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Interview with Bruce Cameron, August 15, 2001 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Bruce Cameron, August 15, 2001
August 15, 2001
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Interviewee: Cameron, Bruce Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 8/15/2001 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length

Hayes: Okay today is August 15, 2001. We’re here again with Bruce Cameron, the person that we’re interviewing, Adina Lack from Archives and Sherman Hayes, University Librarian.

Hayes: Today Bruce we wanted to do an exercise that’s kind of like the people that you have come into contact with, some of the characters, some of the interesting people or uninteresting people in your career and your life. We do this partly because it helps other researchers who maybe besides studying you, are looking at other interesting Wilmington and regional folks. So what we've done is just picked out some categories, we don’t know these people, but some categories and let’s see who, you know, what to tell us about. I think it will be really helpful. Why don’t we start with business folks. I mean you've been in business a long, long time. Who were some of the people you've worked with other than your family that you think people would like to know about.

Cameron: Well I think my father is the best example as far as I'm concerned. He started out, didn’t have a college education. He did have two years of a little school called Bingham Academy thanks to his uncle who helped or really loaned him or gave him the money to go there.

Hayes: Now where was that at? Bingham Academy?

Cameron: Bingham Academy is a little school in a little town, Mebane, between Chapel Hill and Greensboro and Burlington.

Hayes: Is it still around or is it gone?

Cameron: No, it was located in several different places and apparently was established long ago, but it is not in existence now. He went there until the money gave out and came back and went to work. He was a pretty successful fellow. The automobile business was just beginning then.

He was born in 1890, he was probably in 1908, 1910, he was working for a living then. The automobile business was really in its infancy and he worked for a Mr. W. D. MacMillan who had been in the livery stable business downtown where the Cape Fear Club is, next door, and he started out working with him.

The mechanics at that time were blacksmiths. There wasn’t any such thing as automobile mechanics. Blacksmith was the nearest to it and it went from there and he stayed in various phases of that business as long as he lived. He was never in the business of buying and selling automobiles, but he was in affiliate gasoline, he had one of the first service stations and later on had a number of service stations and he was in various affiliated things such as the battery business which was almost a separate business, the storage battery business, gasoline, oil, from selling it in small quantities, he developed the service station business.

Then he got into the terminal, so-called terminal business which was a process of wholesaling gasoline and as it got more in demand, handling gasoline coming in in bulk first by tank cars and then later by ocean, first by barges that carried 200-300,000 gallons of gasoline that they would unload into a larger tank come in by floating barge.

Then later he, when he was big enough to have lots of service stations, now I'm talk about the early 30’s, the oil jobbers association decided they were going to buy gasoline cheaper, probably in foreign markets and they were buying it from the Standard Oil Company or Exxon or Texaco. There were several large oil companies at that time and you could pretty well control everything and they thought they could make a better deal by buying in Europe somewhere, before Saudia Arabia. They organized a group that was going to build an ocean going terminal in Wilmington and all these people were going to participate until it came time to put up money or borrow the money. None of them had much (laughter). Then they all began to fade out and it ended up that they had all dropped out except my father. He managed someway or other to go ahead with it.

Hayes: Who were some of these other people? Do you remember their names?

Cameron: They were similar type business people in other towns.

Hayes: In other towns? Not so much Wilmington?

Cameron: No, in North Carolina. This was North Carolina and that was before they had pipelines into North Carolina and that type of thing. A good bit of the fuel for the whole state came into Wilmington or maybe from Norfolk up in that area, close to a port. Charleston would have been another one.

So he started out and built one big, at that time, big tank, wouldn’t be very large now, but the first shipment he ever got, I remember, wasn’t an ocean going tank. It was really a barge, a self-propelled barge bought from a company in Norfolk and they came down the waterways through Snow’s Cut and unloaded the first load there. That was about 1933. I know when we got on the boat, it was a big deal. When it passed through the drawbridge at Wrightsville Beach coming around, the whole family stopped there and would be picked up and rode around to bring the first load in.

Hayes: Oh that’s nice.

