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Interview with Harold Watson, March 7, 1995 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Harold Watson, March 7, 1995
March 7, 1995
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Watson, Harold Interviewer: Date of Interview: Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length

Watson: Up on the corner and that happened to be way back in November 16, 1914 which was a few years back (laughter). And, I reckon, a lot of water passed through the bridge, just then, anyway.

Interviewer: So you’re 81 now are you?

Watson: I’ll be 81 in November.

Interviewer: Wow! Okay.

Watson: Yes, so, anyway among the things there on Howe Street, it was paved with yellow clay and if it had rained for a day or two, I’d be up to my knees just crossing Howe Street going to school. I’m telling you that was a mess in the world. You just didn't wipe that yellow clay off, that’s for sure.

Interviewer: Where was the school in those days?

Watson: Where the Franklin Park Gallery is, that was the entire school when I started. Then when I got in the third grade, why they built the new high school over where the post office is now. Then I reckon I moved over there in the third, maybe fourth grade, all of were over there then. And, um, everything was doing alright.

We had a bunch of rowdy boys. There’s no question about that. In fact while I was even in the third grade there at the art gallery, when the school was there, Mr. Smith, the principal, he had a shoulder holster and carried a .22 pistol. I mean, to give you an idea of how some of the guys were, they were rough. I know and later on in the other building, Johnny Potter got into a fight, over there in the new building, there, he broke his glasses and tore his vest off and ripped his shirt off (laughter) in an out and out fight. I was trying to get him out of the classroom, you know.

So it seemed like something was going on just about all the time. But I’ll tell you one thing, talking about these college boys that can’t even write their name. Miss Mary Strand was teaching that first grade over there and by golly, you didn't get out of the first grade if you couldn’t write your name and, I mean, that’s for sure.

We had what they call the first and the advanced first and at the end of the year if you were doing alright, you were passed over to the advanced first. You continued on the year, but then you went to the second grade at the end of the year. But if you didn't make that advanced first, at the half mark, why you spent another year in that first grade.

It seems like, well to give you another example about that. This fellow Billy Newton, well, I’ll bring up the story about him later, but he and I started, he started the year before I did and that was about 1920, 19- or 1920. The year I graduated, Billy quit in the fourth grade. I mean that’s the way it goes. But then again, we had another case, it happened to be a judge’s son, that he had infantile paralysis and he had a learning problem and he had an IV (?) in his skull passing on his brain and the blood vessels were just matted over his brain. They found that out up in one of those big hospitals up in Baltimore.

They cut him up and found the bleed vessels just growing together. They sewed him back up and sent him back home. Anyway he was the same way. His mother happened to be on the school board and they wanted to expel him and she said over her dead body and, brother, that was it. So they passed the word and every year he was promoted. And he graduated in 1931 the same year as I did. So that’s the way it would seem, like times have changed.

Interviewer: What did your father do? Tell us a little bit about that.

Watson: Well my grandfather came here and opened Watson’s Pharmacy drugstore in like 1986-87. He as an M.D. and practiced as a doctor and made house calls, but he had to have a drugstore to get his prescriptions filled. My father was a druggist over there. He died in that flu epidemic in 1920. I lost my uncle, and my father and my grandfather all in 10 days and I was only five years old, but I remember that.

Interviewer: I guess, yeah.

Watson: And also, at the time of my father’s death, he was the youngest man ever to have been president of the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Association which I thought spoke well for a little town of 12-, 1400 people, Southport, North Carolina. They said that he was really smart.

So anyway that’s the way that we got started and after my grandfather retired from active practice, he continued on working in the drugstore until his death. He knew he was going to die and he wanted to get things straightened out so he sold out to Richard Dozier, who was, his brother was a doctor. William Dozier was our friend here and his father had a grocery store up on Moore’s Hill.

So anyway they operated the drugstore and my grandfather just worked for them until he died. So it all turned out good because he said there were a lot of things that he was the only one that knew about and he wanted to get them all straight while he was living. So that’s the way, you know, that goes.

Then, on the lighter side of things, it was back in the silent picture days. In the movie theater, you could hear a pin drop during the silent pictures because they aren’t talking, you know, it was spelled out on the screen. They were having all these conversations and everything else. So, at one time in there, I reckon everybody knows what happens when you eat a lot of beans. So, anyway, this boy did, he did what we call broke wind and I mean it was loud enough that some people said you could hear it across the street. Even over to this street.

