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Interview with Frank Gault, November 15, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Frank Gault, November 15, 2002
November 15, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Gault, Frank Interviewer:  Jones, Patricia / Warren, Harry Date of Interview:  11/15/2002 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length


Warren: I do believe we are recording, at least the screen tells me that we are. It’s November 15 about 9:15 on a chilly southeastern North Carolina morning. I’m Harry Warren, your camera person for this interview with Mr. Frank Gault and Patricia Jones who is the person conducting the interview with Mr. Frank Gault. Frank, how are you doing this morning?

Gault: Just right, just right.

Jones: Frank could you tell us… give us your name and if you would mind, if you wouldn’t mind giving your name and spelling your last name. This tape will be transcribed and I want to make sure I get the spelling right and everything.

Gault: Well my full name is Frances Alexander Gault. Oddly enough in this day and time, I can’t even use my initials anymore (laughter), but I go by Frank, instead of Frances. My daddy was always known as Frances Gault. G-a-u-l-t is the spelling of my last name.

Jones: And when were you born Frank?

Gault: April 24, 1923.

Jones: Where did you hail from?

Gault: Well I was born in Wilmington cause mother and daddy lived in Wilmington at the time, but they were building that house, they had a boys home, they were building that house, started in 1923. I think they finished in 1924, so I’m from Lake Waccamaw really, although for some reason or another mother was in the hospital when I was born and that was in Wilmington.

Jones: I think Charles Kerault always claimed the same thing. They were visiting Wrightsville Beach when he was born down there. You lived in this area your entire life, well not your entire life because you’re still with us and life’s not over with yet. Patricia, I’ll turn the interview over to you.

Warren: Okay wonderful, so we realize that you’re not in the forest business or haven’t been, but your father was. So you grew up as a child of someone who was. We would like to hear more about that, more about your father and what you remember as far as lifestyle goes and certain particularities about being in the lumber industry so we’ll just start there. Tell me about your father, your earliest recollection of him getting into the industry and how it came to be that he wound up in Hallsboro.

Gault: Alright, well daddy was born in St. Peter, Minnesota.

Warren: Oh I’m sorry, his name, tell me his name again please. It was Frances also?

Gault: Frances Beers Gault.

Warren: He was born where?

Gault: He was born in St. Peter, Minnesota in 1875. He came down, his uncle, Charles Oscar Beers, Uncle Charlie Beers, Uncle Charlie he called him, lived in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina and was in the lumber business with Colonel H. B. Short. It was the Short and Beers Lumber Company. Daddy came down from St. Peter just to visit his uncle. He had finished college. He was a civil engineer so he came down to visit Uncle Charlie and sort of liked what he saw. Uncle Charlie lived at Lake Waccamaw, but the mill was in Hallsboro and it was called the Short Beers Lumber Company.

Well he went to work for him and since he was a civil engineer, he fell into the surveying. He did all the surveying for him all down in the Green Swamp and wherever the shingles or the cypress were. So that’s what got him started in it. Uncle Charlie died in 1911 and daddy wound up, I don’t know whether he bought the mill or inherited the mill or what, but anyway he wound up with Uncle Charlie’s interest in the Short Beers Lumber Company.

Shortly thereafter, I don’t know how long after, but two or three years later, daddy became owner of all of it and he incorporated and changed it to the North Carolina Lumber Company. He was the president of it. He never went back to Minnesota. Well he went back to visit, but thank the Lord he didn't go back there. I’d hate to be up there in that snow country. It’s chilly enough this morning. So where do we go from here? So that got him down here.

Jones: The North Carolina Lumber Company, were there other lumber companies in Hallsboro at the time?

Gault: Yes, there were two others, the Pierce and Company and Thompson, I guess they called it Thompson Lumber Company, Avery Thompson. It was Thompson Lumber Company and Pierce and Company. They were all right there close to one another. I never thought I’d see a time when there wasn’t a lumber mill in Hallsboro. That has happened of course, absolutely gone.

Warren: On that note, what was it that closed the North Carolina Lumber Company? How did that come to fade out of Hallsboro?

Gault: The end of it you mean? Well daddy sold it. It was either just before World War II or right at the first part of World War II because I was gone. He sold it to, I can’t remember the man’s name, he’s from Georgia, Georgia or Florida, I’m not sure. I’ll think of the name after awhile. Then they in turn, there may have been some other owners, but they in turn sold it to Georgia Pacific. Then Georgia Pacific had to make up their mind, they had a mill or plant, whatever you call it operation, down in Georgetown, South Carolina. So they had to make up their mind, did they want to close Georgetown and put everything in Hallsboro or vice versa, close Hallsboro and keep everything in Georgetown.

Well while they were making up their mind, a good part of the Georgetown plant burned. That was good news for Georgetown and bad news for Hallsboro because they rebuilt down there and did what they wanted to do and closed Hallsboro operation. I don’t know who owns it now. Some of the buildings are still there, the shingle building and the lumber building, dry kiln and all that is still there.

Warren: Still in Hallsboro?

Gault: As far as I know. I haven’t walked down there where his office was in years.

Warren: What road is that on there in Hallsboro?

