BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Elverton Shands, February 12, 2010 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Elverton Shands, February 12, 2010
February 12, 2010
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Shands, Elverton Interviewer: Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 2/12/2010 Series: SENC Notables Length 95 minutes


Parnell: Today is Friday, February 12, 2010. I'm Jerry Parnell from Randall Library Special Collections. I'm at the home of Elverton Shands, who's going to talk about growing up in Wilmington starting in the mid 1920s and on up to now. Good morning, Mr. Shands.

Shands: Good morning, Jerry.

Parnell: Let's start with the very basics. Can you tell us when and where were you born?

Shands: I was born January 9, 1922, in Wilmington, North Carolina. My father was Elverton Adolphus Shands. He was originally from Harrisburg, Virginia. My mother was Elene Kure Shands. So was the only sister out of four brothers of the Kure family, who were founders of Kure Beach. I am adopted, and my sister is adopted. My sister lives now in St. Petersburg, Florida, and she's seven years younger than I am. We lived from 1922 till about 1927 on 17th Street between Castle and Church, and all that property has been demolished now by--well, it shouldn't have been demolished, but it is. I'll put it that way. And my father worked part-time at the railroad, and he was also a butcher at Hobbes Grocery at-- I think it was 14th and Castle--somewhere in that neighborhood. He worked there on the weekend. He was in the Spanish-American War. He was in the Navy twice, and he was a cook in the National Guard between World War One and Pearl Harbor. And they used to call my father "the Belly Robber." He used to go down to Fort Moultrie and places like that, and the reason they called him the Belly Robber was during the Depression, instead of--he'd hold back on the rations for the troops and bring it home, and we'd eat all winter off of it. He worked in what they called "the Zoo" up at the coastline at one time, and they called him Chic Shands, because he always wore a straw-hat. And he was a fireman on the railroad I think about 1912 to 1915 or something like that. I can look that up for you. I have it in a file somewhere. My mother was a homemaker. And the only reason we moved in the Audubon area--we had chickens on our home at 17th Street, and it was a city ordinance against having chickens in the city limits. So we moved out here to Audubon, and we rented a place down on Peachtree. And we had, I guess, a thousand White Leggings and about a hundred Rhode Island Red chickens. We had a cow, and we grew all our own vegetables. Mother canned everything. Every Saturday, Daddy would go out to the henhouse, and I don't know how he did it, but he could feel a chicken and tell whether that chicken was laying or not. And if that chicken wasn't laying, he went in that black pot we had in the backyard. He'd ring his neck, put him in the pot. We'd pluck it, and that was Sunday dinner. We were living high off the hog then, you better believe it.

Parnell: When you say your father was from Harrisburg, Virginia, what brought him to Wilmington?

Shands: Pardon?

Parnell: What brought your father to Wilmington?

Shands: I really don't know. I really don't know how he wound up in Wilmington, and I don't know how he met his--my mother. I don't know how they got together. But Daddy was a rounder. I think he said he went around the world in the Great White Fleet way the hell back then. I'm not sure if that's correct or not, but he said he got paid off in Norfolk, and he had, I don't know, maybe a hundred-- I don't know how much money it was then--and I said, "What'd you do with it?" He said, "There wasn't a lady of the evening got any of my money." He said, "I drank it all up in beer." And evidently he was a pretty heavy rounder. But mother played the organ at St. Matthew's Church over on North Fourth Street, when it was over there, and then they moved to 17th Street, and that little church there is still there. She played the organ there. She was very religious. We had to go to prayer meeting every Wednesday and we went to Sunday School and church, and the whole nine yards. After we left St. Matthew's, we went to St. Paul's there on Market Street. Well, they have a balcony up in there. Well, a good friend of mine that I grew up with high school was named Charlie Snivet. His daddy was chief of the fire department here. And I'd tell mother, I said, "Charlie and I are going to upstairs," for service. And when the service would get going, we'd slip out the church, we'd go over there to Fourth Street, and we'd climb up that fire tower. And we knew it was about time to get back to church, we'd go upstairs and sit, and then we'd come down with the rest of the folk. One day Mother says, "What was the sermon about today?" I had no idea. I'd never--she said, "I know what you kids have been doing. You've been slipping out of here and going to that fire station. From now on you sit downstairs," and we did. And back then, the beach cars were running, and all the churches on, sometimes during the summer would have a Sunday School picnic, and they'd hook together down there in front of Princess, and they'd make all the stops, and if you belonged to that church, you got on the beach car, and you went over to Lumina for the whole day. And that was a big deal. And during the summer, we were Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians. I don't care what it was, we knew when that streetcar was coming by.

Parnell: And you were going.

Shands: It's just like when they had the old dances down there at Lumina. The Atlantic Coast Line used to have a big dance every year. Well, I never worked at the Coast Line, but my daddy did. So we'd go to the Coast Line Dance. (inaudible)

Parnell: Where was the streetcar here?

Shands: The beach car? It's right up there on the corner. It's the only one left standing.

Parnell: That's okay. That's where the track ran?

Shands: That's where the track ran, all the way up there at Winter Park. Down at Winter Park where that station is, I think Disabled Veterans has a place in there. It used to be a fire station. Well, that's where the trolley stop was there. And then I don't think there was one more stop till you got the Seagate. Now, we moved down here in 1927. Everything was dirt. Audubon Boulevard was paved, and they put the sidewalks in when they built this project. Hugh MacRae did in 1911. The other side of the street was dirt. Now, on the corner there was a fellow named Mr. Lofton. He was an attorney. He had a son named Sam, and I forgot the girl. We all used to play football right out there in the street. That was it. And most of us--we all went to Winter Park School, and Winter Park School then, and Miss Annie Herring was the principal, and we only had seven grades. It was during the Depression, and you went directly from Winter Park School to New Hanover High School. We had two schools then--Williston and New Hanover, and that's the way it was. And at that time, I think New Hanover High School was the largest high school in the state, population wise--kids in it. So I went there. And in fact, I think it was 1937 when they first had the ROTC was introduced here. All us kids joined the ROTC. Well, I've never been much of a military person. I like to read about it, but I didn't want to do it. But somebody says, "Why did you join the ROTC?" I said, "They gave you a uniform and shoes, stupid." And you had to wear your uniform Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Every Friday we had inspection in front of New Hanover High School, and if you were voted the cadet of the week, they gave you an arm band, and you could go to the movies free for a whole week. Well, I won it twice in a row. Now your shoes had to--the whole nine yards. Major Otts [ph?] was in charge of it, and Sergeant Gruets [ph?]. That was the only two that was--

Parnell: Was it Army ROTC?

Shands: Yeah. Yeah. And Sergeant Gruets, he was regular Army, and of course Major Otts was regular Army. Major Otts was a great fisherman. He lived up there on Third Street in one of those big old houses, and he had him a little old plywood boat, and he'd hit that Cape Fear River every--in fact, he left most of the work for Sergeant Gruets to do. But I played football and baseball at New Hanover High School two years in a row, and I left my--I stayed there five years, because Daddy said, "Son, when you get out of school, you're going to have to go to work." So I stayed as long as I could, and I left there in January of 1941, and I went down to Joe Stripp's baseball school in Orlando, and then I signed a contract in the minor leagues with the--I think it was the Boston Red Sox's chain up in Danville, Virginia. Myself and Roy Lamb, who lived right across the street, went up there. And I only lasted three weeks. The guy said, "I've heard of good feel and no hit." He said, "You're no feel and no hit."

Parnell: What position did you play?

Shands: I played third base. That was class dig by the old Bi-State League. It was good baseball then. We had a shortstop from Lynn, Massachusetts named Johnny Kalow, and he should have gone to the big leagues. But I mean, there's no place to go. And the guy that beat me at--no, his name was Johnny Evasion. Kalow was the third baseman. And he beat me out for the job, and I think he would up in Triple-A in Louisville. It was good baseball. They had a guy named Emo Shofity that went to Elon College. He was an All-American there. He played outfield. And there was another fellow from Wilmington named Louis Cheshire. He pitched for Carolina. He was a left-handed pitcher. He was darn good, and he pitched in the old Tobacco State League here with Roy Lamb. And now, when we lived out here as kids, what we did on Saturday, mother would bake bread. And if we'd been good all week, she'd bake one loaf of raisin bread. And my job on Saturday was to churn butter. Well, we had an old jar, and I had to shake that baby like that forever to get the butter to come up. And finally one day Daddy was looking at the Spiegel May catalog, and he saw one of these churners, and he bought that baby. And I was happy. But it had two wooden pallets on top, and you had to open up-- and I used to churn for about five minutes, then I'd look in there. Mother said, "Quit looking in there. You haven't been churning long enough to get the butter to the top." And the only place I ever saw another churn like that was down in the lobby at Big Daddy's at Kure Beach. He had one sitting there. Of course we lost that in the fire. But when we got through with our chores on Saturday morning, the first thing we did, we got dressed and we got to go to town--Wilmington. Man, that was a big deal. Our first stop was up at Dorothy Owens' florist. She was between 16th and 17th. What's the next street over from Church going towards Market? Anyway, she had a florist shop in there. But my grandmother died in, I think, 1929, and Mother--back then, they wore black. Black hat, black dress, black gloves. And she put all that on, and we'd go out there to Oakdale, and she'd put that little 50-cent bunch of flowers on the grave. Then we could go downtown. And we did more window shopping than we did shopping, because didn't nobody have any money. But there was a grocery store down there where Cape Fear Community College is now. I think it was Jurgen Haar had a grocery store there. And we'd get through shopping, Daddy would take us in there, and he'd sit my sister and I on a couple of old Coca-Cola crates or something, and he'd buy us a Coca-Cola for a nickel. And then he'd buy a slice of that old hog's head-- we called it "rat cheese"-- for a dime, and he put it in that butcher paper, and he would get a pack of soda crackers, and man, we were uptown. You can flat believe me, that was good living.