But anyway, here comes Mr. Price- he was the owner- with a flashlight and he says, “Boys, you broke wind down here? Girls, who broke wind down here?” Somebody said Mr. Price, Billy Doole done it. And he did, he grabbed Billy by the hair and escorted him out of that picture show and he was expelled from that picture show for two years before he was ever allowed to go back in there.

Interviewer: Good grief.

Watson: And Billy Doole is living today and if you were to ask him, he would say that he wasn’t the one that did it anyway, that Mr. Price’s son, Raymond, was the one that did it.

Interviewer: He just got blamed for it, yeah!

Watson: He got blamed for it is right. So then there was one time there at Halloween that some of the boys went down to the river and got somebody’s old 16 foot wood fish boat and they brought it up Main Street there and they put it in the lobby of the post office and left it there.

Interviewer: Where was the post office then?

Watson: It’s where that sandwich shop is up the street, there, and over on the other side of that wooden building just before you get to the corner. That- what is it? Haven’t we got a barbecue, a-

Interviewer: Oh, the pink one, the pizza place.

Watson: Ok, well that was the post office then, yeah, and it had a little lobby but those boys got at 16 foot boy in there somehow or another and left it in the lobby. They had a job getting it out there the next day. Then on New Years Day, New Year’s Eve, rather, some of the bigger boys got together and the school then was where the post office is now and they had a flagpole out there, with a- that old flag pole must have been 60 or 70 feet high then.

Some of the older boys went out there and they cut the halyards and then there was another flagpole over in the Army Navy club across the street where the Masonic Building is now. They were going to cut the halyards off of that and they went to the old school building and they got in through a window or something and got in there.

They climbed up in the belfry and they tied that halyard to the bell clapper and threw the rest of it out the window, out that belfry thing there and them boys got it and they led it all the way across that vacant place to the oak trees over towards the fire station and they helped a couple of them climb up a tree and they got up there and about 11:30, they started ringing that school bell.

Cecil Lewis, the chief of police, he started calling for some help and he got a half a dozen or so to help him and they met at the fire station. Them boys up in the tree could hear him coming under us and he was like so many of them go to the back door and he was going to take the front door and we’d got them. There wasn’t any way in the world they could get out of there he said.

And so, to get to the belfry you go in the front door and I think even now the steps lead up to the second floor. Well there’s a tall wooden ladder that went through a manhole cover going up into the belfry and you had to climb that ladder to get up in the belfry. Back in the school days there, why Charlie Lee, the janitor there, he had a rope drop down there and he hung it where us boys couldn’t reach it you know.

He’d ring that bell, you know, that school was in, school was out and all like that. Anyway, Cecil and them got in there and they got in the back door and they got in that lobby and that old bell was going ding-dong, ding-dong and Cecil yelled up there, “Alright, you boys come down. We got you covered, now, you’re all under arrest!” and the bell is going ding-dong (laughter).

They finally climbed the ladder and saw that rope leading out of the there. They came back down and by that time those boys climbed down off the oak trees They went home. They left the building. And the police never did find out who it was that strung that line and rung that bell.

Interviewer: You didn't have anything to do with that, did you?

Watson: No, I was only about that high. No. These were the ones that the principal carried that gun for.

Interviewer: Yeah, I guess so.

Watson: No, they were too big for me. So, anyway, it was something like that was going on all the time.

Interviewer: You’ve got something here, Poppa Doc and the Flappers.

Watson: Well the mayor used to come in around a quarter to nine in the morning and about 3:00, 3:15 in the afternoon. Before that he would just come in one time about 4:00 or 5:00 on the train. Then they started running the mail bus and they carried passengers too. They got on pretty good. They would get into Southport about, like, a quarter to nine.

They would unload the mail and the young girls, what they called flappers then, they would meet at Watson’s Pharmacy and some of them would meet at Leggett’s Drugstore. They’d have something to drink and smoke cigarettes and all waiting for the mail. Then about 3:00 that afternoon, they were back there again waiting for the mail to come in.

Well one day I was working there and my grandfather was a deacon of the Baptist church. About the strongest thing I ever heard him say, he was explaining to a friend there in the drugstore about these flappers. He said they would come in there and go by the fountain and tell whoever was working there, “Give me a dope and a pack of nabs” and then they’d go sit in that front window and light a cigarette. He said he felt like kicking their sterns.