Gault: Do you remember where the depot was? Atlantic Coastline depot, well daddy used to park there. The railroad was right there and he’d walk across the railroad. The post office was right there. In about 200 yards was his office. The shingle building was right there and down a quarter of a mile south was the lumber mill. So the whole operation was there. They had their own railroad.

That’s the one thing I remember as a boy here. You asked me what some of my childhood memories were, they had a train, a little miniature train, that ran from Hallsboro down through Honey Hill down to the Waccamaw River and crossed the river just below the dam. You can still see some of the pilings there where they built the bridge. I’d ride that train down and get in everybody’s way I’m sure.

Jones: When you say a miniature train Frank, what do you mean by miniature train? What do you mean by miniature train? Just a little snub nosed train, a logging train?

Gault: Oh miniature, I didn’t understand you. No, it looked exactly like the big, not the diesels now, I’m talking about the old coal burners. It had the smoke coming out. When Lake Waccamaw had the depot museum and were going to get a train, I thought they were going to get that engine. It was less than half size, about a third size of the great old big ones that used to come through here, but they got the caboose which is fine.

Jones: They got the caboose of the regular size train?

Gault: Yeah.

Jones: Did this small train, was it a passenger train?

Gault: No, strictly for logging.

Jones: You just happened to hitch a ride with it.

Gault: Yeah, they’d take the empties down there and cross the river. Of course the swamp work force was down there logging and they’d load them up and we’d bring them back. The train would bring them back.

Jones: What was the swamp log force like? Do you remember, what kind of guys were working down there? Big tough burly men?

Gault: No, of course, this was before the chainsaw. This was all crosscut saw and I’ve talked to several of the old-timers there. It would take them one and two days to cut one tree. They were that big.

Jones: Cypress.

Gault: All cypress. They were that big, crosscut saws. Nowadays, five minutes and it’s down. No, well they did the logging with mules. They had mules down there and they’d walk down in the swamp and chain them and pull them out and get them to what they called the skidder. The skidder could put the cable out. The mules would bring them up to where the cable could reach them and then the cable would bring them on in and load them.

It was quite an operation. I don’t know whether you could even hire anybody to do that nowadays. That’s the way they did it then and that was all they knew.

Warren: Did those men get paid pretty good do you think?

Gault: I have no idea what the pay scale was. Of course none of the pay was as we know it today. It was next to nothing probably. That’s what it was. As I remember, I don’t remember any big turnover of employees at North Carolina Lumber Company.

Warren: Once they came, they kind of stuck.

Gault: They did, they were there for years and years and years. Of course they’re all dead now. I can talk to people now who are my age who remember their daddies and their uncles and their older brothers, worked with the company, worked with the company. They seemed happy there.

Warren: I wonder if that was because of the camaraderie with the men because they stayed together for such a long time.

Gault: I don’t know. I know every now and then daddy would have to go to Whiteville Monday mornings and get a couple of his men out…they had a little celebration Saturday night and he’d go get them.

Warren: I can’t imagine what was going on in Whiteville at that time. You can’t find any trouble now. They must have made their own trouble.

Gault: I guess so.

Jones: What kind of trouble would they find in Whiteville, that’s a good question. She’s right, now we have a very family oriented community. Was Whiteville kind of like the big little town in the area that guys could go to let loose a little bit and find the distractions that hard working men were looking for?

Gault: I guess. All I know is they would be pretty well juiced up on white lightning.

Warren: Whatever was going on in Whiteville… it was probably more than was going on in Wilmington.

Gault: They would wind up in jail in Whiteville. I don’t mean they came to Whiteville for recreation. They were probably raising a ruckus down in Hallsboro and the sheriff got them and take them there, that was the only jail down there.

Warren: Do you think most of the men that worked there were local or do you think people came to this area just for those jobs?

Gault: Local, local, I don’t know of anybody. Maybe Mr. Rowe was the foreman, he was the head man at the lumber mill. I don’t know who the head man at the shingle mill was, but he was not from around here. They brought him in. May have been that he was here before daddy took over, I don’t know. I know his name was Rowe.

Warren: So that introduced a good employer for local people. There probably wasn’t much else going on when that started picking up.

Gault: Well three mills. I don’t know anything about the mill in Bolton, you know where Bolton is? Do you know at one time there were 1700 employees in Bolton? I guess it was called the Waccamaw Lumber Company. I’m not sure of the name of it, but it was a lumber company and there were 1700 people working there. Waccamaw Bank had a bank in Bolton. I have a check now from the Waccamaw Bank in Bolton, North Carolina. Sure do. So they were all local folks.

Warren: Now Hallsboro is just a four way stop almost.

Gault: I made the statement that they took the boys to jail. Ray Wyche would disagree with that. He says he remembers they had a little jail in Hallsboro. I don’t have any recollection of that at all. Of course he lived in Hallsboro and I lived at the lake. I can’t place it. He tried to tell me where it was and I’m sure there must have been one there. Daddy had to go to Whiteville to pay off the fine or whatever it was.

Warren: Well goodness. So your father you said did surveying and then he kind of took over the mill. Was he out in the field a lot or did he stay close to the mill?