And later on, I had a paper route out here, and it ran all the way from Independence Mall almost down to where--now let's see. There used to be--where the hospital is now. And then it was this way, and then I went all the way over where Harris Teeter is. It was the Beasley family lived over there. They had a horse farm. And it used to take me about two hours to deliver all those papers. In fact, it got so big, I went to the Star News and I told them, I said, "How about...?" They cut the route in half, and it wasn't too bad then. But my point bringing up newspapers--I'd maybe make a couple of bucks a week, and I gave my daddy a dollar, and he'd say, "Okay, you can do what you want with the rest of the dollar." Well, I'd get on that beach car, and I'd ride to Wilmington for a dime. And the first place I would hit was the Bijou, to see them cowboy movies. That was a dime. Then I'd go to the Roar. That was 15 cents. They usually had Flash Gordon and the movie, and Metrotone News. I used to love--Fox News. I loved to watch that stuff, because they had a lot of it about the Spanish Civil War and all that going on back then. Then I would leave there to go to Kresky's [ph?] and I'd get me a Coke and a hotdog for a nickel, and I'd buy a nickel bag of that corn candy. You know what I'm talking about?

Parnell: Candy corn.

Shands: It'll make you sick if you eat enough of it. And if I had enough time, I'd go around to the Carolina Theater. That's where they had the musicals. Gold Diggers of 1936 and all that. Well, that was my full day, and I'd get on that beach car and come on back home, and brother, I had done it up brown.

Parnell: And you probably still had some change.

Shands: Oh, it was something else back then. You know, it's funny. All us kids that lived out here--the Hortons lived out here. Ralph Horton, are you familiar with him? Horton Ironworks?

Parnell: Yeah. Yeah, okay.

Shands: Yeah. The Hortons lived out here. There was a Conway family. There was a Venice family. There was a Blake family, Lamb family. Everybody knew everybody else. And after we got through with our chores, we went over here where that airfield was, and we built our own ballpark. We borrowed a trailer and an old truck from a guy and went over here on the ditch bank where the beach car used to run, and we dug all the clay out of that and made a clay infield, built a backstop, and built the dugout. And we played ball just-- I mean, that was it. We loved it. And it's funny, at one time at the New Hanover High School baseball team, Gillum Horton was the catcher, Roy Lamb was a pitcher, Harold Horton, who lived out here, played first base. Johnny Smith, who was my best friend, played short and was the captain, and I played third. We had five guys on a high school baseball team for two years that came from here, and it was the same thing with the legion team.

Parnell: You played legion ball too?

Shands: I played two years of legion ball too, yeah.

Parnell: Well let's back up a second. You said you built the ball field where the airfield was.

Shands: Yeah. Right.

Parnell: Tell us about the airfield.

Shands: I can't tell you much about that, because that was 1917, and that was before I was born.

Parnell: When you came along, the field was still there.

Shands: It was just an open field. Now, there was a dairy over here on Wilshire Boulevard-- Lewenberg's Dairy. You've heard of that? It had all the Germans working over there. Well, in the 1930s, occasionally he would drive all his cattle from over there, Wilshire Boulevard, all the way across Oleander Drive over here and feed them, and then bring them back. It was just like a little old gaucho from South America. It was something else. And we played ball, Harold Horton and Gillum's father was a bus driver. He was from New Bern. He owned a bus company at one time in New Bern, but somehow he lost it during the Depression and he would up driving the bus. Well, he used to drive the bus for the Wilmington Pirates when they played at Bellamy Park, and they had all the equipment-- they'd leave it in the bus. Well, they lived right over there on Wrightsville Avenue, and they had a big field behind them, and we used to play over there. And we'd go in that bus and get all that--and man, we thought we were big time. We had them big Louisville Slugger bats that the pros had and all. And I remember many a night when I used to stand down there on--I can't even think of the name of the street now. Right over here.

Parnell: Peachtree?

Shands: Peachtree. And I would wait for them to turn on the lights at Bellamy Park, and you could see the lights when they turned on. We had a telephone number-- had a telephone and a party line then, and the number was 421. And we got our mail out on Oleander Drive, which was two lanes, and it was RFD #3. I thought later on I must have been Andy Griffith, because that's just where we got the mail. But our entertainment back then, of course there was no television or anything, and Daddy bought us an American Bosch radio. I never will forget it. And we used to listen to the World Series on the radio. Then later on we would go downtown. The Star News was on Second Street next to the old Cape Fear Hotel, right where the old post office was. And they had a big scoreboard up there with a diamond on it--I don't know if you ever heard this--with a ping-pong ball. And we used to all sit in back of the old post office and eat peanuts and watch the ballgame. It came over a teletype. And one of the first World Series I remember was 1934 when Goose Goslin was playing for the Tigers. And they said, "Goslin singles into centerfield." Well the ball would go from home plate right out to centerfield. But before then, they had it on Second Street where the Cooperative Savings and Loan was. That's where the Star News went. They had one there. And I remember the 1932 World Series where the Cubs played the Yankees. Everybody down here was a Cubs fan. They hated the Yankees. And the Yankees had already won three in a row. And in the fourth game, the Cubs scored four runs in the first inning--never will forget it--and they had a guy named Frank Demery playing outfield. He hit a home run. And that whole street just erupted. Well, Babe Ruth hit two homeruns that game, and Lou Gehrig hit two homeruns that game. I think the final score was about 13 to 6 or something, and we all went home sad. But it's strange. We had our little team out here, and we used to play Seagate, and we played Masonboro. They had a team called the Masonboro Clam Diggers. We used to play them in the old league. And of all things, we named that team the Audubon Yankees. (laughter) I never will forget when I went to Joe Stripp's baseball school, I always wanted to play for the Yankees because Joe DiMaggio was my favorite ball player later on. And some guy says, "You're crazy wanting to get in the Yankee chain." He said, "They got so many ball players that you'll never get anywhere." I said, "Well I want to play for the Yankees." He said, "Look, you're better off playing for the Phillies, getting the Phillies' chain or something, because you got a chance to move up, because they haven't got..." Well you know, when you're 18 years old, you don't know any damn thing. You don't know from nothing. Jesus Christ.

Parnell: Well, what else was out in the Audubon area when you were growing up?

Shands: Well, there was a Mr. Stanton who lived over here on Cherry Avenue. He graduated from Clemson, and I think he worked for Smith Douglas fertilizer. He and Mr. John Lamb, lived over there on what was Seventh Avenue, and my father--they all used to plough and garden. They ploughed up half of this place out here for vegetables. They'd plough up anything they could think of. And they had the old gardens, and back from 1936 to 1939, when I used to go to high school, we used to go down there and catch the beach car. And in New Hanover High School, they'd give you a card with your name on it, and then give you 30 tickets--or how many school days there were in it--and you got on the beach car, and you gave the conductor that. He'd punch a hole over the date, and he'd take a ticket from you. And I still have two of those tickets hanging out in my bar.

Parnell: So you'd ride the beach car to school.

