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Interview with Detlev Lancaster and Harold Petty, June 5, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Detlev Lancaster and Harold Petty, June 5, 2007
June 5, 2007
Lanc Lancaster and Harold Petty, founders of East Coast Surfboards, the first surf shop in southeastern North Carolina, and arguably the only one in North Carolina in the early-to-mid 1960s to make surfboards under its own label, recount their experiences. The interview focuses on the growth and development of the business along with its closing in 1967. The interview also includes discussion on techniques, materials, and tools used in surfboard making during the time; surfing in Carolina and Kure Beaches; lifeguarding; social activities on the beach; skateboarding; and other activities.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Lancaster, Detlev / Petty, Harold Interviewer:  Fritzler, Peter Date of Interview:  6/5/2007 Series:  SENC Surfing Length  120 minutes

Fritzler: Alright, here we are. My name is Peter Fritzler, and I'm a librarian at UNC Wilmington. I just have to go through these formalities so that when the tape's transcribed they know who is who. I have Mr. Harold Petty on my right, and Mr. Lanc Lancaster on my left. And they're going to talk with us about the origins of East Coast Surfboards, the first surf shop here, and probably the only surf shop in North Carolina to be making their own surfboards at that time period. Today is June 5, Tuesday, 2007. And we're at the home of Harold Petty in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Thank you, gentlemen, for sitting down with us today.

Lancaster: We appreciate all the questions today.

Fritzler: So could you tell us a little bit about these boards that you have behind you? The green board here on my left?

Lancaster: We were talking about that this morning, we were trying to--

Petty: That was a lot of mistakes.

Lancaster: We made a few kit boards first. I think this is one of the early foam ones that we actually did. But it was early in the process because at about 10 or 12 boards, the decals that we had developed came in, and this one was made without a decal for one of the local kids, Albert Jewell.

Petty: Albert Jewell, yeah.

Lancaster: And Albert told Harold that this was board number 8, so he probably remembers that better than we did.

Fritzler: Yeah and you have this red and white one in the middle.

Lancaster: Harold tells me that this was made for a friend of his from Sanford.

Petty: A friend of mine from Sanford, Joe Bud, and what's the name over at Wrightsville Beach, he got into Surfing Magazine because he was riding years before-- I forgot--

Lancaster: Robert Parker.

Petty: Robert Parker. Robert Parker was in Surfer.

Fritzler: Magazine.

Petty: One of them anyhow. Okay this was the board.

Fritzler: July of 1967.

Petty: Jewell tried to say we were selling him a used board and that he ought to get a discount on it.

Lancaster: And we laughed at that.

Petty: We can give you a history of that-- Jewell, all his kids learned to surf on it. He decided to downsize-- he had a big place, acreage, or what of you, in Sanford. And he had a two-bedroom condo over at Wrightsville. And I got a call from him, and he says, "Petty you don't want that used board you sold me back." And I said, "Sure, bring it to me. I'd love to have it." And since Meatloaf here didn't have one, I gave to him so his grandbabies could see that we actually did make surfboards.

Lancaster: And we just talked about, before you started the tape, my inability to ever get a board made for myself. And so here's a board that went through the process, and finally ended up at my house.

Petty: The board I have now, we sold all our inventory to Sonny Danner and Dan Purdy, and I kept one blank out for me. And Lanc shaped it down at Sonny's place because we've got rid of everything we had.

Lancaster: Well, he had bought all the tools and everything, including all the decals, although I think this is the only board that was made after that. But as I told you, we talked a lot about what he wanted in his board. And if you go look at today's boards, you'll find that this is very close to what larger boards have come back to. So we're pretty proud of the way this one turned out.

Fritzler: They both look good. I remember when you let us borrow the red one here in 2002 for a surfboard contest.

Petty: That was a friend of mine that, but it won Best Whole Board contest over at Wrightsville Beach.

Fritzler: Oh it did? So it must have been at the following year.

Petty: I can't think of his name. His neighbor rented close to me, and he wanted to get into surfing and we had something in common to talk about. I let him borrow it, a couple of boards.

Fritzler: This one I took out. Everybody was just--

Lancaster: And you had to get someone to help you carry it to the water?

Fritzler: Honestly, I could manage. It was a tough call. But we finally got there. Because if you've ever been up to Shell Island at Wrightsville, there's a huge extension there. It's a haul.

Petty: [inaudible] 30-something years old, looked that good?

Fritzler: This really looks really good. Thank you guys for taking care of this baby.

Petty: Well, we make good boards that last. That's why they about sink.

Fritzler: Did you first use Walker foam and then plaque?