Gault: I think the surveying was strictly in his younger days. The only time I ever saw him out of the office, he’d walk over to the shingle mill, a hundred yards, and do whatever and then to the dry kiln and then a quarter of a mile down to the lumber mill. Every now and then he would go down and I guess just look around.

The one thing, he had some quirks about him. One of them had to do with lumber. The other one didn't. You know the growth rings when you have a board cut and you can look at the end of it and you can see the rings. They would always stack them outside before they’d put them in the kiln and stack them up. The stacks would be 10 or 12 feet high and they’d put strips between them, you know, so there would be space. Don’t ever put a board down on daddy’s where the rings were turned up. He was a stickler about that thing now.

The center of the board, this is plywood, you can’t see them, but in the center it didn't matter whether it was up or down, but once you got to this part or that part, they had to be down. I’ve seen him take that stack down. But he was firmly convinced that if they were up, they would warp and retain water and it was bad.

Warren: So it wasn’t just a stickler, there was a specific reason.

Gault: Right, there was a reason for it, but he was a stickler about it. To this day when I walk on somebody’s pier, I’ll look over the side to see how many, they don’t care anymore. Half of them are going to be this way and half that way. Sure enough, a lot of that is the way they were cuffed, they surely are. So there was something to it. You check the piers when you go out. That’s a good place because they’re stuck.

Warren: So what was it when the wood went into the kiln, what did the kiln do to the wood?

Gault: Dried it out. They had a certain percentage, I don’t know anything about that, but your moisture had to be 2%, 8%, 10%, whatever it was and they would get it down to that. Then they’d take it out.

Warren: Do you remember how the kiln was fueled?

Gault: It had to be wood, boiler. Of course they had electricity then.

Warren: But it wouldn’t have been coal, do you think?

Gault: Well now maybe coal, I don’t know whether they were burning wood or coal, no it was wood because they’d take some of these outside strips from the lumber mill and bring it up and fuel the boiler with that.

Warren: So the wood that they would fuel the boiler with probably was also wood they were bringing in so they’d have to bring in wood for the fuel and wood…

Gault: Well the fuel was scraps. I don’t know that they had to bring in anything, they had plenty of that. No doubt there was some coal there, I don’t remember that.

Warren: So after the kiln process, is that when it got on the little mini-train and headed down towards Georgetown?

Gault: No, no, the little train would go down and get the logs and bring them to the lumber mill to cut them into lumber and then I guess they’d take them to the shingle mill and that’s where they make the shingles. Or if they were going to sell the lumber, they’d put it in the kiln and get the moisture content correct and then ship it out to New York or whoever was buying it. That would be on the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. That little mini-train was strictly to go get the lumber and bring it back in.

Warren: What a big operation. I know your father wasn’t out there, but do you remember any of his men, a very bad accident or injury, was that something that was always a concern? Do you remember any fatality or anything?

Gault: No fatality. I know one fellow got a finger cut off and they took him to the hospital. That’s all that I remember really. I’m sure there were some scrapes.

Warren: That’s amazing.

Gault: A lot of machinery down there.

Warren: Or even the trees coming down.

Gault: I can remember going down to the lumber mill, I don’t even know what you call that thing, the carriage. You’ve been there, where they have the logs on them and the saw would be here and they had two men running that thing. They had these things to turn the log a little to get the other side, I could see them going by. Those weren’t slow either. They were slow going through the saw, but coming back, they’d come back then go again.

Warren: So you would think there would be more injuries.

Gault: But I don’t ever remember anybody being killed. I’m not sure that that’s true, but as far as I know there was never a death.

Warren: Would you say that because of the lumber mill, that that provided your family a good lifestyle?

Gault: Yes, as far as I know before the Depression. That’s when they built that big house. They built that and I can remember even now, I didn't remember then because they built it the year I was born, but I’d go down there later when I was 8, 10, 12 years old and old-timers would say, the captain started his pile three years before that house was built, that was the captain’s pile. He’d go down and get a certain tree that he liked.

Jones: The captain being your father?

Gault: Yeah, they called him captain.

Jones: My daddy used to call men captain. That was a real common expression.

Gault: Yeah, that was the captain’s pile, you better be doggone sure they were… My house that I live in now, I built that place in 1946 and ’47. I call it the big house. It had a warehouse behind it and that’s where daddy kept a lot of his extra lumber. My house, all the ceiling, the tongue and groove ceiling and the flooring, that came from the leftover from building the big house in 1923.

Warren: I bet it’s beautiful wood.

Gault: It is, there are five different kinds of wood in the floor. Some short pieces, some 20 feet long, all of them tongue and groove.

Jones: The big house is your boyhood home?

Gault: Right, that’s where I grew up.

Jones: And that’s part of the boy’s home now.

Gault: It was sold in…let’s see, daddy died in ’46 and we sold it in ’54. Two boy’s home and that was the only building, the boys home. Well you know what it is now, various civic clubs, Lion’s Club, Civitans, Rotary and all. So that was the beginning of the Boys’ Home.

Warren: I never realized that. I see all those buildings there and I never knew really how it came to be.

