BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with John Carr Davis, April 9, 1996 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with John Carr Davis, April 9, 1996
April 9, 1996
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Davis, John Carr Date of Interview: 4/9/1996 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 45 minutes

(audio begins abruptly)

Davis: . . . Carr Davis.

Interviewer: Were you born in Southport?

Davis: Yes I was.

Interviewer: May I ask when?

Davis: June the 27th, 1928.

Interviewer: What were your parents' names?

Davis: It was Will Cellis Davis and Yula Carr Davis.

Interviewer: Were either one of them born in Southport?

Davis: My dad was born in Southport. I believe my mother was born in Burlington.

Interviewer: What kind of work did your daddy do?

Davis: He was in the menhaden fishery business and then he was a marine engineer.

Interviewer: What do you remember about his work?

Davis: Well I remember when he as a pilot on the menhaden boats one of the highlights was for him to let me go out with him on Saturdays or short days that they had and that was the most.

Interviewer: And tell the people what you just told me about Etham Swayne [ph?] and your dad on the boats.

Davis: Well, Dad came home from the dredge one time, I think they were digging up around Morehead on the old Comstock. And he was a little late coming in and had few drinks and mother asked him why he was running so late and he said they had to stop twice for baby boy to dance. Baby boy was Ethan, he was a cook on the boat.

Interviewer: I wish we could have gotten baby boy on here. What was your father like, what do you remember best about him?

Davis: Well best thing I remember about my dad was he had a great sense of humor, he was always happy and had a great sense of humor.

Interviewer: And isn't that a wonderful thing to say about anybody?

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer: What about your mother?

Davis: Well mother was--she had a good sense of humor and all of her sisters have and they were both just wonderful people.

Interviewer: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Davis: I had one sister that died approximately three and a half years ago, she was 10 years older than I am.

Interviewer: Is the house where you were born still standing?

Davis: Yes it is, it's in Tin Pan Alley or what is now Brunswick Street, but it was Tin Pan Alley back then.

Interviewer: Of course it was. Did you live in any other house in Southport?

Davis: Yes, I lived in one of my grandmother's houses, that was the second house in Tin Pan Alley and my other grandmother on the Carr side was right at the corner of Tin Pan Alley in, what was it, Caswell Street I believe.

Interviewer: Yeah. Oh, I had forgotten about that. And what were your fondest memories about those houses?

Davis: Well we had a great group, Joe Sam Laughlin and Ralph Potter or Sonny Potter and myself and I guess just playing around the water, of course, that was before the old yacht basin was there, so we . . .

Interviewer: Yes, and that was located at the end of Tin Pan Alley, wasn't it?

Davis: Yeah, down in--about half down that alley, yes.

Interviewer: That was a great location for youngsters growing up, wasn't it?

Davis: Yes, it sure was.

Interviewer 2: What's now the yacht basin, what was that like when you were a kid?

Davis: It was a marsh, grass, a marsh area and there was one creek that went up in there, it went up to Mr. Fred Burris' house, Mr. Fred Burris was a shrimper and we used to catch minnows off of his dock down there until he'd run us off.

Interviewer: Now this, what are you calling the yacht basin, Chris?

Interviewer 2: The old yacht (inaudible).

Davis: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about, the old yacht basin.

Interviewer: Some people call it the small boat harbor, but it's not. What else do you remember about the areas in Southport? Did you ever play up in the Oak Grove or Frackman SSusieuare?

Davis: I remember that mostly from going to school and we'd try to through there and we'd step off of the sidewalk in the azaleas, so Piccolo Pete [ph?] would run us out. He was the auxiliary policeman. But most of the time where we played when I was a youngster was down where probably where Port Charlie's is now was, that was pumped in there and it was full of ponds and lakes and we played in boats down in that area.

Interviewer: So really your life centered around the waterfront more than . . .

Davis: More than up in the park, yeah.

Interviewer 2: Yellow hole.

Interviewer: Did you ever go to the yellow hole?

Davis: Yeah, I went to the yellow hole, down in that area.

Interviewer: Now what do you remember about Oak Island? Did you ever get to go over to Oak Island and how did you go?

Davis: I don't remember getting over there much. Mostly where we went-- well did we go--call it Oak Island, go to Caswell Beach over at the old pavilion there. That was a rare thing. My Uncle James had a cottage over there, James Carr.

Interviewer: Yeah, real early on.

Davis: And he would take his daughter Peg, you know, over in the afternoons when he got off work. And of course it was quite a drive then around, it was dirt road and a drawbridge.

Interviewer: Yeah, it was an adventure in itself just getting there.

Davis: Yeah, it sure was.

Interviewer: One time, Alice Arrington [ph?] said that there was some way to walk from what we call the old yacht basin over to Oak Island. Now of course, you wouldn't remember (inaudible).

Davis: Well that would have to been before the Intracoastal Waterway was dredged.

Interviewer: Yeah, it was.

Davis: So, no that was before my time.

Interviewer: Well, I know that, but did you ever hear of that?

Davis: No, I don't, but I'm sure . . .

Interviewer: I hadn't heard it but she vowed declared that at low tide you could walk across.

Davis: Well, if Miss Alice said that I would believe it.

