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Interview with George H. McEachern, February 13, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with George H. McEachern, February 13, 2007
February 13, 2007
Interview with George McEachern, whose family has been part of the local business community for several generations and whose ventures have included a Coca-Cola bottling plant and investment in real estate.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: McEachern, George Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 2/13/2007 Series: SENC Notables Length 120 minutes


Jones: Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, February 13, 2007 and I'm Carroll Jones with Matt Early for the Randall Library Special Collection Oral History Program. We've very pleased today to be speaking with Wilmington native, George McEachern, whose family has been not only a part of the business community for several generations, but most generous benefactors in multiple areas. Thank you for visiting, George.

McEachern: It's a pleasure to be here and I thank you for the opportunity of letting me talk a little bit about the family and about Wilmington.

Jones: Oh I can hardly wait! You can start anywhere you want, but maybe you could go back a few years and tell us how your family, the Hutaff's and the McEachern's and so forth came to Wilmington, and what businesses they were in originally and how this developed.

McEachern: Okay. I'd be glad to do that. I'm not familiar with the Hutaff side of the family, primarily because my grandfather on the McEachern side of the family had passed away before I was born, so I just heard about him in stories. I didn't actually meet him. But my grandfather Hutaff lived until 1957, so I knew him for quite a good while. But his family, the Hutaff family came from Hanover, Germany. His parents came over from Germany and they ultimately came to Wilmington. The family was in the business of bottling sarsaparilla, bottled water and fruit drinks. I hear in the movies about sarsaparilla, but I'm not even sure I've ever had a sarsaparilla.

Jones: I was going to ask you. Did they ever keep any?

McEachern: No, we never had any of the sarsaparillas. By the time I knew him, we were in the Coca Cola business, which was a much better business to be in.

Jones: Yeah, I guess so.

McEachern: But I'll tell first about him, and then I'll talk a little bit about my grandfather McEachern. But my grandfather Hutaff was in the sarsaparilla and bottling water business. They lived in the Sixth or Seventh Street area. This was a hand done business. They put the product into bottles, poured it in my hand, capped the bottles by hand.

Jones: What year about was this?

McEachern: This was in the late 1800's, early 1900's.

Jones: Okay.

McEachern: And then in 1902, something happened that changed everything. My grandfather and his brother signed a contract with the Coca Cola Company for franchises for eastern North Carolina. At that time, his brother lived in Florence, South Carolina, but they ultimately built bottling plants in Fayetteville, which the one that lived in Florence ultimately ran. And my grandfather built one in New Bern and Wilmington, ultimately, and Goldsboro and Kelford, which is a little town in northern North Carolina and part of Virginia, and this sort of changed everything for them. Coca-cola was a relatively small business then, but it grew rapidly. I think I saw one of the old clippings that one weekend, they brought a train loaded with 1,000 bottles of drinks to the beach for the summertime and that was a milestone.

Jones: Oh my gosh. Now who did this?

McEachern: My grandfather. Even the Coca-cola business started out as a relatively small hand business, but it quickly moved into a mechanized business with bottle washers and mechanized bottling equipment. The business grew very rapidly. It was a great opportunity, a great time to seize the opportunity and be in the business. He was an interesting person, though, because even though the Coca-Cola business was his life for a long time, he had a lot of other interests. He was an avid fisherman, and in connection with that, he bought a couple of small islands, the Northern Inner Shell Island and Hutaff Island, which is on the other side of Figure Eight Island. Hutaff Island now is merged into Lee Island so that it's now one island, but that island is still undeveloped and we're allowing the nature conservancy to monitor Piping Plovers, because they are an endangered bird and they nest on that island.

Jones: When you said you went to mechanize, how early was that done about? Is there any remnant of that operation left?

McEachern: We're no longer in the business. We sold out our interest in the Coca-Cola business in the late 1990's. At that time, the company was trying to consolidate its bottlers, because there were just literally hundreds and hundreds of Coca-Cola bottlers all over the country and they were trying to better control the business. They wanted to really end up with a business that they could meet all in one big boardroom and decide the future of the company. I personally think that was a bad idea, because the small bottlers had their finger on the pulse in their different communities; whereas, the general executives ran the business from Atlanta, Georgia. And what happens in Atlanta is different from Wilmington, different from San Francisco, different from New York.

Jones: Did the owners of these various bottling companies, when they sold out or when they bought, have to sign any kind of a disclaimer or any kind of--

McEachern: Non-compete or anything.

Jones: Yeah, something like that.

McEachern: Not really.

Jones: Or that they wouldn't divulge.

McEachern: The formula?

Jones: Yes.

McEachern: We didn't really have the formula, because they shipped it to us in concentrate form. That was the big thing they did. They shipped the concentrate to us, for example, here in Wilmington, and it was diluted and carbonated water was added to it and so forth. And one of the reasons they put the bottling plant where they did in Wilmington is there are Artesian wells there, and well water was really important for the taste of the drink. A sideline of that, before we did get out of the business, they had a huge celebration in Atlanta, the 100th anniversary, and my wife and I and our kids got a chance to go to that celebration. It was just unbelievable. It was the largest collection of Coca-Cola bottlers there have ever been in the world.

Jones: How many?

McEachern: There were thousands. There was probably 15-20,000 people. They took over the World Congress Center, the Omni. They closed some of the streets in Atlanta. It was just unbelievable. They had an indoor parade at the World Congress Center. But back to my grandfather, he also did a lot of interesting things as far as helping people. He was a lifelong supporter and active member of the Red Cross. I'm reading from some notes, so I don't forget something.

Jones: That's fine.

McEachern: But during World War I, he was chairman of the Soldiers Relief Committee, the local chapter. He had an office at Fort Caswell and he literally helped hundreds of soldiers and their families during World War I. Another little thing he did, an example of thoughtfulness, the Red Cross had a sanatorium right near the airport. The people at the sanatorium were there for a good while and he purchased Sunday papers and brought them to them on Sunday, so they'd have something to read. He also supported various welfare things through the Associated Charities. I was not familiar with that organization, but apparently, it was an organization in Wilmington at about that time. In 1921, he helped organize Sunday school services at the local prison, and monthly meetings at which prisoners could discuss their future after they got out of prison.

Jones: What a legacy he left.

McEachern: Another little thing he did was in 1923, he gave 50 Rhode Island chickens to New Hanover County School children involved in the home demonstration programs and then taught them how to raise the chicks. He also donated land, a part downtown for African Americans, and he also donated land for a park near the hospital. He was on the board of both James Walker and Community Hospitals. And he planted a magnolia tree for each one of his children at James Walker, and I think some of them probably are still standing, but they grew to be huge trees. They were these groves of magnolia trees that represented his children. He did a lot of things in a quiet way. He also donated a house at the beach to the WLI, the Wilmington Light Infantry. After his death, a lot of people told us about how he had helped them. He really helped people in general without being well-known.

Jones: He didn't blow his own horn.

McEachern: No. He just enjoyed helping people. He had a lot of interest in trying new things. In addition to the Coca-Cola business, he also picked up for our business SunDrop, which was a relatively unknown drink at the time and was a big part of our business before we got out of the Coca-Cola business. So he was a very interesting person and I think he started the trend toward helping others. I'd like to talk a little bit about my grandfather McEachern, and then I'll go back and pick up my mom Tabitha Hutaff. But my grandfather McEachern, they were in the hay and grain business and they had a place, I think it was on Market, between Second and Third. At that time, there were mainly horses for transportation, so the hay and grain business was a big business, and he actually took trips to Canada to pick up some of the hay and grain.

Jones: To where?

McEachern: To Canada. They grew a lot of the feed all the way to Canada.

Jones: Did it come by train?

McEachern: I think he went partly by train and partly by horse and wagon.

Jones: When would that have been around?

McEachern: That would have probably been in the real early 1900's. I don't know when he got out of that business, but my dad was involved in various things, such as he was a school teacher in Pender County. He was in the farming business. He was in all kinds of different sales. He sold automobiles. He liked to sell things to people, and he also enjoyed farming. One other thing I should go back to my grandfather on is that one of the things he also liked to do was farming. I guess it was kind of a collection of farmers. For example, Wilmington and New Hanover County used to have a lot of farms. There were a lot of farms around Castle Hayne and around Wrightsburg. In fact, lost of Dutch people came here to raise tulips and gladiolas and those kinds of flowers.

Jones: They're still out there.

McEachern: That's right. There are very few farms left, but a lot of the Dutch people are still there. Now my grandfather, I have a picture in one of the old books. It showed him growing lettuce in Love Grove, which is an area right near Smith's Creek. He was growing it under cover to prevent it from freezing. He also had a small freezing plant that he built near the airport, and that was before commercially available frozen foods. But he started his own little brand of frozen strawberries and frozen vegetables and sold them locally. So he was always thinking of something else to do, in spite of being in the Coca-Cola business. He had a lot of interests. Now to my mom, my mom was Tabitha McEachern.

Jones: Where did that name come from? Was that a family name?

McEachern: Tabitha? That was my grandmother's name. Now my grandmother was alive when I was growing up and she lived longer than my grandfather. The image is funny. My grandfather always was dressed. He always had on a white shirt, a suit, these button-up shoes, and he always drove a car that looked like he just came from a train wreck. In fact, they said one time, he parked his car on the train and the coastline train came down and hit the car and knocked it about 100 feet down the track. He never had a car that looked halfway decent, but he was always dressed meticulously. My grandmother was an interesting person. She collected almost nothing. She read the paper and read through the mail and put it in the trash.

Jones: Now that's unusual for a woman.

McEachern: It is. And when she passed away, probably her memorabilia would have fit in a good-size trunk. But she was a good-hearted person and was a very friendly person. I never remember her having a cold. I don't think she went to the doctor for 60 years, probably. She was an interesting person, but later, you'll hear the other side of this. My mom had two brothers and a sister, and she worked in the Coca-Cola business kind of in more of a management stage. She went to have an interesting treat of going to a woman's college, which is now UNC Greensboro, to Duke University. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill.

Jones: Now that is something. Today, you get two people in the same room, one is a Duke and one's a _______.

McEachern: My dad went to Wake Forest, so they had the Wake Forest, Carolina room. And I went to NC State, so we had it pretty well covered. But my mom was also a very interesting person. I guess the family had this trade of farming, but she was a gardener, and in a way, I guess, a farmer, because she didn't have these fancy gardens. She just had all these plants that she rooted or grew in battery jars or in pots all over the yard. One of her favorite things was growing camellias from seed, and she grew a couple of them and registered them that had three different color blooms on the same plant. It had a solid red, a solid pink and a variegated pink and red, which is unusual to see growing. Usually, when you see different flowers growing on the same plant, they're _______, but this was all coming from the same plant.

Jones: And she developed that?

McEachern: She developed that just by growing lots of plants from seed. She was also a dog lover. I think I remember one time we had as many as eight dogs in the back yard. She went to the grocery store and bought chicken and bones and cooked it for them. And the dogs were like people. I was the only child and I think the dogs were the extra children in the family. They were mainly hunting dogs. My dad and I hunted quail for a while, and then I sort of lost interest in killing things. But at that time, it was fun. It was fun to be out with the dogs. There were lots of areas around here that were open. There were lots of places near the airport, where they had small farms that you could hunt. Today, I don't know where you would go to hunt. You would probably have to leave the county, almost, to hunt now because of the growth.