Cameron: To dock on Wright Street, still there, the dock is. He went from there, when he died, they were handling for six or seven major oil companies that were running through this terminal. Of course, they built many tanks in the meantime and all the stuff was ocean-going tankers. He handled at that time Amoco, American Oil Company, Pure-Oil Company was another, Gulf Oil was one of the big ones that you might remember and several others in that category, that handled petroleum for those people. The terminal would receive those products here and then distribute them to wherever they wanted it to go with tank cars, barges. Later on, he organized a barge company that was cheaper, a product going to Fayetteville, they had barges that could go to Fayetteville and they could transport it a whole lot cheaper than they could haul it by truck or rail and that was an ongoing operation that lasted until after World War II.

He went on from there, had trucking companies and various other things. In the meantime, he had also ended up in the wholesale automotive parts for southeastern North Carolina and had stores in New Bern and Lumberton and Myrtle Beach and various areas around here. The main store was in Wilmington and handled all kinds of automotive parts, mainly General Motors type parts.

Hayes: Let me ask you, who, you know you came back from the war and so his generation were the leading business people. Who were the people that you were starting to deal with or was there a newer generation coming back with you. I mean who were some of those people that you negotiated with and worked with?

Cameron: Public type people you mean?

Hayes: Yeah, that’s what I'm saying. You know because your dad was in that circle. You must have had to step in. Who were the other type people in that circle?

Cameron: Well it was a pretty mixed up group there. Most of the young men were either in the Army or Navy or military of one type or another, war type jobs, shipyard was operating here then. Had approximately 25,000 people working here. Of course, business was booming for anybody that had anything to sell.

During the war and right at the end of the war for maybe over a year. There weren’t anything like new automobiles or tires. Everything was scarce. Wartime, military had priority on everything including gasoline. Gas was rationed. Most of the people that were home, that were young enough, most of them either were in the military or working shipyards and that type of thing.

At that time, my father until July 1944, when he died, he was Mayor here. I think I've said that before somewhere in this interviews. He was about the busiest fellow around and probably had some overworked, probably with worry about having his two sons and his son-in-law gone in the Army had something to do with it.

Other outstanding people, of course there were a lot of them around here, I think going back before my time, some of the people that had a lot to do in the last 100 years, Mr. Hugh McCrae the 1st was an old man when I first knew him, but he had done a lot of things. He was personally responsible for the power company, the first electricity that was in Wilmington. Streetcar lines, which were of course a product of, by-product of having electricity which was the main, only public transportation for a long time. Of course, there was nothing before automobiles. We had trolley lines that ran things like the Winter Park Development. Now, of course, it was way out at that time and they had a car line that ran to it and the same thing with Winter Park. That was a long ways from downtown and a whole lot of vacant line between.

Hayes: So McCrae had that power company? He started that power company?

Cameron: Mr. McCrae had a lot to do with starting the power company.

Hayes: And you met him even in your adulthood. He was…

Cameron: He lived to be quite old. He was long past his prime when I knew him. He was one of the directors in the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company. The old man owned lots and lots of land and was responsible for a number of developments like the Pollacks that are here up in the Burgaw area. He had a Dutch settlement out at Castle Hayne and had a Polish settlement down here. Had about a half a dozen nationalities that he would, he had land he wanted to develop.

Of course, the method to his madness, he would bring in a number of these people and sell them a small piece of land and establish them in a farm. Most all of them were farmers, bulb farmers, flower farmers, Dutchmen that came in. Penderlee was one of his projects in the Roosevelt era. That was when people in lots of places were destitute and literally not much to eat.

He’d established this Penderlee which is still a little center up there. Have a house and 10 acres of land maybe to go with it. That was his project with the help of Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt. There are a lot of centers now with pretty decent people that were brought in. This was during the late 80s and early 1900’s I think. Before I was born, most of it.

Hayes: Now did he have a son that would have been your contemporary then?

Cameron: No, his son I never knew and he died early. In the meantime though, he established Linville, Grandfather Mountain you've heard of. The old man had 15-20,000 acres there in Linville and that was mountain wilderness at that time. There wasn’t any railroad there, no roads really. Had a lot of vision and unfortunately the Depression almost wrecked him financially.