Interviewer 2: We had been told that yellow hole's--you get different stories, some people say it's still there about like it was and you can't get in there unless you know somebody because it's all private property and fenced over.

Davis: I have no idea, I haven't been down that way.

Interviewer: I wouldn't even know where to look for it now.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, Eugene Gore told us he walked back in there and tried to get back down there and find it and he couldn't, he kept running into fences.

Davis: I don't doubt it, now, everything's changed there.

Interviewer 2: Yeah.

Interviewer: We've already discussed where you played, but what were some of things you did for fun when you were sort of little?

Davis: Well I think we all liked baseball and we didn't always have the baseballs and Sonny Potter and Joe Sam and myself would always play with cream cans and broomstick. That's what . . .

Interviewer: Yeah, well, we made our own fun.

Davis: Yeah, but we always enjoyed it, played around.

Interviewer: Yeah, and baseball if I remember correctly was always one of the main things in Southport.

Davis: Of course we played in the street and then one of the things we always watched for was be careful if Miss Minnie Davis was driving, we'd come up the road, everybody squeal, "Here comes Miss Minnie," and run both ways and hide behind the trees.

Interviewer: Because I had heard that she drove right down the middle of the street no matter what else was coming.

Davis: Well she couldn't see over the steering wheel, so she looked between the top of the steering wheel and the dashboard.

Interviewer: She was real short.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer: What was most or some of the most exciting things that happened in Southport when you were growing up?

Davis: Well, I guess one of the most exciting things was the night that Jimmy the Greek's restaurant burned and I think the telephone exchange was right here on the corner.

Interviewer: That's right. I remember the . . .

Interviewer 2: Right here?

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: This was the telephone exchange in one part, had all the switch gear in here.

Interviewer: No, no, no.

Interviewer 2: We're talking about a different one.

Davis: You're talking about after the dial system came in, that's when that was put . . .

Interviewer: Yeah, you're talking about the good old (laughter).

Interviewer 2: Oh, way back, okay.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: They had the things you plugged in.

Davis: Yeah, you had to get . . .

Interviewer: Yeah, that was down on the corner. And I have a picture of Miss Edna Dosier and somebody standing in the window up there looking so they could tell if somebody was home, you know, if a call came, they could look out the window and say, "Well, he's not home, he's down here." But I remember that night, John Carr. I had flu. And that's the only time my daddy ever said no to me. I wanted to get up and go see to the fire.

Davis: Go see the fire, yeah.

Interviewer: Well, we all went, didn't we?

Davis: That fire bell was a weird sounding thing when it sounded at night.

Interviewer: It was. And we were supposed to go to the fire when (inaudible).

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: How old were you when that?

Davis: I don't recall, I must have been . . .

Interviewer: I was about 14, so you would . . .

Davis: I was real young.

Interviewer: You were eight years younger.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Oh, you was just a little guy.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Sure, you would remember that.

Interviewer: Yeah, but it was . . .

Davis: That was a big thing to remember then.

Interviewer: And for days after that when they blocked off the street you'd go--because all the walls were crumbling and all that.

Interviewer 2: I remember stuff when you're six better than stuff that happened last week.

Interviewer: Yeah. And what adult outside your family did you admire most when you were growing up?

Davis: Probably Bud Frank.

Interviewer: Why?

Davis: I don't know, I just thought Bud lived around the corner from us and he always thought a lot of me and I just always admired Bud.

Interviewer: I did too. He was sort of a self-made man, he was a prominent lawyer and he got things done, didn't he?

Davis: Well he's told us a million times, we were walking down the street one day and he said, somebody told me that you're a republican and I said, "No, that's dirt on my pants, I just fell down and I haven't brushed it off yet."

Interviewer: I bet he told that all over North Carolina.

Davis: He sure did. He told it after I was running for Sherriff he told it.

Interviewer: I am sure he did. I hope I can live to tell my son-in-law that because he's a republican.

Davis: Well they can't all be perfect.

Interviewer 2: Are you admitting it, Susie?

Interviewer: Huh?

Interviewer 2: Are you admitting it that your son-in-law is a republican?

Interviewer: Well I couldn't help it, see I didn't pick him (laughter). I love him though in spite of that.

Davis: Yeah. Well maybe he'll see the light one of these days.

Interviewer: Oh, I think he will.

Interviewer 2: That was a good Bud Frank story about they said every time anybody had a fight in the old days, in Southport, after the fight was over they'd race to see who could get to Bud first to have him represent them.

Davis: Well, they said they would have an argument, a couple of the black fellows on the pogy boats, one told the other one, said, "I'll cut your damned throat and beat you to Bud Frank."

Interviewer: Yeah, that's the one I heard.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: That's a good one.

Interviewer: And quite often they did. What kind of chores did you have to do at home? Did your mom make you do any?

Davis: Well when we got out of school in the afternoon we had I believe it was coal burner in the living room and two of these wood burning tin lizzies upstairs and my grandmother had a tin lizzy in her room and we had a coal hot water heater. So I split wood and carried in coal. And my grandmother with that tin lizzy, she didn't want to burn anything but split pine and the draft wide open. So that would take care of it in the winter time was splitting and hauling wood and coal.