Shands: You rode the beach car to school and back. And out here then, everything was a dirt street. Wrightsville Avenue had some of the most beautiful trees, and you could sit over there where Birch Creek was, where that little creek was there, and we'd sit over there sometimes, and then maybe one or two cars would come by the whole time we were sitting there, for about four hours. And you could get on your bicycle, and you could ride from here to Winter Park, and we used to skate out there. And down at Winter Park, where that trolley stop was, where I was telling you, right across the street from that there was a grocery store named-- Harley Brokenhagen [ph?] had a grocery store. Daddy used to call him "Broken Dishes." And there was a vacant lot, and next to that there was a barber shop, and he charged 25 cents for a haircut, and he went up to 35 cents, and everybody put a bowl on their head and forgot it. And then right next to that was a shoe shop, and it was run by a man named Robie Sinclair. Well, that was Doc Sinclair's father. Doc Sinclair lived right over there--house is still standing--on Wrightsville Avenue. Sometime if you would like to ride around here on a pretty day, I'll take you and show you all the houses who lived there. Across the street was the Loftons. That was only one house there, and then you crossed over on the corner where the trolley stop is. On the corner there was a guy named Mr. Sloane, George Sloane. He worked at the Coast Line. He had two sons, George, and one named Doug. Doug got killed, or committed suicide, down at Wrightsville Beach several years ago. I don't know if you remember him. And then next to him was a guy named Campbell Burris. He worked for the Old Tidewater Power Company. And next to him was a house named--a fellow named Herbert Hewitt. He worked for the Coast Line. Everybody worked for the Coast Line then. And he was the head of the (inaudible) out here where you voted. Across the street from him, there were three sisters lived there. They were Loman sisters. I believe they were nurses in World War I, and they came back and moved up there, and they made a pact they would never get married. And they never did get married. I used to deliver papers to them. And when they died, they gave that big house down there--I'll ride you through here someday and show you the houses--they gave the house to one of the churches down in--Winter Park Presbyterian or Baptist. I'm not sure. And today, Rogers owns it--Rogers Appliance.

And across the street there was a nice house there where Russell Jones lived, and next door to him--what was that guy's name? He worked for the Highway Department. I can't think of his name now. And on the corner there, Miss Annie Bryan. She had a beauty parlor in the back there. Across the street from her, coming up Audubon Boulevard this way, there was a Boston family lived there. Mr. Boston, he cut meat down at the old Groceteria on Front Street. They moved here from the mountains. They had three children. In fact, I was invited to go to a Class of 1944 reunion down at Wrightsville Beach about five months ago, and the boy, Robert, was living in Atlanta, and the youngest girl, Jean, went to East Carolina. She was living in California. And I hadn't seen them since 1948. They had an older sister named Ruth who went into WAVES during World War II, and she went up there to Goldsboro, North Carolina about 1947 or 1948 and was swimming in a lake. And they said they told her not to dive off that diving board, and she did, and she broke her neck, and she was paralyzed from her neck down till she died. She used to come home every summer. They'd bring her down. She was in the VA hospital in Richmond. Well, I was a Democrat from 1944 to 1962, and I joined the Republican Party, not because of national issues, because of local issues. I was tired of the way the Democrats ran it. And I knew Miss Boston's people came from up in the western part of the state and they were all Republicans, and I tried to get her to join the Republican Party and she wouldn't do it, and the daughter told me later, said, "The reason she wouldn't join," she said Sam Irvin [ph?] was so good to her when her daughter got hurt, and she felt she was obligated.

Parnell: Well let's back up a minute. The Groceteria.

Shands: Pardon?

Parnell: What is the Groceteria.

Shands: The Groceteria was on Market Street between Front and Second. It was on this side of the street. It was the most exclusive Grocery Store in Wilmington. And it was right--you know where the old Carolina Theater used to be? It was right in there. Troutman's [ph?] Beauty Parlor--it was right in that building right in there. And boy, if you went in there to shop, you had to have a dime back then, because it was really upscale. They had two butchers. In fact, Johnny Eatons [ph?]-- I don't know if you've heard of him. He's one of the best athletes ever come out of New Hanover High School. His father was also a butcher there with Mr. Boston.

Parnell: Why do they call it a Groceteria rather than--

Shands: I don't know. I guess it was an upscale name, like someone says J.C. Pen-nae, You wanted to act like you're upscale. I went in there a couple of times as a kid just to look around, and I was awed by what they had in there. But yeah, it was something else. And during the 1930s and early 1940s, there wasn't much to do around here, and there was a Baxter's pool room right up the street from there. It used to be on Front Street in the 1920s where the Bailey Theatre was. It was Billy Baxter's Billiards and Cigars. He had a long cigar counter in there, and every Christmas the ladies would come in to buy cigars for their gentleman. And when a lady would walk in the pool room, everybody would holler "red board." That meant quit cussing and slow down till the ladies got out of here. And Billy Baxter, he had the pool room there for years, and then Doug Pritchard [ph?] had it. And then they moved across the street, and I guess it's a restaurant downtown now.

Parnell: Were there any stores out this way?

Shands: Yeah, there was Harley Brokenhagen's store, and there was a Mr. Bonum [ph?] had a store down here on Audubon Boulevard. You know where the-- what is that restaurant down here? The Salt Works. It was one block up from that--Bonum's Grocery Store. That was the only two grocery stores. In fact, in 1948, when my father had cataracts and he lost one eye and he retired from the railroad, he and I opened up a grocery store, where Bonum's used to be, and Fountain Brothers owned that property, and today it's a housing complex in there. We opened that up, because Daddy had a grocery store over there on Fourth and knew the grocery business. But then Colonial and all of the moved in here, and that was before they had Minute Marts and all, and we just couldn't make it then. But that was the only two. Now, from right here on Audubon, this house was the only house in back of Hanover Shopping Center, where Vizall's Nursery is. Vizall's had that nursery there, and that was the only house between there and Forest Hills. Oleander was two-line drive. Now, across the street, where Lowes Food is now, there used to be a skeet club there. They had a trap shoot there, and they had a pond that went halfway here to the plaza. It was full of water. And the men would shoot for the skeets, and if they'd miss it, they'd fall in the water, and they'd pay us kids a nickel to go in there and dig them out, and they could use them again. Old skeet club over there. I don't remember-- they had a fellow named Bill Winter. I remember him because he lived at Kure Beach. He was a great skeet shooter, but I don't remember anything else. Now, there was a Walsh family that lived up here on Peachtree. That was the only house on Peachtree. And on the other side of Peachtree--of course it was dirt-- there was nothing but an open field. But both Lynn Walsh senior and Lynn Walsh junior were excellent golfers. I think Junior Walsh won the City Championship several times. Well, they used to hit golf balls off their front yard into that field, and they'd get us kids to go out there and pick up golf balls. And the only one of that family living now is Harriett Walsh, and she married--she was marred to Billy Wagner [ph?], and Billy died suddenly and she married Dr. Marshman [ph?]. She's married to Dr. Marshman now. And she had a sister named Mae [ph?], and her aunt was named Virginia Walsh, who taught at New Hanover High School for years. I think she taught English. And she had that big house over there on Cherry Avenue. It's still over there. Her father was a great fly fisherman, and somehow they had kinfolks out in Colorado. They had to go out there for their health, and he used to go out there every summer and fly fish. He had a little shed in back of that house over there. It was about the size of this living room, and he used to take us kids back there. And I didn't know anything about fly fishing.

I love to surf fish, and we lived at the beach, and we could fish off the pier down there. And I didn't know anything about freshwater fishing, and what little I know, he taught us. And I've never seen so many lures and all that stuff in my life. But Lynn Walsh senior, I got a picture out in my bar of my cousin who played on the New Hanover High School basketball team. I think it was--I'm not sure of the year-- 1923, 1927--somewhere back in there. I'll have to look it up. But they didn't have any transportation, and Mr. Walsh used to put all the girls from the basketball team in his car, and they'd go up to Burgaw play a game. That's the only transportation they had. But out here then, when we were coming up, everybody was real close. I remember when Wrightsville Beach caught on fire in 1934. We were living down here on Peachtree, and I could stand on my front porch and I could see the flames coming up. And I could stand on my front porch and I could holler two, three blocks over to the kids that lived over there on Seventh Street, wondering if we could play ball today.

Parnell: Because there was nothing between there.

Shands: There was nothing between you. And I've actually gone down to the old municipal golf course--we call the Muni--used to caddy down there some. And we could swear when there was a northeaster you could hear the waves breaking at Wrightsville Beach. Now whether it was mind over matter or not, I don't know. But there was nothing out here, my god. I remember going to Winter Park school. Now, when I went there, I think it was--let's see--1936 I believe I started there. Now, they only had seven grades. It was during the Depression. Didn't have an eighth grade. Like I say, you went straight into New Hanover High School. Well, to give us kids something to do, one of our teachers said, "We're going to build a log cabin," out by the school. So we went over to where Hugh MacRae Park is now, and we cut down small pine trees, drug them back across the street, and we built a log cabin over there for a school project, if you can imagine back then.

Parnell: You mentioned just now when you lived at Kure Beach.

Shands: Pardon?

Parnell: You mentioned just now you lived at Kure Beach.