Hayes: So who kept his empire going then? Who in the family?

Cameron: Well grandsons and granddaughters inherited most of what he left. He left a lot of land. Hugh McCrae now is one of his grandsons.

Hayes: Was Hugh Morton, was that the same family?

Cameron: Well that was one of his grandsons. He took over as his part of Mr. McCrae’s estate. He ended up the Grandfather Mountain area. He and his brothers.

Hayes: And they developed it then so it was pretty raw when they got it.

Cameron: Well Linville, Mr. McCrae established a long time before he died. That was one of the very first golf developments in the country, Pinehurst, or certainly in North Carolina. They were the two first.

Hayes: Interesting. And did you know, was Hugh then a friend of yours? Was he a contemporary? Hugh Morton. I know you know him now, but I didn’t know where you first…

Cameron: Oh yeah, well I know him well. He was married to one of my sisters (laughter). Hugh McCrae III is my nephew.

Hayes: So did you go to school with Morton or not?

Cameron: No. He was Carolina. Hugh Morton is one of the finest photographers. I showed you the picture that he left here with me. One of the prettiest pictures…

Hayes: Hold that up. I don’t know if we can…

ADINA: That’s beautiful.

Hayes: That’s great.

Cameron: That’s looking at Grandfather Mountain by Grandfather Lake where Hugh lives now. I used to own Grandmother Mountain which was straight up the other side of that lake. From Hugh Morton’s house, it was right in front of it.

Hayes: So is that your contact with him, you were both out in that area because he was from Wilmington, wasn’t he?

Cameron: Oh I knew him long before, before he ever took over up there. He was a combat photographer during World War II and had a pretty bad wound in the Philippine Islands during the war. He had been at it ever since. It never was the way he made his living, although he has been a professional photographer. He was probably one of the best, certainly in North Carolina and I think probably one of the best photographers of this era.

Hayes: That’s great.

Cameron: He still is. He was in the office here about six months ago and left that…

Hayes: Since we’re kind of talking children, what about MacMillan? MacMillan must have been friends of yours and those children, who were some of those…

Cameron: Well my father in his early years worked for Mr. W.D. MacMillan and he was the man that had the livery stable….

Hayes: Right, which is about horses, right (laughter)?

Cameron: …and later on Mr. MacMillan, the younger brother and my father went into business together and had MacMillan and Cameron.

Hayes: So what was the name of that MacMillan? We don’t want to get that confused.

Cameron: That was Henry.

Hayes: Henry, so …W.D.

Cameron: Henry, not the artist, his son was Henry II, but…

Hayes: Okay, that helps.

Cameron: But Mr. MacMillan, they went in business about 1914 I think and then they went and formed MacMillan and Cameron about 1920 and Mr. MacMillan died, they formed in April and he died in October of the same year. Ms. MacMillan had three children. My father kept her on in the business and she stayed in the business as long as he lived. She was a partner in the business. Several years after he died, she wanted out and we bought Ms. MacMillan out. Of course, they were lifelong friends, still are, but most all of them gone now.

Hayes: The children didn’t want, the MacMillan children didn’t want to stay in…

Cameron: No, two girls married and the one boy was an artist. He was one of the, I think, the best local artist that I've known anything about here. He’s a little bit different, but a lot of people weren’t crazy about it, but he expressed himself…if he thought something, he didn’t mind saying it. He never married, but he had nieces and nephews. The Wright’s, some of the Wright’s are his nieces and nephews, Henry Wright if you know any of those.

Hayes: Oh yes, the Wright family, long-term family. Now what about the…

Cameron: The Bishop Wright was also his brother. One of the girls married Lawrence Wright, one of the Henry MacMillan’s sisters married Lawrence Wright and Lawrence’s brother was Tom Wright. There are several Tom Wright’s, but this is Bishop Tom Wright.

Hayes: When you did Figure Eight, you bought from two longstanding families. Were those commercial families or did they just own the land? I'm trying to get a sense of…were they in business for a long time? I know one was the…well you know who they are…I mean tell us about those two.