Jones: Its amazing to me that in a residential neighborhood, you could keep as many as eight dogs too.

McEachern: Right. I think when we first lived there, it wasn't in the city. It was in the county. It wasn't rural, but it wasn't real regulated like it is now. I think there are many more regulations and ordinances now. I think one of the families over on the other side of Forest Hills had horses that backed up onto Mercer Avenue. They had a stable on Mercer Avenue. Nobody grew things like cows, or pigs or chickens, just plenty of dogs. My mom also was a collector. In contrast to my grandmother, she was a person who saved almost everything. I need to talk to Sherman about possibly giving some of the things to UNCW, but she has letters that go way back and bills from different places showing how little things cost. She was a big person that believed in writing to people. She prided herself on communicating and keeping up with several different people by writing, primarily. That was before people did as much telephoning, and obviously, there weren't some of the other means like email and some of the other things. I don't want to lose my track. She was kind of ahead of her time, being interested in a lot of different things. I think I got from her two main things, the love of plants and the love of animals. I'm a dog person myself. In fact, I told my vet that I wouldn't trade my house for the dog. In other words, I would give up the house before I would give up the dog. They're that important to me. She's like a member of the family.

Jones: You don't have children at home anymore, right?

McEachern: No, we have three children and ten grandchildren.

Jones: So the dogs are your children.

McEachern: The dog is my child. We have a dog, three cats and a horse. We are fortunate enough to live on eight acres off Greenville Loop Road, so we're able to have a horse.

Jones: My son refers to our youngest dog as son.

McEachern: Well this one is the first part poodle I've ever had and she follows me everywhere I go. When I come home this afternoon, she'll be at the door wondering where I've been. But they are a lot of company and she's very smart.

Jones: What's the other part?

McEachern: She's part Yorkie.

Jones: We have two poodles. We've had, I think, 12.

McEachern: Oh boy. This is my first experience and I love the poodle in her. She looks almost exclusively like a poodle, except for her mouth a little bit. I don't want to lose track of my mom. My mom was a person who always celebrated birthdays. She sent funny greeting cards to all of her friends. Now I think when she grew up, her mother never celebrated birthdays. It wasn't a big thing. She was not real sentimental, my grandmother wasn't, but my mom was very sentimental. When the grandchildren had a birthday, she just had to shower them with little gifts and funny little things. We had all these glasses, like Groucho Marx looking glasses and all kinds of joke type things. She just loved fun and doing things like that. But she got very interested in the community. She was always interested in history and I think she was always interested in education. Even though my grandfather wasn't educated beyond just grade school, he was a very educated person in a way in wanting to do new things and trying to find better ways of doing things, and I think she picked up on that. She was involved in establishing scholarships, both here at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and at Cape Fear Community College, mainly in my grandfather's name. I think that was a great thing for the community. She enjoyed that. She also donated money for the Speaker Series at UNCW, and she loved to go to the different Speaker Series with her dear friend, Geraldine Taylor. They were inseparable. Geraldine's husband had died and my father had passed away by then, and they just went to more things than I ever went to.

Jones: I used to see her a lot.

McEachern: She did not really like publicity. She would not have talked on tape. She didn't like to make speeches. A couple of times, I made speeches for her, not taking credit, but just saying some words so what she felt would get out. But the one thing she did like, she really did enjoy dessert, so whenever there was a function, she always enjoyed going for the desserts. She didn't want to do any talking. She loved to do things to help people, but the dessert was her specialty. The only thing sad was in the latter part of her life, she had to drink Boost, because a lot of older people don't eat enough. And once she started drinking the chocolate Boost, she lost her taste for desserts, which was really sad to me, because we would go out and eat and she would get two desserts, usually, sometimes eat dessert first, just so you didn't waste your appetite on something that wasn't a dessert. But she also had a lot of activities that she was involved in. She was a member of the board of trustees of the county museum, and she was on the board at the Cape Fear Community College Foundation. She donated a large clock that sits on the corner of Front and whatever street that Cape Fear Community College main building is, and she donated the landscaping for a courtyard at the main campus there. Like I mentioned, she loved birthdays. She enjoyed celebrating them. She didn't really like celebrating her own birthday very much. She didn't like pictures taken of her, but she loved to take pictures of other people, so I have about 25 or 30 albums of photos of other people, probably 75 percent of them we know who they are and some we don't have the faintest idea who they are. But we tried to get her to go over as much of that in her later years, so that we would be able to save them. I'd like to just go over a list of some of other things she was involved in. And these weren't just like minor contributions, these were significant things. I don't do this to brag, but just to show the variety. And I don't want to leave out things. Here's some of the things she's supported: UNC Public TV, Cape Fear Museum, St. Thomas Preservation, The Historic Wilmington Foundation, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, The New Hanover County Public Library, St. Johns Art Museum, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Bellamy Mansion, the Friends of UNCW, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, which was her home church, Cape Fear Literacy Council, Opera House, WHQR, The Wilmington Railroad Museum Foundation, Cape Fear Community College Foundation, The Arboretum, the Historic St. Thomas Preservation, the New Haven County Library, Thalian Hall, The Historic Preservation of North Carolina, ________ Hospice, the Tuesday Morning Music Club. In addition, she gave a fountain at the arboretum, and she also supported a number of books that local people published. She sort of under wrote their books so that the people could publish the book. So she had a wide variety of interests. She tried to stay as involved as possible in most of these things. She did make a major contribution at the Wise House for the dining room. I think she enjoyed being able to do all these things. The only thing interesting about this was she lived an interesting life, because she really spent almost nothing on herself. She had the house. We lived in an English Tudor style house on Gifford Avenue. I don't think anything was done to the house, probably, for 25 or 30 years, because she didn't want people working on the house. The last few years, she wasn't able to get out and she didn't like a lot of noise, so the house literally aged and we're sort of grappling with that now. She also liked her old clothes. They were kind of up-to-date, but they were clothes that she'd had for a long time. She didn't go out and do a lot of shopping. She really had most of her disposable income to pay her caregivers and to contribute to the community. And she chose to contribute to the community, which I think is a great legacy. And after her death, several people came up and said, "You know I was having a hard time and she stepped in and gave me this money, never asked me to pay her back."

Jones: And you didn't know.

McEachern: I never heard anything about any of these. Most of this right here I picked up in the last couple years of her life, when I started writing her checks, but she really didn't mention these things, except to encourage us.

Jones: I was going to ask you on that same subject if you and she together-- knowing that you were the only one that she had-- made these decisions about who was to become benefactor, you would give funds for certain things, and if it was a joint decision or she'd just do it?

McEachern: Most of it was actually strictly 100 percent her ideas. Occasionally, I suggested things that I knew about that she may not be aware of. And then the last couple years of her life, she talked it over with me. She was still in good health and sound mind. She had a sharp mind, up until the day she died.

Jones: I think the last time I saw her was on her last birthday. Wilbur and I had gone over and there were balloons and cards.

McEachern: Well she always enjoyed see you all too.

Jones: He said, "We've got to stop and take her a toy." I said, "You're foolish." (laugh)

McEachern: Well she had tons of these windup toys, too. That was one of the things she liked, these little kids' toys, like the mouse that runs around, or this elephant that has a ball on its nose. Different people would give those to her, and then whenever she saw one somewhere, she would buy it. But one of her caregivers stayed there at night, and actually, she decorated the house for holidays and for birthdays like it was her own, because she spent more time there than she did at her own house, so she got to enjoy that by decorating mom's house. And we were very fortunate that two or three ladies stayed with her for years, and years and years, and they were like her family. They made her feel comfortable. They loved her just like she was their mom, really. We were very fortunate to have that situation.

Jones: How old was she when she died?

McEachern: She was born in 1909. She was 93. She would have been 94, if she had lived to her birthday. She died in May and didn't make it to her birthday in November, but she lived to be 93. I would say until the last couple of years, she was getting out doing things. She started slowing down. She really didn't have a lot of major health problems, but just arthritis. They're not sure whether she had a stroke or not. The doctor said, "We will treat it just as if it were." She wasn't able to write and do things that she was able to do at one time, but she was very sound and knew these things were coming up and wanted to be involved.

Jones: Don't you think her outlook on life and her joy was probably a reason?

McEachern: It really was. It really was. It was being involved in these things, not the glory, but just the idea.

Jones: That she could do something.

McEachern: She could do something. And it's unusual. A lot of ladies are like Mrs. Walter McEachern, not Tabitha McEachern, but a lot of these things happened after my dad passed away. And she always wore a hat.

Jones: Yes, she did.

McEachern: I have to tell you one funny story, though. Our daughter lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and she and her husband were here. All the family was here together, and one of the things that mom also always did for several years, she put a tree in the Festival of Trees, so she'd get invited to the preview party, which was a day before the Festival of Trees opened. So everybody was here and we were all dressed in like jeans or khakis or something like that. And she said, "Would you like to go down to the preview party?" And we said, "Well we're not really..." "Oh you don't have to worry about how you're dressed. It's just casual." So we all got in a couple two or three cars and we drove down. It was at the Hilton. And as soon as we got there, I noticed people getting out of their cars dressed in black tie and I said, "I don't think it's really casual." I think some of the kids were the most embarrassed I've ever seen them, because we walked in. One of them had on boots and jeans, and some of their friends were there in black tie. But it didn't bother mom a bit. Now she was dressed, because there's not a specific dress for black tie for ladies and she was dressed appropriately. We were all dressed like we were going to a rodeo or something. She never even batted an eye. But we walked in and they were almost like I hope nobody sees me here. So whenever we make a joke, we say, "Would you like to go to this event? It's all casual dress." It was a funny story, but it never really bothered her. I think other than her shyness about speaking, she really enjoyed being with people. She enjoyed being involved, with this university in particular, with Cape Fear Community College and with historical things around Wilmington. I should also mention that she also donated funds to some of the different historical associations. I remember Federal Point is one of them. But some of the small ones that had limited funds, she donated money to help them, because she was very interested in history. I think she set a high standard.

Jones: She did.