Interviewer: Well that's the way it went around here. That was the way we heated. What kind of toys did you have?

Davis: I guess, well I had as much as anybody else did back then but we didn't have many toys. We had to make what we had. And like I said, playing with a broomstick. And if I got a baseball glove or an old baseball that was about all the toys I needed.

Interviewer: Well that's all that any of us had. But that's what I wanted to bring out on this. Who were your best friends?

Davis: I guess Joe Sam and Sonny Potter and I were about as close. And then Lou Newton [ph?] and his brothers and I were pretty close too.

Interviewer: And you've already told us you played ball together, but did you go fishing together and things of that type?

Davis: Well like I said, we used to fish for minnows off of Mr. Fred Burris' dock, that is, Sonny Potter and I more than anybody else. Sonny was a fisherman, his dad was a fisherman.

Interviewer: Let's talk for a moment about school days in Southport. Where was your school located?

Davis: Well I went to the old Southport High School. Of course, we--best I can remember, Susie, they didn't have a cafeteria in the school, we walked home for lunch.

Interviewer: Oh no, we sure didn't.

Davis: We walked to school and walked home for lunch.

Interviewer: And we had an hour at lunch.

Davis: Yeah. All except the Correlette, they took an hour and half because they were always 30 minutes late getting back, all of them.

Interviewer: Well, where was the school building located, what's there today?

Davis: Right where the post office is today.

Interviewer: What were your favorite subjects?

Davis: I don't know that I had any favorite ones, Susie. I was always fairly good in math. I went to school through the eighth grade here in Southport and then my dad went to Louisiana in the shrimp business and I graduated from high school in Morgan City, in Louisiana.

Interviewer: Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that. But while you were in Southport, who was your favorite teacher?

Davis: I think probably Miss Lingle [ph?] and we had one, Miss Asberry [ph?] was another good teacher too.

Interviewer: Yeah, she was a fine one. Well after you graduated from high school in Louisiana, did you come back to Southport or did you go to college or what?

Davis: Came here for--we graduated, I graduated on May the 26th, I think it was and we came home to Southport and I stayed until June 27th, when I was 17 and then I went into the Navy.

Interviewer 2: What year was that?

Davis: It was 1945.

Interviewer 2: Okay.

Interviewer: Yeah, you were right in the thick of things, so you went in the Navy. Well how long were you in the Navy?

Davis: I was in four years the first time.

Interviewer: And then have you been in since then?

Davis: Yeah, I came back home and started shrimping with different ones and got called back in the Korean War for two years.

Interviewer: Oh, yes, that's right. Oh, you had two sieges of it. What was your first job after you got out of the Navy, I mean for the last time? What was your first real job?

Davis: I guess it was on the shrimp boat probably with Merritt Moore.

Interviewer: And what other jobs have you had?

Davis: Well I went on the shrimp boats and I stayed on those for several years and got captain on one of the shrimp boats. And then I got in with the menhaden industry with John Potter and I was captain on two of the menhaden boats for several years.

Interviewer 2: Were they based here in Southport?

Davis: Yes.

Interviewer: Yeah. So really your life has been centered around the water.

Davis: Centered around the water until I got enough of the shrimping and finally bought half interest in a boat and Dorothy and I were married and I got tired of being away from home, so I came back home.

Interviewer: Well I know that you have recently retired as Sherriff of Brunswick County. How long did you serve as Sherriff?

Davis: I served for 11 1/2 years.

Interviewer 2: That's a career right there.

Interviewer: Yeah. It certainly was (inaudible).

Davis: Well I was 20 years in the department but 11-1/2 years, three terms as Sherriff.

Interviewer: Well contrast for us the field of law enforcement now and the way it was when you first went in. How did it change?

Davis: Well law enforcement's getting tougher all the time. Now you have to worry more about the prisoners' rights and getting sued. I don't know how many times I've been sued while I was Sherriff, but it's just getting tougher. I don't know what the answer is. The drug situation is getting worse all the time.

Interviewer: That was my next question. With this population explosion that Brunswick County's experiencing, I'm sure that many, many changes have taken place.

Davis: They have, law enforcement got--the requirements for law enforcement officers are tougher now, which I'm glad to say. I served five years on the State Sherriff's Standards Commission and we have raised the standards for deputy sheriffs and sheriffs and police officers and that's something I'm very proud of. But they need it. They need to be better qualified. But the main thing is getting the money to fight the drugs. Druggers have got more money than law enforcement have and it's just hard to fight it.

Interviewer: Oh yes. And there's so much more of the crime now with so many people here. There's such a variety of it.

Davis: Well a lot of the crime, I guess 65 or 70 percent of it is people robbing and stealing to get the money to buy the drugs. So drugs is the root of a lot of it.

Interviewer: Quite often I read that police blotter that's in the Brunswick Beacon and it shows that. They think nothing of breaking a person's door in and going in.

Davis: No.

Interviewer 2: Back up a little. When did you start with the Sherriff's department and you mentioned you were a . . .

Davis: I started when Herman Strong was first elected Sherriff. We were here and Southport was the headquarters-- the old, old jail was our headquarters at that time.

Interviewer 2: Oh, okay.