Interviewer: Your note says five pogey factories and two shrimp canning factories.

Watson: The way the Southport harbor has changed now, when I was growing up there were five shrimp factories here that shipped raw shrimp out. There were two shrimp canning factories that canned shrimp here and there were five pogey factories here and I’m telling you, it was really something.

Interviewer: When you were downwind from it, it really was something, wasn’t it?

Watson: Yeah, well when they would…they had the shrimp in the center of the table and they had slots left in them and they headed the shrimp, heads went overboard and they threw the shrimp in the bucket and that’s when they’d get paid for heading the shrimp, but in the canning factory you had to peel them too.

Of course they got more money for the peeling too, you know. Anyway that river was working with catfish. I mean, most time, the shrimp heads wouldn’t even hit the water and when they did they had it just up stirred to a foam. It just ran all the length of the picking shed. The shrimp canning factory down there where that motel is, they had gosh two big picking sheds.

Interviewer: It’s just where the tower, that pilot tower is? That’s on-

Watson: It’s right near where the old tower used to be and that’s at the foot of the city, it was the city dump back then.

The catfish would just eat those things almost as fast as they hit the water. Then when they were really going at it strong, when the smallest boat would have a least 30 bushels of shrimp and the larger boats were running anywhere from 160 to 180 bushels to the boat for one day shrimping. They’d go back out there like at 4:00 the next morning and start shrimping all over again.

The shrimp were backed up in the shrimp houses to where, in fact Mr. Rich Dozier who owned that first canning factory there, he would send a truck up towards Bellville up towards that way and bring a load of colored people to head shrimp and to peel shrimp and they would do it and then he would haul it back home.

Interviewer: Like a work bus, they’d pick them all up and bring them in.

Watson: Yeah. They had to, the people they had heading shrimp and all, that acid would cut their skin and their hands were bleeding. We’d come to the drugstore there and buy aloe and soak it in a bucket of water. They’d keep rinsing their hands in that aloe water.

Interviewer: It was mostly women too, wasn’t it?

Watson: Mostly yeah. Mostly colored, most of them, but we had a few white women that done it, Jim Arnold’s shrimp house. Then when the canning company started where the city dock is now, he had a lot of white women working with him. Then a couple of times there, Mr. Dozier in the off season they came and signed a contract to raise string beans. He hired these women to snap the beans the same way. They had a slicer, they’d dump them in and can string beans down there. A couple of times in the off season.

Interviewer: What business were you in?

Watson: Well from the seventh grade on through high school, I packed shrimp for old man Jim Arnold after school for 15 cents an hour. I bought all my books and I bought my clothes, seventh grade through high school, packing shrimp, there, for 15 cents an hour.

Then one year, it wasn’t a year, even, but a couple of months, I did work over at the shrimp canning factory. But the night I graduated, I had been, in the off season, me and my brother George and this Robert Ruark, the writer, we’d all go to Bald Head Island and stay at the Coast Guard station and we’d walk the beach with the men that night on patrol and if we’d find a turtle egg nest, then we’d catch the Coast Guard boat and come back to Southport.

We’d go all over Southport selling turtle eggs for 10 cents a dozen. That’s how we got our spending money (laughter). Some nights we were lucky, we’d get many two nests. They would run anywhere from 35-45 eggs for a green turtle nest. They left a big trail. Not many eggs, but then, the loggerhead turtles, why, you’d get anywhere from 150 to 210 eggs out of one nest. So that’s what we did. Of course now if you caught that, they’d send you to federal prison.

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s right, but I don’t think you were the cause of the turtles… you guys weren’t good enough for that. But tell me, in Robert Ruark’s book, The Old Man and the Boy, did he get it right, was that pretty much the truth.

Watson: Oh yeah, he’s got me and my brothers mentioned in one or two episodes there.

Interviewer: Well that’s good.

Watson: Yeah, I knew Robert. In fact, Robert’s cousin is living in Little River, South Carolina now. By the way, the girl he married is Nancy Hood and that’s her grandparents’ store that burned up down up there. And so right after that fire, I took the Southport paper, I was going to see my daughter down in Georgetown, South Carolina and I carried that Southport paper and gave it to her. She was just like me. She went into shock too over that store burning down.

Interviewer: Well, after you finished high school, what did you do?