Petty: Yes. We must have tried, I don't know, a couple of dozen boards that we used. Walker foam, beautiful foam. Very small granules, worked out beautifully. Blasts wonderfully. Great white color, even through the darker resins. But if you got a ding, you could just forget about it. You could not keep the water out of it, no matter how quickly you--

Lancaster: Got the sponge.

Petty: And it would discolor terribly from the sun. So we tried a few--

Lancaster: I think they were cheaper too for one reason.

Petty: Actually, I don't recall-- they were close. But the Clark seemed much more durable. It was a more granular foam, and it was harder to work with. Of course, it was more forgiving, too, because it was harder. But it didn't discolor as much, and when you got water in it, you could repair it and it would still look good.

Fritzler: That brings up a good question: as the first surf shop, and the first company to be making your own boards, and given the time period, how did you guys come about getting access to material at all for a building? How did you come about a supplier and a vendor for getting your materials?

Petty: Well we had guys coming in from Lejeune and Bragg that were from the Left Coast, and we would ask them about this, that, and the other.

Lancaster: What kind of foam do they use out there? And I had spent a year out there going to school, and I was in a lot of surf shops and asking them about resins and things like that. So we knew about Walker foam, and that was very popular on the West Coast. Clark was just getting started at the time, but you know we were reading the magazine, and we had seen the ads. So we just got on the phone or sent him a letter. And as far as resin cloth, Harold was, you know, in the cloth business.

Petty: I was textile major. So I had some idea about fabric.

Lancaster: And so we tracked down cloth that way, but we must have talked to a dozen chemical companies that would first sell us small batches of resin for the first half-dozen boards, and we bought it locally in gallon quantities. But it became pretty obvious, pretty quickly that that wasn't going to work economically.

Petty: How did we come up with Diamond Alkali? I really don't remember.

Lancaster: I think it was just on the phone.

Fritzler: Now what was this?

Petty: Diamond Alkali. They made three different resins, and they did laminating and sanding in New Glasgow.

Fritzler: The reason I asked that question is because I think today's contemporary surfer and surfboard builder would just get on the internet or have a connection locally and they could just get all the materials they need. I was wondering back in the 1960s with limited access in comparison to today's market, you either had to phone or you had to write a letter. I just want our potential viewers to understand that you couldn't get this kind of thing overnight, and it would probably require some work on your part to really be able to touch this.

Lancaster: We talked to a lot of boat manufacturers, a big transition from wooden aluminum boats to fiberglass boats in the period that we started doing this. And those were usually the first contacts; that our local suppliers here were boat, primarily the customers were boat-makers and boat repairers. They turned us on to some local guy, like Harold remembered how we got the Diamond Alkali, but it was clearly a better product than we'd been using Monsanto, I think.

Petty: We tried epoxy. We made a couple of no-no epoxy boards; figured that wasn't the way to go.

Lancaster: Very hard to work with, and very difficult to do anything with after it set up. It didn't take-- you could paint it, but you couldn't coat it with other types of resin, so that didn't work very well for us, although we supplied a few rental programs with epoxy boards.

Petty: Epoxy boards, yeah.

Lancaster: Until we got rid of all the materials.

Fritzler: Now, so let's backtrack a little bit. So how did you guys get to know each other? You were born in 1938, Lanc?

Lancaster: Right.

Fritzler: And you were born in--

Petty: Much older than me.

Fritzler: So you were a young buck?

Petty: I'm a young buck.

Lancaster: Well, my folks have had a place down here since the late 40s, and Harold's grandmother was here.

Petty: Here forever.

Lancaster: Right. And so we went-- there was an age difference then. And it was a bigger difference then, obviously, than it gets to be when you get older. But we ran into each other around the beach.

Petty: Watering holes.

Lancaster: Right, and I started working on the beach at about the same time that Harold was working on boats. So he would be out on the beach, and we'd be around the dock. We got closest when we were both working on the beach together.

Petty: Everybody met at the Silver Dollar.

Lancaster: Yeah. Right.

Petty: And that's where we got to know the older folks that looked down on us young bucks. Then, once they got closer, they got to be pretty good friends.

Fritzler: The Silver Dollar, was that a bar?

Petty: A bar.

Lancaster: It's still a bar. Different bar then, called the Silver Dollar.

Petty: Billie... someone. And I don't remember before her. Cheeky little woman. You didn't show your rear end up there. You were escorted out.

Lancaster: Billie had two daughters, and she and her two daughters ran the place. But like Harold said, she must have 90 pounds soaking wet, but if you mouth off or if you didn't behave the way Billie wanted you to, she would escort you, physically, right out the door in no time flat. But like Harold said, it was a nice hangout for the local folks. We spent a lot of time there.