Cameron: Well, the island…there were at least two different owners in Figure Eight Island. In fact, they had been two different islands at one time. There had been an inlet there at one time about in the middle of the island. When I bought it, I bought it from the Foy family, two sets of them, a lot of overlap. One set had owned that island, bought it from, I believe, Cornelius ?Horn, one of the signers of the Declaration. I've got it in the book there. They had owned it since 1795, been in the same family. Of course, there were lots of heirs.

Hayes: Were they a commercial family or this is just something that came down…

Cameron: No, they lived at Scotts Hill. The big house there if you know, the house at Scotts Hill.

ADINA: The plantation? Poplar Grove Plantation?

Cameron: Yeah, Poplar Plantation, that was one of the old Foy homes.

Hayes: Is that right? That’s a large place.

Cameron: They had a plantation there and lots of Foy’s still living around there. One of them is a retired general that lives up there now. But anyway, Mr. Leslie Foy was a downtown merchant, Foy Road Company, a very small fellow and a darn good businessman. But anyway, when the family decided they wanted to sell their interest in the island, he was the head man. He rounded up all the signatures on the deed which I don’t know how many, 75 or 80.

Hayes: REALLY?!? Gosh.

Cameron: He knew the history. I made a deal with him and bought his interest which did not include the whole island, but with two different sets of Foy’s…one piece they’d had since 1795. The other piece they had had since 1920 which they bought from the state of North Carolina. At that time, the state would sell people if they had land on the mainland, they would sell them marshes and beaches and that’s the way that 1920 land came about. So he handled both of those transactions. The Hutaff’s, Mr. George Hutaff owned the remainder on the south end of the island.

Hayes: And he was the Coca Cola man, right?

Cameron: Yeah.

Hayes: Now was he the original one or was he the son of?

Cameron: Well the old man was the original one. He’s the fellow that owned the Coca Cola franchise here and it was one of the first ones granted way back shortly after 1900, I think, when Coca Cola was starting and Mr. Hutaff…probably heard how the lawsuit with the city, fell down on a sidewalk or something and hurt himself and sued the city and got an award and that was about the time that Coca Cola was coming on the market. I think they were bottling it by hand then. I don’t swear to any of this.

Hayes: (Laughter) This is a story.

Cameron: (Laughter) Yes, but I think it’s pretty factual. But anyway he had sense enough and luck enough that he bought the franchise for Wilmington and I think maybe a little later, Fayetteville and Emporia, Virginia, I believe.

Hayes: Wow, quite a few of them.

Cameron: Yeah and he stayed in that business, the next family is still in it. No, they sold out here about five years ago finally to Coca Cola.

Hayes: I think they probably still own some stock.

Cameron: Yeah, Mr. Hutaff was considered to be a very wealthy man for a long time and he was a nice old fellow. I knew him….

Hayes: Well did he do besides Coca Cola? Were there other businesses that he had gotten into?

Cameron: Well Orange Crush and that kind of thing, soft drinks.

Hayes: But he stayed in soft drinks. But you were buying land, how do you think he came across…how did he have that land you were getting…

Cameron: He liked to fish, liked to serve fish and as near as I could learn that had been his interest. They still own an island north of Figure Eight. To the best of my knowledge, it’s still in the Hutaff family. One of them is named Hutaff Island.

Hayes: So there are still Hutaff’s in the area?

Cameron: No, there are some females around, but the last male lives in Hawaii now I believe.

Hayes: Wow.

Cameron: The old man’s son was Oliver and this is his son, would have been the old man’s grandson. Tabitha….

Hayes: Tabitha, that’s a daughter?

Cameron: His daughter, well I'm wrong.

Hayes: She’s a McEachern, isn’t she?

Cameron: Wait a minute, I'm wrong. Tabitha is George Hutaff’s niece.

Hayes: Niece, okay.

Cameron: Yeah because Mr. Hutaff had a brother. I never knew him, but it was Tabitha’s father.

Hayes: I see.