Watson: Well, the night I graduated I was going back to Bald Head Island for a few days. The colored cook had gone ashore and got drunk and didn't show up and I asked Captain Barnett for the job. So I started the next morning cooking for 10 men at $30 a month.

Interviewer: This Oak Island?

Watson: Cape Fear. Cape Fear Coast Guard station on Bald Head Island.

Interviewer: Okay.

Watson: I got two days off every two weeks. Wasn’t two days off a week, but I did get two days off every two weeks.

Interviewer: That was 1931, then right?

Watson: Right, that was ’31.

Interviewer: Well Captain Charlie was still out there then.

Watson: Oh Captain Charlie’s whole family, yeah. Merle Hood was courting Margaret and Merle was in the Coast Guard there, Cape Fear Coast Guard Station.

Interviewer: How long did you stay with that?

Watson: About four months. My older brother was jerking sodas then at my granddaddy’s drugstore there. He got a job to go ____ ____ cadet on a merchant ship for the South Atlantic Steamship Company out of Savannah, Georgia. So they wanted me to take his place which I did. That was another $7/week. I was getting $40 a month. So I did that and all. And then I started asking Dr. Mintz about a half a day off so I could go to Wilmington to meet a ship.

I started meeting ships up there and I mean I was really looking for a job so one time they called, one of the pilots called and said they needed a mess boy on that ship and they were going to give it to me. So I went up there that night. The steward and the captain was ashore, and I didn't see anybody until the next morning. When he signed me on, coming down the river you know, I didn’t get to know the crew and all I found out a whole bunch of things.

That captain had a record of firing more men than any captain that sailed out of the Gulf. I stayed with him for four months. Then I’m telling you there was a complete new crew except for the chief engineer and some of the old officers. At the end of every trip when they went into sign their paycheck, they paid them off in cash, but you had to sign for it – “I won’t need you next trip, John”. It was right down the line.

I don’t know. I could see, my job was officers’ mess and they called me at 2:30 every morning and I served hot coffee on the bridge to the captain and the chief mate and that’s how I started my day and I didn't get a break until around 6:30 or 7:00 that night. I was getting $5.00 more than the other two mess boys because none of them wanted that officers’ mess. Cause I had 10 men to serve three meals a day plus put night lunch out in the chief engineer and the captain’s room and I had the captain, the chief mate and his 3rd mate’s room.

I mean to clean it, scrub the floors, make up the bed every morning, change linens once a week and right down the line. I had all that to do between meals. I’m telling you, that’s the truth, and then like you’ve seen those rubber mats with the little ridge up on them you know. Well that captain would deliberately shave with a straight razor and he’d flip that foam, shaving cream with the beard down in that and by the time I finished serving breakfast and got up there, it had dried.

You can take it in the shower and you can wash it and everything else and when it dried out, it would still turn white. That shaving cream, I finally got me an oily rag and I’d wipe it with that. That was the only way you could do it. He seemed like he just wanted to make it tough you know. He was just that way.

So I sort of made it tough for him. We were going up the James River on about the fourth or fifth round trip that I’d made on it and I was quitting when we made the dock, and we were about 90 miles up the James River. He tried to talk me out of it, but I said, “No, I am gone!” Then he had to send a steward to get the bus and drive all the way into Norfolk that night to holler another mess boy to take over my job the next morning (laughter).

But I mean, that’s the way, you just couldn’t satisfy him. He’d sit there, there was- the second mate was, anyway, I reckon, and this captain he’d eat raw garlic like radishes with his meals, you know. He told me one time he stunk so bad, he could smell it when he went in his quarters and I had to go in there every day and make up his bed, dump the trash and all that. And don’t worry, you could smell it. So it was just one of those things. I found out that they had three different men on the job the 30 days before I took it. I stayed there about four months and I figured I had given that the acid test as far as I was concerned. But there’s some people that are just like that.

Interviewer: Did you ship out again?

Watson: Yep, I did, but my uncle gave me a job as a deckhand. My great-uncle was sort of like the general manager of Jacksonville Forwarding Company, a towboat company that docked and undocked ships in Jacksonville, Florida and so he gave me a job as a deckhand. I went down there and that was when I was getting $40 a month on that too with no overtime.

It was just one of those things. While I was on there though, I studied and I went to this retired sea captain studying for a pilot license for the St. Johns River so that if you get your second class pilot license, why they’ll give you a master, like a 150 tons, something like that. So that would have been the same thing if I could go maybe night captain to start with on those tugs you know, docking and undocking ships.

