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Interview with Jack E. Fryar Jr.,  January 23, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Jack E. Fryar Jr.,  January 23, 2007
Date:
January 23, 2007
Description:
Author/publisher Jack Fryar discusses his motivations behind the founding of Dram Tree Books and the Whittler's Bench Press, his involvement in local preservation efforts, and his fervor for SENC history.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Fryar, Jack Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 1/23/2007 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Jones: January 23, 2007, I'm Carroll Jones with Jennifer Dail for Randall Library Special Collections, oral history program. And this morning we're pleased to be with Mr. Jack Fryar, Jr., author of The Coastal Chronicles, volumes I and II. He is a Wilmington native, founder of...and you'll have to correct me again on this...founder of the Writer's Roundtable for the Writer's Conference for...here at UNCW. He is also the author of A History Lovers Guide to Wilmington & the Lower Cape Fear, a former sports announcer for Chapel Hill and UNCW, and at present is owner/publisher of Dram Tree Books and the Whittler's Bench Press, a lecturer, preservationist, presently involved in Friends of Fort Johnston, and active in the preservation of Old Brunswick Town. Is that right?

Jack Fryar: That's right.

Jones: Okay. Have I left anything out?

Jack Fryar: Um...

Jones: I'm sure I have.

Jack Fryar: Not too much, yea.

Jones: We'll get on to that. Where do we start, Jack? There's a lot to you here.

Jack Fryar: Um...

Jones: Shall we just start with growing up in Wilmington?

Jack Fryar: Sure, sure. I was born and raised in Wilmington. My family moved to Wilmington in World War II when my grandfather took a job in the shipyard, and we've been here ever since.

Jones: Um, one of those, okay.

Jack Fryar: Yea, he was a pipe fitter, worked in the shipyards. Um, my father is Jack Fryar, Sr., my mother is Arlene Collins Fryar, she's from Horry County South Carolina. They married in 1959 and I was born in 1960. So I've lived her all my left except for what time Uncle Sam had me and...and a couple of years when I worked for Chapel Hill like you said. And...

Jones: Did you go to school at Chapel Hill?

Jack Fryar: No, I went to UNCW actually.

Jones: Did you?

Jack Fryar: Yea, yea, the...

Jones: A graduate.

Jack Fryar: Well, not a graduate, no, I went here for three years but um, but I never graduated. I'm...I'm close but...

Jones: Okay.

Jack Fryar: I just never got back into it. The...I ah, went into the Marine Corp after high school.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: And ah, you know, from the Marine Corp, I...I wanted to go and be...I wanted to be an officer in the military, I wanted to be a career soldier.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: And in order to do that, to be an officer, I had to have a four year degree. So in 1984 I applied to and was accepted at UNCW and enrolled in the spring semester in 1984. And they had just started up an Army ROTC unit here at the time. It's no longer in existence I don't think, but um, but at the time they had, you know, the program was one or two years old. And I was, you know, that's how I, you know, end up, you know, trooping around UNCW. But I...the whole reason I went back to school was to get the commission. And I started out...I asked people what was the easiest program that you could get a four year degree in, and they would say, "Oh communications is the easiest...the easiest." And I said okay, I've done that, I worked in radio for a while, you know, immediately out of high school and so...

Jones: Here in Wilmington?

Jack Fryar: Yea, um hum.

Jones: More WAAV radio or...?

Jack Fryar: Ah, WGNI, back when it was an AM station, yea, and back then it was an AM station and WAAV was its FM counterpart.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: And...and from there I went into the Marine Corp, and form there I went to UNCW and got into the communications program and everything was fine until I took a summer school class. I can't even remember what the name of the class was, but they had...they held it in the SRO Theater. And I was a couple of minutes late getting to class that first day because I wasn't quite sure where SRO...SRO theater was. Well, as I got there and here's me, I'm...I'm six foot, you know, two hundred pounds, and had been a US Marine, I had been, you know, fairly...fairly guy oriented type stuff, you know, my whole adult life. Anyway, I get to the SRO Theater and...and I stop right in the doorway because the woman who was teaching the class had everybody on the risers in the theater standing up and going up and down with their arms, going up and down the vocal scale, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, like that and I just looked at it and you know, I got to thinking there's no way. (laugh)

Jones: Did you find out why she was doing it?

Jack Fryar: It was some sort of vocal exercise, but I, you know, that was the last straw. I turned around and went straight to the registrar and said, "Drop this, give me anything you have in political science." And the only thing they had was a three hundred level Russian studies course. I said, "That's fine, I'll take it." And that's what I did the rest of the time I was here was political science and did very well at it.

Jones: Good.

Jack Fryar: Um...history has always been something I've been interested in and social studies and political science, yea, things of that nature...have always been a good fit for me. And so I was much more comfortable there than I ever was in the communication studies program. Um, by the late eighties, while I was in college, I started working in books...started at a bookstore, Waldenbooks here in Wilmington, and eventually ended up as a manager at an independent bookstore called Between The Lines which was on, you know, roughly where Staples is now at the corner of New Center Drive and Olean...or New Center and College Road. And I had been a publisher's rep, sold books, you know, to book stores for a publisher. Um, and then in ninety five I was reading a Publisher's Weekly magazine and Publisher's Weekly, as you probably know is...is the magazine of the publishing industry.

Jones: Yea.

Jack Fryar: ...for booksellers and everything. But it's...it's geared more towards the publishing side of the equation than it is booksellers. And I got to thinking, wow, wouldn't it be great if you...if you had a publication that was geared for people who sell books, who make their living off books, you know, not publishing. Um, and so I started a magazine called Southern Book Trade. I've always been a good writer. I was, you know, even from grade school, ever since I...I was probably in fifth grade and realized that...

Jones: Where did you go to grade school?

Jack Fryar: Ah, Chestnut Street School which is now Annie Snipes School.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: Ah, back then, Chestnut Street was first through eighth grade and so the first eight years of my school life was in the same school. Um, by the time eighth grade rolled around I owned that joint. I'd been there longer than most of the teachers had. But I learned in fourth or fifth grade, you know, when I started messing around with the school newspaper, that a press pass will get you all kinds of access. (laugh) And so, being one who...who liked to occasionally call in tardy for a class or...or you know, persue my own explorations or whatever, I...I got wrapped in with the newspapers because if I got questioned in the hallways I could say, "Well, yea, I'm working on a story, gotta trot on down the hallway here." Worked real well for me all through school. Um, but it turns out that I was a pretty good writer too. I had a knack for it. It had a...a knack for graphic design and...and writing and...and I actually won awards in school for, you know, school journalism and what not. So in ninety five, you know, I'd gotten away from it after high school, but in ninety five I was reading Publisher's Weekly and I...I got to thinking it would be really neat if there was a magazine geared towards booksellers and librarians, you know, people who dealt with the public and made...actually made a living on a daily basis selling books. And so I started a magazine called Southern Book Trade. It was a magazine for book professionals in the south. It went to every bookstore and library in eleven states. Ah, there were a lot more of 'em back then than there are today, you know, with the, you know, the independents disappearing like they are...the independent booksellers.