Gault: Well the building is right across from the fire station. You know where I’m talking about now. That was our four car garage.

Warren: Oh really.

Gault: That set behind the big house. Believe it or not, you could put four cars in those days in there. It’s too nice to tear down so they moved it up there and it’s an apartment now. That’s where some of the staff members live. Since he was in the singling… Shingling was a big part of that operation, of the North Carolina Lumber Company. Next time you go down there look at the side of that house.

Even that building I just told you about or the big house, it’s double shingled. If the siding called for one shingle, there were two shingles. So it’s two shingles thick, the whole thing. On the roof too, of course they had to change the roof and go to composition roof now for fire.

Jones: The big house was built in 1923.


Jones: So they collected wood for it for several years.

Gault: Three years they tell me. That captain, they say, he picked it out. They’ll tell me when he did get it in and got the flooring in, he bought 15 or 20 pairs of heavy socks and you did not wear your shoes in the house (laughter). Shoes stayed out and they’d wear the socks out and get more.

Warren: Well I can appreciate that. I just built a house with hardwood floors and shoes come off, no matter who comes in, take your shoes off.

Gault: That wasn’t so much of a quirk, was it?

Warren: Not at all, because of our sandy soil, the sand will really tear up a hardwood floor, believe it or not, that’s what I’ve been told. And we just track that in, we don’t even realize.

Gault: Oh yeah, and those little sharp heels. They’ll do it. I know when I was at Davidson and I’d come home for the weekends sometimes, mother and daddy said why don’t you ever bring any of your friends home with you, why don’t you bring some friends home. Well I was a freshman and I had pledged to the Kappa Sig fraternity. Well a lot of the Kappa Sigs played football and this particular year, why they went to Wilmington I don’t know, but this was back in the Southern Conference before the Atlantic Coast Conference and Davidson was in there with Carolina, Duke, State, Davidson, and Wake Forest.

State and Davidson had a game and they moved it to Wilmington. I don’t know why. Well a lot of my fraternity brothers played football and I’d say come on down to the house, we have plenty of room. I took 17 of them down there and we knocked on the door and daddy opened that door, there were 17 young bucks there. He started counting and he called mother. Daddy headed for the store. He bought all the bread they had (laughter), he bought everything. They stayed there, they surely did. They stayed there Friday and Saturday night.

Warren: Like a boarding house.

Gault: Well they were sleeping on cots, they were sleeping everywhere.

Warren: They didn't care.

Jones: And they all took off their shoes.

Gault: Well not then, this was back when they were building the house. No, we never took shoes off. When the workmen were there, they didn't want any of these big old hob nail shoes walking across the floor so he’d get them socks.

Jones: I see, so when you’d visit the house, you didn't have to take your shoes off.

Gault: No, no we didn’t. I’m glad I got that cleared. We didn't have carpet either. Always had straw floors and straw rugs in the summer time and wool rugs in the winter, roll them up. But I can remember, daddy would come down one morning, daddy always had a blue surge suit and white linen suits for the summer. One day in May, around May 10th, he’d come downstairs in his white linen suit and that was the day we could take our shoes off and go barefooted. That was the proclamation that summer was here (laughter).

Then about in October, November, he’d come down one day in his blue surge suit and you didn't put shoes off then. That was just a signal. Mother would say it’s time to take up the straw and bring down the wool. That was just one of his things.

Jones: What was your mother’s name?

Gault: Susabelle Lamott. She was from South Carolina.

Jones: Oh, Minnesota boy came down here.

Gault: She lived in Wilmington. She was working, I guess she was a secretary or whatever in Wilmington and daddy had a place down there. They were married there. Well they were married in Saluda, but they lived in Wilmington until they built the place at the lake.

Jones: When did they get married?

Gault: Well Charlie was born, my brother was born in 1911, so prior to that hopefully. I should know that, but I really don’t.

Jones: It was before he became owner of North Carolina Lumber Company or just prior to that?

Gault: Yeah because Uncle Charlie was still living then. That’s why, my brother Charlie was named for Uncle Charlie. His name is Charles Beers Gault. They gave him Uncle Charlie’s first name and daddy’s middle name. Gave me his first name, Frances Alexander. I don’t know where the Alexander came from.

Warren: Was that your father’s only brother?

Gault: No, he had six brothers and a sister.

Warren: Oh my gosh, none of them got into lumber?

Gault: No, they were bankers I believe. I don’t know. His daddy was a banker.

Jones: You said you have a brother, do you have other siblings?

Gault: Two sisters. My brother died Christmas day in 1998, about four years ago. He died, he was 80 some years old. My two sisters live in Wilmington.

Jones: Did any of them get connected, any work or do anything around the lumber company?

Gault: Yeah, both of them. As their time came up, both of them were secretaries. They worked there three or four years and then go off and the younger one would come on.

Jones: What is their names?

Gault: Mary and Miriam. They call her Mike, I don’t know why. She’s the older of the two. Both of them are older than I am.

Jones: They were probably the only women working there I would guess. How large… how many people worked there?