Then I get my first class license and I could dock any ship that came in there. So I studied and I studied. I went to the steamboat inspectors and they said I had to go to the doctor first. So they sent me to the doctor and that’s as far as I got. He examined my eyes and said that was it. I was 2100/2200 and I didn't even know it. I was nearsighted, but I did run the tug ashore one night going down the river there in Jacksonville. Because-

Interviewer: You didn't wear glasses in those days.

Watson: No, I did the next day (laughter). But no, I didn't. Like I say I could read and with my eyes like this, I can still read, but I noticed a big difference. Back in them, I could read a newspaper or anything else, no trouble at all, but I had noticed some things at a distance, I was having trouble with.

Anyway I asked the steamboat inspector if I got glasses and he said no. He said the law said that even with glasses, one eye has got to be not more than 20/70 and mine was 2100 and 2200. There was a dredge Currytuck out of the Wilmington office that was tied up in Jacksonville on his way to a job on the Mississippi River. I knew some of the boys from Shallotte. Woodrow Ress was the steward and Daley, his brother was the sheriff.

So anyway I went there and they asked if I had ever done any firing. I said, sure they had had a shrimp factory in Southport that burned pine slabs. I threw a few slabs in thereANyway, except the generators, there wasn’t anything other than the coal burning dredge. Anyway they signed me on as a fireman, $75/month.

Interviewer: Boy, that’s better than $40.

Watson: So I quit the tugboat that same night, called my uncle the next morning and told him I was gone. He said that he had wished I would have talked it over with him. I told him I didn't have time to talk it over with anybody. That thing just struck me and I had to go. So anyway we had a quite a trip to New Orleans. We almost lost it in a storm out in the Gulf. But we did get through alright.

Then when we got up there, of course I wasn’t civil service or anything like that. That required six months of paid firing and I didn't have no six months paid firing. So they said, “We’ll pay my way back to Jacksonville, Florida or we’ll give you a mess boy job.” So that’s when I took the mess boy job (laughter).

Then after a while, the malaria set in on us. Boy you talk about the swamps, that ____ river, the mosquitoes come out in groves. So anyway they did, that one dredge Currytuck was sending more men to the hospital out of the whole 2nd New Orleans district. So I went and cooked because the night cook had gone to the hospital with malaria. I don’t remember exactly, I might have lasted about a week.

Then I came down with the flu and I went to the hospital. I stayed there maybe a couple to three days and he sent me back because he got the fever down and everything was alright. On the way back to the ____, I wanted to come out of the swamp. I didn’t want this no more. I went back and I worked and gave two weeks notice, something like that, and then I quit. I had to pay my own way back home, but I rode that bus all the way from Louisiana to Southport, North Carolina. That’s the way it goes.

Other than that, growing up in Southport like when they finally got the money, they were going to pave the roads. So all the asphalt crew came in here and that’s when Merrill Hood and Jim Hood and Cliff Johnson, several of them stayed on after that, but anyway they came. The contract was from Midway to the Southport city limits that was 8 feet wide. From the city limits down to the stop light and two blocks to the left of the courthouse was 12 feet wide and that was the big paving job.

Then you still had that yard of clay from Supply from Midway to Supply. That’s just the way it goes, just like that. Just a little bit at a time.

Interviewer: How did they do that? One car would have to pull its wheels off to the side, something like that.

Watson: Oh, yeah, each car put two wheels on the shoulder to pass.

Second Interviewer: Tell him what you remember about the city gate, Harold.

Interviewer: City gate, yes.

Watson: Well they had the town gate there and it was my understanding at that time cattle were allowed to roam free throughout the whole county, the whole state I reckon and I think that was to control the cattle from coming downtown during the night, and all like that. So I think they would close the gate at night.

Interviewer: They let the pigs run loose too.

Watson: Yeah, well I reckon so. Even after I left here, down in Florida, they had open range down there. Boy I’ll tell you I got a job driving a lance (?) truck down there and I came across a hill there in Hernando, Florida and let me tell you something, the cattle were from the woods to the woods. I got through there and only hit one.

Second Interviewer: Tell them about keeping the gypsies out of town.

Interviewer: Where was the gate?