Jones: Isn't that sort of an expensive venture?

Jack Fryar: Well, it was and yea, we...we didn't do it as a glossy magazine, it was done as a tabloid newspaper format. So, you know, it was costing me about sixteen hundred a month to produce the magazine and then you had postage on top of that. Um, but it really wasn't that bad if you...

Jones: You sold advertising?

Jack Fryar: Right. We sold advertising. It went free to the bookstores and libraries. Ah, but we would sell, you know, advertising to the publishers, cause face it, if you're...if you have a publication that is going to every bookstore and library in eleven states, and at this time, you know, the south was widely recognized as being the...the economic engine that was driving the economy of the United States. You know, people were...this was at the beginning of that big mi...you know, big migration that we're feeling the results of now...

Jones: Right, while we're here.

Jack Fryar: ...where people were relocating to other, to you know, to the south.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: And in particular, North Carolina. Um, so people were coming here, and the message was for publishers, if you know, if you're gonna sell books over the next five or ten years, you're gonna sell a bunch of them here in the south, so you need to pay attention to, you know, the professionals down here who are trying to get your product in front of the public, you know. That was our...our pitch to the, you know, the potential advertisers. But with the exception of presses like Algonquin Books and Down Home Press, some of the regional presses, John Blair, that are located here in the south...

Jones: But they're very much niched.

Jack Fryar: They are, they are, although that's a very lucrative niche, you know. The type of books that they do, there's a very healthy appetite for 'em here in the south. Um, but it was when we would call the New York publishers to try and get advertising...

Jones: They won't look at anything.

Jack Fryar: Right, you know, the attitude in New York apparently was...

Jones: You have to be an agent.

Jack Fryar: Well, no one had ever...you know, we weren't trying to pitch books to 'em, we were trying to, you know, hit them up for advertising for things that they were already putting out there. And the attitude in New York seemed to be that nobody had ever read a book west of the Hudson river and when they heard the words North Carolina they immediately envisioned somebody in bib overalls and a straw hat apparently. Yea, we just could never, we could never get it across to 'em that...

Jones: Shows that territorial...

Jack Fryar: Yea, exactly, yea. Especially in the publishing industry.

Jones: New Yorkers are living in Wilmington now.

Jack Fryar: Right. The publishing industry especially because back then all the big publishers were...were in New York and Boston and you know, the northeast, you know. That's not the case so much anymore, you know, um, with the advent of desktop publishing and...and the communications systems that you have now with things like email and...and .pdfs and computers and the internet and all that. You can...you can do this job from pretty much anywhere. But back then that wasn't the case. So the magazine lasted for a couple years before I finally had to give it up because I...I just couldn't get the advertising revenue to...to keep in going. But in the meantime, being a local boy, I was raised on all these stories about the history of the Cape Fear and North Carolina. It's always been a...something that I've...I've had an enjoyment of, you know, an affinity for...is, you know, these stories of our history. And...because if you think about it, people forget sometimes that there was a time when...when coastal North Carolina and the Cape Fear was the frontier, you know. We've got four centuries of great stories along this coastline.

Jones: Let me interrupt you a minute. Where did...where did you primarily hear these stories?

Jack Fryar: Um...

Jones: And how credible...creditable do you think they were?

Jack Fryar: Well, you know, some of it was, you know, was...

Jones: Did you read them...or did you hear them?

Jack Fryar: Yea...my aunt...my Aunt Carol, Carol Hines...she is a, up until she retired, was head of the art department at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. And she had me reading by the time I was three.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: And it was the best thing that anybody had ever done for me.

Jones: Yea.

Jack Fryar: And then, ah, then my grandmother...I almost flunked math in fourth grade because while everybody else was...was reading, or reciting their multiplication tables out loud...fourth grade as the year that my grandmother got me my first adult book. And it was a novel called Sloop of War, by Alexander Kent. You know, it was set during the Napoleonic wars and, you know, it's one of those horn blower type stories where you've got a British Naval captain, you know, dukein' it out with the...with the French. And so while everybody else was doing their multiplication tables I had my math book up with Sloop of War in the middle of it and I was fighting the French in the English Channel. And it was so real. I could feel salt spray on my face. And that confirmed me as a reader ever since, you know. I've got...I've got upwards of ten thousand books in my library. Well...I've got ten thousand books, I don't have a library to put 'em in. That's more than some small town libraries.

Jones: Are you like us...they're everywhere...even in the bathroom?!

Jack Fryar: Yea, exactly, yea. I might die without a penny to my name but somebody's gonna get a good library out of it. Um, but the, you know, historical fiction...books, you know, especially historical fiction books, allowed me to go places and do things that I will never get a chance to do in real life.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Ah, it...it exposed me to...to view points that I would never have been exposed to otherwise, you know, which makes you, I think a more rounded person. Um, you in a lot of ways...a more independent person too. Because if you hear differing viewpoints and...and different world views and...and expose yourself to...to a wide variety of things, then you get to chose for yourself what you find valid and what you don't. And I...I think it's, you know, it's great for you. The best thing anybody could ever do for a young person is teach 'em to read. To show 'em the magic of books. And so...

Jones: That's very true. I had a teacher...like you, I was a voracious reader and I had...I went to a girls private school...fortunately had a group of teachers who were outstanding and this one said something that has stuck in my mind ever since. Ah, she said, "If you can read a book, no matter what's happened to you, no matter how old you are, you will never be lonely." And that' right.

Jack Fryar: That's right. Absolutely is. Um, the...the...so you know, a lot of the stories I would hear from...from kinfolk, you know, who would tell the stories about, you know, Uncle so-and-such who fought in the Civil War, you know, or...or you know, the stories about Fort Fisher or Moore's Creek. You know, things like that. And a lot of it I picked up on my own, you know, because my family wasn't originally from Wilmington, you know, they didn't move here until World War II. But being the kind of reader that I was, especially someone who was interested in history and historical fiction, I went searching for these stories. And I...I found them. Reading you know, Lawrence Lee and...

Jones: Oh yea.