Fritzler: The Silver Dollar, not just locally, but it was known throughout the Cape Fear coast of North Carolina. The Silver Dollar was famous.

Petty: That was the starting point at night, if you went out on the boardwalk. You went to the Silver Dollar and had a beer or two. You might hit another or the Ocean Plaza, but that was the main one.

Lancaster: If you wanted to find out who was going to be up there, you see all your local buddies, and then the young ladies who were visiting the beach for some way or another went to the Silver Dollar. So you see a half a dozen heads stick in, "You gals can come on in if you want to."

Fritzler: And even prior to that meeting, you were talking about being 4, 5, 6, 7 years old when the amusement park, it was still there.

Petty: It was, and Jean had a buddy called Wonder Planters. And her wonder was about that much clearance from the bottom of the planter in the windowsill. And I could remember being 13, 14 going and looking in and saying, "Man, I can't wait until I get to be 18."

Lancaster: Being such a young person, he probably saw me hanging out there.

Petty: I saw him a lot and I said, "Yes, I want to get to know him."

Fritzler: You're all of two years ahead of him.

Petty: But back then it was a big difference.

Lancaster: We were just doing different things, two or three years apart.

Fritzler: Now, when you guys say you were working on the beach, you're referring to lifeguarding?

Lancaster: Yes.

Petty: Other jobs too? I worked at the Red Apple. I chased surf mats. [inaudible] your dad and somebody else was in the bathhouse and all that up at the pier.

Lancaster: Actually, I worked at the pier, the first year that I guarded on the beach. If you had a bathhouse, you had to have a lifeguard. Buddy Burnett, Harold knows, a local boy, grew up on the beach, had guarded up there for a couple of years. But his dad was in the automobile business, so Buddy stopped guarding. I had known Dan Hope, who ran the pier, for some time. In the spring, about, I guess this was the summer of 1954, 1953 maybe, 1953, he wanted to know if I wanted to lifeguard. I thought that was great. I had already had my water safety badges. I didn't have my instructor's yet. So I went up there to work-- when was that? 1954. My dad was not down here then.

Petty: I thought that he had--

Lancaster: No, he just fished up there all the time. If he was here on the weekend, he was on the north pier fishing. But then moved from there one year, two years down to Carolina Beach. It was interesting. We worked either directly for the town or for one of the bathhouses. It was always interesting to find out who was going to give you your money on payday. Alan Murray was the first guy that I worked for, and sometimes he would give me my pay from the town, and other times he would send me down to talk to Mr. Batson, Mr. Bill Batson at his bathhouse and bar. I'd have to go in and talk to Mr. Batson. He always wanted to know why I wasn't sitting in front of his place all day long every day if he was giving me my salary for the week. That was always an experience. But I don't know-- you must have started out there in about 1959, 1958?

Petty: 1959.

Lancaster: And I was in the Army there for a couple of years, three years, and so the summers of 1959 and 1960, I was in Germany. They were well-entrenched on the beach when I got back. And for some reason or other, they needed a head guard, which was a mistake to have taken this because these guys were merciless. I could do nothing.

Petty: We tried to keep him straight.

Lancaster: Yes, they did.

Petty: Did your best to-- let him sit on the stand 8 hours by himself, stuff like that.

Lancaster: It was a lot of fun.

Fritzler: Was it? Did you guys play a lot of pranks on each other?

Lancaster: They were merciless.

Petty: Every chance. One funny story is the guy with this board here, Albert Jewell-- Albert used to come out and sit with us on weekends. The middle aged lady there spent too much time in the Silver Dollar eating pizza and drinking beer, and she got into a little trouble. It was an assist more than a rescue, but we got her and took her back to Ms. Friar, the nurse there. About an hour later, she came up and says-- she wasn't all that attractive, wanting to know who saved her, and wanted to give him a great big wet kiss and all of us pointed to Albert, and Albert ran from that woman for about two or three hours straight, trying to hide. And by the time he had come out of hiding, here she comes.

Lancaster: But it was interesting in that period of time, because on the weekends, all the older guys, even older than me, who had worked on the beach would show up if they were in town, and they'd come out and work weekends. We used to have some huge crowds every weekend. You would see, I didn't know, anytime, a half a dozen guys that had worked there over the years. We didn't ever see Hannahh Block down here while I was here, but she would come apparently at the end of the years before the early 50s back to the beach, on the weekends and that sort of thing. Nick Pomus, who you know, a local musician, used to be there every weekend. We'd get Stancil Willard, who worked with me early on at the beach. Tommy and Columbus Seaford, who worked on the beach. Columbus fished and owned the Columbus Motel down here. Alan Murray would come back occasionally. Louis Liner. His dad made Calcutta fishing rods for years. But we'd see all of these folks on the weekends. So there was a lot of history working on the beach. And it was mostly local crowds.