Shands: Yeah, we lived in the Kure Beach. We built a small cottage down there for fifteen hundred dollars in--let's see. I don't remember the year. Let me back up a little bit. In 1927, my grandmother was still living, and she lived on 421, right near where the pier is today. She was from Denmark, and she was a lady in waiting to the queen, and she could speak seven languages. And back then, mother and I--Daddy took care of the farm out here--we used to go down and spend two weeks with her on the beach. Well, after eight o'clock at night, there was no electricity, and you had the molten lead and the lamps. So you either went to bed, or that was it. And we moved down there--we built that little house in the 1930s, and--I'm trying to think--Daddy was working at the Coast Line then, and I worked down there at--Big Daddy's is here, and across the street there's a Minute Mart. Well, a fellow named Bill Williford ran it, and I worked for him when I was going to high school during the summer. We sold gas, ice, the whole nine yards. And we used to go down to Buzzard Bay. My cousin was one of the Waters boys. He was a certified welder down here at Cape Fear Community College. He died not long ago. Well, his father had an old '22 Lincoln that he cut the back out of, and we put a boat on the back. And there were three grownups in the front, and they'd get them a pint of juice, and us kids would sit in the boat in the back, and we'd go down to Bald Head Island. And we'd put the net out, and you can't imagine the shrimp we would pull in, and then we would clam with our toes and throw them up on the bank and fish. And we'd come back to Kure Beach, and I'd take two bucket-loads of seafood to the house. And then in the fall, up there where Ethyl-Dow is, there used to be an intake. You remember that? There was an intake there where they got the seawater and took it over to the plant that was on the river. They were making bromine or something out of it, they used for airplane gas. They had a canal that ran from the ocean, and the intake, we called it, all the way to the river. And we used to slip on that propery and you could actually fish in that canal with a cane pole and catch fish that had got through there. And Cliff Smith, who ran the--what was the name of that place he had at Carolina Beach? It was right on the boardwalk there. It's still there. They had two tennis courts over there. He used to play tennis, and the man that run the Ethyl-Dow would let him play tennis over there.

And they had a screen there that would stop the fish from going any further, and they have actually taken a pickup truck up there and load it up with shrimp and go bury them, they had so many shrimp. Shrimp were 10 cents a pound then. And Lawrence Kure, who owned the pier, let all us kids fish free. We all had a fishing pole; we could fish anytime. Well, like I say, bait was 10 cents a pound for shrimp, but we didn't have a dime. But we'd go out on the pier at night, when everybody quit fishing, and we'd pick up bait, and that was what we'd fish with the next day. And you could ride--from the pier down to Fort Fisher, there was only five houses, from the pier south then. And the turtles used to come up and lay eggs all along there. There was nothing down there then. And we used to go up to Carolina Beach at night. That was a big deal for us-- go up on the boardwalk there. They had a place on the corner where all the kids hung out called the Green Lantern. They had a jukebox in there. That's before the shagging came in there. And we'd try to hitchhike back to Kure Beach, and if we couldn't get a ride, we'd get on the beach and we'd walk three miles back to Kure Beach and think nothing of it. But everybody had a fishing pole then. When I had my paper route, there was a guy named Mr. Sutton that lived up here at the end of Wrightsville Avenue, had a service station. In the back, he made fishing poles. And I bought a hickory pole for him for three dollars, and I had a pluger reel that cost two dollars. And man, I thought I was in high cotton. We'd go down that peer when them spots were running, and put a double tackle on. You couldn't pull them in fast enough. And they had a bunch of old--I'd call them old timers, because we were 12, 13, 14 years old--and older guys would fish on the end of the pier. They had one fellow out there named Mr. Rice, and he'd fish for sharks. That's all he'd fish for. He had a big shark reel about this big, and he just put that float out about 50 yards or something and just leave it till he could catch a shark. And they've actually caught tiger sharks and hammerheads and all that down there. But you couldn't fish on the end of the pier when the blues were running, because they had all them guys that really knew how to fish. There was a guy named Albert Jones who was with the fire department, and he was a great fisherman. He was in the New Hanover Fishing Club. I've got a couple of--one in 1939 and one in 1940--of him in it.

You remember the name Shoony Breton, he was a ballplayer here. He played on the 1927 state championship team here, and he signed big league contract. He played--I'm getting ahead of my story--he played with Fort Worth for three years. He was in the Dodgers chain, and Branch Rickey, who owned it, didn't like him for some reason, and he kept him in the damn Texas league for three years. They played all day games, and it was hot as hell down there. There was a guy that caught for the Detroit Tigers named Birdie Tebbetts. Well Birdie Tebbetts was voted the most valuable player in the Texas league that year, and Birdie told Shoony, said, "You ought to had the trophy. You were the best." Shoony went to the big leagues in 19--let me get this right--1936 or 1937. He was the bullpen catcher. They had three catchers. Ernie Lombardi was the main catcher. They had a guy named Spud Davis who backed him up, and the third catcher was named Willard Hershberger. Hershberger called a game against the Cubs, and he called one pitch wrong--the way I understand the story-- and he committed suicide after the game. It's hard to believe that. But Shoony was only there one year, and he left there, and in 1945 he played at Montreal in the international league. It was a Dodger chain. He was hitting about .380 and the Dodgers were going to bring him up to the big leagues. And they were playing Syracuse and he slid into second base and broke his leg, and never got back to the big leagues. But to me, Shoony Breton and Johnny Eatons and Charlie Niven [ph?] are the best three athletes-- or three of the best that ever came out of New Hanover High School. I'm talking about all-around athletes. They were real good. But getting back to Kure Beach then, we used to go up there. They had an amusement park, and it was a guy named Mr. Mansfield. He had all the rides there. But we didn't have a dime to get on the Ferris wheel, but we loved to sit there and watch. And all we did was walk up and down the boardwalk. And there was a place called Plummer's [ph?] there, right across from where Cliff Smith had his place, and they had a popcorn machine outside. And there was a boy from Goldsboro--and I can't think of his name. I don't if it was Shoeball McKinney [ph?] or what. He'd come down there every summer from Goldsboro and run the popcorn machine. Well because I played football and baseball (inaudible), he'd give me a bag of popcorn every time I'd come.

Parnell: Well, this may be a little bit later, but I saw a postcard one time of--it was either Kure Beach or Carolina Beach Pier, and it had a chair that rode in the air.

Shands: Had what?

Parnell: Some kind of chair you could ride in.

Shands: Oh, that was Carolina Beach.

Parnell: Was that Carolina Beach? Okay.

Shands: Yeah, a Fergus [ph?] owned that. Bobby Fergus owned that pier. I know what you're talking about. When I used to take the kids down there, that was a must. I had to get on that ride and ride the pier.

Parnell: You just rode the pier?

Shands: Yeah, you just ride it in the pier and ride back, and they loved it. Yeah. That was at--

Parnell: Carolina Beach.

Shands: Kure Beach Pier I think was built in 1922, and it was built with trees that came off the river down there. And they creosoted the piling and all, but the sea worms got into it, and that's when they went to concrete pilings. I'm trying to think of-- and down at Kure Beach, there used to be a guy had a vegetable truck, and he'd come by every day at certain times, and he'd ride through Kure Beach, and he had tomatoes and corn, and all the ladies would go out and buy corn and stuff from him, if you lived on the beach. But Kure Beach then--I guess--I don't know how many people lived down there. Ethyl-Dow opened up, and they had quite a few people came down from Michigan that lived at the beach to work at the plant over there. In fact, my daddy opened up a little grocery store about as big as this right next to--when they were first building that place, and it didn't have electric. He had lanterns hanging in it, and he sold soft drinks and nabs and stuff like that. But it didn't go too well. Daddy was an entrepreneur. He'd try anything to make a buck. When we lived down here on Peachtree, we had an incubator in the back room of that house. Well, one night the electricity went off and all the baby chicks died. You know, things like that. We had an old Ford truck that you had to crank. Dad went out one morning to crank that, and the crank hit him, and it broke his damn arm. Well, another thing that my mother told me--I wasn't born then--when World War One came along, they were living up there on Nun Street, had that grocery store, and Daddy went down--he said, "I'm going down and join the Army." Very patriotic. And so Mother didn't want him to do it. So he got on his bicycle and he was riding down to the recruiting station, and he fell off the bicycle and broke his arm. And to this day, he could not straighten it any more than that.

Parnell: How long did he have the grocery store down there?

Shands: You know, I'm not sure. You can cut it off a minute. You want me to hold this one?

Parnell: Yeah, hold that one up, and let's just see if I can-- you sit down. I'm going to see if I can get close enough. Hold it up. Hold it up a little bit higher.

Shands: That all right?

Parnell: Okay, let me get it. Yes. Not that much. Yeah, okay. That's Shand's Grocery--

Shands: Is that okay?

Parnell: And who's standing in front of it? Who are the people in front of it?

Shands: That's my father standing in front of it. I don't know the rest of those folks. I guess they worked in the grocery store there. It had to be 1917 on. And it couldn't have been after--because we moved out here in--in 1922, when I was coming along, we lived on 17th Street. So he wasn't in the grocery business then. I've got one more. Oh, we were talking about Kure Beach. This is a picture of when I was pumping gas at Kure Beach, about 1939. I was going to High School. That's when Bill Williford owned the place.