Cameron: He had a son who had been dead a long time and had one daughter, Gene Edwards’ wife…this is his second wife. His first wife and his second wife were Mr. Hutaff’s nieces, I believe.

Hayes: Some other big families that were commercially active, I'm just curious whether you intersected with them…like the folks that were the Cotton Exchange. That would have been the Sprunt’s. Were they in your commercial circles at all?

Cameron: I never knew Mr. James Sprunt. I owned two or three of his books. Well he died when I still 3 or 4 years old. I think he died about 1922 or 3. He was probably, I guess in recent times, he would probably be counted as the most distinguished citizen that Wilmington has had going back that far. He came here from one of the islands, one of the Caribbean Islands, I'm not sure which. His grandson can tell you the whole thing. He was a personal blockade runner when he was 17, 18 years old during the Civil War. His father, I think, started the business, the cotton business. Of course, he would have been an old, old man. I've never heard much about him, but Mr. James Sprunt was a very, very successful cotton broker; at one time, one of the biggest in the world I think.

Hayes: So what about his son then?

Cameron: Lawrence Sprunt.

Hayes: Contemporary of yours to work with?

Cameron: No, no, he’s a contemporary, his son was the contemporary of my father. In fact, he was older than my father .

Hayes: Then was there a son that continued the business that you…

Cameron: He has two grandsons living here now and Kenneth Sprunt was, three actually, Kenneth Sprunt and Lawrence Sprunt and then Jimmy, their half-brother, Jimmy is a half brother.

Hayes: Okay.

Cameron: And they are in Wilmington now.

Hayes: So have they been partners in any of your ventures?

Cameron: Never been in business with them, good friends. That’s somebody you might want to interview. Mr. Sprunt I've always thought of, you know, the fellow maybe looking all the way back has had a whole lot to do with Wilmington. He’s written histories, I don’t know whether you've seen them.

Hayes: Yeah, we have them.

Cameron: They’re available.

Hayes: Now as a developer, have there been some….

Cameron: See, Horton Plantation was his place.

Hayes: Right. Have there been some construction people that you think have been really significant to this region that maybe people wouldn’t even know about? Are there companies today that you've been working with for years?

Cameron: Not really. Of course a construction worker built James Walker Hospital which was the hospital here up until about 30 years ago. They apparently built that hospital and gave it to the city or county.

Hayes: Right, I just didn’t know in all of your times, are there particular companies that you've worked with time after time?

Cameron: Yeah, yeah. One of them here now, but it’s fairly recent, ______ Clancy, I do a lot of work with.

Hayes: Is that Wilmington based?

Cameron: Raleigh. He’s local. They built the PPD building in town here. He built several of the buildings in Barclay Commons. There’s another one he’s building for me now, hadn’t started yet.

Hayes: So the last 10 or 15 years you've really used that company…

Cameron: Well he hasn’t even been here that long, but I've used him in the last…he built that apartment in Barclay Place. He’s a good man. Of course, Miller has been the biggest contractor here in recent years.

Hayes: That’s right, are they Wilmington based now?

Cameron: Oh yes. Well that’s his home, I think he’s based a couple or three places now.

Hayes: That big?

Cameron: He’s handled some big jobs other places. Most of his big jobs, he built a lot of Wal-Mart warehouses and that type thing.

Hayes: I'm trying to think, who was the company that built Cameron School of Business? I don’t know if we knew that one.

Cameron: I don’t even know, I don’t remember. The university has been built at different times. The original building, you know, the one up front, one building originally because it was Wilmington College then. They moved out of Isaac Beth’s School which was right across the street from New Hanover High, an old grade school. The first few years of Wilmington College, that’s where it was.

Hayes: Okay, now we’re going to take a chance here now and ask you about lawyers.

Cameron: Well I've got one favorite one (laughter).

Hayes: (Laughter) All right, who’s that?

Cameron: I've got one that’s my lawyer for, well starting in 1917 when he got out of the Army (laughter).

Hayes: Wow!

Cameron: When I was born (laughter) until he died and he lived to be 93 years old. That was John A. Stevens.

Hayes: Great, tell us about John. So he was a family lawyer as well as a business lawyer?