Interviewer: Where the Historical Society . . .

Davis: And I started as a road deputy, working the north end of Leland into the county and worked up through sergeant and lieutenant, chief deputy and finally was elected Sherriff.

Interviewer 2: What year was that that you started?

Interviewer: Well, let's see, it had to be before 1978.

Davis: It was probably 1974, 1973 or 1974, something like that.

Interviewer 2: Straight on until 1994.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, okay.

Interviewer: What are you doing now that you've retired?

Davis: What Dorothy tells me.

Interviewer: Oh wonderful. It is so good--that's how we got you here today then. (laughter)

Davis: No, we've been doing some traveling, Susie. We've been to New Hampshire and been to Florida a couple of times. We went to Morgan City, I went back to my 50th high school class reunion and I hadn't been back since I graduated. So that was quite an experience. Dorothy went and our oldest daughter Linda and her husband. And we spent a week in New Orleans and then went over to Morgan City.

Interviewer: Oh, that's good.

Davis: I was scared they would be kind of bored when they got to Morgan City but they said they enjoyed that more than they did the week in New Orleans and people were so friendly there and took them in and had a catfish stew up on the bayou and all that kind of stuff.

Interviewer: Oh gosh, yes.

Interviewer 2: Has Morgan City changed much?

Davis: It's changed very much. It's gone downhill. After the shrimp-- it was a boom area for the shrimp and after that it was the oil industry. And when the oil industry kind of went caput over there, it's really hurt the town of Morgan City, it's . . .

Interviewer: I believe you're still active in some organizations here in the county though aren't you?

Davis: Just the Lions Club and the Episcopal Church, Saint Philip's Episcopal Church.

Interviewer: Well that's two important things. Now I want to ask you some personal questions. Are you married?

Davis: Yes I am, very much so.

Interviewer: To whom?

Davis: Dorothy Ward Davis.

Interviewer: How did you meet her?

Davis: Well Dorothy went to school in Southport. She was a year behind me. She doesn't hesitate to tell me, she's a year and a day younger than I am.

Interviewer: Well, was she a native of Southport?

Davis: She was a native of Brunswick County.

Interviewer: Well tell us a little bit about your children. You know you want to brag on them a little bit.

Davis: Well, we have three children, two girls and a boy. Linda, the oldest one lives in Wilmington, she and her husband Milton Chadwick. They don't have any children, they've got two dogs. David, the boy is the second oldest. He lives in Bolivia by us and he has two children.

Interviewer: Good, you got some to spoil then.

Davis: Well, not anymore because the youngest one of those--the youngest grandchild will be 21 this coming Friday.

Interviewer: Oh I can't believe I'm this old.

Davis: And then the youngest girl, Jane lives in South Carolina.

Interviewer: That's right, she's the one that graduated with Cathy, wasn't she?

Davis: Linda.

Interviewer: Okay, well I haven't seen either one of them in so long. Let me interrupt and say this, I did meet Lois' daughter in genealogy (inaudible) and I--huh?

Interviewer 3: Carol.

Interviewer: Yeah, I was real glad to get to know her. But going back even further now, what do you remember about your grandparents? What were their names?

Davis: Well, on mother's side, I remember her mother, Susie Carr. My grandfather Carr died just before I was born, so naturally I don't know him. My daddy's side, Mr. Will Davis and Miss Carrie Davis, that was my grandmother and father, they lived in the house right behind Mama Susie's which is in the alley. And he ran a little store right across the street.

Interviewer: And they were the ones that were the long, long time residents of Southport, weren't they?

Davis: As far back as they go.

Interviewer: That name Davis goes way, way back in the very early days of Southport. In fact I expect they're related to the Davis' that owned all of this property in here where Davis Street . . .

Davis: I don't know. Now Mr. Rob Davis owned the house on the waterfront where we rented and he was an attorney I believe and that was the rich part of the Davis' Susie, we came from the poor side. We lived--

Interviewer: Yeah, but I'm talking about way, way back, bound to some of the . . .

Davis: It might have been way, way back.

Interviewer: Wilson Davis and I'm going to get Ben Wilson to check on that. He's . . .

Davis: Well it's quite possible because I believe my grandfather's name was Robert Wilson Davis.

Interviewer: Uh-huh. And there was a Wilson Davis who was--I believe that it was Wilson Davis, anyway the Wilson was in his name and he was commanding officer at Fort Johnston one time. So you (inaudible).

Davis: It could have been, could have been.

Interviewer: I'm going to look all that up. And because of my interest in genealogy I'm always doing things like that, so that's why I knew you were descendent from Southport's oldest families. But do you know anybody in your family that has done any of this in depth family history?

Davis: Not on my side of the family, no. My Aunt Toddy or Ellen Carr, she has some of it. It was done on the-- I guess on the Roark side.

Interviewer: Oh, well I want to talk to her.

Davis: Okay.

Interviewer: I think we're going to get her to come in here to do that.

Davis: She would be a good one. She's . . .

Interviewer: I'm interested because the Southport Historical Society has a family history collection and I'm always looking for material for that. Also, I'm always trying to recruit new members for the society. We'd love to have you and Dot be members. You ought to, you know.

Davis: Probably should, probably should.