Parnell: So you all would just go down to Kure Beach and--

Shands: Well, after my grandmother died, they built that little cottage, and we would go down there occasionally and spend some time in the summer.

Parnell: But you didn't live there year-round?

Shands: Oh, no, no. There was no heat in the house. It was an old-time summer house with a porch on the front. In fact, we were one block up from Big Daddy's, like you're going south towards Fort Fisher, and there was nothing between us. You could see the ocean from where we were. Wasn't any buildings or anything in front of it. I've got some pictures taken in front of the old house with my sister and my father and all, and a couple of dogs. I'll tell you a story of how I learned to drive. We had a 1927 Dodge, and the gears--normally you go first, second and third. Well, where first was on the Dodge was reverse, and you had to go in reverse. And I just rode all over Audubon and Winter Park in that old Dodge on the dirt street. Didn't have no drivers ed then, and that's how I learned to drive the car.

Parnell: You mentioned earlier too about owning a bunch of land at Kure Beach. Your mother owned some land down there during the Depression. Tell me about that.

Shands: Well, there were four brothers and my mother, and when Grandpa Kure died, they divided up the property down there. I don't know how many lots she got. She must of been 20 or more. She had quite a bit of property. Now, all that property where Wilmington Beach used to be, where Kure Beach is--it's all developed in there-- she owned some property in there. And she and her brother sold that property to Ethyl-Dow about 1936 or '37, when they opened up. That's how we built the big two-story house here, with that money. And through the years, she's gone in, in fact, when Mother died, I had--let's see. My sister had--I had two lots she left me at Kure Beach, and my sister had two. That was the only property left down there. And I eventually sold those over the years. But you could buy an oceanfront lot down there then for 300 bucks. And when Lawrence Kure first opened up Kure Beach, you would buy a lot, and he would give you a lot. Just to get people to move down there. There was nothing down there. And when they built the Lutheran church down there, Lawrence gave them eight lots to put that church on. Have you ever been to that little church at Kure Beach? You ought to go in there. It is built by hand. The congregation built it. It's a small church. It is beautiful on the inside-- the woodwork and all up top and all. You ought to--if you're ever down there sometime and it's open, ask to go through there and take a look at it. You'd be amazed at what it is. But they didn't have a Lutheran church down there when we were living down there. And the pier has always been the focal point of the whole community. They had an ad they used to run several months ago in our state magazine on Kure Beach. I don't know if you saw it. It says--let me see if I can phrase this properly. It says, "One stoplight, one pier, no worries." And that's just about it.

Parnell: Yeah, because there's still only one stoplight there.

Shands: Right. Now, when we were kids, we used to take that old Ford and we'd go over Sugarloaf Hill. Put about 10 kids in that, and we'd run up and down that damn hill. And something else we used to do, we had that old Lincoln. We used to go down below Fort Fisher. Well, a lot of the grownups would go down there because it was out of the way, and they would carry on their sex life down there out of the way. Us kids used to go down at night. They'd get stuck in that sand, and we'd charge them two dollars to pull them out of there. And they were glad to get pulled out of there, because they were probably with somebody they shouldn't have been with. But when I was real young, I had a picture--and I can't find it--of the old mound at Fort Fisher, when half of it was still standing. And I forget the name of the guy that was in charge of it down there then, and I showed it to him. Maybe he kept it. And it had a tree protruding out to sea. Now, one reason that mound went south, that 421 was built off rock and stuff that came out of that mound, and that helped it deteriorate. I remember Lawrence Kure, my uncle, he went to Washington in the 1930s and tried to get the federal government to save that, you know, when it was the Depression and that was a low priority then. And the Kure family, there was five girls in that family, and I don't think-- yeah, Jenny just died. She was the last one of the Kure girls.

(Tape Change)

Shands: You just jogged my mind when you said "gram" and you got to talking about all that stuff. Yeah, I enjoyed that movie. I've seen it several times.

Parnell: We were talking about Kure Beach during the Depression. Let's move forward a little bit to you got out of high school. You went to baseball camp.

Shands: Yeah. Alright. Well, I got outta high school went to Danville. Okay. Then Pearl Harbor came along. We had a two-story house here then and I was upstairs. I think I was listening to the radio. Who in the hell was it? It was the Washington Redskins and the Bears game. I believe I was watching that and then Pearl Harbor came along. Well, I knew my father was in the Navy twice and, like I say, in the Spanish-American War. And I came downstairs and I said "Daddy, where's Pearl Harbor?" I knew where Honolulu was 'cause I liked geography and history, but I couldn't place Pearl Harbor and he told me and all. So that summer, the shipyard was open here and I got a job in the shipyard, and I went up to Newport News to a tank tester school. They sent about, I guess 80 guys up here to learn the trade and then they brought us back to Wilmington. And we came back to Wilmington the day before they launched the Zebulon B. Vance. That was on the day before Pearl Harbor or the day of Pearl Harbor. I forget which.

Parnell: I think it was the day before Pearl Harbor.

Shands: I believe it was, yeah. And I was there for that launch and I was staying in the shipyard there for about four or five months, and then I went to work as a timekeeper for VP Loftis. They were building the extension of the shipyard. It'd be the northern end, and I worked there. And I went in the Navy in November of 1942 and they sent us up to Great Lakes. And half the guys were from North Carolina and the other half were from St. Louis, Missouri. That was some combination. You want me to go through the whole--

Parnell: Just a little bit. Highlights.

Shands: I got sent to a Naval radio school at Northwestern University, and then sent me to advanced radio school in Canberra, Australia. And then we went on right up to New Guinea and Indonesia and Admiralty Islands in the Philippines and all that stuff. I came home in 1945, right after the invasion of Lingayen Gulf. We flew from Clark Field to Honolulu and we were supposed to go all the way over to the States. But that's when they were having the Battle of Okinawa and all the suicide planes. So they dumped us off and put us on the ship to go to San Francisco. I was stationed in Chicago and I wound up in Clinton, Oklahoma and I was discharged in Virginia. And I went in the Naval Reserve and I went on a couple of cruises, one to Bermuda and one to Puerto Rico. And I sailed a little bit as an ordinary seaman for Johnny Moran Company out of New York. It's a seagoing tug company. I worked for them a while, and then I got called back into service during the Korean War. I'll tell you a little funny story about going through the line there in Columbia, South Carolina. And the service is all messed up and they said "Where would you like to have duty?" Like I was gonna get what I wanted. So smart butt me, I told the guy, I said "I'd like lighthouse duty at Kansas City." Well, my next stop was Tokyo, Japan. I'll tell you, I spent about a year there in Tokyo and I said the only difference between Tokyo and Chicago, is the girls are shorter. That was a swinging town. And then I got transferred to a ship there, a communication ship in Pusan, South Korea, and I stayed there 'til I got discharged again. But don't ever tell the guy where you wanna go. And I'll tell you another funny story. They put on the bulletin board where you were going and there was some guy in there, he said "I'm going to Argentina." I said "How in the world did you swing that?" He says "Simple." I said "I don't believe that." So I went up on the bulletin board, you know where they were sending him? Argentia, Newfoundland. He thought it was Argentina. I knew nobody would get lucky enough to go there. But anyway. And then I got out of the service, the last time in 1952, and I moved to New Orleans. I lived in the French Quarter for two years. I was going to a maritime school down there, Gulf Radio and Television on Crown Dollet. Then my father got sick and I came home. And in 1954, Rory Route and I opened up The Spot at Wrightsville Beach and I was there about two years. I got some pictures of that out in the bar I'll show you. I met my future wife down there at Wrightsville Beach about-let's see, when was it--1956 I believe it was. She was from Brooklyn, New York of all places.

Parnell: How did she end up down here?

Shands: She was married at the time, had two children, and I met her on Wrightsville Beach. He worked with Grolier Society selling encyclopedias. Are you familiar with a boy named Larry Ripa, Ripa Real Estate and all here? Larry came down with him. There's three of 'em. And she moved down to Wrightsville Beach and fell in love with Wrightsville Beach. Then she rented a house from a tailor named Paul Ambrosiano. Does that name ring a bell?

Parnell: I've heard of him.