Fritzler: How about, you mentioned Hannah Block. Did you ever see or know Robbie Peck?

Lancaster: The name is familiar, weekends, maybe. Early when I started working.

Fritzler: He would have been in the late 1940s, very early 1950s.

Lancaster: Not much though. I think that he was down for a visit maybe the first year I worked down on the Carolina Beach course. But I remember the name.

Fritzler: And did you ever see his surfboard?

Lancaster: No. don't remember that.

Fritzler: Were y'all lifeguarding up until 1962?

Petty: I was.

Fritzler: You were?

Lancaster: 1961 and 1962, I was guarding in 1961 and 1962.

Fritzler: Do you remember what drove the surf mat ordinance of 1962? The Carolina Beach surf mat ordinance? You know, they regulated surf mats or are you not familiar with that?

Petty: No.

Lancaster: I don't either because one of the things that we had all the time there, the entire time that I worked was just this perfusion of kids on surf mats. You begin to see some surfboards the last year that we were there, the people brought in. We didn't see very many, but kids, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 years old, surfing on, not on their knees, but standing up surfing on surf mats.

Fritzler: Really?

Lancaster: Mostly it was knee-riding, but then you get the really talented kid who's standing up surfing on one of those surf mats. They didn't last long.

Fritzler: You were saying that--

Lancaster: That was probably the late 50s and 60s. Surf mats were everywhere.

Fritzler: You guys were stand-up surfing on the paddle boards that you used as lifeguards?

Lancaster: Yes.

Fritzler: And that was the late 50s, early 60s.

Petty: I made a few rescues on it, out there surfing.

Lancaster: I certainly did. The early years that I worked out there before the surf program was completely defunct on really busy day. There was a surf guard. Some non-thinking person would always find an opportunity to try to swim out from the beach, and we'd end up having to go out after them on the paddle board or with the surfboard or get him back in there.

Fritzler: Oh, man.

Lancaster: But yeah, but first opportunities to use the board. I think Stancil Willard used the board a lot.

Petty: And I was on the boats then.

Lancaster: He worked the first year, worked full-time the first year I was out there, and spent a lot of time on that surfboard. But so did the other guys. And that's the first time I tried that.

Fritzler: Now it is-- when did you go down to Florida, Harold?

Petty: Well, let's see. We did [inaudible] take off [inaudible] and all them.

Lancaster: Frank Robbins.

Petty: Frank Robins, yeah.

Lancaster: Randy, Jimmy, and myself, went the end of the summer of 1961. I stayed about a half year, and came back.

Petty: I must have taken off in 1962.

Lancaster: After the end of the summer, right. And we had worked at the Castaways down there, and I guess had good tales to tell, because isn't that where you went?

Petty: That's where I ended up. I went to New Orleans first, and couldn't get a job because of no demand for lifeguards. So I was coming back to get some references, and it was like this way to Florida and this way back to North Carolina, and I had $25 or $30. And that's when I discovered McDonald's $0.15 hamburgers. I decided to go to Florida and stay there. I had one egg in the hole, we had a place down at West Palm Beach, and stayed there a few days, and then went down to Miami to the Castaways to see who was there and Jimmy Stein was still there. Someone was leaving in a week or two, so I got hired on to work down there.

Fritzler: So it was here you were introduced to a more formal, contemporary sense of surfing? With that crew?

Petty: Well I learned to stand up and try to turn the paddle board, the rescue board. I knew how to do that, and then whenever I got down there, two or three of my buddies let me use their boards, and then I saved up enough money to buy one. I brought it back.

Fritzler: You've got a Surfboard House, and you didn't like that, and then you got the Velzy?

Petty: Got the Velzy. Yes. Because-- I can't remember his name now-- but one board that I borrowed was a Velzy.

Lancaster: And he was probably a year or two ahead of his contemporaries there with some of the things he was doing with boards.

Petty: Whenever shorts were coming. There was a story where he said, "I ain't shaping these." Then whenever long boards started coming back, he was 72 years old or somewhere around there, he started back making long boards.

Lancaster: You know, for most of the-- and I'm going to say "contemporary", contemporary in the late 50s or early 60s, you either worked with Dale Velzy or for him, or went over and hung around while he shaped boards because he had a handle on all of it.

Fritzler: And 1963, 1964 was when you were in Santa Monica? From our last interview when I first met you, your closet shop to you was Dave Sweet.