McEachern: She set a high standard for us to follow, and I feel like I'm sort of a babe at following that. We're getting started, and I'll talk a little bit about that, and I'll talk a little bit about growing up in Wilmington. I was born in 1937 in Wilmington. I lived in Wilmington all my life, with the exception of two occasions. I attended and graduated from NC State in four years in Raleigh, and for 17 weeks, I was at the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia. But other than that, even the Coast Guard, in their ultimate wisdom, sent me back to Wilmington. I asked for a couple of other duty stations, but the Coast Guard is very frugal, so they sent me back here to serve on the Coast Guard Cutter Mendota. But anyway, growing up here was interesting. It was kind of a sleepy little town. If you were from Wilmington and you met someone, you told them it was a little north of Myrtle Beach and they knew instantly where you were talking about. But other than that, very few people had heard of Wilmington. The Atlantic Coastline Railroad was the main employer that ultimately left and created a big hole in the economy here, but there were a lot of small businesses. There were a lot of farms, a lot of middle income people, not lots of big houses. There were some big houses, but in general, it was sort of a middle income community. Forest Hills was a nice area. We had lots of kids in the neighborhood. One of the things I remember is that World War II was going on at the time I was growing up. I was a little younger than some of the kids, so I don't remember as much about it, but I do remember some about it. A lot of the summers, we lived at the beach. And one of the things that I remember is there was a blackout at the beach. You couldn't have any lights shining on the Oceanside, because they were afraid that German submarines were going to come in and land people, land saboteurs or do some other damage to the community. So there was a strict blackout. Also, there was rationing. I remember shoes were rationed. I remember sugar probably bothered me a lot more than shoes. Fortunately, we were in the Coca-Cola business, so we could still get a Coca-Cola, but otherwise, you really couldn't get a lot of these things. There was no butter. I remember to make margarine, you mixed up a couple of things and it made it have some color to it, rather than looking some yucky color. And the margarines didn't taste nearly as good, either. Another thing they had at the beach, all along the beach, they had a beach patrol. I actually have a picture here that maybe you can see some of the Coast Guard people who did the beach patrols. They were with dogs and they were armed. And there were also people who were blockading all the different inlets along the coast so that a small boat couldn't slip ashore. My father was actually involved in serving as one of the people on the blockade, operating a boat in that vein. There were quite a few ships sunk off of Wilmington by German U-boats. There was a rumor that they sank a U-boat and had bread that was baked in Moorhead City onboard the U-boat. There were German sympathizers. There were German nationals. There were other people who were sympathetic to the German cause, so it was a serious situation. I also remember seeing German prisoners near the airport. There were a lot of prisoners that worked out there near the airport on kind of a farm-like base. I remember they were in a barbed wire compound. Also, I remember seeing liberty ships being built at the shipyard. They were built at a tremendous pace. The shipyard was interesting, because lots of ladies worked in the shipyard because there was a shortage of men. But I also remember that we sat around an old Stromberg-Carlson radio and listened to the war news. That was long before the TV days and all these exciting broadcasts. One thing about World War II, I think it was a great unifier of the people. Everybody was doing something to help during the war. It wasn't like subsequent wars that have been much smaller. But it brought the people together and there were a lot of common experiences. I guess I wasn't smart enough to let it cause much of a damper on growing up, but it was some seriousness involved in that. It was also interesting growing up, because then there was no air conditioning. I remember we had an attic fan to avoid perspiring to death. There was no air conditioning and there was no TV for most of my childhood. I think TV came in the latter part of the time I was in high school. But I think that's one of the reasons why Wilmington maintained its sleepy little town atmosphere, because it was so hot here in the summertime that a lot of people didn't want to forsake New Jersey, or New York or the mountains to come here and sweat all summer. So probably the air conditioning, I think, it caused a damper on growth in the south. I went to Forest Hills School, which was a nice school. I went to Chestnut Junior High, the first year it was a junior high and I went to New Hanover High School. And at the time, I think New Hanover High was the largest high school in the state.

Jones: Go back a second. Forest Hills went to how many grades?

McEachern: It went to sixth, I think, and Chestnut was 7th, 8th and 9th. At Forest Hills, everybody really behaved well. At Chestnut, behavior deteriorated a lot.

Jones: It's the age, George.

McEachern: I remember the dog catcher coming to the school one day to catch a dog, and while he was out catching the dog, the other kids went over and let all the other dogs in the truck out, took the keys out of the truck and threw them in the woods. He had to call up headquarters and have somebody come out and bring another key, plus he ended up with one dog, instead of ten dogs. There was also a trend toward people throwing rocks at windows at the school. What they would do is put the rock in their hand and someone else would hit their hand, so if you asked a person, "Did you throw the rock?" "No, I didn't throw the rock." The person that hit their hand didn't throw the rock, either. No one threw the rock. You just have to ask the right questions. But it was still a good school. There were a lot of extremely dedicated teachers, particularly in high school. I can remember many of the teachers who did such a great job teaching and made school a lot easier in the future.

Jones: Was Mary Bellamy one of your teachers, Mary Dixon Bellamy?

McEachern: No, she wasn't. I had Miss Walsh, Miss Levine. I remember Miss Levine, she had this, "Would you please come to the board and do this problem?"

Jones: I had heard a number of stories about Mary, who was supposed to have been really one knockout of a young lady.

McEachern: Uh huh. Dad gone, I'm sorry I missed that. One of the things about New Hanover, at that time, it was a big sports power. For a number of years, it had won the state championship in football. I think when we came along, football sort of fell apart.

Jones: That was the only high school in the county, wasn't it?

McEachern: It was the only white high school. At that time, we had segregated schools. Williston was the black high school and New Hanover was the white high school. And they had a Boosters Club that collected quite a bit of money to equip the stadium and actually bring some kinds in from other places and let them live in Wilmington, so it was almost like scholarships. I think it was mainly not so much getting good players, but sometimes people wanted to come to Wilmington because of the quality of the school and that's true now. Some schools have a better reputation and kids try to get in to that particular school, even though they may not live in that district. But New Hanover had a great coach, Coach Leon Brogden, Coach Davis, whose nickname was Jap. And he was a monster of a guy, probably about 260 pounds. But they were such great leaders. I think they were both inducted into the hall of fame for the high school. At that time, I played football and basketball. And basketball, I think one of the years I was there, we won the state championship. I don't think I played as much in basketball, but it was an interesting experience. It was a great learning experience playing sports. Also, another thing in high school, we had ROTC, which was unusual for schools. And they were very enthusiastic in ROTC. We used to march out to 13th and Ann Street and everybody was enthused about being in these uniforms. That was kind of an interesting thing. The only thing bad about playing sports was it took away a lot of other afternoon activities, since I played two sports. It was also interesting in what a safe place Wilmington was, because I can remember in the summertime, we used to work out at the basketball gym, like running laps and playing pickup basketball. I can remember many times walking from where we lived in Forest Hills, which is about the 2600 block, over to New Hanover, which was like 13 blocks, which doesn't sound like too far, but it was walking through a lot of different kinds of neighbors and so forth. But you felt totally safe doing that. And we were raised all over Forest Hills playing with each other without worrying about where is this particular kid. I don't know whether you can still do that today or not. I would doubt it. Trick or treat was very safe. We went all over the neighborhood. We assumed nobody was going to do us harm. I guess they figured there were too many trickers, if anybody did them harm.

Jones: I've heard some wild stories from some of the inhabitants of Forest Hills that were under six feet tall at the time, during trick or treat time.

McEachern: I think there were probably a few things that happened. I know you didn't want to drive your car out, because lots of eggs were flying and lots of other activities. Firecrackers were going off. Some of these things might not be considered as much of a prank today as they were then. But in general, it was a safe neighborhood, except for a few little outbursts and a few little fun events; it was a fun time to grow up.

Jones: Wasn't it a neighborhood where there were probably no transients?

McEachern: That's right. We grew up together. I can't remember hardly a single person that moved while I was growing up. Maybe a person moved in, if it was a new house, but otherwise, I can't remember anybody leaving the neighborhood, where now, everywhere I've lived, there have been people moving every couple of years. Also, there was a place called Pappy A's[ph?] that was a place to eat. At that time, you could leave the school for lunch at times. It was located just right across from Forest Hills on Market Street, and that was kind of a hangout for the kids. It was also interesting that most of our play involved outside play. There weren't video games or TV, so we played all these things like ain't no bears out tonight, or tag at night, or softball. The people that lived across the street, the Lounsberry's[ph?], they had an extra lot and we played softball on that lot, and so a lot of kids got to know each other because there was this outside play. And we probably stayed in a little better shape by being very active. Other than reading inside, there was not a lot of inside activities to do. Another thing I remember about Wilmington was downtown used to be pretty vibrant. Belks was downtown and I remember every year at Christmas, we went downtown to look at the decorations in the Christmas window, because they had these things that moved, these little demonstrations that moved. That was always one of the highlights of Christmas. There used to also be a train that you would go on to see Santa Claus. They took you out maybe a mile or two and Santa Claus was on the train giving little kids presents. And even going out to the largest living Christmas tree was a big deal. I think today, there's so many things on television that a lot of these things have been lost. I remember we were going to take our kids to the circus once and they said, "Circus, that's no big deal." When I was growing up, going to the circus was a really big deal.

Jones: It was!

McEachern: But you know with so many things on TV, and videos and DVDs, it's hard to top this. It's changed a lot in that respect.

Jones: It's a shame, really.

McEachern: It really is. I'd like to talk about how later on, I went to NC State. I went to North Carolina State on an academic scholarship. I worked at Regal Paper in the summertime and I really earned enough between the academic scholarship and working in the summer to pay my way. I didn't actually always do that, because my parents paid part of it and I bought a car with part of the money, but it was fortunate to be able to do that. When I graduated, I went to work at Regal Paper in the technical department in a management job, and probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, I met my wife there. She worked at Regal Paper.

Jones: You graduated from state with a degree in?

McEachern: It was called pulp and paper technology. It was kind of an offshoot of chemical engineering. It was a curriculum they had fashioned just for people to work in the paper industry.

Jones: What appealed to you about that, or was it just something that was new and different?

McEachern: It was something that was new and different. Another thing I should have mentioned, most of the people who went to college moved away from Wilmington when they graduated, because the economic opportunities were very limited. I mean you know Wilmington is a mini New York, compared to what it was when we graduated. Unless you went into a family business or had a very specific field like journalism, or medicine or something very specific, if it was general business, it was very difficult to break into the business. I went to a thing they had, I believe it was at St. Andrew-- no maybe it was at NC State. They had a thing on what you would like to do. I was kind of interested in science, so that appealed to me. The pulp and paper curriculum was designed where you took a lot of the chemical engineering and a lot of the math courses, but you didn't take some of them, because you were not going to be quite that specialized, and you took some that were more pertinent to the paper industry and you were pretty much guaranteed a job.

Jones: You weren't stepping in to take over as ______ generation?

McEachern: No. I talked to my uncle about being involved in the Coca-Cola business and he really advised me to do something else. I don't know quite why.

Jones: Are you glad you did?

McEachern: I'm glad I did in a way, particularly when we sold the business, I'm glad I did. I think I would have liked to work two or three years in the business, because I had a lot of ideas of things that I thought we should try, and you can't really implement ideas unless you're involved in the business. They don't usually take advice from non-business people as good as good as they do from people--

Jones: In your early 20s.

McEachern: That's right. You're not quite as experienced enough to do that. But Federal was an economic engine for southeastern North Caroline. It was one of the early big industries. We probably employed 1,100 or 1,200 people. A lot of them came from Columbus County. A lot of them came from New Hanover County. It was almost like a family and I think people who now work there realize what a family it was, because International is a much bigger company, much more by the book. Regal, at the time, was a relatively small family owned company out of New Jersey, and later it was purchased by Federal Paper Board, and nothing much really changed, because Federal was not in the same business that Regal was in, so they didn't really have a lot of expertise, so they didn't move people in so the business really didn't change that much. We had a lot of close-knit people. It was a fun place to work. It was a great place to meet a great lady to marry. We met in October and we eloped to Charleston in December.

Jones: That quick?