Shands: All right. He had some property at Wrightsville Beach. That's who she rented from and I met her down there a couple years later. Well, in the meantime, she had gotten divorced and we started dating and one thing led to another. We got married in 1958. We married in St. Paul's Lutheran Church. And she had two children by her previous marriage. Then we had one child. My youngest child lives in San Diego. She's been out in California about 20 years, and I have another daughter--I call her my daughter, but stepdaughter, Pammy--she works for East Carolina Bank in the finance department. Well, this is strange. They all came up in the same household. Pammy is very conservative and Kathy, the youngest living in California, is very liberal. So it's got so unique, they don't even talk politics. It's something else. I told Kathy one time--she's coming home in March. I've got a picture of her taken there with Jesse Helms. When Bush was inaugurated, she went up to the inauguration. She had some business there in Washington 'cause she worked through the Department of Labor and she went up there to see Jesse Helms 'cause--my wife was on the Board of Education here and she had worked on certain projects with Jesse and Jesse knew her. Well, Jesse wasn't in and they were going down that hall there and there was a guy came out of the office and it was cold as the devil. He says "Come on ladies and I'll give you some hot chocolate." She was with another girl. You know who it was? It was Duke Cunningham and Duke's the one who got in all jackpot and went to prison for eight years. He took 'em in the office, got 'em cocoa and they talked for a while. She said "I'm gonna try Jesse one more time," and they went down in to see Jesse. And he invited them in the office and they had their picture taken. Well, she had an MGM cap on and Jesse said "Are you from California?" And she said "No, I'm from Wilmington, North Carolina." He says "What's your name?" He said "I know your mother."

Parnell: He was here during the war, Jesse was. He was a Naval recruiter here.

Shands: Right. I met Jesse when he first ran for senate at an Elk's Club. I was a good friend of Ben Halderman. Ben was the mayor then and he took us down there and I introduced myself to Jesse and all. And my wife and I supported and fellow from Charlotte named Bill Blue. He as in charge of the Maconberry School Board then and my wife had been to several conferences with him. And he was very conservative and she liked his outlook on the school system. So I never will forget it. We told Jesse, said "Well, we're already committed to Bill Blue." He said "That's fine." But he said "If I win, I hope you can support me in the general election." Well, I used to right Jesse letters. You didn't have emails and computers and all that when he was with WRAL. And he sent me a lotta those editorials and stuff he had on the radio. Well, I was very interested in what was going on in Rhodesia. It's Zimbabwe now. Mugabe's got a hold of it and it's just a shambles. But anyway, they had that breakaway government in Rhodesia and Ian Smith was prime minister then, and I corresponded with them people. And I asked Jesse Helms about how did he feel about the Rhodesian situation 'cause our government had called our ambassador home and all we had was a consulate then. Well, he was talking about Rhodesia and he said "I got a cat named Rhodesia." And it's funny. On that same thing, I went out here to the fair and I ran into Strom Thurmond and I got to talking about Rhodesia. He said "Well, I'm not that up on what you're interested in." He said "Give me your name and address and I'll see if I can get some literature to send to you." Of course, I never heard from him again 'cause I couldn't vote for him and I didn't send him no money. But it's just strange how things like that happen. And I corresponded with the Ian Smith government. I've got several letters hanging on the wall out there, and the federal government put a mail cover on me because you weren't supposed to send mail and stuff back to Rhodesia evidently. There was a Senator Long from Missouri and I knew he was on that committee that took care of this problem I had. And I wrote him a damn letter and told him what my problem was. He said "You're not the first one that's had this problem with the federal government putting a mail cover." They were opening my mail and he sent me the bill he was gonna introduce and the whole nine yards. And I'm gonna skip around a little bit. But I decided I wanted to subscribe to the communist newspaper. So I wrote J. Edgar Hoover a letter and tell him why I was subscribing, 'cause I had read an article in the newspaper where this little girl, about 15 years old and in high school in New Jersey, had subscribed to the paper and the FBI showed up on her front door, and I wanted to make sure they didn't show up here. And I still have the letter from J. Edgar Hoover, said "I'll put it on file and I know what you're doing." I wanted to read it. And I didn't know they had a sport page in there, if you wanted to call it a sport page. But they had an article on there on Bart Starr who was playing for the University of Alabama. He was with the Green Bay Packers then. And they called him racist from the word go 'cause he came from Alabama. And I subscribed to that newspaper for a couple of years, and it's funny. One day, the mailman put my newspaper in my neighbor's mailbox and she went to work, told everybody she was living next door to a communist. Oh, God, it was something else. But for years after I quit my subscription, I used to get mail from a bookstore in Ft. Worth, Texas, called All Points of View; wanted me to buy books and stuff from 'em.

Parnell: They got your name from the newspaper.

Shands: Yeah.

Parnell: Very interesting. You've been active politically in what way?

Shands: I came home from Korea. I was always political actually. I remember, the first election I ever remember was 1936 and Roosevelt ran against Alf Landon. And Roosevelt carried 46 states and there was only two states that voted for Landon. That was Maine and Vermont. And I told my daddy "Them people must be crazy." Well, they're the only ones that had any darn sense because Roosevelt took us the other way. And when I came home from the service in 19--I voted the first time in 1944. I always voted. I was eligible to vote then. I was on a ship in the Philippines and I voted for Franklin Roosevelt. When I came home, my daddy says "Okay, we're going down to Winter Park School. I want you to register so you can vote." They didn't ask you if you're a Democrat or Republican. They just put down Democrat. Well, I looked up some old statistics not long ago and in 1944, there was 13,840 Democrats in New Hanover County and 420 Republicans.

Parnell: It's changed a little bit now.

Shands: Oh, my god. It was something else.

Parnell: You ever run for public office?

Shands: No, my wife did. Now, she ran in 1964, when Goldwater did. She ran for the Registrar of Deeds here. She ran as a woman. The Republican Party would not support her because she didn't belong to that country club crowd, them blue-nosed Republicans. Country Club Republicans we called them. And she didn't have any backing. And we went out and we went and knocked on door to door, and she got over 10,000 votes running as a woman, as a Republican and from New York of all places. And then she ran for the Board of Education in 1970 and she won the primary and she was on the Board of Education for four years. I'll show you some stuff in the bar. I've got a whole collage of stuff there. In fact, she's like me. She's pro-military and she was given the honor of being an honorary colonel in the New Hanover High School ROTC. She was very, very active in that, and it's funny. She went on a seminar down to Houston, Texas and they gave 'em so much money. And she brought some money back and turned it in to the Board of Education. They said "Nobody's ever done this before." And I think she was the first school board member since Murdock Dunn to ever visit every school in the county. But what defeated her--are you familiar with The Curious Eye, the book, The Curious Eye? Well, I got about four books on that that you can look through sometimes. That was what defeated her. What happened, the conservatives in this county got all up in arms and the pastors got all up in arms 'cause there were certain words in the book, The Curious Eye that they didn't think was appropriate, and that's what defeated her in the next election. But I don't know if you remember a book called The Cross and the Switchblade.

Parnell: Oh, yeah.

Shands: Okay. Well, they were passing that out in the church and the F-word and everything else was in there all the way through it. But that was all right 'cause it had the cross on there. So I know what that means 'cause I'm conservative. I'm more a Libertarian than I am Republican 'cause I've been Democrat and Republican. But they say the hard left. I'm familiar with them, the ACLU and the whole nine yards. But there are some nuts on the right, too and we found that out during--we had some of our best friends turn against us. Well, the thing of it was, the book The Curious Eye, it was optional, but the school board sent out a letter to all the parents: If you want your child to read this book, fine; if you don't, fine. But the conservatives couldn't get that through their head and--they believe in freedom of choice. Well, this is just the freedom of choice but that's what defeated her. By damn, that was a scrambler. Jesus God.

Parnell: Was that the only office she held?

Shands: Yeah. She ran for Registrar of Deeds in 1964 and then she was on the school board four years. After that, she went to work in the business office at Cape Fear Academy, and she stayed down there nine years and retired. After I left The Spot at the beach, I went to work for New Hanover County ABC Board and I worked for them--let's see, 1956 I worked during Christmas and 1957 I got on regular, and I was there about 27 years, and they fired me because of politics. And I had two federal lawsuits against the New Hanover County ABC Board. I got six books on that. Sometimes if you got a pint of gin and you wanna spend the evening, you go through that. And it's funny. To start off with, I went to several lawyers I had known all my life here in Wilmington and they said "Curly, you got a good case but I'm not gonna touch it, and if you ever mention my name that you came to see me, I'm gonna call you a liar." And I had to get an ACLU lawyer, me being a conservative. He defended me. Well, the ACLU in the 1970s was a hell of a lot different then than it is now. And we finally got our case all the way to the Fourth Circuit in Richmond. And I don't know. Some, I guess, first year law student wrote our brief and the Fourth Circuit would not accept it. They sent it back and they said you had to do this, that and the other. Well, I was paying outta my pocket my own money for my lawyers and everything else, and I had been saving money all my life 'cause my wife and I, when I retired, we wanted to go to Australia. I wanted to show her all the places I'd been over there and all. Well, the lawyers took all that money and it's just one of them thing that happens in life. And after seven years of litigation, they finally gave me a monetary settlement outta court, which they could've done in 30 days. That's how damn screwed up it was. And of course, I really didn't get anything that I should've gotten, but that's just the way it was. Well, I left there and I had several jobs. I worked as a bartender around Wilmington and I worked with a fire extinguisher company and some guy told me, that worked for Radowitz [ph?], the sheriff, he said "Curly," he said "Go down to the sheriff's department. They need a dispatcher and they have the same retirement plan that you have." So I went down there and put in my application and I waited about 30 days and I didn't hear crap. And I told this guy, I said "What happened to my application?" He said "You see that can over there?" He said "That's where it went." Since they had found out that I had sued the New Hanover County ABC Board, they wouldn't touch me and I could not get a job in Wilmington. Well, finally over in Belleville, they opened up a liquor store over there and I applied for a job over there and they hired me. Well, the guy that was in charge of the ABC statewide system tried to get me fired over there. Well, the guy that was in charge of the ABC board over there was named Dick Hanson. He was on the board over here where they all screwed up. Well, I'd been in the same church with Dick and his father since we were kids--St. Paul's Lutheran. He said "I'm not gonna fire Curly. He's the only one that knows what the hell he's doing over here." And I stayed over there four years and then when I got 62, I told him what Cortez told the Spanish, "Adios, mother, I'm leaving. I've had enough of this stuff." I'll tell you, it was something else. Damn.