Jack Fryar: And all...all the great historians, you know, that have, you know, James Sprunt and...and Lewis Hall's books.

Jones: You read all those.

Jack Fryar: Yea. Yea, you know, I found those books and I thought wow, what great books! And what great stories!

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: You wouldn't know, even in 1960, looking at sleepy little Wilmington, that it played a pivotal role in...in the Revolutionary war. You wouldn't know that Wilmington was the most important port of the Confederacy, you know. And that the success or failure of...of Robert E. Lee's army depended on little old Wilmington, you know. You wouldn't know these things unless you searched 'em out.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: So, I've always had a fascination and a love of North Carolina history, you know. Um, and I've always believed that for native born southerners, who we were is a big part of who we are, you know. It's...it's our...our DNA as a people, you know, our history. It tells us who we are.

Jones: Let me stop you and ask you...that's a very interesting point, and you're right, as somebody who is native to Wilmington yourself, but your family were not, did you find it difficult during this growing-up period to assimilate into the existing society?

Jack Fryar: No, no.

Jones: When I say society, I'm not talking necessarily about...I'm talking about people in general.

Jack Fryar: No. Um, Wilmington's the only thing I ever knew. I...I certainly associated myself more with Wilmington and...and life in a town, you know, or a small city than I did with, you know, my parents people...or my mama's people who were, you know, sharecroppers in Horry County South Carolina, you know, I mean it was just a totally alien environment from...from what I knew. Now my parents, that might be a different story, because they did come from rural backgrounds. Um, but the only thing I ever knew was...was living in Wilmington. With the exception of...of going down in the summer to help my...my grandfather crop tobacco, you know, first motor vehicle I ever drove was a 1948 Massey Ferguson tractor, you know, pulling a tobacco drag.

Jones: In South Carolina?

Jack Fryar: Yea. Down in Horry County. Um, so it wasn't a...you know, it wasn't hard for me at all and Wilmington was a much different place back then than it is now. Um it was still...it was the largest town east of I...east of Raleigh in North Carolina, as it still is today. But it still...

Jones: The old word is the Coast Line pulled out.

Jack Fryar: Well yea, in 1960 or so.

Jones: Yea.

Jack Fryar: I think it was 1960 they pulled out.

Jones: Yea.

Jack Fryar: Um, and...and that was, you know, the town took a big hit, but, you know, even back then, even when I was just a little guy, despite the fact that Wilmington was the largest town east of Raleigh, and...and as far as its society was concerned, as far as people were concerned, it still retained a lot of those qualities of a small town, you know. A...the...the kind of place where...where people left their doors unlocked at night and neighbors...

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: You know, if you were a young'un messing up, you know, the neighbor down the street would...would get on you about it and, you know, you could...you could trust people to...to look after you, you know, to ah, to contribute to this...this sense of community, you know, everybody belonged. Um, it was very much a small town in a lot of ways.

Jones: I've heard a number of people who were transplants down here and they may have lived here ten, fifteen, even twenty years, complain about people being "townies" as opposed to themselves being outsiders and not ever able to...to really get into certain groups, to...to...and learn about the way things really were, you know.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: Had...had you ever...of course you were...you went to school with a lot of these, so you were assimilated.

Jack Fryar: Yea, I...I, you know, I've always been, you know, a Wilmington boy. I guess in your words, a "townie", ah, in that...

Jones: They weren't mine, I found that kind of unusual...a "townie"...

Jack Fryar: Yea, yea, and...

Jones: I used to think of a "townie" as opposed to somebody who was from the country or something like that.

Jack Fryar: Right. Yea. The...I think what this person is...

Jones: I married a "townie," so I didn't...

Jack Fryar: I think even...it's...it's like even in a family, you know, if you, if you marry into a family a lot of times, you know, there...there are always going to be things that, because you weren't born here, you weren't born into that family, you...you're never gonna learn, you know. You're never gonna be familiar with, you know...

Jones: I think you can, be they don't expect you to.

Jack Fryar: Right. And so, you know, it's...it's nothing that I think people do consciously.

Jones: Right...I think...more passing down the stories and traditions and that kind of thing as opposed to, um, any family secrets...

Jack Fryar: Well, and, you know, and too, you know...

Jones: And that includes the history, like the history of Airlie which has been so contentious for so long.

Jack Fryar: Well, you know, too, I think it's, you know, it's a lot of...a lot of times it's...it's a case of, you know, people who are...who have moved here from somewhere else, I've found, a lot of times aren't particularly interested in...in knowing, you know, the old history. You know, they're...

Jones: There's some of that, too.

Jack Fryar: You know, because they've got...they've got their own history from wherever it is they came from, you know, just the same was as if...if I move to Rochester New York, you know, well maybe not me, because I'm a history geek, but you know, somebody else from here, who, you know, works at a filling station, or whatever, you know, is not...doesn't have a particular interest in history. If they moved to Rochester New York, probably wouldn't have that big an interest in the history there either you know, and...

Jones: I think we're very blessed in this area since so many people are retiring younger than they did before and in a better financial position, that we have some come here to play and relax.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: And the cost of living might be less than Long Island, ah, as an example. But we've been blessed in that so many of them have taken this area. They've been so fascinated...taken it to their heart and opened their wallets and their time...

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: And so forth...

Jack Fryar: Yea, and what I said doesn't, you know...

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: Doesn't apply to everybody, you know. But just...just as an example.

Jones: Yea.

Jack Fryar: And...and so while I was doing Southern Book Trade magazine, you know, all these stories were rolling around in my head and Wilmington was seeing a lot of people move in from other places at the time. It was, like I said, you know, the eighties and nineties was when that...that big immigration of outlanders, you know...started...started really relocating here.

Jones: They didn't miss the Coast Line a bit.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: And, um, and so I got to thinking, wow, wouldn't it be neat to ah, to do a publication that told some of those stories, you know. And what we did, we started Coastal Chronicles magazine which was a monthly, also a tabloid newspaper type format, um, original.

Jones: Who is we?

Jack Fryar: Ah, me and...and the one or two other writers that I had working with me. For instance, in the magazine, Dr. Fonville, Chris Fonville, you know, wrote the...

Jones: Good friend of ours.

Jack Fryar: Yea, Chris wrote ah...wrote the ah...for Coastal Chronicles magazine...he wrote the story about Fort Fisher. I could have done it, but Chris is the...the man when it comes to...

Jones: He's...he's the Civil War guy.

Jack Fryar: Yea, he's the Civil War guy for around here and he lives and breathes it. And so I asked him if he would...

Jones: Yes, he does.