Interviewer: Yeah, we want to get (inaudible).

Interviewer 2: It's real cheap. They make the food.

Interviewer: No, we have the most wonderful covered dish dinners for $15 a year and you get a newsletter.

Davis: Oh that's good.

Interviewer: Chris and I write the newsletter.

Davis: Well that ought to be good if you got anything to do with it.

Interviewer: We'll sign you up on the way out. I know I sound like a salesman but I do thank you for taking your time out for this interview for your old hometown. See, these tapes will be on file here in this library and, of course, you'll get a copy eventually when Mary [ph?] can get a copy made for your grandchildren, but you can come down here, people can come down here and sit here and watch them on television.

Davis: I want to come down here and see what Joe Sam Laughlin and Lou Newton and that crowd had to say. When you get them . . .

Interviewer 2: We tried to get you to come down and join those three but I can't remember, you must have been out of town or something.

Davis: Might have been, might have been.

Interviewer 2: Because we weren't able to get hold of you. I don't think anybody--because they all said that we should have had you there with them.

Interviewer: Oh, yeah, they admitted that.

Interviewer 2: Now, Joe Sam's going to come back in the fall. We had him as--he was going to do one by himself and he was not feeling well.

Interviewer: He started having some heart problems.

Davis: Yeah, he's had some health problems lately.

Interviewer 2: And of course, then they went back to Ohio, but when he comes back in the fall he's going to come back in again and we might try to get that group together again and get you to come down.

Interviewer: Yeah, let's do it.

Davis: That would be a good group.

Interviewer: It would, it really would.

Interviewer 2: . . . and get in on it. Shannon doesn't drive at night any more but I guess he's doing all right otherwise.

Interviewer: I think so.

Interviewer 2: Yeah.

Interviewer: We ought to get him to come back.

Interviewer 2: I had some things I'll ask him, if you've gone through your basic stuff.

Interviewer: Sure.

Interviewer 2: Lou talked about boats you had guys had when you were kids, funny little boats.

Davis: That's when I was talking about, the ponds that formed down where the land was pumped down beside Miss Alice--Saint George's and . . .

Interviewer 2: When the tide went out and left(inaudible).

Davis: Well no, when they pumped it in there, they were holes that were left and water stayed in them all the time and we'd go down and play in those boats we'd pull. Tom Gilbert was another one that was down and Tom was a little older than we were but he always had a better boat than anybody else.

Interviewer 2: Did you have a boat that you went out in the river in?

Davis: No, these were small ones that we . . .

Interviewer 2: Oh it was a little one.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Okay. Yeah.

Davis: Now we finally had rowboats. I never had one, but Sonny Potter had one and he and I would go out. And this was after the old yacht basin was dug finally.

Interviewer 2: Get on the tide and go up the river and come back down with it.

Davis: Well we'd mess around the inlet waterway, we didn't get out in the river too much.

Interviewer 2: Oh you didn't, okay. Well you left here when you were what, eighth grade?

Davis: Mm-hmm.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, they might have done that when they were a little older.

Davis: They might have done it when they were a little older. Yeah, I went to Louisiana and I had to fight the first two years every day because they called me a damn Yankee from being from North Carolina.

Interviewer: Oh, for the love of Pete.

Davis: But I didn't feel bad, I found out that they--in Morgan City, they call the ones from Baton Rouge damn Yankees because they were north Louisiana.

(overlapping conversation)

Interviewer: May I tell that in my history class?

Davis: Yes.

Interviewer: Most of them have come here from the North and I tease them about being Yankees. I don't put the damn with it, but I like to tease.

Interviewer 2: That's all one word, so (inaudible).

Davis: Well and they qualify because they're the ones that came and didn't go back.

Interviewer: That's right. Well I'll have to tell them that. We might watch this video.

Davis: Well that's all right. I'm not going to run again for anything so it won't hurt me politically.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, there were a lot of people from here that shifted back and forth to up and down the coast with the shrimp boats.

Davis: Yeah, Louis Hardy went over there, Dallas Picket-- no, Dallas didn't go to Louisiana, he came over there with a truck. But Louis Hardy went and my brother in law and there were a bunch of them from the Florida East Coast that went to Louisiana at that time.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, Fern Adina.

Davis: Yeah, Fern Adina and Saint Augustine.

Interviewer 2: Well now you mentioned you were on the pogy boats. We have not in this group had very many people who had much experience on the pogy boats, it's mostly been shrimpers.

Davis: Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer 2: What all did you do with the (inaudible)?

Davis: Well I started off working in the same with John Potter pulling corks which is about as low as you can get. And worked up to where I was pilot and finally the last three years I was captain of one of the menhaden boats.

Interviewer 2: Define pulling corks?

Davis: I don't know how long the net is in yards, I would say it's 1,000 yards long. Half of it comes out of each boat and one man in one boat has got to pull half those corks and I was on the other one pulling. There were three or four to a group.

Interviewer: Is that the one they call the purse net.

Davis: Mm-hmm, that was before they got the power blocks. Now the last several years we had power blocks. But it was just hard labor.

Interviewer: Yeah, I wish I knew enough about it to ask the questions properly so people could understand the industry itself. Now where did you get the menhaden? How far out did you go?