Parnell: What do you think about the current ABC board situation?

Shands: Well, I look at it this way. When I went to work there, I worked with Billy Williams as a clerk and I made manager and Billy Williams worked under me. Then they fired me once and took me back as a clerk 'cause I got promoted up to the main office. I was supposed to be in charge of personnel up there and I was only up there 90 days 'til politics pushed me out to the street. And then I worked for Billy at Old Storage Six and Castle. He was the manager. Now, I don't condemn Billy for that kind of salary because they gave it to him. I condemn the board, which is utterly ridiculous. He was making more damn money than the head of the state man up there. You look at people in colleges, the doctors and all. Nobody makes that kind of money. He's gonna retire on $8300 a year. Well, of course, he hadn't done anything wrong. The only thing he did wrong is bring his son in there and moved him along. But that's all the fault of the board and there's really no guidelines for anybody to go back through the state. See, like that little old store in Bellville. We had our own ABC board. Everybody in Brunswick County--there's more stores in Brunswick County than probably in any county in the state and they all go their board. There's no centralized or nothing. It's antiquated because it was put in 75 years ago after Prohibition and it's been that way ever since. Now, you take the state of Michigan. They have state stores and they have private stores. A lot of 'em have that way. Now, I don't know whether you can go private or not in this state. It would take a hell of a lot of work to switch it over and all. The state would still get the money. I went to work with the ABC Board. I was married and had three kids and I was making $385 a month. We had no retirement. We had no sick leave. You got five working days vacation. You had to take your vacation between the first of June and Labor Day, and that was it. And you had to wear a white shirt and tie to work. Well, we never would've gotten retirement. I understand Dr. Wagner, he was on the ABC Composite Board. This is how jumbled up it is. Back then, they had an ABC that was over the ABC Composite Board. It was the county commissioners, the Board of Health, the Board of Education, and Wagner, he was the secretary from it. He didn't have a vote in it. He kept the records and all that. And I understand that he pushed for us to get retire, or we would've never got retirement. Whether that's true or not, I don't know; but we did get retirement later on. When they fired me, I didn't take my retirement. I just let it sit 'til I got 65. No, they fired me. I didn't take it 'til I was 62. Then I got my Social Security and my retirement. But my retirement's a pit--but if it wasn't for that, why, God knows where I'd be. But it's just a damn screwed up system.

Parnell: After ABC Board and you retired, and your wife--

Shands: I retired and my wife, she worked a little while after I retired down at Cape Fear County. I'm the type, once I retire, I'm retired. I've never done anything. Don't wanna do it. I figured I'd have to give money to the federal government anyway, so I quit. I quit. But she couldn't stay around the house and she read an ad in the paper. There was a dance studio over here on Wrightsville Avenue and they needed somebody on the front, and she went over and applied for the job and got it. She was in her 60s then, but she was very good at books. And one time, she worked at the Hardison [ph?] Animal Hospital down there. She was on the front desk down there when Gerald Hardison ran that. I'm gonna skip back to Audubon again. Is that all right?

Parnell: Yeah.

Shands: Okay. The house we lived in down there on Peachtree is gone down. It's a place for kids, young kids, and the house next door, there were several families that lived there and there was a fellow that lived there during the Depression named George Wheeler. George was an old country talking boy like me and back then if you went to somebody's house around mealtime, they sit down at the table and eat what we have. Well, George came into that -- we called it supper then; it was breakfast, dinner and supper. There wasn't none of this "Oh, we're going out to dinner." Well, hell, dinner was at noon. Supper was supper, man. This ain't no supper club. This ain't the Stork Club for Christ's sake. George came in one day. He'd been working the damn field all day and daddy says "George, how about sitting down eating with us," and George says "No, thank you, Mr. Shands. I just had my supper." That's the way George talked. And I started laughing and daddy gave me a mean look, "Just leave George alone. He's got his own thing going." But we had one cow down there--this is funny--during the Depression that quit giving milk and we couldn't figure it out. I'm gonna have to skip a little bit on this. Now, Mr. Dunley owned the first radio station here. It used to be out there by Smith Creek and then they move downtown. Well, he hired the first black disc jockey in Wilmington, a fellow named Pat George. Pat's a preacher today. Everybody's a preacher. And Pat worked for the WPA. Well, they were taking over Peachtree and they were filling up the potholes and all. And Pat told me years later, he said "You know why your daddy's cow wasn't giving any milk?" I said "No, Pat." He said "We were going over there and milking her." I said "You son of a gun." And I actually remember walking from down there on Peachtree at Winter Park School and I've actually seen the chain gang working on that road. You remember that thing, I Was a Fugitive from the Georgia Chain Gang? Brother, they had the stripes on. They had the chains around their legs. I was about seven years old and I'm walking in the middle of the road like this, scared to death. And they had a that mean old son of a gun with that long barreled shotgun over his back. I never will forget it. But they had the chain gang working right out here and that was something else.

Parnell: What else about the neighborhoods you can tell us?

Shands: Well, across the street there, there was nothing. It was all vacant and, like I say, I could tell you, we couldn't do it in the car because, to see the places and all. This street here stopped right in back of my property here and there was one house back up there. There was nothing but an old field there and Garden City, which was right back of where Fursall had the nursery going toward Wrightsville Avenue, I think there was one house in there. And on Wrightsville Avenue from where Independence Mall is all the way back to Audubon, there were probably 15 houses at the most. There was one family that lived up there named Billy Decova. His daddy had that woodwork shop there on 17th Street. He made that cedar chest there. I got that cedar chest from a fellow named C.D. Cunningham. He was a captain in the National Guard and they were sent to Aruba; then they went to Iceland and then they went to D-Day. Well, that's a handmade chest. Well, C.D. was living in Forest Hill and he used to come in the liquor store and he asked me one day, he said "Curly, do you paint?" I said sure. He said "Well, I need my garage painted." I said "I can paint it on my day off." He went in and he said "Well, I'm getting ready to move. We're gonna have a yard sale. How about you and your wife coming over and holding a yard sale for us 'cause my wife can't do it?" And we bought that for $25. You see that wash bowl up there? That's over a hundred years old. I bought that for $5 from him. C.D. had the C.W. Carter paint store over here and he dabbled in the stock market, too. I've got an old 1943 Aruba telephone book that he gave me; got everybody listed that was living in Aruba at that time. I had a friend of mine named Robert Buck who lived out at Castle Hayne and I went to high school with his sister. And Robert was in the National Guard and he was with this outfit from Wilmington and they got sent to Iceland. I said "Damn, Buck." I said "You didn't see anything. Hell, you were sent up there in that snow country." He said "The hell we didn't. We wound up in Europe." But Decova lived on that street and there was a Huban family that lived on that street. His name was Alan Huban. He worked at the bank here for years. There was another family named Jim Simpkins. He lived on that street. And over here on Cherry Avenue, my best friend was named Johnny Smith. His stepfather was named Al Brown and he married Johnny's mother and Johnny's mother was a colonel in the Army. He had lived all over hell's half acre. And Al pitched softball for Ethyl-Dow. That's who he pitched softball for. They had a softball field out at 17th Street where that Java Coffee House is. There was a softball diamond there. They used to call it 101 Ranch 'cause there was horses there at one time, and in the 1930s, they played softball here. And softball was real big and softball then was played with 10 men. They had a roving fielder. He'd switch around left-hand and right-hand. Al pitched for them. Johnny went in the service in 1942.