Jack Fryar: If he would write that for the magazine. He said "sure."

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Ah, I wrote one about the British Occupation of Wilmington during the Revolution, you know.

Jones: Yes.

Jack Fryar: And what we tried to do...I found...

Jones: The whole two days of it!

Jack Fryar: Well, no, it was eight months, but it played a pivotal role in the...in the...Cornwallis's campaign of 1780.

Jones: Um.

Jack Fryar: And if you look at it in the right light, we won the Revolution. Cornwallis surrendered his army because the men at Herron's Bridge prevented Major Craig from fulfilling his mission to re-supplying Cornwallis by shipping supplies from Wilmington up the river to Cross Creek.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: But that's another story!

Jones: It is!

Jack Fryar: The ah...so, you know, we started this magazine and I had always found that when somebody tells me they don't like history, what they're saying is they don't like the dry names and dates that they got out of their school book. Yea, these are the same people that will go and watch a movie like Gone With The Wind, or Gettysburg, or...

Jones: Braveheart.

Jack Fryar: Yea, you know, something like that, you know.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: The different...and while those admittedly are either fictional or loosely based on...on true events, ah, the fact that people watch them and enjoy them, and you know, are absorbed by the drama of those movies, shows that they do like history, you know. They do like history when the storyteller takes the time to tell a story. So when a fiction writer sits down, the create out a whole cloth...characters, and a time period for these characters to live in, and the situations that they find themselves in, and you know, all the elements, you know, of that story, are created out of that writer's head. Well there's no reason you can't do the same thing with a true story. Use real people, use the real things that happen to 'em, the real places that they happen as the setting and building blocks of your story. Ah, I think it's en vogue to call that "creative nonfiction" these days.

Jones: What do you think is harder, fiction, or nonfiction?

Jack Fryar: (sigh)...the both...

Jones: You have to be...you have to be accurate with nonfication.

Jack Fryar: That's...yea...

Jones: You can develop with fiction, but you've got to go somewhere.

Jack Fryar: Yea. The ah, they...they both have their difficulties, um, for me fiction is harder. Um, because I have to create a whole world out of my head and I don't know that...

Jones: This was just an aside...

Jack Fryar: ...there's enough raw material in my head to...to create a whole world. Um, but whether it's fiction or nonfiction, the essential thing is to take the time to tell a story, you know.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: You've got to pay attention to the things like...like theme and pacing and narrative suspense that...that make a good fiction piece entertaining to you as well. There's no reason a true story can't be an entertaining story as well. And that's kind of what we tried to do with Coastal Chronicles...the stories that appeared there.

Jones: Where did you get most of your information for these two volumes?

Jack Fryar: The first volume is nothing but the...all the stories from the first year of the magazine...

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: You know, we were doing ten thousand copies of that magazine a month. I'd put 'em out and within seven days they were gone. I had people calling wanting back issues to get the stories they missed.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Including...we had three hundred calls the first year the magazine came out...from people looking for back issues.

Jones: Uuuum.

Jack Fryar: Roughly sixty of those calls were from teachers who were actually using the magazine in the classroom because there is no local history textbook to speak of. Ah...

Jones: So those stories came from guest writers, or you...?

Jack Fryar: Some of them were guest writers. Ninety percent of them I wrote.

Jones: It looked that way when I...

Jack Fryar: Yea. And ah, the, for instance, you know, Chris Fonville, for instance, wrote the Fort Fisher story. Ah, David Norris, who's another ah, local writer, he ah, he wrote a nice piece about the British invasion of Ocracoke during the war of 1812. Ah, you know, so there's one or two other people who contributed pieces.

Jones: But for you, did you have to do a lot of research, or were these things that you...

Jack Fryar: I spent a lot...

Jones: A lot of time?

Jack Fryar: Spent a lot of time down in the library. Because I know the story, you know, or at least the...the general outlines of the story, you know. There was, you know, a pirate that was captured in the Cape Fear river back in the 1700s, you know. But I wouldn't know the details of it. So that meant traipsing down to the North Carolina Room and pestering Beverly Tetterton and Joseph Shepard for documents that would help me fill out the bones of the story to make sure that I was being accurate in what I wrote. Um, but people loved the magazine. Ah, so the problem that I've always run into is my pockets aren't deep enough to...to be a real deal publisher. I'm a...a micro publisher in the truest sense in that I do pretty much everything with the stuff I do except put 'em on the printing press. And the same was true with the magazines. Ah, so I was doing all the writing, you know, or ninety percent of the writing. I was doing all the graphics. I was doing advertising sales, distribution, you know, the whole nine yards. And from the time I'd do one issue and put it on the street, to the time the next one was due to go to press as sixteen days. Well, you do that for a couple years and it'll kick your butt! So, I started doing books for...for a couple of reasons. One, instead of sixteen day deadlines, you have six month deadlines. And if you're doing history and you miss a deadline, it ain't that big a deal. It's still gonna be history when you get around to it.

Jones: It's not gonna change.

Jack Fryar: Yea. And too, the profit margin is better. One of the things that I noticed when I was selling books is that there is a huge appetite for North Carolina history. Ah, we've got such great stories here. And, um, and so, you know, I chose that as my subject matter, ah, when I started doing books because I realized I couldn't compete with Random House and the big New York houses or even John Blair, and some of the regional presses like Algonquin or UNC Chapel Hill.

Jones: But Algonquin really just does photo essays.

Jack Fryar: Well they do now, but back, you know, back when I started this, they were still doing literary fiction and things like that as well. Um, I couldn't compete with them. I didn't have the...the pocketbook or the infrastructure to do that. What I could beat 'em on was the local history. So in confined myself...I created Dram Tree Books and...and the creation of Dram Tree Books came about because there used to be a press here called Coastal Carolina Press.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: And...nice little press.

Jones: Yes.

Jack Fryar: Non-profit. They did some good work. And they told me when I got enough of those Coastal Chronicle stories together to let 'em know and they might want to, you know, would be interested in publishing 'em. So I was pretty excited about that. I hadn't published a book yet and was excited about having my own ISBN number. See I don't have children or anything so there's nothing to carry me on. But as long as I've got an ISBN number, I'm in the Library of Congress.

Jones: That's right.

Jack Fryar: And that's gonna be there forever in one form or another. Ah, so that's my shot at immortality. Well I mentioned it to Ellen...Ellyn Bache, who was another local writer.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: A very successful one, who...who's been a great friend and mentor to me over the years, um, that they were interested in doing it. And she said, "Jack, why would you let them do it and get maybe a buck a copy royalty when you can do it yourself and keep it all?" And it got to thinking, yea, why would I do that? Because it's not like I'm gonna sell a lot of these books in Kansas or someplace, you know.