Watson: You know where the Town Gate Cleaners is now or was until they moved? That’s where it was. A wagon full of gypsies would come in here and they would jump out and they would go down and cover the stores on both sides of the streets. They were stealing anything they could get their hands on. They finally got the chief of police there to round them up, get them all loaded back in the wagon and he’d escort them to the town gate and tell them to keep going (laughter). That’s the way it was.

Interviewer: I wonder what happened to all those gypsies. You don’t see them anymore.

Watson: No, you don’t. Very seldom do you ever even hear any tales about them. I don’t know. They must have lived a rough life because every place they went it was the same way. They’d set up place, you know, telling fortunes and stuff like that, but stealing everything they could get their hands on.

Interviewer: It sounds like when you finished high school in the 30’s, you did a little bit of everything, didn't you?

Watson: Yep, I sure did. I started at the Coast Guard station, then I jerked sodas, and then I caught my first ship.

Interviewer: Were you in World War II? What did you do in World War II?

Watson: I was a dredge construct that used to dredge along this coast and then converted to a supply ship and they had it in the ship’s yard up in Pennsylvania. I had been transferred to a dredge in New York. But anyway I went to Wilmington and applied for my job back.

Interviewer: Was this with the Corps of Engineers?

Watson: Yeah, I pulled seven years with them, but you see we sailed in March of ’41 and we didn't have Pearl Harbor until the following December and they were building the bases already all down there. They knew we were as good as already in the war then. They weren’t telling everybody that, but good golly, I reckon they were building air strips and Army bases and all that, that whole string of islands down there and all the way across, same way.

Second Interviewer: Were you here during Hurricane Hazel?

Watson: I was on a southern craft tug coming from Elizabethtown, from Fayetteville, North Carolina to Georgetown, South Carolina and I was about 10 miles up the river above the Wilmington bridge when it hit and we nosed her into the forest there and run lines around every pine tree that we could think of. We rode it out. When it died down, we took our lines in and backed back out into the river and came on down.

That’s when, boy, when we got to the Oak Island Bridge, well before that we could see freezers, refrigerators and ranges and all like that all in the marsh, but below the sand hills, there were whole houses in the middle of the inland waterway. The tug, we had to go around, when we got further down Holden Beach and all down there, there were houses in the middle of the waterway.

As far as you could see there were washers and dryers and refrigerators and freezers and ranges and you name it, it was out there. I mean it was really a mess.

Interviewer: Boats all over the place, right?

Watson: Yeah because Long Beach had 258 houses over there at the time and out of the 258, there were only 8 declared no damage. The rest of them were from minor to total. Some of them even lost their lots, the whole thing. It washed their lots away too.

Interviewer: One Hazel is enough in a lifetime. You don’t want another one of those.

Watson: You’re right.

Interviewer: Where do you live now? You live over on Long Beach?

Watson: Yeah, on Oak Island Drive. My wife wanted me to buy on the ocean and I told her there ain’t no way, I’d seen that ocean cut up before. Ain’t gonna get me to buy on no ocean.

Second Interviewer: The house that you lived in where Kerr Agency is, where did that go? Did they take it down or did they move it?

Watson: Which one was that?

Second Interviewer: The house you were born in.

Watson: Oh, it’s over on Willis Drive.

Second Interviewer: They moved it to Willis Drive?

Watson: Yes, and my grandfather’s house, it was right on the corner, that’s there too. David moved both of them up there right side by side. Yeah, they bought both lots and they didn't want the houses and they gave David two years to move the houses. So he got hold of a contractor and he bought them two lots on Willis Drive and got them moved in. It looks all right.

Interviewer: Well you should have come back and moved into that house. Like going around in a circle, wasn’t it.

Watson: No, we decided to give it to my brother. We had the appraisers up there when my mother died and they appraised each one of those houses for $7500. I jumped up and said I haven’t got the money, but I’d go steal it because nobody was going to get those houses for $7500. So David said if it was alright with the rest of his family, he’d pay that much. So we decided to keep it in the family and let him do it.

INTERVIEWERS: That’s great.

Watson: Oh yeah, he did, he spent a lot of money on both of them as far as that goes. He rented one for a little while and all like that and then got a chance to move it. See our old home was two stories and they had to cut the top story off to move that. Every electric wire from there to where he stopped had to be removed to get that house moved. That’s only a single story house, too, now. But my grandfather’s was only a single story house to start with. But the man that moved them must have known what he was doing. He did a good job.