Cameron: Everything – well he was a real character and a hell of a lawyer. He handled a lot of business for a lot of business people and I think was recognized as probably the best of that type lawyer for 60 years. He’d been dead about 10 years now, but he lived to be…he practiced law until he was 94. That was one of his favorite sayings -- that the only person he knew when he was in the law was the man that was paying him (laughter) and he was a very, very loyal friend. He had a very loyal clientele.

Hayes: And as you moved into the development, he was able to adjust into that kind of law cause that’s kind of a specialized area?

Cameron: Well in that period of time he, of course, he had a half dozen lawyers.

Hayes: Oh did he, okay.

Cameron: One was Senator Wynne who was a real smart fellow, but not the best in court. He knew more law probably than John Stevens, but then he wasn’t anything like as good if you had something going to trial. He was referred to as he was the brain and Mr. Stevens was the brawn (laughter).

Hayes: Well you need to have both of them, don’t you.

Cameron: Well Mr. Stevens was like a bulldog, he would never turn loose. He represented us all our lives as long as he was living. The firm still does.

Hayes: So there’s still a bunch of names…what is it Stevens?

Cameron: Well it was Stevens, McGuinn and McGee and right now Richard Morgan is the one, there’s no Stevens in it. Hasn’t been since he died, of course. McGee was his son-in-law and he’s dead. Three of the lawyers that, four of the lawyers that are there now were there when Mr. Stevens was there.

Hayes: Wow.

ADINA: Sounds like he would have been born right around the turn of the century or so?

Cameron: Mr. Stevens?

ADINA: Yeah.

Cameron: He was born about 1895. He was World War I.

Hayes: So you said, yeah. Well that’s great. Now I know John Burney is a friend, but he’s not been a lawyer that you use?

Cameron: John is a little younger than I am. John Burney has been a very good trial lawyer. He’s mostly criminal.

Hayes: Oh criminal, okay.

Cameron: He never represented me on anything, but John has been a good politician. He’s been in the Senate and things like that. A big criminal with plenty of money would have hired John (laughter), still would I guess. His daddy was a judge, John Burney Sr., he was a Superior Court judge.

Hayes: And his brother is an attorney, right? That goes in the family.

Cameron: John is a very competent lawyer. We, of course, there’s quite a few of them that are good lawyers.

Hayes: Let me ask you on a different subject area something about your family because you've talked a little bit about your wife, that you dedicated a museum to. You said that one of her interests was the museum. Were there other things that she had her fingers in that were kind of driving her interests?

Cameron: Well, not really outside of family.

Hayes: Oh that’s fine, I just…

Cameron: She was a wonderful woman. Tend to her business. My grandmother, that building there that…the Cape Fear Academy, I named it after her. She had a big influence on my life. Her name was Rachel Trask. When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time with her, lived down on Masonborough Sound. She had a lot of influence on me over the young years. Country girl, loved wildflowers, had a pretty tough life coming up. The family didn’t have money running out of their ears and that kind of thing. She had been through…the Trask family is still around here, quite a few of them.

Hayes: Now the gentleman that the Trask Auditorium is named for…

Cameron: That’s Raeford.

Hayes: Was that a son?

Cameron: That was her nephew. Raeford Trask and my father were first cousins, but my father was the first child in that generation and one of them is still living, Emmeth Myer, who is five to six years younger than I am, was the youngest on the other sidse.

Hayes: Large family, gosh.

Cameron: Most of my Uncle George’s children were average, somewhere both sides of my age, younger and older. Of course, he was the youngest brother in her family. There’s some people that are younger than I am – were first cousins to my father. He’s the only one left, there were 10 children. Emm was the only survivor.

Hayes: So the Trask’s were actually family and friends all that time then? All those cousins were ones that you were active with.

Cameron: Oh yes, I grew up with Raeford, a year older, that was the one from Trask Coliseum, he’s one year older and then they had three boys younger than I and one girl.

Hayes: So did you find that you did business with them over time? You had said he was a landowner out by the university obviously.