Jones: It a...it's...

Jack Fryar: It's a very niche market.

Jones: A niche type thing.

Jack Fryar: Yea. And you know, I knew how to do the graphics, I knew how to sell the book, Lord knows I know how to sell a book, I was one of Waldenbooks' best booksellers. Um, the...I really didn't need them to do it, you know. I know...I'd been a publisher's rep, you know, I knew how to do everything that was involved in producing a book. And so I said yea, why would I do that? So I created Dram Tree Books to, you know, allow me to do it myself. The first couple of years of Dram Tree Books, the only titles we produced were books that I wrote. There was Coastal Chronicles Volume I, then A History Lover's Guide to Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear, Chronicles Volume II, and you know, several on like that. Ah, within the last year though, we have started producing titles, you know, from other people. Um, one of 'em, Rebel Gibraltar by James Walker, is...just won the 2006 Jefferson Davis medal for history, you know. So we're...we're doing good books that focus on the history of the Cape Fear and coastal North Carolina, you know. And for us coastal North Carolina is...is where the water hits the beach to about a hundred miles either side.

Jones: Sure.

Jack Fryar: At some point we would like to expand and...and, you know, do history from the rest of the state but I'll need a few more hands on board to...to help me with that before I can expand and do that. Um, one of the other areas that we've expanded into though is that Dram Tree Books does nonfiction history, but every now and then I would get a nice novel across my desk that really deserved to be published. But I couldn't do that with Dram Tree Books because that's not what Dram Tree Books did. So I created Whittler's Bench Press as a fiction imprint to give me a means of producing...

Jones: I was about to ask you about that.

Jack Fryar: Yea, yea, that's why...that's why I created Whittler's Bench, was because every now and then I'd get a nice novel across my desk that really deserved to be published. And so, you know, Whittler's Bench is not something where each release season, fall and spring, I have to have a new title, you know, it's...it's a press where if I do get a good book, I've got a means of bringing it out there now.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Um, the...the press that we, you know, Dram Tree Books, I've got three basic customers, as I said, for native born southerners, who we were is a big part of who we are, so...so you've got locals.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: The other leg of this tripod that Dram Tree Books is perched on is...is people who have relocated to the area. Part of the assimilation process, when you move to a new place, is learning some of the history of that area. And this place in particular, people seem very voracious about learning that history, you know, they...they really embrace it. Ah, so that's the second audience. And then, of course, tourist make up the third. Um, so before I publish anything I...I ask myself, who's gonna read this book, you know. And if I can say well, at least two of those three are going to, you know, be an audience for this book, then I'll go ahead and publish it. Ah, most of the books we do, it think all three are likely candidates. And we only do trade paperback too, because for some reason, I don't know what it is, maybe we can find a psychologist somewhere who can tell me, but for some reason tourist just don't buy hardcover books. I don't know if its some mental thing in their head where...where you're not supposed to take a hardcover book on the beach, or...or you're supposed to take care of it, and you know, it's not something that you'd throw into a suitcase, or whatever...

Jones: I think that's part of it.

Jack Fryar: Yea. But, ah, I noticed when I was selling books that...that tourists...

Jones: They're also cheaper.

Jack Fryar: Yea. Tourists just don't buy hardcover books. And so the only thing we do is trade paperback.

Jones: Neither do the elderly, retired people.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: They cost more.

Jack Fryar: Right. So the, you know, the only thing that we do are trade paperbacks, you know. My mother accuses me of doing that as a calculated design ploy, you know, to, you know, build in obsolescence. You know, you wear out a paperback faster, so you have to go and buy a new one, but whatever works, right?

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Um...so that's, you know, that's how I make my living these days and ah, I think we've...we've done some good work. We've got thirteen books in print now and we'll do at least ten more for 2007, so...

Jones: Good.

Jack Fryar: So we're growing.

Jones: That's good. So, along with this, since you've dealt with a history of being from here, growing up here, being familiar with the history here, watching the influx of people from somewhere else and very, very aware of...of the many changes, and some of them are very definitely affecting our coast and downtown Wilmington, and across the river, what is your feeling about, and you've been involved, you are involved now with preserving history, and these buildings we've mentioned, Fort Johnston, ah, how do you feel about where this is going? Are you comfortable with what's happening? Would you like...what would you like to seen and where do you think...? Go down ten years from now. Our feeling is that we hear from statistics of the...the tremendous growth, and the feeling is that there...it won't be unusual once they get the flying bridge across the Cape Fear, to see people here and work in Jacksonville, work in...in...down by...it'll be a megalopolis, Jacksonville to the...to the South Carolina border. Um, Brunswick County is the fasting growing county in the country right now.

Jack Fryar: Um hum.

Jones: Um, are...it appears from certain statistics that the average income of people settling here is higher than anywhere in the country...in the state, but Charlotte. What's happening? Where's it going? How are you going to, as a historian, as a native, as somebody who's preserving history...is this history in the making?

Jack Fryar: It is. I mean, you know, anything that happens here is part of our story, you know, as a people. And this is something that...that, you know, fifty years from now, people in the history departments will be studying the same way we study the civil war, or the depression, or you know, periods from our past. Um, how do I feel about it?

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: You know change is inevitable and...and growth generally speaking is a good thing, but growth needs to be planned to be good growth. You know, otherwise what you end up with is...is growth like a cancer cell that...that, you know, multiples and feeds upon itself and then it kills the host organism which in this case is...is Wilmington, it's southern charm, the great beaches that we have here, the...the, you know, the wooded areas around that...that people take so much solace in, you know, being able to walk and camp and hunt and you know, do all those things. Unchecked growth runs very real risk of destroying the things that make Wilmington and southeastern North Carolina desirable for people. Um, you know, if you...if you don't step back and...and try to plan how you're going to grow then you end up being just another one of these, you know, concrete jungles that are...are indistinguishable from...from cities like that anywhere else in the country, you know. And I don't think anybody wants that. You know, the people moving here, you know, they want to fit in, they moved here for a reason, you know. The people that have lived here all their lives that are, you know, long time Wilmington families, they...they certainly welcome the increased cultural activity, the increased economic benefits that growth entail, um, but at the same time, they...they certainly don't want to see the things that they've cherished from their childhoods and...and their lives growing up, you know, swallowed up by...by this...this monster of unchecked growth.

Jones: What would you like to see happen, for example, in what's considered the old part of the city, downtown, and...and from Market Street, down in certain areas, and you know what I'm talking about from, ah, probably from, well, Sixteenth, Seventeenth Street, all the way...on both sides, all the way down to the river?