Lancaster: Dave's got a different board. He was the first person that I am aware of who made pre-formed blanks. I don't know the process or whatever, but he didn't have to do any molds. I guess the molds were adjustable, because he had a huge range of sizes and shapes-- rocker, spoon, nose, rocker. They came ready to knock the mold marks off and glass. And of course, if you wanted stringers, they sold those and glued the stringers up right in the middle. But that's the first place that I ran into that. But extremely fast boards; they had very little lacquer on a standard board. A little left on the nose, but just mostly straight-- a big problem with that is trying to keep up with it after you got out there, which is particularly with these waves on the East Coast.

Fritzler: When we had met, you had told me that you went out there, you were kind of blown away by the popularity of surfing, and surfboards were everywhere.

Lancaster: They were. We used to drive down to Long Beach, what's the-- Huntington Beach, and there in Santa Monica. But Huntington Beach was the most popular place that I can recall. On a Saturday or a Sunday, there wasn't a square foot of water that seemed like it didn't have people paddling boards around. So surfing was already big on the West Coast.

Fritzler: Did you experience kind of similar presence in Florida?

Petty: There were a lot of board down there, but the thing about it, it would be a three foot day, and everybody was going crazy, they were stoked. There were no large waves unless there was a storm offshore. A three-foot day was "whoopee" up there and I'm not even going to mess with it. There were a lot of boards down there. It surprised me.

Fritzler: When you guys started formulating your plan to go into business with each other, did that have any influence on you? The fact that this was in a matter of respects, and untapped market you know compared to what you had experienced in California and Florida?

Petty: I really don't think about what we might make, or what I might make because we started out individually. It never entered my mind. I just always wanted to surf, and I just always wanted a surfboard. And now I'm going to learn how to make boards for my buddies so they can enjoy what I'm enjoying and then we said, "Well let's don't compete, let's get together."

Lancaster: Actually I had a place, and we were working in the same place, the surf shop that we ended up in. It became obvious that we were doing the same thing. So after, like we said earlier, we both made several kit boards, and Lord knows I have tried dozens of different types of foams and resins. The interesting thing is where, you know, you try one and then everything melts on the floors. I said, "Well, that won't work." But we just sort of eased in to business, and I think the bigger concepts of making more boards, trying to do different things, just sort of evolved naturally from.

Petty: I called and actually got hold of Greg Noll.

Fritzler: Oh wow.

Petty: And talked with him. "Hi, Mr. Noll, this is Harold Petty calling from Carolina Beach on the East Coast, and I want to make surfboards. Tell me something." And he said, "Well do you have a set of templates?" And I said, acting like I knew what they were, "No, but I thought maybe you might sell me a set." And he said, "No. You have to come up with your own templates." I also bought three or four boards from him, two, three. I didn't know until later in life that I'd actually talked to somebody who was somebody out there in the surfing. Greg Noll.

Lancaster: I don't know if you've seen a lot of the recent documentaries that he's played a big portion, and if there's anyone maybe other than Hobie Alter who has been a prime promoter of surfing, it's Greg Noll.

Petty: He rode the big ones in those hard tunnel striped shorts.

Fritzler: The prison shorts?

Petty: Yes, the prison shorts.

Lancaster: The Dr. Seuss shorts, before Dr. Seuss.

Fritzler: This idea really of making money really didn't enter into your mind?

Petty: That was not a driving force for me.

Lancaster: I think the first year we sort of settled into the way to do this, and we just sat down and looked at what we had spent and what we made and said, "Well, we could probably do a few more." And of course--

Petty: It was more money than lifeguarding. It was more money than any jobs back then.

Lancaster: We decided that if we could do that, then we might be able to that earlier in the year, and later in the fall. And of course that turned out to be-- the case, we just sort of evolved into that. And when we decided that we could do big things with it, then trying to make money a real problem. We had three years of financial information, and we had a little inventory, and a little stock, but you couldn't get anybody interested in lending you enough money to get into a plant where we could control the environment where we could set up production, production lines that it made sense to do more volume on, made it more interesting.

Fritzler: Do you remember what the cause for that was, or what their reasoning was behind that?

Lancaster: The financial community, from my recollection, just wasn't into--

Petty: Surfing.

Lancaster: The idea of surfing. I can recall talking to a couple of bankers and someone who was supposed to be providing free advice about what the Small Business, what is it, Small Business... ?

Petty: SBA.

Lancaster: Yeah, administration would do knew nothing about that. Just didn't have any feel for that at all, and said, "This is not something that we would be involved in, or from the SBA, that you should be interested in taking a risk on."