McEachern: December 24th. And then in early January, I reported to Yorktown for officer candidate school, which wasn't really good planning for a newly married person to get thrown up to.

Jones: There was no rule that you couldn't be married or anything like that?

McEachern: No. They didn't care about that.

Jones: Well this lady must have just absolutely thrown you for a loop.

McEachern: Well we were just very compatible with each other. We were both kind of mutually enthralled with each other. It was almost love at first sight. We had a lot of similar interests. It's probably the best thing I ever did in my life.

Jones: Well you look like a happy man.

McEachern: Well you know if you find somebody to love you and spend your life with, there are not many more gifts in life that are more valuable than that, really.

Jones: That's true.

McEachern: Its worth all the money in the world.

Jones: How long have you been married?

McEachern: Since '59, so it'll be a couple years away from 50 years. It's been a nostalgic time, recently, because last year, she had her 50th high school anniversary. I had mine the year before. And in the interim in between those, we had a reunion of people I was in the Coast Guard with at Fort Macon, hadn't seen some of those people in 20 years, so I'm kind of catching up on nostalgia. I've got to get more involved with the Forest Hills people. We also had a luncheon at Federal Paper Board of people who had worked there for a long time, so I've caught up on most everybody, except the people that are around here in Wilmington.

Jones: I'll tell you what, the Forest Hills bad boys; the lunch bunch is what they called themselves. You know all of them.

McEachern: Some of them might even still be bad boys, but they were good boys, really though.

Jones: I'm sure they were.

McEachern: They had a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of imagination on different things that could be done.

Jones: I can't imagine one or two of them ever doing anything wrong. Some of the others, I can imagine they were a handful, but they enjoyed it.

McEachern: They did. It was a great, fun time. And I see quite a few of them, but I will try to connect with the lunch bunch. I worked at Federal Paper Board for almost 30 years. I didn't get my gold watch. I left early to be involved in the real estate business. And during most of that period of time, I was in the Coast Guard Reserve. I was on active duty on the Coast Guard Mendota. I finally made it up to the rank of commander, which was good. I retired with pay. I never anticipated being in the reserve program that long. It was a great thing. The retirement's nice. They have the TriCare For Life Health Program which is a great program. I don't like to take any drugs, but almost everyone has to take some kind of medicine and that's greatly helped there. I met some great people in the Coast Guard. It was a small service. It was a helpful service. It was a satisfying service to be in, because basically, we were rescuing people or doing something else that was good, and so I have a lot of friends from that. I'd like to tell you a little bit about a few things I've done. I probably should remember those better than the things that my mom did. For I don't know how many different years, I served on the board of the Presbyterian Counseling Center, which was set up here to provide psychological counseling with a Christian background. And I don't remember the year it started, but it's been going on for a long time. It's interesting, because it's not a set fee. There's a set price, but if you can't pay that, they provide the service anyway.

Jones: Now is this counseling across the board?

McEachern: Marriage counseling, children's counseling. They even opened an office in Brunswick County. I served on the board longer than any other person. I don't know what that says about me, maybe that I was willing to serve. The board, primarily, was involved in oversight and fundraising, and that's the tough part is the fundraising. We did move into a new office on Wrightsville Avenue and my wife and I contributed funds for one of the offices there in honor of my dad. But it was a great thing to be involved in, because I didn't really get a chance to see as many that are helped, because it's all anonymous, but I've known some people who have been to the counseling center and they were truly helped by it. And a lot of people don't realize how serious mental problems can be. It's an illness just like any other illness. Lots of people in the past looked down on it, but it can be more debilitating than a physical illness sometimes. I also served two terms on the board at the New Hanover County Arboretum, mainly because of my interest in plants. Here again, we were in the fundraising business. It was difficult to raise funds at that time. It was in the infancy. Now they're doing really well. They've got all kinds of volunteers. It's a great service for New Hanover County. You would think you really don't need an arboretum, because we don't have farms, but it's a tremendous asset for people who move here from other places, because full sun planting in Wilmington is not like full sun planting in Bennington, Vermont.

Jones: I don't know what I would have done without them being here. We moved from a part of the country where the soil is so completely different.

McEachern: It is. It's just a different life. It's interesting how interested people who have moved have been in this. They were trying to think about building a new building and my wife and I made the lead gift contribution. We didn't by any means pay for the building, because the county paid a major part of it, but we made the lead gift that made it possible and it was money from my grandfather. There's a picture of him hanging out there. It's called the UTown[ph?] Center and it houses the master gardener program, the horticulturalist and the gift shop. So that was one thing we were able to do. I don't know how much this helps anybody in this area, but I've served as a volunteer representative of the Wolfpack Club since the early '80s.

Jones: There are a couple of people around here who would probably be very grateful for that.

McEachern: It's interesting, because I almost got out of the Wolfpack Club because of some problems, but I decided that rather than get out, I'm going--

Jones: What was your position?

McEachern: I'm just a volunteer representative. What we do is we contact members. We have a group of members that we keep in contact with. We help plan meetings. Every year, the coaches come down. We plan that meeting. We try to represent NC State in this area.

Jones: My son was asked to speak in front of them last year.

McEachern: I enjoy his columns. I didn't realize until Wilbur told me that Andrew was-- and I noticed Andrew writes for another publication, too.

Jones: He writes for several.

McEachern: Yeah, because I noticed this one that they sell issues occasionally at Barnes and Noble.

Jones: In South Carolina.

McEachern: Inside NC State.

Jones: There's a publication--

McEachern: But some are for NC State, because I noticed he had written an article.

Jones: Right.

McEachern: But I've really enjoyed his articles.

Jones: And he's on the radio.

McEachern: So when you see that, tell him that for me.

Jones: This is his busy time of year.

McEachern: I should email him and tell him that.

Jones: Do that.

McEachern: But anyway, that's been an interesting thing, and I've learned through that how much the scholarships help kids. I look at it as the fun part of cheering for State and so forth, but there's also a serious side. And by going to the meetings, they usually have one of the student athletes talking.

Jones: Right.

McEachern: It's also interesting, because in addition to being in the Wolfpack Club, I'm also a member the Seahawk Club, trying to support local athletics. And since my dad went to Wake Forest, I grew up going to Wake Forest games. I remember the Deacon Club. So I've got three different stickers on my car, NC State, which is a big metal decal, the Deacon Club. And it's interesting, because the Deacon Club has an athlete write you a note every year, thanking you for being a member of the Deacon Club and inviting you to come up and see them when they play sports.

Jones: Where did your kids go to school?

McEachern: We have three kids. The oldest one is a girl, Doris. She went to UNC Chapel Hill. She went to the University of South Carolina and got a Masters in social work. She worked as a crime victims' assistance person in the Charleston area, and then she met her future husband and now she's a mom. She has five kids. She's home schooling three of them and she's married to a radiologist, and they live in Mount Pleasant. She's also real active in church and does a lot of kid things. We have one son, Henry. He went to Appalachia his first year, and then he came back and went to UNCW, discovered that you couldn't ski as much as you thought you could in the mountains, and he didn't like the cold weather as much as he thought he was going to. So he majored in business at UNCW and he's been in the building business. He's a realtor and he also builds furniture in Wilmington. His lot and my lot adjoin each other by about ten feet. He lives in the next development, so we're not really on top of each other, but the kids have a go-cart and they ride it across a little bridge over onto our eight acres that we have.

Jones: How many kids does he have?

McEachern: He has three kids, a set of twins and a little boy and there are all growing up. He's been involved in coaching basketball and baseball for kids and so that keeps him pretty busy, and doing all the other things. Our youngest daughter, Amy, she graduated from the College of Charleston. She also went to UNCW for a while, but she graduated from the College of Charleston. She's mainly a stay-at-home mom, although she works with her husband. He's a youth minister at Little Chapel on the Boardwalk. And she also helps him in that work and they really do a great work for kids. They just have the most active group of kids. She's also going to be a co-director of two of the youth conferences at Montreat, the Presbyterian Center at Montreat this summer, which is a real honor in her respect. They spend a lot of time with their kids. They go to all their activities, so I'm real proud of her. Our son-in-law also works part-time for us. Since we've got eight acres, he helps. We've always got something going on. We have a diesel tractor. We have about five acres to mow. We have a garden. We have three horses there. We're very fortunate. And they also live just down the street. They adjoin our eight acres.

Jones: You have your own compound.

McEachern: We do. It's contiguous. You could go from her house to my son's house without leaving one of our properties, but we're all far enough apart. We're about 600 or 700 feet from their house and there's a big hedge row between it, so we're not really on top of each other. I've always been interested in pets. Like I said, we've always had pets. We had two pets that died about three years ago. One of them was 15, the dog who was a Yorkie, and then the cat died of, I think, just empathy from the dog dying. She just missed the dog so much. Our vet had been really nice. One of the vet's employees had given the dog water treatments for a year to prolong her life. She had kidney failure. So one of the things we did is that Carol and I contributed money for an endowed scholarship at the veterinary school at North Carolina State.

Jones: Oh that's wonderful.

McEachern: Currently, the project we're working on-- and it's just a matter of assembling the funds and timing and everything-- but we'd like to do another scholarship at UNCW with my mom's name on it, because all the scholarships she did at UNCW, she did in my grandfather's name. She didn't do any in her name, so I would like to have one in her name. As soon as we can get everything financially situated, we're going to get that scholarship in the works. And we also will probably try to fund the veterinary scholarship for a little more, because the minimum doesn't really provide a lot of help to a student. A lot of people don't realize what a great need there is for scholarship help. I was just so appreciative of what the vet did for the dog and cat that I was kind of doing it for the pets, you know. I think I actually sent pictures of the pets to the people at NC State, and I've gotten nice notes. It's a good feeling. I don't want any name recognition, but it's a good feeling to know that somewhere, a person's being helped.

Jones: That you're helping. That's good.

McEachern: And we probably will do another honor scholarship. I think I'll check and see what's really needed, because I know most of the scholarships my mom's done has been honor scholarships. And from there, I hope to continue to expand into other things that might be of some help to the community. I'm kind of a baby at this compared to the rest of them, but I have to realize that they all started later in life, as late in life as I'm almost starting. Most of what my mom did, she probably did in the last 20 years of her life.

Jones: I noticed that this town has, just from the things that come in through the mail, people we know, phone calls, there's more opportunity here, or there are more groups here who are desperately in need of financial help, or physical onsite help volunteering. It's just amazing that the population seems to be something that stands right out. You can't go a week without something coming to the mail--

McEachern: That's a very worthwhile cause you'd like to be able to help.

Jones: That's the next point. Every single one of them has a need and they're all worthwhile, but you can't do it all.

McEachern: You're right, so we're trying to pick and choose. I would like to go over a couple of things, talk about some of the changes I've observed. I think everybody who's lived here or even--

Jones: Can I just stop a second?

McEachern: Sure.

Jones: Do you want to take a break, while he changes the tape?

McEachern: Sure, that'd be fine. I won't go more than five or ten minutes.

(tape change)

Jones: First, why don't you go ahead now and just tell us-- and I'm so glad you've written this down so we don't miss a beat. What's your observations of Wilmington, then and now and where we're going?