Let me back up here. Jim Weaver and--let's see, who was it--Peahead Walker at Wake Forest and John Stevens, who graduated from Wake Forest--John Stevens got Peahead Walker and Jim Weaver down here to his office, and my father and Johnny Smith and Hal Horton went down there. They wanted us to go to Wake Forest. Well, back then, they didn't have Little League and all and I'd only played one year of high school ball. So they told me to stay in school another year. And so Johnny got a scholarship to play baseball at Wake Forest and he was up there one year, and then he was killed in a training exercise at Pensacola in 1943. And several of the guys that I played football with in high school, like Clifford McKeaver--that was Mark McKeaver's brother who was on the Board of Education with my wife. He was killed in the Pacific in World War II, and our blocking back with a boy named Herbert Houston. He was killed in the service in World War II. His name is on the plaque out here at Hugh McCray Park. But all of us kids that grew up out here in Audubon, when you got through with your work, there was nothing left to do but play ball, and we played ball from morning, noon and night. And I'll tell you something that we used to do then that nobody does now. We could dropkick a football. And the last time a football was dropkicked, Shinny Brook dropkicked a football in 1927 when they won the State Championship game up at Chapel Hill. But dropkicking a football--I never will forget the story they tell about Sammy Bar and they talk about all the great quarterbacks today. And you know what Sammy's question was? "Can they play defense?" We played both ways then.

I remember that high school team. We actually didn't have enough shoes to go around and sometimes at halftime, if you were gonna substitute, the guys would have to change shoes. And we only had I think it was 15 sweatshirts to go over all that gear. They were first team and the rest of 'em--it was something else. We used to practice out there at 13th and Ander- We dressed in that old high school there, the old gym at the high school at New Hanover, put them cleats on and walked down them brick streets, 13th and then practice, come back and take a cold shower. Then all of us would walk out, and me and Johnny and Harold would go out to 17th and Market and we'd hitchhike out here to Audubon to get back home. If you didn't get a ride, you walked. You didn't think anything of it. And in the summer, Mr. Horton used to load all of us in his car and he'd take us out to Bellamy Park to see the ballgames. But we kids couldn't get in so we climbed the pine trees out there. And we used to sit in the pine trees to watch the ballgame, and about all we could see was the left fielder. They had a left fielder who was a man named Blackie Carter and we'd scream all kinda crap and Blackie caught us.

And back then, old Bellamy Ballpark, you came in this way and the grandstand and all was over here and the bleachers. And over here was where the blacks had to sit. It was segregated and the blacks used to love their ballgames. They were out there in force. They would fill up that part of the stand and they were about like us in the pine trees. They couldn't see too much, and they had an outfielder named Red Martin, and Red was the greatest thing in the world for them. They would chant for Red just like they would do any day in the ballpark. But hell, that was a big deal to go up there and watch those ballgames. And sometimes when it would rain, they would pour gasoline on the end field and burn off the water, if you can believe that. And I remember they had good teams. We played in the league with Norfolk and Richmond and Charlotte and Winston-Salem. I remember they were in the league. I think Greensborough--yeah, Greensborough was in the league. Then it was the Piedmont League but it was Class D ball. And we had I think five or six players that played on that 34, 35 team and went to the big leagues. Shooney went to the big leagues. They had a small left-handed pitcher named Junie Barnes. He pitched with Cincinnati one year. He played most of his life in Toronto when Tommy Lasorda was up there. And they brought two guys down here from Michigan that played football. They were both All-Americans. There was a centerfielder named Ted Patowski and there was a pitcher, a right-handed pitcher named Whitey Kurowski, and they both played here. We had a first baseman named Les Garcella. He played at Cincinnati one year and he was from Oakland, California. And he was driving from Oakland to Florida for Spring training and he got in an automobile wreck and his wife was killed. So he went back to Oakland and he played in the old Pacific Coast League. We had a first baseman named Roy Mort; was damn good. They traded him to Charlotte for Garcella and everybody went crazy. And we had an all Italian infield. Garcella, Robella, Estella and to this day, I can't figure the shortstop's name. And they had another guy named Johnny Peacock who covered the Boston Red Sox. And, of course, all us kids in Audubon, they were our heroes. Baseball was the thing.

But the Depression was rough but mother had that property at Kure Beach and daddy always had a part time job, and us kids did something like canning, cooking and paper routes-- anything we could do to make a buck somehow. And we never really suffered 'cause if you never ate steak, hamburger was good. And we all got along fine. We didn't have a lotta clothes or anything else but, I mean, I don't know. I know the Depression was rough on some. I talked to some people. I mean, they were dirt poor 'cause people who lived on the other side of Oleander Drive back there, they didn't have any lights. And one fellow I used to deliver papers to--and I don't know how in the hell he paid for it--he had an old mule and a wagon. And there used to be a guy, a black guy that came up from Masonboro Sound, and he sold oysters in the tins. And he'd come down Peachtree with his wife and we'd buy oysters off of him. I think it was about 15 cents a quart or something like that. Hot damn, they were just--talk about them salty oysters. They was something good. But hell, we didn't worry about food. We had food. There was always food on the table. Good God Almighty. And if we were good, once a month, we had an old freezer type thing where you put the ice around it and we'd make pineapple sherbet. And you talk about something good. I churned that baby. I didn't mind churning that baby. But churning that butter wasn't for me. Daddy died. He died in the veteran's hospital in Salisbury. He had cirrhosis of the liver and certain other things, and mother had a stroke about 10 years later and she died. It's funny about mother. She had breast cancer. Well, if you had breast cancer back when she was coming along, it was tough. And she was in the old Bullock's Hospital on Front Street. I don't know if you remember that. Dr. Medin was down there then, too and I think Dr. Sinclair. And she was cut like you butcher a hog, from here to here.

And there were 10 women in there that had the same thing and only three of 'em survived, and she was one of 'em. But her arm used to swell up and you'd get water--I think what happened, the property next door where Coble's Funeral Home is, we had that property, too. And when my father died, this house was too big for mother and I was living at Summer's Rest with my wife and the two kids. And so I bought this house from mother and she built a small house next door. And she was taking so much medication that I think that she got her medications kinda confused. And boy, I carried her to the emergency room and I never will forget that nurse coming out. I get choked up when I think about it. Okay, I'm all right now. And the same thing happened to my wife. She died--(audio glitch) Something to start with. You got a jacket or something? It'll be kinda cold out there. Let me get a jacket in here. There's early Powell Theater when I was in Oklahoma and Great Lakes. That's me on my honeymoon. That's the only time I was sober. The guys gave me five fifths of scotch to take with me. Here's those tickets they used to give us on the peach card at Wrightsville Beach. I had to ride to town.

Parnell: Ride to school.

Shands: And there's the old grocery store up top there, Shand's Grocery. This is down at Wrightsville Beach in the sound. That's there in front of the old house at Kure Beach. And that's me and my cousin at Kure Beach. There's three of us standing in front of the old pier at Kure Beach. And there's the Battle of Fort Fisher. That's 50 years after from the Star-News. That's the American Legion parade at Front Street and 48th, and that's me in the liquor store out there on Market Street. And that's my old American Legion team over here. There's some of the games that were played. Here's a game. They played Wake Forest and Camp David; played here in Wilmington. State and the Seminoles played here, and (inaudible) was played here. See this picture up here of Charlie Justice and the Duke/Carolina game? Well, that's my best man with him. His name was Football Smith. He just died about two months ago. He was living in Virginia Beach. I tell a story to people that come in. They say "Damn, that's Charlie Justice, ain't it?" I say yeah. They say "Who's that with him?" I say "That's Football Smith." They say "Well, I don't remember him playing." Well, Football went to Carolina and all he played with was a bottle of gin. And I said "Yeah." I said "Charlie Justice wouldn't have made 10 yards if it hadn't been for Raymond." That's a softball book in 1950, when went to the state tournament in Canton, Ohio. That's Whitey All and Levi King and all of 'em. When I lived in New Orleans, I went out to see the Pelicans play. The manager then was Danny Murtaugh and he went later with the Pittsburgh Pirates. You remember that. Oh, here's that old picture of the girl's basketball team. Does it have a year on that?

Parnell: No.

Shands: It must've been thirty-something. Jennet Kure was in that. Come on back here. This is The Spot in 1955 and all these pictures here of--that's me bartending. That's a bunch of the kids over there, and there's a couple over there in the corner of The Spot.

Parnell: The Spot was a bar?

Shands: Yeah.

Parnell: Where was it located?

Shands: Right at Station One. What the hell? I can't think of what in the hell was there. This is a Christmas party we had at the old Cape Fear Hotel in 1953. We rented the whole damn place. This is out at the wedding reception we had on our honeymoon, and all these are at Wrightsville Beach when we had our damn party down there. Now, here's something funny. My kids gave me that for Christmas there and my Lions fan. Now, see that? This is the drafts that the Lions took last year. They put me in at number one for Christ's sake. That's Carolina Beach in 1944. And this here is a bar they had in New Orleans called Nobody Likes a Smartass. You walked in the--

(audio glitch)

Parnell: That's the blimp.

Shands: Um-hmm. That's Gettysburg and Niagara Falls, and that--

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign