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Interview with Eugene King, May 28, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Eugene King, May 28, 2005
Date:
May 28, 2005
Description:
In this interview Wrightsville Beach native and former surfer Eugene King shares his memories of growing up on Wrightsville Beach, including those of notable locations and residents, and addresses changes to the area over the years.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  King, Eugene Interviewer:  Fritzler, Peter Date of Interview:  5/28/2005 Series:  SENC Surfing Length  28 minutes

 

Fritzler: So you guys started surfing at about what year, you said?

Eugene King: Uh, early '60s.

Fritzler: Early '60s?

Eugene King: Yeah. I don't really remember what exact-- they were talking, telling me '63 a while ago but I'm thinking it's earlier than that.

Fritzler: You think so?

Eugene King: Yeah, I think it was like '60 or '61, '62, somewhere. I think it was either '61 or '62 I think.

Fritzler: Huh. Just for the interview's sake, my name is Peter Fritzler. I'm here with Mr. Jerry King.

Eugene King: Gene.

Fritzler: Gene King, I'm sorry, your brother is Jerry.

Eugene King: Right.

Fritzler: I've heard a lot about you guys. I almost started to think you guys were a mythical legend and you didn't really exist. But uh...here you are today. Today is actually May 28th, 2005 and we are at the home of Mr. Robert Parker in Wilmington, North Carolina. So, you think it was actually around '60, maybe '61 or '62?

Eugene King: I'm thinking '61 or '62, I'm-- '63. I'm thinking it's '61 or '62.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: Robert.

Fritzler: He's outside. Yeah, he actually remembers '63 because he went to a waterskiing competition and came home and found this great Noll surfboard in his garage.

Eugene King: It could have been but, you know, I'm just thinking it was a year or two earlier than that.

Fritzler: Okay. When were you born?

Eugene King: I was born in '45.

Fritzler: Really?

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: What month?

Eugene King: June.

Fritzler: June?

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: And what day?

Eugene King: The 9th.

Fritzler: June 9th. My brother was born on June 8th.

Eugene King: Really?

Fritzler: Uh huh. You guys are getting ready to have a birthday.

Eugene King: He's a crazy Gemini, huh?

Fritzler: He is a crazy Gemini.

Eugene King: There's something to that, you know.

Fritzler: There is. There's something very much to that. Were you born in Wilmington?

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Okay. And where did you grow up at?

Eugene King: Wrightsville Beach all the way, born and raised in Wrightsville Beach, yeah.

Fritzler: Where did you live on Wrightsville Beach?

Eugene King: On Seagull Street right beside Johnny Mercer's Pier, three houses from Johnny Mercer's Pier.

Fritzler: Okay.

Eugene King: You could throw a clamshell and hit the dance floor, you know.

Fritzler: How did you meet Robert then? I've seen a photograph of you two.

Eugene King: We were born and raised in the same crib.

Fritzler: Oh, okay.

Eugene King: A block away.

Fritzler: Really?

Eugene King: Yeah. He's six months older than I am.

Fritzler: Oh, wow, so you guys have really known each other a lifetime.

Eugene King: Forever. We were fighting over the, I won't say it but, you know, we started off, you know, together and we're still together.

Fritzler: Uh huh. Yeah.

Eugene King: He's taking a trip now but he'll be back.

Fritzler: Yeah, yeah.

Eugene King: He'll be back.

Fritzler: So what were some of your first surfing experiences? Did you start out surfing on surfboards or did you start out on surf mats?

Eugene King: The surf mats standing right at Johnny Mercer's Pier. That's where we all hung out.

Fritzler: Really?

Eugene King: He had hard canvas real surf mats.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: With a compressor and a pump there and we'd pump them up just as hard as they could stand without busting and, you know, do all kind of, you know, tricks on surf mats. Robert was the first one that actually showed up. I think his cousin showed up with a Greg Noll surfboard. That was the first experience we had with one. He started it, or his cousin did, and he ended up with the board and my brother went to Florida and got a Tiki board that year, I guess he did. You know, he couldn't stand it. We all couldn't stand it. It just caught on like wildfire and it was wonderful. But I'm-- so I'd say-- I'm saying it was three of us, me and my brother Jerry and Robert that really, the first year or so, did the surfing.

Fritzler: Okay.

Eugene King: He got a franchise from Greg Noll to sell surfboards.

Fritzler: Oh, okay.

Eugene King: And uh...and then the next year was, it was on.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: You know.

Fritzler: How old is your brother?

Eugene King: My brother's 61 now.

Fritzler: Sixty-one.

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: How old is he in relation to you?

Eugene King: He's two years older than I am.

Fritzler: Two years older than you are.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Okay.

Eugene King: And I never owned a surfboard.

Fritzler: Oh, you never owned a surfboard?

Eugene King: Huh uh. I just borrowed either his or my brother's. I'm a real frugal guy, you know.

Fritzler: Are you?

Eugene King: Yeah. Look what I drink, you know.

Fritzler: Oh, okay. I kind of grew up drinking that too. I didn't really grow up-- but drinking, you know, some of my first few beers were Milwaukee's Best.

Eugene King: Oh, yeah.

Fritzler: Did you guys call it the Beast?

Eugene King: Yeah, Milwaukee the Beast.

Fritzler: Yeah, we called it the Beast.

Eugene King: The next day it's the Beast.

Fritzler: Yeah. So when you guys were surfing at Wrightsville, you said it was just you and Jerry and Robert.

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: And you said the next year it really caught on. How did it catch on? Who were some of the people that you remember surfing with?

Eugene King: Joe Funderburg would be one.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: Skip Flowers, Everett McCrary, uh...Billy Wall, uh...Billy just passed on the last year or two, some girls, the Fergus girls, uh...the Magoogans [ph?], Marsha and Terri Magoogan. I mean, some girls got into it.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: And uh...it was on from there, you know, it was on.

Fritzler: Really?

Eugene King: Everybody.

Fritzler: Huh. Did you uh...

Eugene King: I don't know why Robert didn't get rich but, you know, I still don't know why he didn't get rich, you know, but he's still trying. He's selling grass now but, you know, it's like carpet stuff.

Fritzler: Yeah, yeah, I saw it the other night when, you know, it was pretty nice stuff.

Eugene King: I always knew he'd up being a grass salesman (laughing).

Fritzler: Did you ever get to know Frank Sproul or any of--

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: I remember Frank. I remember the guy's-- what was the guy's name at Carolina Beach that built boards?

Robert Parker: Lank.

Eugene King: Lank Lancaster.

Robert Parker: That's right.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Robert Parker: You didn't know Sproul, I don't think.

Eugene King: Yeah, I did.

Robert Parker: Did you know Frank?

Eugene King: He lived on-- right beside us on Seagull Street.

Robert Parker: Oh, okay.

Eugene King: Sure I did. I don't remember what he had to do with surfing.

Robert Parker: Yeah, he owned Ocean Surf Shop, something like that.

Eugene King: Oh, he was a--

Robert Parker: He had the first surf shop here.

Eugene King: Oh, okay, kind of plump guy?

Robert Parker: He was a little bit of a heavyweight.

Eugene King: Dark skin?

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: About 5'8", 5'9", something like that. I remember. Balding?

Robert Parker: Kind of.

Eugene King: Yeah. I remember him. I think I snaked him a time or two, you know.

Fritzler: Are you still surfing?

Eugene King: No.

Fritzler: How long did you keep surfing?

Eugene King: Uh...I did up until uhm...probably up until I got drafted in '68.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: And that changed my life forever, you know.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: But it's a wonderful thing, you know.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: Wrightsville Beach was a wonderful place. It really was. I do miss those times.

Fritzler: Do you?

Eugene King: Oh God, we all do.

Fritzler: Yeah. What were some of your favorite memories from those days?

Eugene King: Uh...Johnny Mercer's Pier always comes up.

Fritzler: Really?

Eugene King: Yeah, because there was just so much going on there. Uh...and Johnny Mercer had a real fishing pier, one that swayed.

Fritzler: Oh, wow.

Eugene King: Rod and reels all in the upper deck. I mean you could come in there and it would smell like a fishing pier, you know. Everything was happening and downstairs he had all this grill, this big long grill and open air and-- and a dance floor and a jukebox and all the old music and uh...it was hard to sleep at night because my bedroom was right there underneath all that, you know, and it was hard for me not to sneak out and go to Johnny Mercer's Pier right there, you know. And my folks owned what's now the Palm Room.

Fritzler: Oh, really?

Eugene King: Yeah, it used to be the North Shore Bar and Grill.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: And we all in a little-- a little area there we all, my whole family lived in that, whole-- aunts, uncles, grandmother, cousins, everything right there.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: And uh...in fact where the Raw Bar is now used to be our kindergarten.

Robert Parker: Yeah, we went to kindergarten in what's now-- no, it's not the Raw Bar anymore. It's Buddy's.

Eugene King: Well, whatever, you know. We had Wrightsville Beach.

Robert Parker: What?

Eugene King: We had Wrightsville Beach. Now you-- ya'll can have it.

Robert Parker: With what's happening you can have it now.

Eugene King: We had it when it was paradise, yeah.

Fritzler: Yeah, I've heard some good stories about it back then, but now it seems a bit--

Eugene King: We had-- this is what we had. We had Johnny Mercer's Pier. We had an inlet where now it's the Holiday Inn.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: All that area in there was a beautiful inlet. Uh...we had the ocean. We had the sound. And then right, if you wanted to do woods, we had Pembroke Jones, which is now called Landfall, but we had that. I mean it was totally woods and palms and the most beautiful oyster shell roads that went everywhere all the way to Ogden.

Fritzler: Wow.

Eugene King: And it was just wonderful. You could hunt, fish and screw off real good there. The only thing that Wrightsville Beach didn't prepare us as children as we were growing up is for the real world because we were spoiled rotten.

Fritzler: It was pretty idyllic, huh?

Eugene King: There was no sense in leaving that area from Wrightsville Beach to the sound to the woods. We didn't want to go to Wilmington.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: The second-- was it the second grade, Robert, that we went back to-- that they finished the Wrightsville Beach School?

Robert Parker: Yeah we went there in the third grade.

Eugene King: So the first and second we went to Bradley Creek.

Robert Parker: Right.

Eugene King: And then they built our own school, so there was really no need to leave then.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: I mean, why go to Wilmington?

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: We had our own movie theater and everything, just a wonderful place to be brought up in.

Fritzler: You mentioned the movie theater. Was that the Crest?

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Do you remember seeing any surfing movies there?

Eugene King: No. No.

Robert Parker: Gene was-- Gene was really kind of into the very beginning of it and then just really didn't stay with the surfing all that long.

Eugene King: No, I didn't. I got my driver's license, and a beer, and a jukebox, and a girl, and I just kind of forgot about surfing.

Robert Parker: He was mostly into girls and partying, though.

Eugene King: Yeah. I got ruined quick.

Robert Parker: He got--

(laughter)

Robert Parker: He definitely could surf though. He had (inaudible) people around.

Eugene King: But thank God for surfing, you know, because it was a wonderful, beautiful sport and-- and we had uh...we had a uh...the beach community used to sponsor a ski team and Robert was one of the best we had, but we went all over, up in the mountains, South Carolina uh...competing and skiing.

Fritzler: So you were on the team as well?

Eugene King: Was I on the team? I can't even remember.

Robert Parker: No, no.

Eugene King: I don't think I was.

Robert Parker: The surf team?

Eugene King: No, I went.

Fritzler: The ski team.

Eugene King: The ski team, Robert.

Robert Parker: Oh, I don't know what skiing team you're talking about.

Eugene King: Beaufort we went, Lake Lure, those places we competed.

Robert Parker: Oh, yeah. Well we were just hanging out with Jim, you know.

Eugene King: Oh, maybe I'm wrong.

Robert Parker: Yeah, I never joined. I don't think we ever had a team.

Eugene King: He was a skiing fool. Let's put it that way.

Fritzler: Really?

Eugene King: Yeah, the boy could ski and surf, quite an athlete. My brother was good too.

Fritzler: Good surfer.

Eugene King: And skier.

Fritzler: And skier.

Eugene King: Both.

Robert Parker: Yeah, we used to ski on everything from paddles to shoe skis.

Eugene King: Oh, yeah, found a board in the damn marsh, ski on it. (laughter) My first recollection of surfing was me standing on Johnny Mercer's Pier, and Robert and my brother surfing right beside the pier, and people just in awe. They were awestruck back there.

Fritzler: Really.

Eugene King: All on the pier just they'd never seen it, you know. They couldn't imagine doing it here in Wrightsville Beach, you know, and it worked fine, you know.

Fritzler: And you were on the pier watching that?

Eugene King: Yeah, that's my first memory, and hearing the water slapping the uh...as they were skiing, I mean surfing, the water hitting that board, slapping, that sound just uh...you know. That's it.

Fritzler: Nice.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Did you ever get to surf with people like Mike Curry?

Eugene King: Oh, yeah.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: He got to surf with me.

Fritzler: He got to surf with you, I'm sorry.

Eugene King: Right.

Fritzler: Right, yeah.

Eugene King: Because like I'm telling you me and Robert and Jerry had it all to ourselves for at least one season, you know, and then it caught on, which is good.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Robert Parker: ________ Jones and Charlie Davis and--

Eugene King: Yeah, right, Warwick, Alan Warwick, Jones, what was the other guy's name?

Robert Parker: Charlie Davis.

Eugene King: Yeah, Charlie Davis.

Robert Parker: And Jimmy, you know, obviously.

Eugene King: Jimmy Shepard obviously, yeah, he was one, but like I'm saying, in the first year it was just three of us with two surfboards. Like I said, I never-- I never owned a surfboard.

Fritzler: You mentioned the Fergus sisters and the-- were they the Magoos?

Eugene King: Magoogans.

Fritzler: Magoogans.

Eugene King: Right.

Fritzler: And they were girls as well?

Eugene King: Yeah, Terri and Marsha.

Fritzler: Uh huh, and they surfed?

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: Oh, yeah. I hadn't-- it's amazing. I hadn't talked to either one of them in years and just out of the clear blue one of them called me. Marsha called me yesterday morning.

Fritzler: Oh, really.

Eugene King: And we were talking about surfing.

Fritzler: Oh, yeah, a lot of memories and just--

Eugene King: Yeah, out of the blue. Yeah, I hadn't seen or heard from her in years and years, you know.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: Yesterday morning she called me.

Fritzler: So, aside from the pier, Johnny Mercer's Pier, what were some of the other spots on Wrightsville that you guys would surf at, any others that were pretty good spots?

Eugene King: There really wasn't anything you needed-- well, yeah, uh...Columbia Street was a real good place to surf.

Fritzler: Oh, really?

Eugene King: Yeah, beside the Crest.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: That street had a rock jetty that ran out quite a ways.

Robert Parker: That was at Stone Street, Gene.

Eugene King: Stone Street, no it wasn't.

Robert Parker: Yeah, it was.

Eugene King: It was not Stone Street. It's beside-- is it Newell's?

Robert Parker: Stone Street is where the stone jetty was.

Eugene King: No, it's not. Columbia Street is where the stone jetty was.

Robert Parker: Really?

Eugene King: Yeah, beside the Crest, know-it-all.

Robert Parker: See, I remember it being at the end of Stone Street.

Eugene King: Well, you're wrong.

Robert Parker: Okay. Well, you know, I don't remember (inaudible) at this point in my life.

Eugene King: It ain't Alzheimer's, Robert. It's old timers. It goes into Alzheimer's.

Fritzler: So you had some good surfing there too in that area?

Eugene King: Uh huh. Yeah and we had everything there like, Station One they called the area, like Newell Shopping Center was there, the Crest, all the bars.

Fritzler: Shooney's [ph?] was there too, right?

Eugene King: Shooney's was there.

Fritzler: Did you hang out at Shooney's?

Eugene King: Oh, yeah.

Fritzler: Yeah?

Eugene King: Uh huh, in adolescence.

Fritzler: In adolescence.

Eugene King: Early, early stuff.

Fritzler: Joe Funderburg remembers Shooney's pretty well.

Eugene King: He ought to. He lived right there.

Fritzler: Oh, yeah.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Well, that's true. Did you have good memories from that area too?

Eugene King: Uh huh. What's that song, "Under the Boardwalk"?

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: And all the smells and sights and all the senses were right there every night, all five, six, seven.

Fritzler: There were two-- there was a bar there wasn't it, it was called the Spot?

Eugene King: The world-famous Spot.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: Yeah, and the Wits' End.

Fritzler: The Wits' End, right. Did you hang out there having good times?

Eugene King: When I got of age.

Fritzler: When you got of age.

Eugene King: Or maybe two years sneaking here and there, you know, but when I was becoming of age, you know, that was a hot spot. I mean, it was just so much fun.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: And there wasn't never any trouble at Wrightsville. The trouble started when the-- I won't say it, I'm gonna stop at that, okay?

Fritzler: Okay. Uh...so do you have any-- you mentioned Mercer's Pier that kind of stands out in your mind. Is it particularly with fond memory?

Eugene King: Oh yeah, that was it, and Johnny Mercer was it. He was something else.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: Quite a guy.

Fritzler: So, aside from surfing and chasing the girls, did you like to fish?

Eugene King: Oh, yeah. Yeah, a lot of fishing.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: I had a grandmother that just loved to fish. That's all. I mean that was her thing when she moved down there. It was just pure fishing, and Johnny Mercer fell in love with my grandmother like it was his mother, you know, type-thing.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: And he called her Miss Annie, and she had free reign on the pier.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: Never had to spend a dime. He wouldn't accept any money, and I mean she had her own spots that she fished on the pier and Johnny would tell you about it. "You're in Miss Annie's spot." He was-- he was real protective over my grandmother.

Fritzler: Was he?

Eugene King: Free bait, free this, anything she wanted Miss Annie got it. Wants a hamburger or a hot dog, whatever, you know and she learned to accept that real well. Johnny's problem was he-- he drank, you know.

Fritzler: You said your parents owned the North Shore Bar and Grill?

Eugene King: Yeah. I used to have cards. I don't have any anymore but they owned it back in the '40s, early '50s I think.

Fritzler: Uh huh. And uh...it turned into the, all kind of different names like-- you remember some of the different names, Robert, of the Palm Room?

Robert Parker: Huh?

Eugene King: Some of the different names of the Palm Room, Jolly Roger.

Robert Parker: Jolly Roger was one.

Eugene King: Jolly Roger was one of the names.

Robert Parker: That's when Dick Wetherill and uh...

Eugene King: Harty Parker.

Robert Parker: Morton, Tommy Morton, yeah, that's right. So uh...yeah the Raw Bar used to be our kindergarten.

Fritzler: Huh.

Eugene King: And we used to-- I remember my aunt Mimi was the teacher.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: And she probably had 30 or 40 kids that she, you know, took care of during the day.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: And Salisbury Street, I got some pictures of it somewhere but she-- we had a band, a marching band with toy stuff, little toy drums and slide whistles and we'd go around and round Salisbury Street marching. It was real cool.

Fritzler: Yeah. Huh.

Eugene King: We were proud of that, that marching-- Wrightsville Beach Marching Band.

Fritzler: Wrightsville Beach Marching Band. Wow. Did you ever go on any surf trips with Robert or anybody else?

Eugene King: Yeah, I remember one real well.

Fritzler: Oh, yeah?

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: What was that one about?

Eugene King: It was Virginia Beach and we went up there. One of the guys, there was four of us that went up there in this old Ford sedan, my brother's car and I caught a virus in my eyes and it just came on me really quick and they left me on the beach, blind, and they went surfing and one of the guys brought some money up to buy a surfboard, okay. I can't remember what. What was the board that Harold Phillips-- Harold Phillips needs to be mentioned here. What was-- a Hobie.

Robert Parker: I don't even remember him.

Eugene King: A Hobie board.

Robert Parker: Hobie Harold.

Eugene King: Hobie Harold was what we called him, but they left me and I fried.

Fritzler: Blind and crying.

Eugene King: Blind and fried. They finally came and got me and it was so bad coming back that Robert got off in New Bern, just got out of the car. Me and my brother were getting ready to have a fistfight. He gets out of the car. His sister lived in New Bern. He called her to come get him and he wouldn't go any further coming home. It was bad, but my brother is a real instigator.

Fritzler: So whatever happened? Obviously it went away but did you ever figure out what it was?

Eugene King: Yeah, they call it the pinkeye, the redeye type, yeah, but it came on like that. I've had it so bad in the past that you had to shut yourself in the closet because you can't stand the sunlight. I mean, but anyway, it went away.

Fritzler: So you didn't get to surf on that trip?

Eugene King: No.

Fritzler: Oh, man.

Eugene King: Got to sit on the beach and get fried.

Fritzler: Oh, man.

Eugene King: Blind.

Fritzler: Oh.

Eugene King: See how selfish we get when we're having fun?

Fritzler: Yeah, exactly, surfers in particular.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: They'll leave you hanging.

Eugene King: Oh, they hung ten on me that day.

Fritzler: Oh, my. So, you remember-- you mentioned Lank Lancaster earlier.

Eugene King: Yeah, I remember him.

Fritzler: Did you spend any time with Lank?

Eugene King: Yeah, we used to surf together and uhm...he sold all of us boards. I remember blue and white.

Fritzler: Except you?

Eugene King: Oh, yeah, I didn't need a board, mmm-mm.

Fritzler: Did you ever surf the cove?

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: Back when it had the big rock jetty?

Eugene King: Yeah, I remember sharks at the cove hanging out.

Fritzler: Oh, yeah, sharks at the cove.

Eugene King: Right. The uh...I never thought about sharks when we were kids. We'd swim out beyond the end of the pier, hang out swimming, just floating around. I never thought about a shark until that movie came on.

Fritzler: "Jaws"?

Eugene King: Yeah and, you know, I've seen sharks. The stupidest thing you ever want to hear about is where they used to have the cleaning stations, the fish.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: Wrightsville Beach used to have an outer sandbar, a definite slue, and a shore break. Now it doesn't because of the berm crap.

Fritzler: Right.

Eugene King: Right and no jetties and all that. Uh...the cleaning station was right there in the slue, and you'd sit there and watch sharks come right down the slue, right around people, and no--

Fritzler: (inaudible) all the freighters.

Eugene King: Yeah, but never hit anybody that, you know, it was never told anyway, you know.

Fritzler: Right.

Eugene King: Chamber of Commerce didn't want that happening but really, you know, the shark thing was another thing.

Fritzler: Did you ever surf any contests? Do you remember surfing any contests?

Eugene King: No, no. There was just so much to do. I just didn't get hung up on surfing.

