cameron: We built, we had to build a causeway, a road to get to it. It was about a mile across there through the marsh. We had to take a dredge and dig enough dirt to make a road all the way through and then we had to build a drawbridge to get across the intercoastal waterway. We did, we had a floating drawbridge, not the bridge that’s there now. We did that in about 1967 and that’s when we started Figure 8 Island. Then later on, before we’d gotten very far, we acquired the rest of the island from the ?Hutaff family.
Hayes: He probably was not the original, the original Hutaff was not alive…
Cameron: He was alive.
Hayes: Oh he was!?
Cameron: Yeah, the only reason we were able to get it, I had bought the north end of Shell Island. I had signed a contract to buy the north end of Shell Island from Mr. Hutaff and then for some reason when it came time to close the deal, he didn’t want to do it. And so, I won’t go into the details, but in settling our dispute, he agreed to sell me the south end of Figure 8 and I agreed to it, at least my claim on the north end of Shell Island.
Hayes: Which turned out to be a pretty good deal (laughter), the way Shell Island…
Cameron: Well at that time, it was a half a mile longer, Shell Island was, and Figure 8 was a half a mile shorter (laughter) than it was or vice versa. And of course, Hutaff owned that ______, it happened on the end of Figure 8 Island. The stuff I would have bought from him is gone (laughter).
Hayes: Do you know what we’re talking about? It’s the inlet, keeps shifting right?
Cameron: Moved a half a mile since then.
Hayes: Wow, so that turned out to be a pretty good trade for you.
Cameron: Well Mr. Hutaff got his land (laughter).
Hayes: Well tell me a little about Hutaff, was he a very elderly gentleman at that point.
Cameron: He’s a good friend of mine.
Hayes: When he started Pepsi…
Cameron: No, Coke.
Hayes: He was Coke, yeah.
Cameron: He had one of the original Coca Cola franchises back close to 1900.
Hayes: That’s what I heard, with his brothers wasn’t it?
Cameron: No, well Mr. George Hutaff was the man. He was a nice old fella.
Hayes: His daughter, we know her real well, Tabitha, Isn’t she a daughter or niece?
Cameron: Niece. Mildred Hutaff was his daughter, she’s been dead a long time. Oliver Hutaff was one of his sons, he had George Jr. and Oliver. Oliver was really the one that ran his business in those days.
Hayes: Hutaff, that’s way back there.
Cameron: Yeah, and they had Coca Cola plants in Fayetteville and at least one other place. He’s a good friend of mine. I don’t know why we ever had any trouble. I didn’t try to buy land. He sent a real estate agent around my office one time and I bought the land. Anyway that’s all over and done.
Hayes: You came out pretty well.
Cameron: Figure 8, this Shell Island stuff, it was a whole lot more valuable than the Figure 8 stuff at that time.
Hayes: At the time, because people wanted to build, was that kind of a tourist area?
Cameron: Well it’s part of Wrightsville Beach, we called it Shell Island, but it adjoined Wrightsville Beach.
Hayes: And all of those hotels are on there now.
Cameron: Right there where it’s sitting. That’s about where the property started, maybe took in the hotel I guess. I don’t know exactly.
Hayes: So you’re now in the mid to late 60’s and you finally have the whole island, right?
Hayes: And what was your plan?
Cameron: And we did have when we started, when we built the bridge and the causeway, we had everything that we have now. Well the four of us, my brother Dan, Raeford Trask and Dick ______ , we had to do a lot of dredging which you couldn’t do now. If we hadn’t done it then, Figure 8 Island would be a barren island now.
Hayes: You mean all of the environmental rules?
Cameron: For good or bad, look at it anyway you want to, it would not have been Figure 8 Island if we’d been two years later, maybe a year later.
Hayes: It was happening then?
Cameron: Well we didn’t have an idea that it would come about like it has. It was just luck.
Hayes: Wow, did you start to see…
Cameron: We didn’t even have to get a permit to do what we did.
Hayes: Oh is that right, jeez. And it started to change that quickly. In the late 60’s, it was starting to…
Cameron: Of course nothing like it is now, but you couldn’t turn a spade of dirt over there now and if you think that’s a terrible thing, then we did a terrible thing. Figure 8 Island is the best money maker that New Hanover County has. They've got millions of dollars worth of property tax that comes in from there. They don’t have any use for having a sheriff. They don’t have any children to educate. Most of the people are out of state. They don’t have 20 children on the whole island, you know, that go to school here.
Hayes: Fire probably doesn’t cause much trouble.
Cameron: And the people don’t go to jail (laughter).
Hayes: Not too many of them are probably on county welfare (laughter) and they pay a lot of property tax.
Cameron: Well, we started out selling lots, selling sound lots for $5,000 and ocean lots for $10,000 and I think the highest we ever got maybe the price was up to $40,000 maybe for an ocean lot and a sound lot sold over there a couple of weeks ago for what I would earn a real estate commission for $1 million (laughter).
Hayes: Wow! Now when you were selling lots then, you saw this as…you were not the developer that was putting up houses. This was a land type of process.
Cameron: We had the right to approve any plans that went there, but we didn’t, we never built any houses.
Hayes: So as we were talking about different types of developers, this was more of a land, I mean it was a great concept, but you were trying to sell land and turn it over. You were going to be happy when the whole island was sold and you would have no more….
Cameron: Had a homeowner’s association start out, we had restrictions on what should we do, plans had to be approved by a committee and restrictions of that nature.