Petty: Surfers had a really undeserved kind of bad name, a little stigma there.

Lancaster: What they didn't know about surfers is, well, you know kids on the beach all night waiting for surf in the morning or showing up by the hundreds at a surf meet on the East Coast, sleeping in parked cars, sleeping on streets, sleeping on the beach. And while that's all they were doing was, you know, sleeping or waiting for the contest started, it had a stigma that wasn't too attractive I think. But, you know, the most ironic question was from one banker, he says, "Well what kind of collateral do you guys have?" I laughed, and I said, "You know what? If I had any collateral, I wouldn't be in here talking to you."

Petty: Every year for inventory, we would borrow on our cars.

Lancaster: Sure.

Petty: We really did not want to have to go Mom and Dad. We wanted to do it totally on our own, and we borrowed money every year on our vehicles, bought the inventory, and got to paying.

Lancaster: You know, you pay off those notes. And there'd be a little left over. Harold was going to school, I was going to school, and Jeanie and I were married then, and of course, we had Tracy by then. So there was enough money to take care of those things, but we still had to borrow on our cars.

Fritzler: How did you guys some up with the name East Coast Surfboards.

Petty: 'Cause we're on the East Coast.

Lancaster: Wasn't anybody else here.

Petty: No one had it. Who was building? Surfboard House down there. Murf the Surf, Ron Jon had some boards, and then somebody on up further. Virginia Beach, Frank Holland.

Lancaster: What's the guy's name-- the guy that broke his neck? Ed Wise was in Delaware, and he had his little shop up there. And this was at the end of the process, I guess the last year that we were in business full-time, but Murf the Surf and who else was it down there?

Petty: Alan Kuhn and George, I did not know him. George somebody. There were three of them.

Lancaster: There was a couple of shops in Florida that were the only shops that were, as far as I know, that were making boards when we got started. And there was no one in the mid-Atlantic. Holland and Bill Wise's place came along about the same time that we started.

Fritzler: Incidentally, my uncle bought his first board from Bill Wise. That's were he started to surf, in Delaware.

Petty: They also had Rossie [inaudible].

Fritzler: Rossie Simmons?

Petty: Yes, Rossie Simmons.

Lancaster: Interestingly enough, he was down here for a while, I guess the first year we were making boards. But they weren't making boards up there then, were they?

Petty: No. They had a falling out and they parted ways.

Lancaster: Yes, because he was down hanging around the shop for most of one summer. He'd come in and work a while, shape a little while. Very knowledgeable, easy to get along with, but didn't stay long.

Petty: Now let me tell you the best thing that happened with him, though, he went out to the left coast and worked for, I'm pretty sure it's Hobie, for a while and learned all the tricks and then came back. And where it has taken me 15 minutes to blast a board, after he showed me how to do it; I'd set a resin gloss in five minutes. And I had that board done. It was really something so simple where I'd pour my resin and I'd squeegee it down all the way down to the rails, and what they would do is out there, they would trim the fabric and everything and then they pulled it over two times so you'd have a thing of glass about that wide, and whenever you poured your resin on it, you just about let it all out and then you just take a wide squeegee and run down that two times, and it was wet. And you'd just unfold it and do your rails and you were done. Maybe pop a bubble out somewhere.

Fritzler: How about some of the other folks who have worked at East Cost, like Joe Marley? Do you remember any of those guys?

Petty: No, we don't.

Lancaster: I think that's funny because I think that every kid in Carolina Beach must have been there to do something at least once.

Petty: Joe's very successful.

Lancaster: But Joe Marley, Bill Reed, I know spent a lot of time. We had, what's his name? Just off the council last time. Gary Dietch.

Petty: He used to hang out there. I'd get him to go out with girls. "Do you want to go out with that guy over there?"

Lancaster: But then we had Rodney Everhart who was there forever--

Petty: Who was voted "Least Likely to Succeed at Anything." And you see what Rodney did.

Lancaster: And he was a very, very bright kid. Just not quite motivated.

Fritzler: His brother seems to be pretty intelligent, too. He got a Ph.D.

Lancaster: They are both very bright, Rodney went into business of course, and that's a story of its own. I think every kid in Carolina Beach and some from Wrightsville Beach spent nights at the surf shop down there. It was always a surprise to go down there--

Petty: To see who was sleeping in.

Lancaster: We'd locked up carefully at night, and Harold had a key, I had a key. And obviously other people did too, if they were working there full time. But you'd go in there and you'd find, literally, a showroom full of kids in the morning. Well, how did you guys get in?

Petty: A lot of the guys from Bragg and Lejeune that surfed and couldn't afford a motel, we'd let them sleep there, and of course they would shower in the ocean. It was a free room. It was a free place to stay.