Davis: Well you don't go far off shore to get menhaden, you catch them right along the beach. But we started here, we worked-- when it was the Brunswick navigation we'd just work from here to Savannah, Georgia and back, somewhere in that area. Standard Products bought it and then it went to the Chesapeake Bay and worked from Chesapeake Bay down this way.

Interviewer 2: What fish factory did you take it into, down on the waterway?

Davis: No, there was one at the end of the waterway. Well the old, where they're talking about developing now, Standard Products where there's one big scrap shed, 10 scrap sheds still up there. There was another factory just this side of the bridge and they--Smith built one on the other side of the bridge, it was actually the last one that was built but there's less left there now than there was anywhere else.

Interviewer: So we really had two good size fish factories one on each side of the bridge.

Davis: Yeah, one on each side of the bridge, yeah.

Interviewer 2: What's a bridge now, of course, in those days it was the . . .

Davis: It was a drawbridge but it was basically the same location.

Interviewer 2: You can still see pieces of it there.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer: Well was Mr. Plaxco . . .

Davis: He was there when my dad was fishing. Dad fished on a boat with John Ericson.

Interviewer: Who was head of the factory when you were shrimping, was it . . .

Davis: Jimmy Barnes . . .

Interviewer: Jimmy Barnes?

Davis: . . . was a supervisor over there when I went with him.

Interviewer 2: And this would be right after the Korean War?

Davis: Yeah, yeah, that's when they came back, yeah.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, it's 1952?

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: When did that all end?

Davis: Well it actually--Standard Products was here I guess until the late 1960s, early 1970s and now it seems like it's just about going all up and down the coast. Their boats are in Chesapeake Bay. There's only two boats that I know of that fish in North Carolina and they're out of Beaufort, Beaufort Fisheries.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, they've still got the factory up there and it's working. But I don't know how much it was.

Interviewer: What did they use that oil for that they (inaudible) out of those (inaudible)?

Davis: They said that part of it was used in perfume.

Interviewer: Wow, I can't imagine that.

Davis: But the big thing back then I think was animal food, Purina was one of the biggest buyers of the scrap.

Interviewer: Somewhere I read that the oil at one time some of it was used in making linoleum.

Davis: That very well could have been.

Interviewer: And of course, now we don't use linoleum, it's all tile. And so I guess the market has just disappeared.

Interviewer 2: Well maybe the chicken stays clean too.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: That's a fact, they didn't taste the same when they fed them fish meal.

Interviewer: Well, the fish meal and the oil were two separate products you see. The meal was used for the livestock food and the oil was used for other . . .

Davis: Yeah, a lot of the fish here in the summertime made very little oil. In the wintertime, that's when they made the oil in the big fish.

Interviewer: All of it did create an odor though.

Davis: Yeah, but, you know, they used to say that it smelled like Southport money honey.

Interviewer: Oh, yes.

Interviewer 2: That's right.

Davis: At one time Brunswick Navigation--Brunswick Navigation at one time was the biggest employer in Brunswick County.

Interviewer: Oh definitely. Well your cousin, Dorothy Bell Kauffman wrote a book called, The Inheritance of my Fathers and in it she had some poetry about the menhaden fisherman.

Davis: Yeah, the smell of Southport money.

Interviewer: Uh-huh and then the other--oh, I can't remember, there's one on the next page about it too. Do you have a copy of the book?

Davis: We had one somewhere. I don't know whether we still have it, I don't believe we still have one, Susie.

Interviewer: Well if you find it though, don't let it get--I've got a copy and I guard that with . . .

Interviewer 3: I'm going to go downstairs and take it off and copy it right now.

Davis: After Dorothy and I got married, I was still fishing on the boat and I had a cedar lined closet in my stable where I kept my clean clothes and I was fishing up at Morehead and I came in on Friday and took my shower and took my clothes out and came home in Wilton--we were living in Wilton, had a carport and went to the door and Dorothy said, "Hand your money in and leave your clothes in the carport."

Interviewer: Well (inaudible).

Davis: You could still smell them even though they'd be hanging in that--but the money didn't smell that damn bad, no she'd take that.

Interviewer: No, they'd take it at any store, wouldn't they?

Davis: Yes, sir.

Interviewer 2: Well I knew a guy who got an old shrimp boat and converted it into the private yacht type thing and they never could get the smell out of it. The scraped it and painted it and scraped it and painted it and people still get on there and smell it.

Interviewer: But I've known so many times when we'd go out and count the . . .

Davis: The whistle, yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah, to be sure that there was going to be some money in Southport that week.

Interviewer 2: Well when you were on the pogy boats you usually stayed longer than you did shrimping.

Davis: No, on the pogy boats you came in every night just about.

Interviewer 2: Oh did you?

Davis: Yes. They didn't have refrigeration.

Interviewer: They got paid off at the end of the week.

Interviewer 2: Oh, okay.

Davis: No, the shrimp boats, we would-- I was staying out as long as 28 and 30 days on the shrimp (inaudible).

Interviewer 2: So it's the opposite then, good grief. Okay.

Davis: Yeah. Of course here in Southport the shrimpers came in about every night but when we fished in Florida and Camp Peachy and Texas.