Fritzler: Yeah, it was just one thing--

Eugene King: One thing.

Fritzler: -- you were interested in?

Eugene King: Right.

Fritzler: Now your brother, he surfed in a contest twice.

Eugene King: Yeah, I think he won a runner up or something with Robert in one of them.

Fritzler: Uh huh, yeah, came in third place in the first annual surfing contest in 1965.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: A guy named Freddy Grosskreutz won the contest in Virginia Beach.

Eugene King: Virginia Beach, I remember that. Jerry was so proud of that.

Fritzler: Was he?

Eugene King: Yeah, he was.

Fritzler: Do you and your brother-- does your brother live around here?

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Does he?

Eugene King: Uh huh.

Fritzler: Do you guys stay in contact much?

Eugene King: Right now we're living together.

Fritzler: Oh, okay.

Eugene King: With my mother.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: I've got cancer now.

Fritzler: Oh, I'm sorry.

Eugene King: And he's had some pretty bad problems so we're all living together.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: She's 91 now, Tillie King.

Fritzler: Tillie.

Eugene King: She was called the grand madame, the grand dame-- granddame of Wrightsville Beach in the article, some article they got that they wrote about her.

Fritzler: Really huh.

Eugene King: My family went down there in the '40s and Hurricane Hazel took our house.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Eugene King: Killed my animals, took our vehicles. We didn't have anything but the shirts on our back when we came home. Johnny Mercer's Pier came down and aerial photos will show you a swath, like a funnel, where those pilings came through the beach area and took everything, you know. Hazel was bad. I was nine years old when Hazel hit and we waited off the beach.

Fritzler: But you came back and you rebuilt.

Eugene King: Rebuilt uh...lost another house. I can't remember the name of that hurricane, half a house, rebuilt, yeah.

Fritzler: Jeez.

Eugene King: I mean, when my father died in '70 we were still paying for that monetarily because of no insurance.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: But he just had to stay there. He just liked the fresh bluefish and grits, you know.

Fritzler: I can't-- can't argue with that.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Those were good times, I bet.

Eugene King: He didn't want to live anywhere else. We didn't either. I remember spending one year in New Bern for some reason, some kind of change he had to go through with his business or, you know, and I hated it.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: I mean I remember coming down Military Cutoff all those years ago as a child and waking up and sen- smelling the salt, smelling the ocean air. I said, "My God, we're home. I ain't leaving. Don't you ever take me to New Bern." You know, I don't ever-- I didn't like the kids, the environment, you know, but when you're raised in paradise why go to New Bern?

Fritzler: Right, anything else is unacceptable.

Eugene King: What the hell are we doing in New Bern?

Fritzler: There is such a distinct smell of the ocean.

Eugene King: Yeah, I remember it. "Ah, we're home." I didn't know where we were. Mom said, "How did you know that?" I woke up in the backseat. I said, "We're home." "Well yeah, you're right." I said, "I smell it. I can hear it. We're home," you know. It was wonderful. It really was.

Fritzler: It's amazing.

Eugene King: I said we're not leaving anymore. Ya'll can leave. I'm staying. I'll stay with my grandmother, my aunt, whatever. I'm not going to New Bern. I'm not going to Wilmington, you know. I'm staying right here in Wrightsville Beach. That's me. That's it.

Fritzler: Well, is there anything else you'd like to share with me?

Eugene King: I could sit here and tell you things for hours but that's fine.

Fritzler: Okay.

Eugene King: That will cover it pretty good.

Fritzler: Yeah, we'll try and get together again. Maybe take a break for now.

Eugene King: Okay.

Fritzler: Because, you know, we're here to hang out with Robert and everybody.

Eugene King: Right, Robert's farewell party.

Fritzler: His farewell party.

Eugene King: His 50th. He'll be back.

Fritzler: Yeah.

Eugene King: Yeah.

Fritzler: Okay.

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