Fritzler: That brings up an interesting question that I've had. I haven't seen really any work done on this question. How much of an influence were military personnel on you? As far as surfing goes, you know, I talked to-- I didn't talk to, I have read accounts of people like Skip Savage, who was one of the first surfers up in Delaware, and Robert Parker talks about how he learned to surf on his cousin-in-law's surfboard and he was stationed at Fort Bragg. It seems to me that guys coming out from California who are stationed here had some sort of an influence on East Coast surfers.

Petty: We'd pick their brains, find out anything we could from them about surfing, just like from Rossie. Of course, Lanc, you know did shape every board that came out on the beach, he'd go check out and see--

Lancaster: Absolutely, if you go out there with a board on your car, and it was one we hadn't seen, we got that down and we had a look at it. Why did you buy this board? What are the characteristics? What does it do? Why does it do that?

Fritzler: It's a very experimental period and time for you guys.

Lancaster: Well, and this goes back to Harold's comments about his dialogue with Greg Noll about have you got your templates done. It took us the better part of the first two years to come up with templates that we used. And you know it was a standard set of templates, but then where you placed them for what board, or how you manipulated them if you wanted a different characteristic out of the board. And, you know, for guys that had been doing this for years on the west coast, it was obvious that they had templates that they didn't have to manipulate. We worked okay with that, but it took a long time. And every now and then, we talk about that. We really need to redo this template. We need the board to do something else, and a lot of that would come from input from people--

Petty: Like a nose rider that didn't nose ride.


Fritzler: What about fins and skegs? Did you have fiberglass rope or?

Petty: Well, whatever you're putting the skeg on, add a piece about that size, and you would run a piece down where the skeg went into the board. So you're around it rather than on an angle.

Fritzler: But you made your skegs? Or did you order your skegs?

Petty: Both. I take scrap and made a lot of them matter of fact, and on my boards I made--

Lancaster: Well, you made all of these.

Petty: Well if they're glass I did.

Lancaster: The first year, and part of the initial year, and part of the first full year that we were there, we used marine plywood and you'd lay that up with fillets around the edge, and then two or three layers of cloth on that. so we made all of those up, too. I think that last year, was the last year that we--

Petty: Last year was trafs [ph?], wasn't it? Traf [ph?] fins, which is you know what it spells backwards.

Lancaster: But we had just talked about some of the polystyrene, polyester fins and fin boxes the fall before we decided to go out of business the next year. So they were available on the west coast, but we hadn't used them before, and we would need more tools because we would have to rout the stringers if we used those, or rout the fins, or rout the blanks if we weren't using stringers. So we were just getting into the concept for that.

Fritzler: Did you sell your boards to other shops in Carolinas?

Petty: Murf's surf shop, the first boards he ever had, he started at Atlantic Beach, up that way, were East Coast Surfboards.

Fritzler: I know Tommy Morrow in Atlantic Beach surf shop say that he carried some of your boards too.

Petty: We had someone at Litchfield Beach.

Lancaster: Somebody at Folly, someone down at Merle's Inlet, Litchfield Beach is actually where he had his shop. I don't remember the name of it. I think it was a beachwear shop at Litchfield. They wanted some boards and they called one day, could he get a half a dozen boards down there. I said, "What do you want?" and he said, "What do you have?" I think Jeanie and I and the baby took a load of boards down there and came home with a nice fat check, and never heard from him again.

Petty: Jim Marley and I did that. We went down and sold them. I think I had six boards on the car, and got to see David Nueva, ____________ I forget who all else. And then somebody stole my surf rack. Luckily, I only had, I think, one or two to bring back.

Fritzler: Do you recall if the shop in Folly was McEvellan's [ph?]?

Lancaster: I don't remember. Did you go down there?

Petty: Yeah I could almost show you where the shop was, but I really don't remember either.

Fritzler: He was the first shop in Folly Beach.

Lancaster: Could very well been.

Fritzler: His family still owns it.

Lancaster: We took some to Virginia Beach as well. I think that trip, again, that trip to Florida to Impala Beach. I know you did that. Litchfield Beach is the farthest south that I went. But we sold, and this I think, principally to the Burkes, and then he went into the rental business, too. And we sold a lot of board that we couldn't move, that sort of thing. He always wanted to know if he could get them in a different color, and if we could make them lighter, but we wouldn't sell them for that purpose with the logos on them. He usually colored them pink or blue or yellow and glossed over all of the boards before they went up there.

Fritzler: Speaking of locations, around Carolina Beach and the area, do you reminisce on the different surf spots? I know we had the cove and stubs. Your favorite surf spots on Carolina Beach? Port Fisher.