Jack Fryar: I think one of the best things as far as preserving our history, preserving the charm of downtown is concerned, that...that the people of Wilmington could do, would be to take a lesson from...from Charleston, South Carolina. They have done an outstanding job of preserving the...the historical parts of their city. And they've done that by enacting, you know, preservation steps that are...that are very stringent, you know, that ah, you know, and Beverly Tetterton can tell you about these differences more than I can, or George Edwards with the Historic Wilmington Foundation, but in Charleston, ah, there is...there is a very stringent set of guidelines as to what changes you can make in a historic, you know, district and...and they have the steps in place there to stop somebody from being able to go into the historic district and...and tear down a building, or radically alter it from its original...

Jones: That's what I was telling you.

Jack Fryar: Yea, yea, and you know, I think if Wilmington is...intends to retain its historic district, ah, they need to...to do the same thing. Because it's mighty hard for people, you know, people living down there who have lived there all their lives, you know, some cases may have been born in...in those old buildings down there, but there getting on in age now and it's harder to, you know, make ends meet, and somebody comes along offer...offering 'em a fistful of cash for this property, ah, it's mighty hard for them to...to turn that down, you know, so it's a case of...and I don't want to say this because I always believe that a man's got a right to do pretty much what he wants to with his property, but I think in the case of historic properties, properties that have value to the community as a whole, rather than just a, you know, single property owner, that there should be limitations on what they can do and...and should be limitations that are enforceable, you know, by...by law, um, rather than just being an, you know, an admonition, you know, you shouldn't do that, and...and we can only keep you doing it, you know, for a hundred days or whatever. You know, they ought to be able to put in, you know, this Historic Wilmington Foundation, or the Historic Commission, or whoever, ought to be able to put an injunction in to block a development that doesn't fit in with the, you know, the landscape down there.

Jones: Um, what do you feel about several things, for example the overly talked about convention center, the overly talked about crisis or crunch with parking, parking decks, etc., plans for making a park outside of Thalian Hall building. These things that come up and many of them have been talked about for eight, nine years, you know.

Jack Fryar: Um hum, yea.

Jones: Like consolidation, but we wont' go there. I'm talking now about...about the downtown area is...was a lot of bars, a lot of buildings that are empty that should stay there and are staying there, but is there a way to do this and bring PPD there...can the bring people back into shopping down there?

Jack Fryar: I think PPD will...will do a lot to reinvigorate downtown. Um, just for the fact that you're bringing large numbers of people into downtown that have to eat somewhere and they have to park somewhere and...and you know, the shops are there, so when they have to run out to get their sweetie a birthday present on their lunch breast, the Cotton Exchange is right there, you know. Ah, so I think it'll do a lot to help downtown, and...and I think were PPD is being set, you know, on the north end of downtown, it doesn't...

Jones: Out of the way.

Jack Fryar: Yea, it doesn't really impose on...on the character of historic downtown, so yea, why not, you know I see nothing wrong with that. Like I said earlier, growth generally speaking is a good thing if its thought out and planned. Ah as for the convention center, I don't really see anything wrong with it. Um, if its going to be a...

Jones: Provide jobs.

Jack Fryar: It'll provide jobs, it'll provide a venue to again draw people into downtown for conventions and...and trade shows, and things of that nature.

Jones: ...people from Wilmington can use it around here too.

Jack Fryar: I think that ought to be one of the stipulations, you know, if ah, if you're going to expect the public to foot the bill, or to subsidize what might be a risky proposition as far as you know, the profitability of a convention center, then the public certainly ought to have a right to, you know, use it. It shouldn't be reserved just for, you know, fat cat corporations that want to hold their, you know, their convention there or whatever. Um, why you couldn't you use if for, you know, the high school bands, you know, if they want to have a band jamboree, you know, that you could...you could hold that in the convention center.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: Ah, why couldn't you, ah, if UNCW for instance were to host the CAA Basketball tournament one year.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: Why couldn't you do it down there, you know? Um, these are all things that it could be used for, you know.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: So, if...if its going to be something that the public is expected to subsidize...if these dreams of...of profitability don't mature, then certainly they ought to have a right to, you know, to be involved with it and get use out of it. As far as parking decks are concerned, they're ugly, but they are a fact of life. You know if you're going to have increased traffic in downtown Wilmington, there's only so many street level parking places and...and so, you know, they're...they're gonna have to build 'em, so...

Jones: Would you like to see or not see something that's been talked about, and I've seen this happen in other parts of the country, um, several blocks of um, a commercial street with no auto traffic, only pedestrian traffic.

Jack Fryar: Like a mall? Yea.

Jones: And have it so that you can...it would be an avenue for...well there's a place in Santa Monica that's the mile long, where on Sundays it's a great place for people to come out and meet. You can sit there and have your aperitif or coffee...there's all kinds...it's just a real street scene. And the shops are open and such. Um, no automobiles. Um, and ah, you know, the...the atmosphere is such that it could be such here in Wilmington that you'd have a flavor of the history here cause you're close to the river and all these other buildings, and many old buildings.

Jack Fryar: Sure you could do something like that. I don't think it would be a bad...

Jones: As a historian, how...you don't think that would...do you or do you not think that that would be a plus? It would lure...

Jack Fryar: I think it would be a plus. Yea, it would definitely be a plus to my way of thinking. Um, you know, you consider that historically Water Street in the long history of the city of Wilmington is...is a relatively new addition, you know. Water Street didn't exist...

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: ...until you know relatively late in our history. So, you know, if you go back as far as the colonial days there was no Water Street.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Um, so why...and you know, and they're talking about expanding river walk from bridge to bridge.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: You know, if you're doing to do that, why not make Water Street and...and all the way down through Chandler's Warf, a vehicle free street, you know, you could do that. You know, shops are already there, you know. They're talking about tearing down the parking deck and turning that piece of property into a park, which I think is a good idea.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Um, so yea, why couldn't you do something like that, you know.

Jones: Well, alright, lets talk about um, talk about Brunswick Town, talk about Fort Johnston.

Jack Fryar: (laugh)

Jones: Since we're not, I mean, even though there's a river separating Brunswick County from New Hanover County, that doesn't mean that we can't get involved in what's going on other there.

Jack Fryar: Well, New Hanover County and Brunswick, Wilmington and Brunswick Town are now, and always have been linked. Um, the...Wilmington exists primarily because when Brunswick Town was the...the initial port of entry, ah, Maurice Moore got into a shooting match with the royal governor and the royal governor exercised his gubernatorial prerogative and moved the seat of government to Wilmington, ah, just to poke Maurice Moore in the eye. Um, so you know, we...we've got a history link. We're all southeastern North Carolinians, you know, we all have made our living off the sea and...and off the beaches, and the pine forests that surround us here, you know, historically. We all come from the same stock so to speak. Um, and as more and more people move in here, and as Brunswick County grows, that link is going to become even more eminent because people from one side of the river are going to be working on this side or the other side and...and its going to become more of a metropolitan area than it is two separate entities like that. Um, preserving the...the history of Brunswick County is something that them folks down there are gonna have to take a real good look at because, you know, there's talk now about, you know, the state has bought six hundred acres in Southport for this new international port that they're going to put in there.

Jones: Yes.

Jack Fryar: And that is going to radically alter the face of...of the charming little fishing village that we know as Southport, and also Wilmington. Um, the...you know, Wilmington won't be the top dog for shipping anymore, you know, we'll still get the small and medium size freighters, but the big boys will be pulling up to docks in Southport now. Um, how that will effect our economy here, who know? You know. It could...it could hurt us or it could be a boon, you know, if shippers realize that, you know, the Cape Fear River has the capability of accommodating large and small ships, you know, they might start sending more of the smaller stuff our way as well. Um, as far as Southport is concerned, you know, I lived over there for the last two years, you know. My wife works for Dosher Hospital and...and I can write from pretty much anywhere, but she needs to be a little closer to the hospital. So I...I know that area over there. And the little charming village that everybody loves, you know, Southport, is in real danger of disappearing when that port moves in here. You know, the sheer numbers of trucks that they're talking about going in and out of that place...

Jones: Where are they gonna go? What route are they gonna use?

Jack Fryar: Right. You know. There...there's two ways into Southport really, you know, it's highway 87 and highway 133. Highway 133 is one of the most scenic roads I've ever seen in North Carolina. Runs right past Brunswick Town State Historic Site and Fort Anderson...Fort Anderson, which sits on the ruins of Brunswick Town, the colonial town. Fort Anderson might be the best preserved Civil War fort I've ever seen, you know. It...its pretty much pristine the way the Confederates left it. Just up from that is Orton Plantation, you know...one...one of the grand...last of the grand plantations on the Cape Fear River.

Jones: Still being...

Jack Fryar: Yea, yea. And, you know, it dates back to 1725. Ah, so, you're...you know, the highway 133 passes over all these creeks and marshes and wetlands areas that are...that are very beautiful, you know, very pristine, and also very ecologically fragile. Um, so you know, if you're suddenly gonna see a lot of container trucks rolling down highway 133, what's that gonna do? You know. What kind of damage is that gonna do? The alternative is highway 211, you know, which runs along the Brunswick coastline there, you know, from Shallotte to Southport, or highway 87 which comes off highway 17 and drives direct in. Those are the two main...other two main arteries and for those roads to accommodate the kind of traffic they're talking about, there's gonna have to be major infrastructure improvements. Ah, the rail lines that they're talking about bringing in. The rail lines right now, to my knowledge are owned by Sunny Point, you know, owned by the U. S. Army because they ship munitions to and from Sunny Point there. Ah, but those same rail lines can be used to accommodate other cargoes as well if somebody forks up the money to...to go in and improve the rail beds and...and do the things that are necessary to accommodate that kind of traffic. I don't know that they've really thought about that. I hope they have. Um, you know, then when all of this stuff is done, the people that come to the port, you know, that...that relocate here because the port is here, you know, all...not just the maritime industry, but all the other industries that it draws, because they would like to be close to a transshipment point for their products, you know. If you've got a company making widgets that they sell primarily in Europe, wouldn't it be great to have a place in Brunswick County twenty miles from the port so you could just load it on the ship and shoot it across the ocean. You know. These people are gonna start coming in too and then there's all the problems that come along with it. You're talking about improving sewer and water. You're talking about an increase in crime. You're talking about so many different things that I don't know if...if the people in Brunswick County really have a good handle on just what it is they're looking at. And again, it all comes back down to planning, you know. You have to have a consensus as community, the kind of place you want to live in and try to find a happy median where you can accommodate growth and change without losing the things that...that make you...make life worth living in a place, you know. Ah, I don't know if they can do that or not, you know.

Jones: Jack, have you ever thought of, um, becoming politically involved? City council?

Jack Fryar: No. No.

Jones: Commissioners? Nothing like that.

Jack Fryar: No. I'm...I'm doing ah, you know, ten books a year, a couple of which I write, and...and so I really don't have time for much of anything else. I would love to, for instance, be a, you know, a historical reenactor, you know, I would get a kick out of that, you know.

Jones: That's a lot of time, though.

Jack Fryar: Yea, it's a lot of time though, and...and I just don't have the time to do it. Ah, the Civil War Roundtable that they have here at UNCW, you know, they host at UNCW a lot of times that Chris Fonville...

Jones: They do?

Jack Fryar: Yea, I think so.

Jones: They haven't been doing that for a...I know my husband used to...when Chris was president until last year, he called up my husband and he says, "That's it, I've done it."

Jack Fryar: Yea.

Jones: And I went to the last one, ah, which they're now doing over at St. Andrews On The Sound.

Jack Fryar: Are they really? Yea. Well, I knew at...at different times they have hosted it here.

Jones: They...they're really looking for new people to come and talk but some interesting things about the involvement of the Irish and all...in both the Revolutionary War to the Civil War.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: Which is a subject I know quite well. It's close to my heart. So...

Jack Fryar: Well, the...

Jones: But, ah, I was gonna come to that thing, second thing, if you're not involved, since you do know about the various things to look out for and you're very aware of preserving history etc, and it's a bigger picture than just Wilmington. It's southeastern North Carolina.

Jack Fryar: It's the region.

Jones: Exactly. Ah, and...and that is to promote this history to make it more palatable for everybody, anybody.

Jack Fryar: That's one of the things that we try to do at Dram Tree Books.

Jones: So, you know, besides books...in lectures, in preserving the buildings, and it's a lot of work, but there's a market there, don't you think?

Jack Fryar: Sure. Certainly. And that's...that's one of the things that we try to do with...with Dram Tree Books is it's not just a matter of...of making a living with me, you know, I'm...although I obviously am not missing any meals or anything, the um...ah...this history is important to me. You know. I said earlier on that I believe our history is...is literally our DNA...

Jones: It's unique, I think, don't you?

Jack Fryar: ...as a people. Yes.

Jones: It's unique.