Hayes: But you never saw yourself as the landlord of the island. You wanted to actually sell it all and be done with it?
Cameron: Yeah. As soon as we got through selling, the homeowners, long before that, they would take over. From the start, we had a homeowner’s association.
Hayes: Were you looking at some other model where you had seen this had been done or did you guys just think this would be interesting idea?
Cameron: We debated whether to go Carolina Beach style and we probably could have made a lot more money out of it at that time that way.
Hayes: Would you be like apartments…
Cameron: Honky-tonk, you know, beach…and we decided that we’d try to do something nice and that’s the way we went and it’s turned out that way. There are about 500 homes I believe now, about 500 lots and 450 homes, I'm not sure exactly the numbers. I think it has turned out at least as good as we had hoped for.
Hayes: It’s amazing. I think a lot of people misunderstand…
(person enters room)
VISITOR: I wouldn’t interrupt this thing for anything (laughter).
Hayes: Why not, so far he’s been very complimentary towards you. We can’t get him to say anything bad at all.
VISITOR: Well that’s good, I appreciate that. Take care.
Hayes: I think people misunderstand and think that today Camerons have a stake in this and if it’s a million dollar lot, somehow you’re involved and you’re not involved.
Cameron: No, not at all. It looks like maybe we gave it away, but it tickles the hell out of us when you see it do that well.
ADINA: Did you have a place out there?
ADINA: When did you sell it?
Cameron: I still have it. I have two or three lots.
Hayes: Good and in the end, you sold it all then. When did you kind of get out of the…
Cameron: We sold it to a group, Louise Price from Greensboro and her husband ?Young Smith, we sold it to them quite a while ago, in the middle 70’s. And where we were operating on one budget, when this Young Smith, when he took over, his operating budget was about five times what ours was. He had a development down at Litchfield and a whole lot going on and just got ahead of him and he went broke. The mortgage company took it over and it ended up with a gentleman Lyon on there, a big real estate developer from California and he sent a gentleman by the name of Ed Goodwin who ran it for him and he knew what he was doing. He got the thing back on its feet. In the meantime, as far as the island, there wasn’t any noticeable change. They built a nice clubhouse there and a few things, spent some money and it has done real well ever since then and they sold out a lot of the lots they had. There hasn’t been any company lots for sale there now for darn near 20 years.
Hayes: Oh that’s interesting.
Cameron: Most of the lots if you've seen sales there, they've been resales.
Hayes: They’re individuals so they truly own their lot once they buy it and they belong to kind of a community homeowners that run the kind of general…
Cameron: Assessments, all of the hurricanes and things like that, there’s been a lot of damage and a lot of money had to be spent. They've had a number of assessments so much a lot based on … they had to spend on the bridge the same way. We had to operate the bridge 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and that’s all paid by the homeowners. No tax money involved. The dredging that’s been done over there, the property owners have paid for all of that. There hasn’t been any expense, in other words, to New Hanover County. But the tax income off of that island is 7 to 8 million dollars a year that the county gets. It’s a gold mine for the county (laughter).
Hayes: Wow, they would like some more I suppose. Have they approached you to find some other islands to work on (laughter).
Cameron: Any islands will never be developed.
Hayes: Because of the new environmental regulations.
Cameron: The island right next to it, just north, between there and Topsail, will never be touched.
Hayes: What’s the name of it?
Cameron: You couldn’t even start to put a causeway up, a road back from that island across there…
Hayes: And then further south is what – Masonborough Island. That’s a public island.
Cameron: Well it is. It wasn’t, it was private. They acquired that, but it will never…if they hadn’t acquired it, no way, the most you could have done would have been go by boat over that and maybe build a shack and that would be it. People are not going to do that. You've got a few, Lee Island, they did that. Only one house left over there now. You have to get there by outboard.
Hayes: Now there was one up in New Bern that was similar to yours, wasn’t there? Was it Emerald?
Cameron: Emerald Isle. Well that’s like Wrightsville.
Hayes: Looks like Wrightsville.
Cameron: Yes and that’s an old area, been there for years. See that island goes from Swansborough and it goes all the way to the end of Moorehead City, one solid island.
Hayes: And then there’s one off of Southport.
Cameron: Well if you've ever flown down that beach from Southport, you’ll sometime get a plane ride and just fly over that beach – thousands of houses. That’s solid. You can’t believe it unless you've seen it.
Hayes: Yeah, Oak Island is this huge development.
Cameron: And there’s one right after another.
Hayes: The one you have to take a boat out even to Bald Head. And that was a later one so they somehow were able…
Cameron: Well Bald Head, it has some high land on it, relatively high.
Hayes: I see.
Cameron: It had a lot of land that didn’t have an over-wash of Americans. You’d be amazed at the number of houses out there.
Hayes: Is that right.
Cameron: Yeah, you get a boat ride, plane ride down that coast, the South Carolina line, you’d be amazed at what you see.
Hayes: That’s great. So that was really a fun development then. You’re proud of that…
Cameron: Figure 8?
Hayes: Yeah, that’s great.
Cameron: We’re very happy with the way it’s turned out. And there are a very fine bunch of people down there. They come from everywhere, they’re interesting. I’d say probably a pretty cosmopolitan type group generally.
Hayes: Now when they see you, do they consider you like a founding father or do they give you the respect that you deserve?
Cameron: (Laughter) The other two are dead, Dan and I are still around. Raeford Trask and Dick ______ are both dead.
Hayes: Okay, I think we should stop for today if that’s okay with you.