Interviewer: There was a lot of that in Southport. They moved houses all over the place. Tell us something about your family. Tell us about your wife and kids and all sort of thing.

Watson: Well, I’ve got a, my older sister died, Marion died just last year. She had Alzheimer’s disease, but before that why she was a school teacher. She taught in the Brunswick County schools for a while and she taught upstate there and she went to the Wilmington College, University of North Carolina and got to be an assistant professor there.

And then, my mother was a … well… I had been in St. Petersburg, Florida and got my brother George, I caught him at a time when he was looking for a job so he came down and went in business with me with a garage. Then we sort of talked my uncle into letting us have this three story rental unit. We were staying in that too. So, we took over the rental of that and operating the garage too. I remember he had two houses, one next to the corner so we took that over too. So he just rented the whole works to us and let us worry about collecting the rent. So we did that.

I had this young brother David. He retired from the FBI and he lives there on Willis Avenue in my granddaddy’s house about six months out of the year and the other six months in a condominium down in Clearwater, Florida. Goes down there and mingles with the rich people.

My sister Elizabeth, she just built a home here a couple of years ago on Nash Street up on the other side of Fiddler Streak. She and her husband, he had retired from the National Paper Company. They finally decided to move here and they no sooner got their house completed good and John had a heart attack and died so Elizabeth has been there by herself ever since then.

My older brother George was a retired Marine engineer like myself. But then he worked with Florida Power. After he left that station in St. Petersburg, my uncle wanted to sell that property so he wanted us to get out. So we did and George got a job with Florida Power and he retired from there. He was the chief electrician at the St. Petersburg plant, I believe it was when he retired. So anyway we’ve all been from one thing to the other.

Interviewer: Sounds like you’re all doing pretty good. Most of you are still alive.

Watson: Yeah, after I left that dredge, I found out I couldn’t get no captain’s license, then I started fighting for the engineers license. I went back to…I rode the bus all the way from Wilmington back to Jacksonville, Florida and let that same doctor turn me down again on my eyes when I went up for my engineers license.

Interviewer: You had to have the eyes to be an engineer too?

Watson: Oh yeah, you sure do. When he turned me down, then I went over his head to the supervisor of inspectors in New Orleans. They flew an inspector to Jacksonville, Florida and had a hearing on my case. I think what saved me, I was already sailing as an engineer on the supply ship Comstock which wasn’t a dredge. They figured well the Corps of Engineers already had me on the payroll as an engineer, I must be alright.

Then they did give me the okay to go ahead and take the examination. I still had to take the examination to get the license. But I didn't have any trouble with that. I got the license. Every chance I got, I raised them so now I’ve got both steam and diesel, of course I’m sort of on incentive status, but I’ve got engineers of, unlimited horsepower and chief engineer to 2000 horsepower.

Interviewer: Tell us about your wife.

Watson: Well I married a girl in Georgetown, South Carolina. Her father was the keeper of North Island lighthouse. In fact she moved with me down to Florida and all like that and then came back. She stayed right with me. We had one little girl, Ann, and she’s living in Boulder’s Island now with her husband and she’s got a 20 year old son and an 18 year old daughter. The son is in the house washing business. Elisa is a freshman at Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina.

Interviewer: So you’re not a great-grandfather yet?

Watson: No.

Interviewer: It won’t be too long if they’re 20 years old.

Watson: They better be fast (laughter). Then I got lonesome so I married another girl from Greenville, South Carolina. We’re still married.

Second Interviewer: You lost your first wife.

Watson: Yes, well when Ann was born, her blood pressure went way up. We had to perform a section on her, of course that saved her, but then years later, we’d been married for 28 years, a good long time, she had cancer of the uterus and she died.

Second Interviewer: Well it’s nice you were able to marry a second time.

Watson: Yes, I married a second time. This one thinks she’s Jesus Christ himself in person (laughter). She’s very active in the church. She’s very opinionated with all this government work that’s going on too.

Interviewer: Let’s see, your note here says photo Wells and Hardy.

Watson: That’s all the names of the people that had shrimp packing houses.

Interviewer: I guess we’ve got everything on the list here.

Second Interviewer: Well that’s great Harold, you’ve been an hour.

Watson: Well that’s good, I didn't know I was going to last that long. Well I’ve enjoyed it.

Interviewer: Good, so have we. Thank you.

Watson: Maybe we’ll get some laughs out of some of our customers anyway.

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