Jack Fryar: And...

Jones: The lure of the pirates and such...

Jack Fryar: Yea and there's...

Jones: ...out there...there's something for everybody from the kids on up.

Jack Fryar: Right. You know. We've had everything from lost colonies and...and Indian wars, to pirates and you know forging a home out of a wilderness. Um, you've had Revolutionary War, Red Coats, and Civil War, and right on up to German U-boats and space shuttle astronauts.

Jones: I was gonna say, don't forget World War II.

Jack Fryar: Absolutely.

Jones: It's the most encompassing thing that happened here.

Jack Fryar: Right. Right. So the um, you know, our history is very much a part of who we are. And...and it's a sad thing when a people forget their history, you know. Um, it...it...our history is what gives us a national identity. You know. It determines the kind of people we are and...and gives us an idea of the kind of people we want to be, you know, so...

Jones: Do you lecture at all? For example, you mentioned Beverly, or Drew, or Candice McGreevy over at...

Jack Fryar: I'll talk to anybody that'll give me a chance to talk. Usually a lot more than they bargain for too. I usually tell whoever...

Jones: Yea, it's obvious you love your subject and...

Jack Fryar: ...whoever's asked me...yea.

Jones: ...people like...I'm married to a man who's like that. He'll say, "I want to throw something out to you," and I'm one foot in front of the other...

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: He'd say, "Yea, yea, I heard this...," you know.

Jack Fryar: Right. Yea, I usually will tell somebody who's hosting me, if...if I'm supposed to speak for forty five minutes that they need to have somebody close by to hit me in the back of the head when I get around that because...

Jones: Yea.

Jack Fryar: ...I'll start talking about...and we haven't even really talked about history, the actual stories, you know, while we're sitting here. Um, but when I start doing that, which is generally what I do when I go to talk with somebody.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: I will...I'll start talking about one thing and that'll bring up something else and I'll...

Jones: And you're off.

Jack Fryar: ...be off on a tangent and two hours later people are sitting there with a glazed look on their face...so.

Jones: Well, I remember hearing you speak to the Stamp Defiance Chapter DAR, and that was very interesting. You did speak I think about, well you spoke about...

Jack Fryar: Fort Johnston, um hum.

Jones: Well, um, that was more recently, I think.

Jack Fryar: Right, yea.

Jones: You...but before...and of course these are ladies who oddly enough, they're not just from Wilmington.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: They're from all over, and their main theme is preserving history.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: Preserving the constitution.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: And...and the flag and history and that sort of thing.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: Right down to the T, I can tell you that, because I was regional historian for a while, so...

Jack Fryar: Yea.

Jones: But at any rate, um,...ah...you're doing a good...good job so far, ah, but there seems to me that with all of your knowledge and your continued enthusiasm that um, books are fine, but you, you know, I...I do hope that you continue on this path and put your two cents in where it comes to preserving what we have here.

Jack Fryar: Well, yea, I mean, yea...

Jones: We're growing so rapidly and that's the reason for these oral histories. That whatever's happening right now, its growing so rapidly, that ten years from now, what's going on now is going to be almost history in a way.

Jack Fryar: Right. Well, yea, that was the thing with Fort Johnston this summer, that's how I spent my summer was...was fighting for Fort Johnston.

Jones: How...tell us about that a little bit. We've got about three minutes left.

Jack Fryar: Fort Johnston was surplused in 2004 by the Army. From 1955 until 2004 it was the home of the commander of Sunny Point.

Jones: Right.

Jack Fryar: Prior to that it had served the people of North Carolina and the United States as...as North Carolina's oldest fort and up until it was retired it was the nation's oldest active duty military instillation. It's the only instillation in North Carolina that has severed under the flags of three different countries, Great Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States. And its lineage is uninterrupted for two hundred and fifty eight years. There's not many episodes of North Carolina history that it didn't touch on in one way or another.

Jones: Um.

Jack Fryar: And when the Army surplused it, the Department of Health and Social Services, or HUD, or whatever, ah, they were going to offer it as a homeless shelter.

Jones: Um hum.

Jack Fryar: Well, nothing against the homeless at all, Lord help 'em if you can, but there's got to be places better suited for that than a place with two and a half centuries of North Carolina history behind it. Ah, we wanted to see the state take it over as a historic site. Ah, the town of Southport ended up getting it, because Governor Michael Easley would not let archives and history compete to won the site for the people of North Carolina. So Southport has it now and I...there's not a lot that we can do about that. I don't think Southport has either the...the resources or the pocketbook, or legislative mandate to guarantee the fort's continued protection and preservation. Um, and I think they might be coming to that realization too cause some of the...the mutterings that we've heard from Southport lately are...are...tend to have me believe that the people there might be looking at their checkbook, you know, the town fathers, and...and realizing just what it takes to preserve a two hundred and fifty eight year old historic site. So there's still hope that the people in North Carolina will get it. And that's what I'm...I'm hoping for. You know. I'm...

Jones: So you're still working on it.

Jack Fryar: Yea.

Jones: And there is still a Friends of Fort Johnson.

Jack Fryar: Well, loosely yea, yea.

Jones: Loosely.

Jack Fryar: And I, you know, we...we're keeping an eye on 'em. We're not gonna let the mayor put a carousel on the front lawn or anything like that.

Jones: Thank you.

Jack Fryar: And eventually we're hoping that it will be owned by the people of North Carolina and not the town of Southport. Um, that's the only way you'll see Fort Johnston preserved for the long haul.

Jones: Southport seems to have a lot on its plate right now.

Jack Fryar: It does, you know, and they made the point when we were talking with the board of alderman about making the case for why the state should own it, you know, the people of...on the board of alderman said, "Well, you know there's twenty eight hundred residents here in Southport. If we did the wrong thing they'd be jumping on the mayor's desk." And we made the point that each year those twenty eight hundred people more and more are people from somewhere else who don't have an emotional attachment to the fort. And all of that aside, even if they were into it to that degree. If Fort Johnston does in fact rise to the level of being a state historic site, you know, that has touched on the history of all of North Carolina, why should those twenty eight hundred residents of Southport be the only ones expected to shoulder the burden of maintaining it.

Jones: That's gonna be a mystery from now on. Jack, we're gonna have to say good-bye for right now.

Jack Fryar: Sure. Thanks.

Jones: This has been a quick hour. I want you to come back. Um, we'll...we'll arrange a meeting and go on for...to some other subjects.

Jack Fryar: Sure.

Jones: But all history related.

Jack Fryar: Right.

Jones: And I wish you luck.

Jack Fryar: Thanks.

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