McEachern: I think I mentioned earlier in the tape that it was a sleepy little town when I grew up. It's certainly not a sleepy little town today. One of my cousins used to say that Wilmington is a great place to live and a bad place to make a living. He almost reverses that now, but I don't agree it's a bad place to live. But it's certainly a much better place to make a living. There are tremendous opportunities. There are lots of entrepreneurs here. There are all kinds of people here that you don't even know about. An interesting thing, just by happenstance I ran across the fact there are some people here that fight oil fires all over the world. And they live in Wilmington because they like it. But they go to places like-- they've been to Iraq fighting oil fires. I don't recall their names but there's three or four of them and they work in this company and that's all they do is fight oil fires. They jump on a plane-- they have a cigarette boat, they have here, and they ride all around and enjoy the atmosphere. But I think the portability of work has made it possible for a lot of people to live where they want to instead of working in a place they may not like to live. I think most of the people who are here now are seeing rapid growth and they can realize that there's been a lot of growth in Wilmington. I think if you've lived here a long time you can put it in perspective. I will never forget talking to a fellow in the Coast Guard Reserve Unit I was in, he was gonna buy the most expensive unit at Seapan [ph?] Condominiums and he was gonna pay $40,000 for it. And I told him you are absolutely crazy to pay that much money.

Jones: Now that must have been the 70s?

McEachern: It probably was in the 70s. So little did we know. Of course 3 years ago it could've been said that Carolina Beach-- a similar situation.

Jones: Did your family have Carolina Beach property or any of the things up in there?

McEachern: Yeah, my grandfather used to have a couple of lots. He had a house at Carolina Beach. My uncle __________ McEachern who had Echo Farms, he had a house at Carolina Beach. In fact during one of the storms he stayed. I think he had asthma and the doctor told him, don't leave the beach area because the clear air at the beach is much better for you, you don't get the pollen and the other pollutants that you do in town. So he stayed. And they thought he had died, but they came back after the storm and the story was that he'd clung to a refrigerator or something and been washed back up on the beach, you know. I don't know how-- I can't vouch for the accuracy of it.

Jones: Did you go to Carolina beach then as a youth?

McEachern: I went to Wrightsville beach more. Now when my mom was growing up, she went to Carolina Beach. They had a house right near where the lake is at Carolina Beach on the oceanfront, and they had maybe 2 or 3 lots there. My grandfather was a big fisherman, he was a big drum fisherman, and that was the main thing he liked about the beach. I'm not sure he ever went swimming, but..

Jones: Was it always that dichotomy that Wrightsville beach was the tony, tourist, upscale, and Carolina Beach was more working class?

McEachern: I'm not sure that existed when they first bought a house there. I think as things progressed it worked out that way, that a lot of the mills in the central part of the state that closed. And people came down to Carolina Beach when they had these planned vacations, instead of having to rent a vacations. and they had the boardwalk and more things to do. There was, you know, the little pavilion, you know, lots of little things to do, compared to Wrightsville Beach. Wrightsville was more of a local-- locals went there, not as many tourists, there weren't very many-- there were a couple of hotels. Lumina, when my mom was younger, Lumina was in its heyday. They had the big dances out over the water, and when I was growing up Lumina was relegated to a bowling alley and not much else, you know.

Jones: George, I've heard from several sources that Wrightsville, as an example, and we talked about this earlier, getting there was sort of a problem at times, getting to Carolina Beach anyway. That it was easy enough to buy a lot over in what was Wrightsville because they said, oh this is never going to amount to anything, it's so narrow, and we're going to sink. And so they were going cheaply. And I know one family bought several lots and are very happy they did. And of course I guess it never entered into them at that time that you would have land renourishment and all the rest of it.

McEachern: No, that was another-- they probably thought the beach would wash away because it was so narrow.

Jones: Also, it was just for family. It was good for the children. You own property now at Wrightsville Beach.

McEachern: Yes, we have a..

Jones: A house. And the question I have is, how can it economically survive, being so small and, you know, where's it gonna grow? In other words-- and I mean I don't know if you get pulled into those local politics, but it seems as a city it's got some real basic problems, you know, providing service for kind of a tourist industry.

McEachern: They do, but the land values are gonna be so high now that they're not really gonna have a financial problem. The problem they have at Wrightsville Beach is that it's become so residential, and residential property is so valuable that commercial property's being converted to residential. Almost everywhere in the country commercial is more valuable than residential. But, you know, for example the Middle of the Island, the Olympia, both of those closed, and they're gonna probably build mixed use there, probably be primarily commercial, maybe commercial..

Jones: Are you involved in that real estate?

McEachern: Not really.

Jones: Not really. But you said you were involved in real estate and..

McEachern: Yeah, I got involved in real estate when-- the Coca Cola business owned a fairly substantial amount of real estate that my grandfather bought over time, and I was involved in-- what I primarily did was categorize that and make sure that was sold at the best possible use. And unfortunately we didn't really have a lot of high dollar property. It was mainly areas off of Princess Place that he had thought one time he might need to move the bottling plant away from downtown. Because one of the problems we had there around 10th and Princess was we had to continually buy additional houses as the place got larger, and we probably had to buy ten or fifteen properties just to get it to the size it was, to expand the business.

Jones: And that's still the current location?

McEachern: It's still the current location. We're not in that business, and they're no longer bottling. They bottle in Charlotte and bring the product in from Charlotte.

Jones: Is that right, 'cause I see a lot of trucks and things there. So that's a distribution center.

McEachern: Yeah. We had a big bottling operation there. And we also had a cooperative we were involved in that did all the canning in Bishopville, South Carolina. But they bring it all in now from Consolidated. When we sold the business-- Consolidated is at least partially owned by the Coca Cola Company. And Coca Cola Enterprises, which is the biggest bottler of Coke in the world, they're also partially owned by the company. So the company's done a lot of consolidating. For example, we were on vacation once and we went down to Ft. Myers, Florida, and I was interested because they were one of the fastest growing bottling-- they were growing about 10% a year. And the interesting thing about the Coca Cola business is, I called them up and I said, hey my name is George McEachern. We're in the Coca Cola business in Wilmington, North Carolina. We're here on vacation. We'd like to stop by and see your plant. Okay, come on by. We'd love to have you come. Come eat lunch if you could. No, we can't come for lunch. So I go-- the president or the Chief Executive Officer of the company is sitting there taking me on a tour of everything, taking out two or three hours to talk to me about their business, because that was the way it was. The old saying was if you were driving your car across country and the car broke down, if you could get to the Coca Cola plant, they would get the car fixed for you and put you back on the road, if you were in the business. Because they were-- it was like a big fraternity, in addition to being family business. So that was a very interesting thing.

Jones: But you think it's not that way anymore?

McEachern: No, it's not. Because the parent company has taken over most-- for example, the place in Ft. Myers, they were growing 10% a year, which is fantastic growth. They were bought out. All around them was owned by Coca Cola enterprises. If Coke's were gonna go on special and the Ft. Myers plant didn't want to put them on special, Coca Cola enterprises would pay to have them put on special so they'd have a uniform price. So they basically took the business away from them by running the business. But back to the growth in Wilmington. The growth has been a mixed bag. I think in general it's been great. I think lots of new interesting, vibrant, enthusiastic people have moved into Wilmington. I know some people are offended by the fact that people are causing a little more traffic and so forth, but one of the things I've observed is that a lot of the people who are most interested in doing things are newcomers. They're very interested in learning about Wilmington. They're very interested in helping out in volunteer organizations. They want to make it a better place. A few people want to change it to like the place they lived, but in general most of them are really happy to be here. And I think the growth-- one of the reasons for the growth is, we talked about earlier, is air conditioning. It's a comfortable place to live. The winters are relatively mild. You get days like today when it's almost spring like. It's great to be near the ocean. It's great to be near a university. I put the plug in for the university, but the university's one of the jewels in the Wilmington area. It's provided so much to the cultural life of Wilmington. But there's a pretty vibrant artist colony. There's a vibrant theater colony. There's a lot of interesting things to do in Wilmington that we take for granted that didn't used to be here to that same extent.

Jones: Can I then surmise that you're one of those that approves of building a convention center?

McEachern: I have sort of mixed feelings about that. I see no problem with the convention center. I have doubts that it'll ever make money, but I think the convention center might help out the area. I'm not sure of the final plan but conventions centers have been assets in other areas, just from the standpoint they provide a place that you can have larger meetings. And I think Wilmington would be a good place to have a meeting. I don't think I would necessarily want to guarantee that it's gonna make money, because there's so many uncertainties about convention centers. But I think the idea of improving things downtown is a great one. I think that..

Jones: Do you think it's possible-- we were talking about downtown Wilmington when you were growing up. Is it possible for a revitalization?

McEachern: Well, that's one of my hopes. I think retail has suffered. I think restaurants have done pretty well. Hopefully the PPD building and some other things that are gonna happen downtown will be a big shot in the arm. You know, PPD's gonna be a great asset. They're gonna bring in, you know, well paid workers that are going to be interested in doing things. There are a lot of people who moved to Wilmington who are interested in downtown. I've got people who I went to high school with who never go downtown, but most of the people I know who've moved here just-- they go downtown on a Saturday and walk around, go to the market, do all kinds of things downtown. They just revel in how interesting it is. I'm not sure it'll ever reach its like department store level before, I don't think that's in the cards, but specialty shops, hopefully, will come back. That's one of my-- on my hope list. I think one of the big benefits of growth has been opportunities for people to work. There's certainly a lot better shopping. That doesn't bother me too much but I know my wife has enjoyed the additional shopping, you know. We used to have to go to Raleigh or Atlanta or somewhere for all this shopping, but more and more places are available here. Look at the change at Mayfaire, just all kinds of-- there's so many places that have opened up I couldn't go to all of them if I went to a different one every day for six months probably. There are obviously a lot better medical facilities. Probably when I grew up you could have written the number of doctors on maybe one or two pages here, now it would probably take almost all these pages to write in. We got people who are really good at a lot of different specialties. Hopefully we won't need them but they're there. I think it's a great asset for the community. I think the growth here at UNCW and all the things it offers has been a great thing for the community. The growth of Cape Fear Community College has also been good. They do a great service to people who are not going to a conventional college. They offer lots of courses that provide skills for people that'll provide them a good economic opportunity in the future. So I think overall the growth has been a great thing for Wilmington. It's maybe taken away a little bit of the hometown feel. I think the things that you don't like about growth are pretty obvious. The traffic is terrible, course that's relative. If you think traffic's bad here, go to Atlanta, or I've been told go to Los Angeles.

Jones: No, go to Northern Virginia.

McEachern: Go to Raleigh or to Washington. I think the crowds at the beach are a problem. It's more difficult to find parking. I think ultimately something hopefully will be done about that. I miss being able to find shells at the beach, you know. When I grew up you could walk down the beach and find lots of sand dollars, and it's just a matter of lots of people. And I think it's difficult to have a boat compared to what it used to be. Fishing piers are disappearing. When I went to the meeting we had at Ft. Macon they were lamenting the fact there's only two fishing piers left in Carteret County. Lots of places along the coast don't have places to moor party boats because they're being converted to condos. Quaint little villages are being replaced by high rise condominiums. And that's progress in a way, but you hate to lose some of the down home flavor of the coast. And I'm not sure you could do anything to stop some of these economic forces. People want to be near the water, and if someone comes in and offers you four or five times what your property used to be worth, or if you get a reevaluation like we're getting, then the taxes become astronomical. A lot of people are gonna be forced to sell.