Gault: Yeah, when they didn't, daddy hired secretaries to come in. He had a bookkeeper there, Mr. Wessel, he was the head bookkeeper. He worked there for years, lived right there near the office. They were the only employees in the office, daddy and Mr. Wessel and one or two secretaries. That was it.

Warren: I wonder how many men he had in the field.

Gault: I couldn’t tell you. They had salesmen. I can remember one, Mr. Houck from Baltimore. H-o-u-c-k I believe. I don’t know his first name, but he would come down two or three times a year. He was a salesman in the Baltimore area.

Jones: How did that work? He was up in Baltimore, he lived up there, would sell wood.

Gault: He’d get orders for lumber or maybe knew somebody that was building and he’d send an order down to Hallsboro and they’d fill it and ship it back up. They had two or three salesmen.

Jones: Were they also in larger cities drumming up business?

Gault: I really don’t know. Mr. Houck would come to the house and stay. The rest of them didn't. I guess they’d just stay in Wilmington. I don’t know why to tell you the truth. Houck turned out to be a personal friend, a nice fellow.

Warren: So what did your father do once he sold the lumber mill?

Gault: Died. He worked until he was 72. This was office work now. He worked until he was 70, I’m sorry, retired in April as far as I knew in good health and he died in October. He didn't hunt, he didn't fish, he didn't golf. He worked all of his life, you know office work, but that was it. I guess he was what you call a couch potato. He was just retired.

His only exercise, he’d walk down across the river to the post office and get the mail and would come back, twice a day the train would come through so he’d go down twice a day. That was it. I felt sorry for him. Now I do, I didn't think anything about it then. Daddy was 48 when I was born so he was an old man all my life. Here I am, nine years older than he was when he died. So he was an old man all my life, he was a white head at 28. We got along fine, but he couldn't play baseball with me or things like that, or go fishing.

He really didn't have any hobbies. He hunted some when he was younger. He told me he hunted for 20 years and never fired his gun. I don’t know why but they put it on a stand. Daddy was nervous or whatever and he would pace and smoke. I betcha 10,000 deer looked at him (laughter). He’d pace back and forth and never fired his gun.

Warren: They knew about him 10 miles down the road.

Gault: That’s right so I know why he didn't kill a deer.

Warren: Sounds like his work was his life.

Gault: It really was. His office was in Hallsboro. My sister and I never rode a bus to school because we lived at the lake and he went to the office at 8:00 so we would ride with him. He’d take us to school. Mother would come get us in the afternoon. I don’t know why that arrangement was made. The buses came right by the house, but we never did.

Jones: Did you always have an automobile?

Gault: Yeah, always as far as I can remember.

Jones: You said you had a four car garage.

Gault: Four car garage. You look at that building you’ll think that’s not true. It would make a fine two car garage now, but the cars were not very big. They weren’t like Volkswagons. You could get four cars in. They had a ramp there.

Warren: Are you talking about the white house?

Gault: Yeah, white shingles. The big house, I can’t still get used to it being gray. It’s fine, but I always remember it being white.

Warren: I know the house you’re talking about. There was a family that lived there not too long ago, they had a small boy and they’ve moved. They used to go to the Presbyterian Church, I can’t think of their names now, but I guess families live there now. Does that seem strange for you to go by there with other people living there?

Gault: Not anymore. I often wonder how I would feel if the main house ever burned.

Warren: That would be bad.

Gault: Yeah, sure would.

Jones: The big house you’re talking about.

Gault: Yeah, that would be a fire you could see from Whiteville I believe because that is a big place and it’s made out of some big timber.

Warren: How come that house didn't stay in your family? Did your father sell it?

Gault: No, he died there in ’46. My brother was in the Army. One sister was married and I forget where she lived at the time. Mary was teaching school in Washington, just outside Washington. It just mother and me rambling around in that house. Well mother was getting a little age on her and she had a sister that lived in Fayetteville and we found a house a half block from her sister and we bought that for mother and just closed the big house up.

It had nothing to do with lumber, but they closed the big house up and left all the furniture there. Put sheets over everything. Covered it all up and I was in college. Came home and I would stay there. The first time I came back, it was a rainy, perfect night. November night and I went into the house, sheets over everything. Electricity had been cut off. You know, it was sort of eerie. I was the first one back.

I got on upstairs. The only bed in the house that was made was daddy’s bed right over the front door. So I crawled up in daddy’s bed and I remembered his bed was facing, the house faced east and the sun would come up. Well mother would get up and go downstairs to make the coffee, she’d go in and pull the shade down because the sun would be right across there. I don’t know why he never pulled it down the night before, but he didn’t.

When I laid down that night, I remembered, so I reached over and I pulled that shade down and laid back down and that shade went back up. I was downstairs in a minute. That thing, I’ll never forget it.

Warren: It’s almost like it wasn’t meant to be pulled down the night before.

Gault: I don’t know. Maybe that’s why daddy didn't do it. I’ll never forget that.

Warren: And then you were there by yourself, kind of scary. So eventually did your mother and you sell the house?

Gault: Yeah.

Warren: Okay, to the Boys’ and Girls’ Home.