Cameron: Yeah, well Trask always, apparently they had been farmers and they liked land and had a lot of land. Raeford had a whole lot of land. Some of the other brothers lived in Buford, South Carolina and they had lots of land down there. I went down there recently, my grandmother’s brother, George Trask, father of all these Trask’s around here, had gone down there long ago because the climate was a little warmer than Wilmington. He was what they called a truck farmer, raised vegetables. He could get a week or two ahead of the season down there and head to Wilmington. He established farms down there and he came back here and lived. He didn’t live there forever, but two of his boys did go down there and live and they had farms where Myrtle Beach is. At one time, a whole lot of that Myrtle Beach area, I mean right there in the middle of it, was a farm.

Hayes: Was a farm? (Laughter) It’s hard to visualize now, isn’t it?

Cameron: Right about middle way through…

Hayes: I think you said that there was a Trask that did Pine Valley while you were doing quite a bit on Shipyard then.

Cameron: That was one of the boys, Alex. He developed Pine Valley. That was part of my great-grandfather’s land, Pine Valley, and some of this land in Barclay. Barclay Place, some of that was the same tract of land. My house is on part of that same tract of land.

Hayes: Interesting, so it started out as a farmland then really.

Cameron: And woodland.

Hayes: I was wondering what kind of crops were coming out there, that was pretty sandy…

Cameron: Well the farm part was clear which is where the Pine Valley Golf Course is now, is on that farm, the part that was in the farmland at that time. He raised lettuce there, one of his main crops. He was the first man that ever shipped lettuce out of New Hanover County. I read something different in the paper the other day. His name was Trask. Webb Trask got a grandson, great-grandson, Webb Trask now who lives in town. His name is Daniel Webb Trask and he was born in 1845. He farmed that land where the golf course was and had a house there and lived there for some time.

Hayes: Now were the trees, were the pine trees still active, you know, for the turpentine business. That went away pretty fast, didn’t it?

Cameron: It was going, I remember when it was going, in my yard in town there.

Hayes: Really?

Cameron: Blythe Road, I've got two or three trees in my yard that have got boxes on, so it was on up to the 30’s I’d say.

Hayes: Interesting, because I mean they call it Pine Valley. I assume there were quite a few pine trees.

Cameron: Yeah there were, but also the land that Raeford had, where the university is now, most of that land in that area was…Mr. Dan Herring owned that tract, a big chunk of land that Raeford bought in there and then International Paper owned an adjoining tract. Mr. Herring had his turpentine distillery right there about where Corning Glass is now, just between there and Market Street Road and they distilled, pine sap makes tar-pitching turpentine. That went on until almost after World War II.

Hayes: At one time that was the biggest business in the whole area.

Cameron: The reason for that was, I think, the real reason why the British were interested in settling here was, so the story goes, the long leaf pine trees for masts for the sailing vessels and the tar-pitching turpentine for caulking seams and whatever else they did with it. Of course, England, at one time I understand, had a lot of trees on it. The reason they don’t have is because they cut them all down to use them long, long ago. Trees, there’s lots of them there now, but they've all been planted in the last 75 years.

Hayes: Right, now you had said you had some land out in the center part of the state, but that’s just for timber. There’s not still any tar and pitch going on anywhere else, is there I don’t think. That whole industry is just about gone.

Cameron: It’s gone. To the best of my knowledge, there’s none of it going on now except you’ll dig up these old long-leaf pine stumps that have been there for maybe a 100 years or 150 years. A lot of them you don’t even see because they’re below ground, but that stuff is still just solid. They had a plant here in Castle Hayne at one time, but most of it goes down to Georgia now. They still have some distillers there and still come up here and dig those stumps up and ship them down there and make the same product out of it. They’re light wood, they’re called light wood and of course it burns just like gasoline. You can take a match and take a splinter of it. It might have been in the ground, Lord knows how long, 150 years or so.

Hayes: I never heard of that.

Cameron: It still goes on, but not the same way. That was the main industry here so they say.

Hayes: Let me ask you about, I know you work with Ren Brown really closely now who is at the art museum. Was there one before him? I mean who were some of the personalities over the years through the art museum because you've been really involved.

Cameron: Well it was not the curator, before Ren is the one, the professional. The one before I hardly knew. It was mostly amateurs. Some of the league ladies, in particular, that really put the thing together. One of them I know practically ran it or ran it for several, a number of years, was Ms. Bell, Ms. Herbert Bell from Currie, a little crossroad up here about 20 miles out of town. Her husband is still living He remarried and married, I’ll think of the name after awhile, and he lived in Wilmington. Bell lives here in Wilmington now, but it was his wife. Ren could put you on, if you wanted to follow it any further. She was one of the main ones. There were several others, local ladies that spent a lot of time there and really started it and kept it going before it ever got anywhere near to the establishment it is now.

Hayes: Well you know he’s a real professional. I mean how in the heck did we ever get him to come down here?

Cameron: Well it got big enough that to have a curator, I guess. The one that I can’t even remember his name, but I was on the Board when they hired Ren and it was getting in pretty bad shape financially and otherwise. Somebody else can give you a more accurate history on what was happening then. But Ren has been here quite a long time now. Ren really, outside at least, is more responsible for getting organized and expanding the views there. At that time, there was only one, the John Lodge House, the one building next to the corner. The Greek Orthodox Church was next door and that’s the building that the main gallery is in now. They've moved and had the building for sale and the museum bought it. Two of my sisters were the main donors on that building, Rachel Camp which was Rachel McCrae then and Hilda Eckles. They were…but..

Hayes: Now your other brother is still active in the Amoco business, right? Is that the very same business that your dad did way back?

Cameron: He is 14, 15 years younger than I am. He’s independent, he likes to be independent. Bobby is a good boy. He runs his own business and seems to do well with it.

Hayes: Is there any Cameron connection still in that big gasoline distribution that you were talking about.

Cameron: No.

Hayes: That’s gone. Cause that’s really a big, big center down there now.

Cameron: Oh yeah, well it was big then. Tank wise there’s not much difference there. I'm sure they handle a lot more product than then, but it was a big business then. The major oil companies were involved, one of them is the ?Tiecland project before my father died., Pure Oil Company that was, pretty heavily interested in getting it established. They were really the first big customer that we hand here.

Hayes: I don’t even know that they exist any longer, do they? Pure Oil?

Cameron: It was not like Exxon. Old Exxon is and was the biggest and I guess always will be.

Hayes: Well we just have a couple more minutes and we want to give you a chance if there’s any other folks that you think the world ought to know about that you keep running across or working with over the years? I don’t want to miss somebody that…

Cameron: Well off hand, there’s a lot of people that deserve a lot of credit. One name, not necessarily the greatest one, that I thought of was I think Mr. Sprunt is somebody you might want to look into down the line, but without ever having known him. I've always kind of looked up to him. I think he’s set examples around here. He was a generous fellow. He did a lot for various churches.

Hayes: Were there politicians that you particularly worked with over the years?

Cameron: I know Dan has told you about Jimmy Wade and he’s known a lot better Jimmy Wade stories than I did.

Hayes: I would guess as a developer, almost every mayor you've had to work with or the City Council or County Commissioners, everyone of them, right?

Cameron: Well used to be a lot different as far as politicians I think than they do nowadays. Of course, they used to have a pretty stable, I thought, county government, but there wasn’t as much politics involved. Had people like George Trask, Addison Hewett Sr. and about three or four people, you know, that held the same jobs and ran it like a business. A lot of things changed, things that make it impossible to do things that they did then and I guess everything looks different looking back than it does looking forward (laughter). It’s hard to criticize or compare sometimes.

Hayes: Different times. You've lived through some very different times in Wilmington, haven’t you?

Cameron: Yeah, two wars, three or four wars now, born in World War I, lived through World War II, had about three or four since then.

Hayes: And Wilmington has gone from kind of a boomtown in the war back to kind of a quiet place.

Cameron: It’s still, everything considered, I think one of the great places to live, everything considered. I've traveled around quite a bit and looked at a lot of places and always glad to get home.

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