Jones: Did you earlier talk about your Coast Guard career?

McEachern: A little bit.

Jones: The question I have is that boating in general, what happens when the capacity, you know, the numbers, just become huge? I mean isn't this one of just a very large boating area? Can the Coast Guard handle all of that or I mean is it..

McEachern: They tried to. It wouldn't surprise me to ultimately see a license to operate a boat, with more training required, because some people only know two speeds, stop and wide open. And some people don't know anything about rules of the road. And then you get so many people thrown in there that if anybody looks the other way or anybody's looking at a nice looking lady on another boat or just looking at something-- a bird flying off in the marsh, you could end up colliding with another boat. So I think the crowding is gonna be tempered a little bit by the difficulty of getting boats into the water, which is unfortunate. And my experience has been if you want to go out in the boat, go out during the week. And the weekends, stay home and work in the yard. Go to church. Read the paper. Do something else, but don't take your life into your hands out there out on the boating..

Jones: Are you still an active boater?

McEachern: I'm an active boater. I'm not in the Coast Guard anymore. I was in a reserve unit we had here. And then I got to be a group commander over two units. I was commanding officer of this unit for a while and than I was a group commander, and then I went to a volunteer training unit and I ultimately retired. But the reserve does a great service for the active Coast Guard. They used to look down on the reserves but now the regular Coast Guard is just so appreciative because they come in-- and we send people like to Wrightsville beach, to the lifesaving station there. We send them to group Ft. Macon. We send them to the Captain of the Port in Wilmington. Another interesting thing the Coast Guard's done, which has nothing to do with all we're talking about, but when I was in the Coast Guard we had like there was an air base at Elizabeth City. There was a marine safety office in Wilmington. All the lifesaving and the small boats and search and rescue was under Ft. Macon. There was a group Ft. Macon and it had all these different commands. Well now they have what they call sector North Carolina. It's located at Ft. Macon. And this..

Jones: Where is Ft. Macon?

McEachern: Ft. Macon's in Morehead City. It's at the end of Atlantic Beach, the northern end of Atlantic Beach, so it's a really nice station. But they now have a commander there, and I think he's a captain, who is commander of all the Coast Guard units in North Carolina. So he's in charge of the marine safety office. He's in charge of the Loran station down near Carolina Beach, which is a navigation station. He's in charge of the Wrightsville Beach station. He's in charge of the air wing, so if he needs a helicopter to fly down to Frying Pan Shoals to rescue somebody, he doesn't have to go through another command. He's the boss. So it's been a great thing for the Coast Guard.

Jones: Is the Diligence-- that's the one that's based-- is that under his command?

McEachern: I'm sure it must be. I'm not sure about the ships. That's the only thing I'm not sure. But I feel pretty sure it is under his command, because I know at Ft. Macon they have some sea going tugs and they're all under his command. So he has a big job really. But the Coast Guard has been a real asset to North Carolina, and I was very honored to have served in the Coast Guard. They had a lot of great people. Operated on a shoestring budget. They're now getting lots of funding because they're under Homeland Security. It's very interesting now to see these people wearing what looks like special forces or marine corps uniforms, carrying all kinds of weapons. Probably the only weapons we had at one time was like a-- hit people with a paddle or oar or something.

Jones: Had the drug stuff started when you were in there?

McEachern: They had.

Jones: Is that a recent..

McEachern: No, they had started that when I was there. In fact we had three guys in our reserve unit. One of our reservists was the director of customs for North Carolina and two of the people worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. And they would actually go on active duty undercover as drug enforcement people, checking out Coast Guard barracks and stuff. So that was interesting. Because there's a big, just local, drug problem as well as the importing of all the drugs. But the importing is probably the main thing they're concentrating on now, is trying to cut out interdict shipments from overseas. Not as much in this area as down around Florida. They have much more smuggling into Florida. Although, you know, I don't know whether you were here, but probably 15 or 20 years ago there was a large smuggling operation in Brunswick County. They were using air strips. They were even-- I think there was maybe a wildlife protector involved in the smuggling ring. A friend of mine told me a guy told him, he said, if you'll not go to your dock tomorrow night, I'll leave $10,000 there in a bag for you. Just don't go around your dock. Just stay home, watch TV. We'll leave the $10,000 in $10, $20 bills at the dock, you know. And this involved all kinds of people. But the federal government had the undercover people who spent like a couple of years getting into-- they had people working as carpenters and things like that, undercover, to break that gang up. Hopefully it's better now. But I don't really have a good feel for it. When I had friends that I knew who worked for drug enforcement I was a little more familiar with it. I'd like to just spend a minute talking about some of my hopes for the future. One of the things I hope is that ultimately we'll get better roads here. And I'm not criticizing anybody, but one of the problems we've had here is that we've not had politicians that stayed in office a long time, so that in general, road building is a problem for the state. They're short of money. They estimate they'll have to convert 95 into a toll road to bring it up to a good quality road. But, you know, we don't have people-- for example, we have a house near Asheville, and they have all kinds of roads in Asheville because a lot of the governors who come from that area, and wherever you come from you understand the problems better. So I hope we will get better roads. For a long time we didn't even have an overpass. And, you know, when the Martin Luther King road was built, a lot of that should've been an overpass to make it a real thruway. So that's one of my hopes. One of my hopes is that we'll work hard on keeping trees and landscaping as part of the surroundings in the community. We don't go to a stark 'cause I think the trees are beautiful. I'm into plants. I know some builders complain about having to put too many plants out, but I think it adds a lot to a community. I hope we'll continue to try to buy green space. A lot of people are critical for buying Airway, but I thought it was a great buy. Something like that will never become available again.

Jones: That would've been what, condos or something. That's where that was heading.

McEachern: They could've made tons of money selling it off. I know we paid a pretty good price for it, but compared to today's dollars..

Jones: It was what, $14 million then? But look at what it would be now.

McEachern: Well when you have lots at Wrightsville Beach that are a million dollars and they're 60 x 90..

Jones: And plus the history that went with that.

McEachern: That's right. It's a beautiful place. And they're already putting it to good use for the community. That's helping a lot of things.

Jones: Concerts and such.

McEachern: I hope we will continue to try to acquire space for parks, like sports parks. You know, South Carolina is looked down upon as being backward, but our daughter lives in Mt. Pleasant, and in Charleston, they've got two huge parks that-- you have roller blading, they have-- you can rent places there, they have canoeing. I mean they have a water park, they have a wade pool, just all kinds of things that we don't have here. And so I hope that as we continue to grow and spend money we'll allocate money for that. And I'm gonna try to do all I can with the city council and the county commissioners to try to do that.

Jones: Can I ask you to stop here on that subject? The city council and the county commissioners are mainly made up of people from somewhere else. Now I know they spend lots of time and I know that they all mean well, but do you have a feeling that if there were more, let's say natives, in the those two groups it would be a different story, or is it more advantageous having outsiders?

McEachern: I'm not sure which would be better. I think it depends on how interested the..

Jones: Or a good mix.

McEachern: Probably a good mix. That's probably how interested the people are. And I think it's good to have people who have different interests and maybe live geographically in different areas. You don't want everybody living on the same block, you know, or everybody going to the same church or everybody being in the same economic status. It's good to have people-- I don't think you could ever do it, but it'd be nice to have people who ride the bus to work, if you're dealing with the bus line, you know. It's like Dr. Leutze. I remember one time he came in, he had registered like a freshman just to see what you go through to register, you know. There's nothing more humbling than to go into something and have to go through what the people go through. I remember we had a guy who was in our church. At the time he was, I guess the-- I don't know what you call them. What do you call the-- he was the administrator at Cape Fear Hospital. And I didn't know what the policies they did, but apparently he was really tough, and, you know, they had to keep control of the prices and everything and didn't want to have all these fluff things. He became a patient in the hospital. And after he was a patient for about a week, all that changed. We gotta get all these things taken care of, you know. So I mean it's different to see the perspective. But I think it's nice to have a mix. Some people who come in from other places bring expertise that's helpful here, like on parks and so forth. Some people who have been here a long time might be complacent. But on the other hand, some people who have been here a long time are passionate about, for example, the history of the area, and wanting to preserve some historical particular place. So I think it's probably good to have a mix, but I think it mainly-- it's more about interests. One other thing I'd like to mention, one of the things I had an opportunity to do was when I was working at federal is I served on a curriculum committee for the Pulp and Paper Foundation at NC State. And they asked me the question, they said, you know, we are out hiring-- some of the professors were leaving, and they supplemented the professor's salaries with grants from some of these companies, but they had to make sure people who were experienced and who were theoretical, you know. Some of the people had never worked in industry, and some people had primarily worked in industry and they were not as deeply schooled in theory. And so we were having a debate on what kind of people we should hire as professors, you know, should they be strong in theory or strong in actual practicality. And I said, you know, I think they really should be strong in teaching. Because my observation about teachers was that some of the smartest people had no ability to transmit the knowledge to you. And some of the people who had-- I mean, you know, so having the passion for teaching-- you gotta have enough knowledge, but having the passion for teaching-- instill that into other people. I remember one of the instructors I had, he said, if you don't do well in this course it will not be my fault. I'm here for you anytime you need help. If you don't understand something, come back, I'll spend time in that office with you, and so forth and so on. Others took the attitude was, I say it once. If you don't get it forget it. And, you know, to me there's no comparison of the two people. Let's see, I had a couple of other things on my wish list. I would like to see-- I don't know whether there's a real change in this, but I would like to see safer neighborhoods and downtown. I'm not sure whether they're less safe or there's just more publicity. But at times downtown doesn't seem as safe as, for example, Charleston does. And I've been told that one of the things that Charleston did to improve their downtown so much was they spent a lot of money on the police. They hired a lot of policemen, had a lot of people patrolling beats. But when I go to downtown Charleston I'm never approached by somebody wanting something or people lurking near you or anything like that. And that has happened to me downtown. It doesn't threaten me, but if I were a female I think I would be threatened, you know. So I think that's one of the things that we continually need to work on. I think we have a good police chief, as far as I know now, and he has some good ideas. I'm not certain we're still spending enough money paying the people, or have enough of them, but that hopefully will come with time. I hope that people can continue to be informed about the rich history of the area and they will be interested in it and try to do everything they can to preserve historical areas. I hope that-- and I don't know how this could ever happen, I hope middle income people will be able to find adequate housing. That's fast being priced out of the housing in the area. I'd like to see us have better schools. I think we can always improve our schools. I would like to see a school system so that every student is either prepared to go to college or has some kind of vocational training that they could earn a living. I think in the future if you don't have a skill like electrician, plumber, or if you don't have a college degree, moving toward doing something, not just a college degree, that it's gonna be difficult to find a job. There are not gonna be jobs like the United Auto Workers at General Motors making $20 an hour and $30 an hour in the future. I think education is gonna be even more critical.

Jones: My question about the technical training is, I'm always surprised that New Hanover County doesn't even have a high school technical program. I think Brunswick has one. Did we ever have one?

McEachern: We did. At one time there used to be a vocational educational program, in fact they had some people who left school early to go to work. They worked at places. They had a shop. They had an auto repair place. I know Cape Fear does a lot of that training. I thought the schools here still did it, but I've been-- since my kids have all gotten out of school-- now I'm starting to get involved again with grandchildren, but you know, just..

Jones: Brunswick County has a technical high school, which I think is a great opportunity. I guess we're too urban or something, but there isn't that track. It seems like high school is..

McEachern: I'll check further into that, just for my personal interest, and I'll let you know what I find out. I used to know Steve Billsey [ph?] fairly well, I could ask him. But there are several other people on the school board I know, I could ask them. Or I could ask my daughter cause she works at-- well no, it wouldn't help. Her kids are at Bradley Creek and she's really involved in the PTA there.

Jones: Do you think that a lack of industry here in the city itself has something to do with it, because you're looking for jobs that are hands on type thing, manual type thing, whether it's shop or, you know, putting _______________ in, you just don't have an awful lot of that here.

McEachern: No. That's probably a limiting factor. But there are things like automobile mechanics, electrician, carpenter, small engine repair. They have air conditioning repair. I mean, you know, there's lots of skills you could learn.

Jones: You go up and down Market Street, you see one truck right after the other with landscaping trees, heating and cooling, and I'm thinking, are they making any money?

McEachern: It's too easy a business to get into probably.

Jones: You've been here in business a long time, have you talked to your friends about the Mexican immigration? That's been in the last 5 to 10 years. Can you place that as a starting point? Was there any particular time that you started to see that as a..

McEachern: You mean the immigration or-- yeah, I'd say. You know, you're right about the time. The immigration is primarily coming in and taking jobs other people didn't want to do. But they're also taking some jobs that people do want to do, like a lot of the roofing companies are almost exclusively being operated by Mexicans, and they're starting up their own companies. It's interesting. Some of these people plan to live in America and some of them plan to make enough money and go back to Mexico. But fortunately-- I actually think we have to get immigration under control, just from the standpoint of knowing who's coming in. I don't really want a lot of people who plan on blowing up cities coming in. I don't think most of the Mexicans are doing anything but coming in for an opportunity, but I still think if you're gonna have a border, you need to have it a little bit under control, have a guest worker program or something else. We are fortunate that most of the Mexicans are strong family people. Most of them are religious. Occasionally they have problems driving on our roads, but that sort of worries you too, if they don't learn English as a-- if they're not very fluent in English. Fortunately most of the signs are easily understandable. But I think it's gonna be difficult to attract a lot of heavy industry to Wilmington because there's just-- heavy industry business in America, in general, is suffering, you know. In the mountain area, furniture and textiles has just been destroyed. Furniture is just-- in fact there are very, very few furniture factories. One of the few I know about is that Bob Timberlake has his own signature brand, and he wanted Lexington to build it but they weren't gonna build it in the U.S. factories. So his son bought one of the old Lexington factories and that's where they build the furniture now. So it's still built by Americans, you know.

Jones: It seems that the big so called industry is in the technology field. And North Carolina is beginning to really receive the benefit a lot of those, and auto building.

McEachern: Yeah, I think so. I think-- what is it, Honda's gonna build a plant to build aircraft? But I think the research triangle was a tremendous asset to North Carolina. At the time it didn't seem like it was, it took a while for it to get moving. It's certainly done better than-- what's the name of the place around Goldsboro that-- the _____________ Bay. But the research triangle has brought in tons of people, high income people, and tons of industries and entrepreneurs and, you know, we've even gotten some small benefit of that, of people-- there's a couple of smaller..

Jones: They live here and once a week fly up to Raleigh or wherever.

McEachern: That's right. If they had their druthers, they'd be here all the time, if there was a place here. And that's probably the reason for PPD. But there are a few smaller software companies that-- I know one of them moved here. I can't remember the name of it. It's a real small-- you probably never even heard of it. They moved here because they liked to surf. So I mean, you know, this goes back to what I was saying about a lot of work is portable, you know. A lot of it is not involved in a hard factory. You can move a computer software company where you're writing software, easily from one place to another. And a lot of things are knowledge oriented or management oriented. I remember when we were redoing our house at the beach there was a couple there that-- one of them was a pilot for like Delta or something. He flew to Atlanta to catch his flight. And the lady in the family was an accountant for Hard Rock Cafés and she traveled all over the southeast, but they were building a house at Figure Eight Island. So you know..

Jones: There's a pilot that lives out at Landfall, he's a senior pilot with American or United, I've forgotten which, he makes one trip a month that's overseas. He flies to New York in his own plane.

McEachern: Boy that's a deal isn't it?

Jones: Yeah, comes back and lives here on Figure Eight.

Jones: Did you cover his career, though, with Federated?

McEachern: Federal paper? Yeah.

Jones: How he got into it and the whole bit, yeah.

Early: Are they still going strong?

McEachern: Oh yeah, they're still going strong. Now it's International Paper. It's been even further bought out. But I didn't tell you what I did. Most of the time I was there-- they said I was probably one of the most well known people that worked for the company, not because of anything, but the fact is that we investigated problems, complaints and so forth. So for the people all over the world, they sent their samples and their problems to us and we tried to analyze them to determine what caused the problem and what we could do to prevent it if it was out fault or not. So it was a somewhat stressful but interesting job, because some days you would have a list of things to do and you'd never touch any of it. Because somebody would call you up in Los Angeles and say, this guy's got this job on a printing press, we need help, what can we do about it, so forth and so on.

Jones: So what kind of problems? When you say problems, you mean like product problems?

McEachern: Product problems, application problems, you know. There's like, you know, for example, the paper could be slightly off color. It could have a little scratch down the middle of it. It could have a little piece of dirt on it.

Jones: You had to dig back to the plant?

McEachern: We'd go back and look through records, had to meet with our manufacturing people. We were kind of the shock absorber between the customer and the mill. The mill was banging this way and the customer was banging this way, and we were the shock absorber on the train.

Jones: Here's where your training and counseling was..

McEachern: Well you have to have a strong faith.

Jones: Well you survived.

McEachern: Let's see if there's anything else I was thinking of. Oh, I also would hope that there will be enough left of the old time coast that people will be able to enjoy it all along the coast, that there will still be a place that you could put a boat in the water, be it a john boat or whatever. And then you'd go out and pick up a couple of clams or you go out and catch a pinfish, or they'll be a pier that you can take your grandchildren down out on the pier and maybe catch a trout or catch a bluefish or something like that. And experience something of the coast. And my last hope is that I learn how to become proficient on my computer. And that has nothing to do with Wilmington.

Jones: George, you've provided us with more-- when I said go back a bit and, you know, think about it, you did, or you've been planning that for a while.

McEachern: No. I did this starting yesterday.

Jones: You're not-- really?

McEachern: That's right. No, but I'm very happy to be able to do it, and mainly because of my mom and my grandfather because they're no longer around. And that was one of the main reasons I wanted to do it.

Jones: They left quite a legacy.

McEachern: They have. They've left a tall-- and hopefully one of the things I want to do, too, in doing these tapes, is I want to let the kids know, even the grandchildren know, what they did, and their outlook on life and..

Jones: Where they came from.

McEachern: Where they came from, and not just some old person--'cause see they even knew my mom mainly as an older person, you know. They didn't see her when she loved to play jokes on people and bought all these trick cards and stuff like that, you know. And they didn't see the fun side of her as much, you know.

Jones: What about your wife? I don't know if you talked about her at all.

McEachern: Except just what a great lady she is.

Jones: I want you to know that he did share with us that when he went to the paper company out of college he met his wife almost immediately, and within two months they were married.

Early: Tell us her name.

McEachern: Carolyn.

Jones: And her maiden name?

McEachern: Carolyn English.

Jones: And she comes, though, from a more rural setting.

McEachern: She grew up in Pender County and they moved to Wilmington when she was real little.

Jones: I was just wondering if it still has those rural roots. I wonder what her sense of all of this expansion is, too, 'cause..

McEachern: Probably similar, you know. I don't think she remembers as much about her early years in Pender County. Her dad was a farmer, a dairy farmer, and then later he worked in several different kinds of businesses. But I think she remembers more about the changes in New Hanover County, you know.

Jones: I just think it's-- because your parents still-- it's a tremendous rural presence, and that's almost all gone for most people here. Although if you go to Columbus County or Duplin, you're going back in a time capsule, you're back to rural. New Hanover is almost solid..

McEachern: Well, New Hanover's kind of like East coast-- it's almost like there's a east coast mentality. I remember going to New England, we used to go to New England in the fall, and we'd tramp all over there. We took our cereal with us. My wife would pack the food. We did everything but sleep in the car almost to get there and back, but, you know, you'd go there and you were kind of like back in time, you know. You didn't see-- you saw like the Rutland Gazette or something like that, but now you go and there's USA Today, there's the Wall Street Journal, there's the New York Times. If you go to the motel, they got superstation Atlanta, WGN in Chicago, they got all these news-- so I mean everybody's so much more up to speed along the east coast. Now once you get away from the coast there are pockets that aren't like that at all. There's pockets where if you bought a house 20 years ago it wouldn't be worth but a little more than it was then, now, you know.

Jones: Well where was the paper mill that you worked on mainly, all over the country?

McEachern: Well, Regal Paper was a small company. They had 3 or 4 mills in New Jersey. We were the only-- it started out as a pulp mill because they were in the glassine business. They made glassine, which is an opaque looking material that they use in cereal boxes. Hershey used to use some of it in candy wrappers. I think they use a different material now. And in fact we used to make-- we made paperboard for some people who did photo albums, but they were doing like sticky backs, which is not as critical as far as the acid content. But mainly it was supplying pulp. And then the pulp mill got so big they put in a paper machine. Then they put in a second paper machine.

Jones: This was over at Riegelwood?

McEachern: At Riegelwood, yeah.

Jones: Now that is like going to almost a different country past there. I mean that's very rural.

McEachern: Oh, I know it. Well, you know, these little spring clips-- one of the guys we used to kid, he lived near Burgoyne, we said, you ought to take these up there in Burgoyne. {ph?] You could tell them you invented them because they never seen these before, you know, these little clips you put on paper and stuff. But, you know, really-- and the mountains are like that. You know we are very fortunate that we're house poor 'cause we have the house here, we have a house at the beach and we have a house in Montreat, and so we're able to see three, well two, different parts of the state. And Black Mountain in Montreat is kind of like going back in time, you know. It's like 5 or 6,000, well, you know Sherman, he's been to the house, so he knows what it's like. But you go-- one of our kids had a health problem once and had to go to the emergency room. And you would not believe the people you saw. It looks like they came out from a cave or something they've been stuck in for 20 years, you know. I mean they're like no idea what's going on. They probably don't know where Washington is. They don't read the newspaper. They don't care what's going on around. They don't even know we're in Iraq.

Jones: Even with all the tourism stuff going on in the western part of the state, you're saying there's still pockets..

McEachern: They really are. There used to be pockets in eastern North Carolina, and there still are a few, but I mean on the coast there used to be some. They called, in the Coast Guard, going to Cape May going overseas. And these guys would go to someplace like Cape Hatteras and never leave Cape Hatteras. They would stay at that station their whole career because warrant officers do the detail and they transfer people, and if you got a couple of good old warrant officers from Cape Hatteras up there detailing people, they could keep you there for your whole career. I mean-- and you could be like-- go home at night and live in your house. Go to work in the Coast Guard during the day, go out and save people and then go back home, never have to worry about all of this rigmarole. And I mean it was like you were a private contractor almost, you know. But the mountains now-- like Asheville is very progressive, but you get out in some of the small towns-- and I wouldn't also want to be a federal law enforcement officer in some of those small towns because a lot of those people really-- I mean you got people who are independent, you got people who have gas refrigerators, they have photo volt, I mean, you know, solar power, they got some people that are not hooked up to the electric grid. They live out there off the land. They grow their own food. It's a big area for organic gardening. I mean there are a lot of anti government people. I mean just-- you would not impress people if you told them you were from the federal government, any agency. There's supposedly a guy that lives there that has like 10,000 acres. He won't let the government come on his property. He has like guards that would shoot you on sight if necessary, you know. I mean it's-- but those pockets are disappearing, you know. The country's becoming a lot more-- and I think the military and TV and, you know, things are just so much-- the internet, you know, computers, but..

Jones: It's one culture that's..

McEachern: Almost, you know. And some of the, you know, the provincial things have been lost, you know. There's still places in New England that are pretty-- a few of them are pretty isolated, you know. And I love New England. We stopped going there almost exclusively when we got the house in the mountains, because one of the things I wanted to do is-- we had a fairly close family, but we didn't really go places together. So like at least once a year we all go to the mountains, and all 18 of us are there. And this past year, about a year ago, just a year and a week ago, we all went to Disney World. And that was one of the greatest things we ever did, because one of our daughters is a Disney World freak. And she just talked everybody into going. And, you know, when you start getting-- our oldest grandchild is 13 and the youngest is 6, and soon they're gonna be reaching ages they won't want to go places with you. And it's more difficult because they'll be working, they're playing sports now. But we all got to go, and some of them had never been before, and we had a blast, you know.

Jones: Had you been before?

McEachern: I'd been. We'd been a couple of times. One of the things we did, whether we had $100 extra dollars or $200 extra dollars, we always went on vacation. It might've been Carolyn cooking the chicken for the first day. And we went in with our pillows, our blankets, our cereal, our fruit, you know, a low budget, but we always went on vacation. So we went to Disney World a couple of times. All of us went when it first opened. We stayed at the Contemporary Resort. Then we went back one time and stayed off Disney. This time we stayed on Disney and it was really nice to be able to..

Jones: All 18 of you.

McEachern: All 18 of us.

Jones: Well their family is fairly close by, but I think there's tremendous pressures for families to just split up, move to different places and..

McEachern: Well, the five grandchildren that are in Mt. Pleasant, they're not as close because of various things, like my mom's health and stuff. For a while we didn't get down there as much as we'd like to, but we try to all get together at least once or twice a year. And I think what we're gonna try to do is we're gonna try to let different ones use the beach house for a week or so exclusively, and then maybe get together down there for a week. but the mountain house is so easy because it's not any of us's permanent house and so it's easier-- nobody feels as much ownership. If you move something you're not moving something that somebody thinks should be somewhere else or..

Jones: It's not a pivotal thing about history, but I'm always surprised at how many people in the Wilmington area own and have property out in the mountains. Has that always been-- even way back when, when it was difficult-- did you find that? But now I talk to so many people that do, you know, not necessarily owning mansions or anything, but they have a little something out in the mountains. I guess it's the draw. Did you find that always?

McEachern: I don't think that's always been-- so I think that's been accelerated. There's been a lot of development, a lot of change, in the mountains over the last 10 years. Since we've had our house at Montreat, there's been tremendous changes.

Jones: I can think of three families right now. They've lived here all their lives. And they all look forward to their time in the mountains. They go twice a year. In the fall, and they go when it gets really hot, in the summer. And they just vegetate and commune with nature or whatever it is, and they just-- it's a rebirth. They come back. And do you know why, I think? To them, it's like living in a paradise, in an island in the Pacific. To them, people come here to play. They take it for granted. To them, their peace and quiet and their letdown time is a different avenue. And that's what it is.

McEachern: I think that's a great..

Jones: I think there's an awful lot of traffic going back and forth, because now we've become the destination of this little beach group. And at the university we find that some of our best recruits are the mountain and the western kids who..

McEachern: Want to come to the beach.

Jones: Go to the beach. And we have a heck of a time recruiting, sometimes, our own students here, because they end up at Ap State. There's a huge Wilmington contingency. But I just think that with the highway system it's possible now. But you represent a lot of folks in Wilmington who do go out to that Western part of the state. It's an interesting..

McEachern: I think it's a lure, too, because it's easier to find places that are more secluded. Things are getting so busy here that it seems to be a nice break to go to like Montreat, because, you know, like Black Mountain. You walk down there-- we go and eat breakfast somewhere if we don't cook our breakfast at home, and the people know you because we're there often enough. We eat lunch once or twice if we're there a week, at the Veranda, and always talk to the guy there about what's going on. So it's kind of like going back in time, but it's also-- then we can sit up there on the deck, which I don't think I've ever sat up there for a whole day. There's always something to do at the house. But we got a nice deck up in the trees and then there's a stream that rushing water runs down by it so you hear the sound like a waterfall going by. You just feel like the relaxation coming on. And now when we're all 18 there, it's not that totally relaxed. But we usually go a week in October and we pick apples. and then we always usually go the fourth of July, and that's-- they have a little parade in Montreat, kind of like fire trucks and..

Jones: _____________ McCray [ph?] said one time that he owed the fact that he lived to be a healthy older man who can still play 18 holes of golf if he wants to, to the fact that he can go to Linville.

McEachern: I don't doubt, it's a beautiful spot. But there's so many places. I think the mountains are like the beach except the beach is more crowded. I mean, you know, if you could go on the beach and be out there with just a few people, it would seem close to God and very peaceful and very quiet. But, you know, the beach has gotten so crowded, unless you get-- now the wintertime is pretty good. You can go out during the winter and walk on the beach and you feel very-- you feel the tension just going out of you. But the mountains, there are so many places like that, you know. And there are so many houses available that you could buy 4 or 5 acres and not be tremendously expensive to-- compared to-- now that's changing, you know, as they develop more and more stuff. But, you know, still, it's relatively inexpensive compared to things on the coast. And I think going to somewhere--see, like our kids, if it's a possibility it's gonna snow, they're ready to go jump in the car. 'Cause they go up there and we got a steep hill, the driveway, and they just slide down that on boogie boards, or we got some sleds we got up there. And in fact they were talking about going up there this weekend and going over to Wolf Laurel if--'cause this year's been a bad year for snow. In fact we were even thinking about rigging up a computer camera so it'll be on our deck. So we can dial it up and see if it's actually snowing there or not. But we got started-- you might want to cut it off. We got started going to Montreat because a minister who came to our church kind of tuned us in. We had never-- our kids had never been to Montreat before, so Carolyn and I went to Montreat a couple of times with the kids, and we fell in love with it. And we bought the house, at least partially, because we felt so grateful that other people had rented their houses that we-- for the first few years we rented primarily to youth groups. Now we're having to control that a little bit because we have to be a little more careful about the youth groups, but we're still renting to two or three youth groups. One of them is a friend of John and Amy's, a little chapel. They go up there. They also go up two or three other times during the year. They have a college retreat there. They have a work retreat they go there. And so it's just been-- we've really gotten a lot of use out of the house, even though it's six or six and half hours away. And it's beautiful in the wintertime. You go up there and have a fire. We play games. We get Blockus out or we're playing Texas hold 'em poker. There's another game you play, it's something like kings corner count or something. It's kind of like-- the name escapes me. What do you play by yourself all the time?

Jones: Solitaire.

McEachern: Solitaire. It's kind of like solitaire, but you play it with different people. But those are big builders of community. One of our main aims is that we would all get together. We alternate cooking the meals. One family will do it one day, one another day, one another day and so forth. Everybody helps clean up. So all these grandchildren see each other for a week, usually, at least twice a year. And see when I was growing up I knew all my, you know, fellow family members, but I don't think I ever went anywhere with them and stayed like that, where we cooked together, ate together, played together in the same house, you know.

Jones: Now did your aunts or uncles have children? I mean you had cousins.

McEachern: Yeah, I had a first cousin the same age I was. That was my uncle who was a doctor, and he had a daughter also. And then my Uncle Hugh had Sandy and Rob. Sandy passed away like a couple of years ago. So there was two boys in that family. So there were several. And then we were related to the Effords [ph?] and that was a big family. And some other people related to. So it was a lot of people we were related to. And I went down and spent the night with them and things like that, but never for an extended period of time, you know. But the trip to Disney World is a shared experience that we all have. And the picking of the apples, I remember the first year we went we had to use a stepladder for the youngest grandchildren. She was probably about 3 years old. So we held the stepladder while she walked up and pulled apples off the tree, you know. So now they look forward to these things, you know. When are our cousins gonna be here? When are our cousins gonna be here?

Jones: Let's finish up if we can. You had some hopes for the Wilmington area. In a sense though, you seem positive. Are you positive with where Wilmington's gonna be after we're all gone?

McEachern: I have faith that good people who love the area are gonna persevere. I'm not sure that we'll reach all these hopes. Some of them may be-- like better roads may be somewhat difficult because of, you know, land acquisition and other things. But I'm positive about the area. It's a beautiful area to live in. I feel fortunate to have lived here. There are a lot of great people. A lot of good people have moved in.

Jones: This is what I wanted to say. I'm pleased and I'm almost touched in a way that you see that so many people have come here who have been hands on and done things because they want to. It's their own now.

McEachern: It's their town.

Jones: That you represent generations of history but you don't seem to resent that there's newcomers.

McEachern: No. I'm happy. They brought a lot with them. And like anybody else, if you get 10,000 people, there might be one person that's not your cup of tea, but in general they're all good hearted people. They came here for a good reason. They want it to be a better place. And I think they've been tremendous assets to the community. I can put up with a little bit of traffic. I mean it's like the university here, you know, look at what it's meant and what it continues to mean, the growth it's had. And who know's where it's gonna be with enough funding. If it gets as politically connected as some of the other branches are, maybe-- we ought to not say that on the tape. But I went to NC State when Carolina-- UNC Chapel Hill got all the money, and then fortunately a couple of the governors had affiliations with NC state so it started gettin a lot more funds. But they struggled for funds for a long time. And I've talked to Dr. Leutze and other people about UNCW and the fact that it's just-- there's only a limited amount of funds, and the closer you are to the board of governors is probably the easiest to get the funds, you know.

Jones: Well you've mentioned an awful lot of things and I think we've got a lot here, but I want to eventually have you come back and talk to us again about what's happened during this year, and what you see and what you've done.

McEachern: Hopefully I'll have accomplished something. I have my little list every day, so I work on..

Jones: I hope you do, because it's taken a while, hasn't it?

McEachern: It has.

Jones: Thank you George, very much.

McEachern: It's my pleasure. Thank you.

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