Gault: Yes and 10 or 12 acres went with it. Since then they’ve gotten the Sutton Farm. That’s over there where the Exhibition Center is. All the horses. So really they have a nice layout there now. I guess they have 40 or 50 acres there.

Warren: It looks like it, at the Sutton Farm, that was a large pecan orchard also.

Gault: Well daddy had a pecan orchard and so did the Sutton’s.

Warren: You can kind of see through at the lake that those trees ran throughout so somebody must have planted them.

Gault: You’re talking about the big trains, the big old coal burning trains. They’d come in and it didn't bother you when it came in from Whiteville. That train would come in about 10:00 in the morning, come back about 5:20 going from Wilmington. But coming in, it didn't bother me because the pecan orchards were here on each side of the track. The train would come in and stop in the afternoon.

It was the time of year when the caterpillars were out. I mean there were caterpillars everywhere. They’d be going across and the train could not…the wheels would spin on these caterpillars. They had boxes built you know where the cow catcher is. The cow catcher on the front of the train is that thing that’s just above. It was to push…if they’d slow down, they’d push a cow out of the way and they called it a cow catcher.

Well right in front of that, they rigged a box with sand in it. I mean a big box all the way across the railroad. The engineer had a string he could pull and they would put sand on the track where those…you’d put more sand out and I could hear that thing. Every afternoon during the caterpillar time. Now coming in from Whiteville, it didn't bother them because they weren’t pulling, they were just slowing down.

Warren: Well what a gooey mess that was, all those caterpillars mushed up.

Gault: I remember, they’d have long fishing poles, great big fishing poles, twice as long as the ones we’d fish with. They would wire newspapers, ball them up and pour kerosene on. They’d set fire and burn those caterpillars out. I can hear them now. They’d catch fire and zzzzzz, zzzzz, you could hear them. They’d get all they could reach. And the Sutton’s would do the same thing on their side.

Warren: Was there anything that we didn't touch on that you wanted to share. I know you’ve got some good stories.

Gault: Well Cotton Cotrell, came here from Florida I believe. He was an airplane pilot. He had a five passenger sea plane with pontoons. He’d take up passengers. Now they won’t let you do that anymore. You can’t land except for an emergency. He docked right there, right in front of our house really.

Warren: At the lake?

Gault: At the lake, it was a sea plane. The bath house was down there and there were four or five cottages and he and his wife stayed there. Well I was less than 16, I was 13 or 14 years old and I would go down there and clean up his plane for him, work around, I liked old pilots you know. Every morning when he’d get up, the first thing he would do was crank the plane up and go up for about 5 minutes just to check it out and then he was ready to take passengers.

Well he didn't have a starter. He had to have somebody spin it. So he taught me how and that was my job. So I’d spin it and then I’d keep everything cleaned up and he’d let me go. Every time he’d go up if he didn't have a full load, I’d sit in the copilot seat. Well over a couple of years, he’d teach me to fly a little.

Daddy didn't know anything about that. Daddy hired Cotton to fly him over. He said, “Now listen, I want you to fly me over where the cypress trees are over across the lake. I want to just see how the timber is holding out”. So Cotton was sitting in the pilot seat. I was sitting in the copilot seat. Daddy was sitting right behind the pilot. He’d fly and daddy would reach out, he wanted to circle. So he’d go in a big circle and then straighten back out again. Pretty soon daddy would reach out and we’d circle again.

One time daddy was looking out the window. Cotton slipped back and sat beside daddy and I was flying the plane. I finished the circle out and daddy reached up, I’ll bet his fingerprints are still there. That was the end of my flying because he couldn’t let me solo without daddy’s permission.

Jones: And you weren’t about to get that.

Gault: No, no. So that was the end of my flying.

Warren: Do you think that inspired you to go into the Navy or anything like that?

Gault: No, I never thought about going into the Air Force. Well they didn't have the Air Force then. They had the Army Air Corps. No, I don’t know why. Well I do know too because all I’d ever heard about the Army was that they walked everywhere they went and they ate out of cans. I knew the Navy rode and if you ate, you got hot meals and nice clean sheets. That appealed to me. So I did not want any part of the Army and you had to be in the Army to get in the Air Corps.

Warren: So why didn't it appeal to you to pick up where your father left off as far as the lumber industry goes?

Gault: I don’t remember ever having an interest in it. I think maybe once or twice, thinking back on it, he was maybe feeling me out to see if I’d be interested in that.

Jones: But he was not about to force you to go into that business. Instead you went to college.

Gault: I think I matured rather slowly because I didn't have that on my mind at all.

Jones: But you went to college and you got a degree.

Gault: Not from there. The war came along. I got out in ’42 and got in the Merchant Marine Academy. So I finished there.

Jones: What kind of degree did you get?

Gault: I got it at home, I don’t know. It was an accelerated course. It took two and a half years. Most of that, you were supposed to have six months sea duty as a cadet, but in my six months I got involved in the invasion at Normandy so mine turned out to be 11 months or 12 or 13 months. Graduated in Biloxi, Mississippi, I don’t know whether it’s still down there or not.

Jones: Talking about the North Carolina Lumber Company, I’ve heard you mention several buildings, the office building where your dad spent most of his time I guess and a dry kiln where they dried the lumber. Was there just one dry kiln?

Gault: One dry kiln.

Jones: Do you remember other aspects of the plant, buildings and operations. You said there was a shingle operation. What was the layout of the plant? Do you recall that?

Gault: Generally, yeah. You know where the ACL Railroad was, the highway, 74/76 and old Hallsboro depot was there. Right across the railroad was the post office and daddy would park there. He had another way of getting in too. He’d walk across maybe 150 yards and this was where the shingle mill was. They had some railroad tracks there. I guess they would load the shingles. They sent those things, I never thought about that, I guess the shingles were in the kiln too. Maybe they brought the lumber from the kiln, that’s what it was. They had little carts there and they’d load the lumber. Take it out of the kiln and bring them over and that’s where they would cut shingles.

They wouldn’t put shingles in the kiln. You know they were real thin. So that was there and then another 50 or 75 steps would be his office and that’s where the little railroad was, not the ACL railroad, the North Carolina Lumber Company railroad. The blacksmith shop was there. Maybe 300 yards down is where the lumber mill was and where all the lumber was stacked and all turned the right way. I can see those stacks and stacks.

Jones: As far as the eye could see. Did you have a large lumber yard?

Gault: Well to me it was a large lumber yard.

Jones: Did you play around there? I know my daddy was in the shingle business and I used to love to climb on top of piles of shingles when I was a kid.

Gault: I’m sure I was in the way.

Jones: I’m sure I was too, do you remember how many saws they had in the mill?

Gault: Down at the lumber mill there were two of these carriages or whatever you call them. There were two of those. A lot of the shingles in the early days, they were made in the swamp they were hand-drived. You know where Betsenberg is?

Jones: No.

Gault: Lake Waccamaw, if this is the lake, the river is over here, the creeks and here is where everybody lived. Of course Waccamaw Shores is here now. The cove, beyond Dupree Landing, you know where Dupree Landing is. Beyond there is a place called Betsenberg. Peggy and Butch Blanchard, if you happen to know where they lived, that was right exactly, that was downtown Betsenberg. I have, you may want to get them here, I don’t know if I’ll be able to give them all to the museum and the lake.

Peggy and her brothers would go swimming out in the cove and they would find these hand rived shingles. Been under the water for a hundred years just as solid as that. I gave them four or five. If I have anymore, I’d be happy to give them to you.

Jones: Yes, we’d love to have them.

Gault: They’re hand-rived cypress shingles under the water for about 100 years and just as solid as they day they were built. They would rive those shingles out from there and they had barges. They would load them on barges and bring them over to a pier right almost exactly where the restaurant is, just to the east.

Jones: Dale’s Restaurant?

Gault: Yeah behind Dale’s Restaurant maybe a hundred feet east and there was a pier out there. They’d bring these barges in and unload them. They had little tracks going up there and the mules would take them up on carts to the ACL Railroad and they’d load them on the railroad and ship them out.

Warren: It’s funny to me to think of barges being on the lake.

Gault: One or two of them sunk over here and if you can find them, it’s a pretty good fishing place, they’re down there and the fish come and get around there.

Jones: Shingle barges underneath Lake Waccamaw.

Gault: Well there’s one there that I know of because I have located that.

Jones: I sure would love you to show me that sometime. Do you have any idea how many men worked for you father at all?

Gault: I don’t know how North Carolina Lumber Company stacked up for size up against Pierce and Company or Thompson. I felt like maybe North Carolina Lumber Company may be larger, but I’m not sure. They were all in maybe one or two buildings. Daddy’s was spread out. That’s the reason I say I think maybe it was a larger operation. How many men, oh, Hub McGert was the one that told me. He was doing some research. You know Hub? Hub McGert, not Herb, Hub. He’s still living. He’s the one that found out about the 1700 employees in Bolton. That’s where I got that figure. I don’t know how many, whether we had more or less at North Carolina Lumber Company.

Jones: I’ve heard from different people in different places that at one time Hallsboro had the largest payroll in Columbus County. Another person would tell me Bolton had the largest payroll in Columbus County and another person would tell me Boardman had the largest payroll in Columbus County.

Gault: Well I don’t know.

Jones: It might all be true at different times.

Gault: To my knowledge I would have said Hallsboro because I wasn’t aware, I knew about Boardman and I never knew about 1700 people, this was before my time because Hallsboro… I mean Bolton, has never been anything but Bolton.

Jones: You mentioned loggers. Did the loggers work for your father’s lumber company or were they independent contractors?

Gault: No, they were employees.

Jones: Employees of the company. What was Hallsboro like then? Gosh, you’ve got three major industries there. It must have been a bit more town than we have today.

Gault: Very little. Pierce and Company was there of course.

Jones: The general store.

Gault: The general store and one odd thing about Pierce and Company, you may or may not know, they started in the late 1800’s. Never wrote a payroll check.

Jones: Never wrote a payroll check?