Interviewer 2: Did that all change when they got bigger pogy boats?

Davis: That changed, they got some refrigeration but they'd very seldom stay out over two days, if that.

Interviewer 2: Okay.

Interviewer: And like you said, they didn't go--I didn't know they stayed so close to shore.

Davis: The only time we'd fish well off shore was in the fall of the year when the rogue fish came down, they would come down off shore, well, off shore, but . . .

Interviewer 2: Because you look at these big pogy boats and you think they're more likely to stay on them but it was big because it had (inaudible).

Davis: Well the fish are bulky, you know, if they catch a load of them.

Interviewer 2: Yeah.

Interviewer: Well who were some of the people that-- or any of them still living that were in the pogy fishing with you and the shrimping that we might get involved in this program?

Davis: Homer McKithen is still living but I don't know whether Homer is able to do it or not.

Interviewer: He lives across the street from me and he's (inaudible).

Davis: I talked--Lulu had told me that he's not . . .

Interviewer: How about Leon, was he in . . .

Davis: Leon never was in the--he might have been in it at one time when the . . .

Interviewer: But he was shrimping, wasn't he?

Davis: Yes.

Interviewer: I could get him as a--in the shrimping industry.

Interviewer 2: George Jackson is one we want to get who was on the boat.

Davis: George was a mate with me.

Interviewer 2: Gosh he's 80.

Davis: Yeah, George is getting pretty well up there.

Interviewer: Yeah, that's it, we're fighting against time.

Interviewer 2: We have this picture down here that somebody gave to the museum. We'll show you on the way out, it's up on the wall, the big thing of the fish factory that we couldn't figure out where they were.

Davis: Well they used to have some way up the Cape Fear River, but, yeah, that was years and years.

Interviewer 2: Yeah when George came in and he remembered where they were and he even recognized the names of some of the boats there. They were up there where Sunny Point is now.

Davis: Somewhere in that area, yeah.

Interviewer: In that general area.

Davis: And I told Susie, I've got a couple of pictures of the converted minesweepers that Homer and I were fishing and that Hal Waters took, I need to give to the . . .

Interviewer: Oh yes, even if we could have them copied. We wanted to get Hal Waters in here but Rosalie says he won't cooperate--his wife, you know.

Interviewer 3: He waited, there were several others.

Interviewer 2: That's true.

Interviewer: Yeah, I hadn't thought about that.

Davis: Yeah, Hal was spotting when I was fishing.

Interviewer: I would love to get him in here and tell about that.

Interviewer 2: There's a video that's made in much later days, it's made down in Louisiana that the Cape Fear Museum up in Wilmington has of the whole process. From spotting the fish and going out with the boats and bringing in the nets and everybody pulling it up and all this kind of thing.

Interviewer: Well is that video one that they bought from somewhere? Could we get a copy?

Interviewer 2: Yeah, I think Mary might have a copy of it, yeah, but I'm not sure.

Interviewer: Oh well good.

Interviewer 2: See Mary is--I'm sure they told you, Mary's not well.

Davis: Not feeling well, yeah.

Interviewer 2: But you'd really enjoy watching that since you used to do it.

Davis: Yeah, it's fascinating work. Menhaden fishing's much more fascinating than the shrimping was. Shrimping was slow drudging work.

Interviewer: I need to sign you up for my history classes too, come in here and tell these damn Yankees about how we did it. That would be real interesting.

Interviewer 2: Well I don't know whether you want to get into it or not but you were probably on the Sherriff's Department when they had all that trouble with the Sherriff.

Davis: I replaced the Sherriff that was indicted, yes. And Herman was a good man, he just made one mistake and I really don't want to get into it too much.

Interviewer: No, no, I wouldn't. But he did get off on the wrong foot and couldn't get back. But if it been a . . .

Davis: It was something to overcome for law enforcement.

Interviewer: Uh-huh, it really has.

Davis: I always feel about these things that I sure would have like to have had something like this of my grandfather and my father and stuff like that. It's really for the kids. It's your grandchildren are the ones that are going to look at it and great-grandchildren.

Interviewer: And the people who come in here are very conscious of how much they want to know what it was like here. And I find that's how I line up so many for the history classes. They just keep coming back. "We're just fascinated with the way you did things in those days."

Interviewer 2: How long did your parents live here in Southport?

Davis: Basically all their lives.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, but I mean when did they die?

Davis: Father died in 1965 wasn't it Dorothy or was it 1966? And mother, early 1970s.

Interviewer 2: Oh good grief, okay. That's very recent then.

Interviewer: Yeah, they were very substantial citizens of Southport.

Interviewer 2: Okay.

Davis: Was that about it?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Well what else can we ask him?

Interviewer: I already told him goodbye then we talked another half an hour.

Interviewer 2: Well, sure, of course. We'll in the fall, you know, this sort of spans down in the summertime because everybody's gone all over the place. But in the fall we'll try to get you to come back with Joe Sam and we'll see if we can get those two guys (inaudible).

Interviewer: They ought to be back the first part of September.

Davis: What kind of shape is Sonny Potter in?

Interviewer: I don't know.

Davis: Now, Sonny, if he was able to . . .

Interviewer: I see him occasionally sit on his front porch, but I don't think he's well enough.

Davis: Yeah. I don't think he's in too good health but if you get him to--his father was one of the old shrimpers.

Interviewer 2: Yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Davis: In fact that was the first shrimp boat I ever went out on was with his father on the old Vera.

Interviewer: If Sonny can't do it, do you reckon Margie could come?

Davis: Margie could tell you some and Esther May is still living too.

Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. Esther May has a lot of health problems, it's hard for her to get in town.

Interviewer 2: We were going to get Margie one time, she didn't get back on that.

Interviewer: Well Margie has gone to live a lot of the year in--I forgot where it is. Her nephew there that is deaf that she, you know, she raised a boy and he's deaf and he's in Morgan I believe it is. But anyway somewhere, she stays away from here most of the year. But I could try her the next time.

Davis: Margie can tell a lot of it, yeah.

Interviewer 2: Well, we need to ask him about Hurricane Hazel because everybody (inaudible).

Davis: I wasn't here during Hurricane Hazel.

Interviewer 2: Oh, you weren't?

Davis: I was in the service. My mother and father were here and my sister. In fact you've got a picture that--my sister's house down there with the two shrimp boats in the side yard.

Interviewer: Oh yes. We need to borrow those pictures and get them copied. Mary here in the museum . . .

Davis: Well you've got one picture down there of sister's house and the two shrimp boats.

Interviewer: Okay. Well that's . . .

Davis: Yeah, the Dorothy and Lela [ph?] and the Sea Rambler right in their side yard. That's when mother and them had to leave the house and swim across the street.

Interviewer: Yeah. And there's a picture of it in Jay Barnes' book, Hurricanes of North Carolina. It's not as plain as this one out here.

Interviewer 2: There was some good stories about how they picked those boats up and put them right back in the water.

Davis: Yeah, they were building Sunny Point at the time and . . .

Interviewer 2: They got a big old crane thing from the Army, they just picked them up and put right in there.

Interviewer: And I have a full page ad, or a copy of a full page ad that the people of Southport put in the State Point Pilot after that thanking Sunny Point for their assistance.

Davis: Yeah, it was a private contractor.

Interviewer: Uh-huh, it was.

Davis: McCormick or something that that.

Interviewer: But they put a full page ad thanking him and his crew for . . .

Davis: In fact, the picture you've got of the Dorothy and Lela, that was the first boat I was ever captain of was the one down in after that.

Interviewer: Oh yeah. Named for Dorothy Hardy and Lela Pickett.

Davis: And Lela Pickett, yeah.

Interviewer 2: (inaudible) water when you were the captain.

Davis: Yeah, I didn't put it up there on the hill.

Interviewer: We got a video of Louis Hardy. I haven't seen it but I know that it's (inaudible).

Interviewer 3: It was a rip.

Interviewer: I bet it was.

Interviewer 3: It was a rip.

Interviewer: But I want to get-- have we got (inaudible).

Interviewer 2: He was one we chased for months before we got him to come in.

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: He's (inaudible), he just (inaudible).

Davis: Yeah, yeah. Louis is something else.

Interviewer: And we've got Lela on tape, but we want to get Dorothy by herself. His wife, see, grew up here. Louis didn't come till the 1930s. So I want to get Dorothy. Well after all I'd be (inaudible).

Interviewer 2: Susie, you know I love you and I was up in Wilmington last week and I was talking to this lady and asked a question about Wilmington. She said, "Well, I don't know, I've only been here 40 years."

Interviewer: Well it seems just like yesterday though that we . . .

Davis: Yeah.

Interviewer: The kids, when they see. My life's centered up there up around the water tank and Oak Grove. Mama didn't let us go around that waterfront much. And then I'm older than you are and . . .

Davis: Well you remember though, even if you went around the water, you couldn't go swimming if the wind was Northeast.

Interviewer: That's right.

Davis: And you couldn't go barefoot after it was raining because you'd get ground itch.

Interviewer: No, you had to wear your long hanons on May the 1st no matter how hot it was. And you couldn't take your shoes off till May the 1st.

Interviewer 3: They're still doing that at the Sherriff's Department, they can't take their long sleeves off till May 1st. And I don't think they want to this year.

Davis: No probably a good idea.

Interviewer: No, they're (inaudible).

Davis: We used to change the 15th of April.

Interviewer 2: How big was the Sherriff's Department when you first started?

Davis: Probably about 30 people total.

Interviewer 2: Oh, okay.

Davis: And when I left I think I had 75 and that wasn't enough.

Interviewer: No, because the . . .

Interviewer 2: Because the population.

Interviewer: Has exploded.

Davis: Yeah, when I took over I think the population was about 28,000, it was about 56,000 when I--it's about 60,000 now I guess.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, at least, maybe more than that.

Davis: That's year round, you know, it explodes in the summertime.

Interviewer: That's not even counting summertime.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, that's right. That's right.

Interviewer: Well, I'm going to have to . . .

Interviewer 2: This was great. We appreciate it.

Davis: Okay.

Interviewer: I've enjoyed it. I feel I could stay all afternoon if I did not have a meeting tonight that I've got.

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