Gault: Never wrote a payroll check. They had employees. Pay day if you made $100, in those days probably $25, whatever your weekly pay was, they put it on the books and they’d pay you interest just like the banks. It was a bank. If you needed money, you’d go make a draw and you’d draw your money out just like you would a bank. I don’t know whether they wrote checks or how they did that. When the Jolly’s bought it, bought Pierce and Company, they did the same thing for a while. I don’t know whether they still do or not. But at the time of the big Depression, ’29, ’30, ’31, people did not trust the banks.

They trusted Pierce and Company. Whether they were employees or not, just people would come and put money, start an account, put money in the bank. When the Jolly’s bought this thing, 8 or 10 years ago, there were still some people that had active accounts with Pierce and Company. I don’t know whether he’s ever written a payroll check, I don’t know whether they still do that or not.

Jones: That is interesting. Your father wrote payroll checks.

Gault: Oh yeah, they had checks, but Pierce and Company didn't. I don’t know about Thompson. To get back to Hallsboro, they had Pierce and Company, same building, same everything. I don’t think they’ve revamped at all. You could buy anything at Pierce and Company. You could buy groceries, you could buy hardware, you could buy caskets. You could buy clothes, furniture. The caskets were made and sold at the Pierce and Company store in Freeman. They had a store down there that’s still there right beside the school, at Delco, right beside the school there’s a brick building used to be a restaurant in there and that was the Pierce and Company store and they sold caskets in there. I was upstairs last week. I needed some hardware cloth, and it was all upstairs. I hadn’t been up stairs in years. That’s where all the furniture was. I went upstairs with the salesman and I saw bucket, bucket, bucket. I said I know you’ve got the wire and all, but why do you have the bucket display. He said that’s displaying that roof leaking (laughter). Just the other day, big buckets. I’m not talking about little buckets, I’m talking five gallon buckets. Yeah, the roof’s leaking. So I got my wire and got out of there.

Besides Pierce and Company, you ought to get Jolly to take you in that building too. I forget what the building was for, but it was right adjacent to Pierce and Company. Mr. Counsel, not the Counsel Tool Company, a different type of counsel had a grocery store there. That building is still there. I forget what’s in there now. I don’t think it’s active. That was about it. The post office moved from across the river, brought it back over to the north side where it is now.

Jones: You mentioned your father would go there. The train delivered the mail twice a day and people picked their mail up at the post office. There was no home delivery or anything.

Gault: No, no, I don’t know of any home delivery.

Jones: But the train came through twice a day from Wilmington to wherever it was going. Was it the Wilmington Manchester Railroad?

Gault: Atlantic Coastline. I guess it went down to South Carolina. I don’t know where it went from here.

Jones: If you were going to go to the big city, where would you all go?

Gault: Wilmington. We’d go to the Episcopal church and there was no Episcopal church in Whiteville so we’d go to St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington, we would go down there always. Daddy did all of the grocery shopping. I can remember we’d go to Wilmington on Saturday and he’d go in the grocery store with a list that mother had for him and he’d buy all the groceries, load them up and bring them back. She would fuss at him, “Frances, why did you get so many tomatoes,” can tomatoes. He’d say they were running a sale (laughter). Instead of two cans, he’d have 12, he couldn’t resist a sale. This was back when things were rationed. So he’d buy.

Jones: Was your father completely southernized after he got down here? I mean being from Minnesota, that’s a pretty Yankee state. Did he ever kidded about that?

Gault: No, as I remember I would say he became, I don’t mean this in any bad light or good light or anything else, how to word it just right, there was a definite line. He became a southerner, no doubt about that. But people, they liked him. He was good to them. He was firm with them. You stay there and I stay there, but they would do anything in the world for him and he would do anything in the world for them. There was no socializing though, none of that.

Jones: Really?

Gault: No, but that was the way it was back then. That’s just the way it was. Some diversity here, but 4th of July was a big celebration day for the white people because the blacks did not use the lake. They could fish in it, but they didn't go swimming in it. Don’t ask me why, but that’s the way it was. So 4th of July was a white thing and the 6th of July is when the blacks, that’s the one day they could come to Lake Waccamaw.

There would be up to 20,000 of them. They’d come in on trains, buses, wagons. Before they built the big house, they lived up right at the railroad, Uncle Charlie Beers’ house. That’s where my brother was born. Mother said she’d seen many a time a string of wagons coming. Well they were going to spend the day. They’d have all the children, everybody in the wagons and they’d put a bunch of hay in the wagon.

They’d be so close that the mule behind the wagon, they’d be eating hay out of the other man’s wagon. She’d seen that several times. But daddy would always on the 4th of July and the 6th of July, he would open up free parking. He’d hire people to show them where to park. There would be hundreds of cars all under those trees. So he was good to them, but he was the boss and that’s the way it was.

Jones: Well Frank, we’re at the end of our tape. Any last words you’d like to say, anything that we’ve missed?

Gault: No – but I’ll tell you one time I embarrassed my daddy when I was a freshman in high school at Bogue University, that was Hallsboro High School, it was on Bogue swamp, so that’s what I always called it, still do, I was a freshman and Sig Robinson was the coach. I liked to play ball, I was little but I liked to play it and so we were fixing something… (Tape Ends).

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