Petty: It was breaking that day. It was out in front of my house. That was the place in the day.

Lancaster: Absolutely. And we had a little sand bar just north of the surf shop. And if it was going to be a beach break in Carolina Beach other than center pier, that's probably as good as it was going to be. So lots of times in the middle of something, "Hey, can you stop that right now, because the surf is breaking right down the beach here." And everybody would grab a board and run for the beach. Cove was of course always best, if we had a big swell. But like Harold says, anywhere the surf was up.

Fritzler: Robert Parker, he wrote an article that appeared in a magazine called Atlantic Surfing Magazine, which was a kind of early upstart surf magazine on the east coast. It didn't last for very long. In that article, he mentioned several surf spots in Carolina Beach, of course the cove, stubs, but he also mentioned a plot called Lanc's and that may be reference to being out right across the street from your house.

Lancaster: It could very well have been.

Fritzler: His cowboys were in the center and he saw, he had a little bit vending outfit there, cowboy. And Chuck's--

Petty: And you could always just about count on something being around a pier.

Lancaster: And wasn't there a pier there at one time where Cowboy's place is?

Fritzler: There were stubs there.

Petty: There was one at Fort Fisher, but I don't remember one at Cowboy's. Not to say there wasn't.

Lancaster: Well, there are a lot of rock outcroppings down there at the south end of Kure Beach and it could have just been some of that coquina rock that was up and you get a little break around it under certain conditions.

Fritzler: A lot of that stuff, too, is dislodged by hurricanes.

Lancaster: Yes it was.

Fritzler: So it's spread all over the place, and often they would create surf breaks and sand bars themselves. Speaking of hurricanes, when I first talked to you a couple years ago, Harold, you referred to "September rollers". Was that a particularly favorite time of year for you guys as surfers?

Petty: It was for me, and particularly whenever I was body surfing.

Lancaster: Yeah, I think early on, I think you look for late August and early September, sometimes even into October because all the storms are going on in the Caribbean and south Atlantic, and we just get great waves.

Petty: Big ones.

Fritzler: And you call them "September rollers".

Petty: September rollers.

Fritzler: Was that just something you called them?

Petty: Everybody. Just about everybody.

Lancaster: Well, everybody down here. Everybody at the beach who body surfed looked for September rollers. I can remember getting all worked out and being in the water until it was too dark to see because it was just too good to leave.

Fritzler: Well, what was it like to ride these things? Certainly, you've seen the documentaries with Greg Noll, who's riding these beasts in Hawaii with 30, 40 pound surfboards, with no leash. So what kind of experience was it to ride with this type of equipment here, certainly not as big, but certainly hairier than what you normally would surf?

Petty: I don't think theirs were as deep. It had a face to it, but I don't think it was like a straight up and down like Noll would do. It was more rolling.

Lancaster: And it has to do with bottom configuration. A lot of the offshore here, the bottom drops off very gradually, so the wave will peak up and break. In Hawaii, and even on the west coast, you have the very, very deep offshore water and then close to shore, really close to shore, you have the wave that rolls in, hooks up, and then breaks. Beach breakout there, you don't want to be in there because these are big and then bam. But when you get a north/south swell out there, then these big things, you get those breaks that run down the beach for 300, 400 yards and that's what you almost always see. And Hawaii is the same way. You've got deep water offshore, and then the waves break on the reefs. We don't have that on the east coast. And when you do get that, when you get really big waves, usually they break on the offshore bar, and you don't want to ride those on a surfboard either, because it will tow you out there in 6, 8, 10 feet of water, and you get 6, 8, 9, 10 feet of wave, and then when the wave pulls out, you don't make it, you're in three feet of water. Not an interesting experience.

Fritzler: In addition to a canvas by Cadence, we're talking about surfing at various times of the year, you guys are also a dealer for Dive and Surf, wetsuits. How much of that was going on in the wintertime? Surfing in the winter?

Lancaster: The kids.

Petty: I surfed during the winter.

Lancaster: Yeah.

Fritzler: [inaudible]?

Petty: Well, no. I surfed-- let's see, Albert Jewell's dad, I got him to use to his discount to get wetsuits. Full wetsuits; I wore the footies too.

Lancaster: I didn't surf in the winter. Usually by Thanksgiving it was too cold. Of course, I guess there was a reason that Harold and the other guys called me "Meatloaf". Even the fat got not taken offense.

Petty: I wasn't taking nothing.

Fritzler: Well, I'm going to change the tape out, because there's about three minutes left on it. And then maybe another half hour or so.

Lancaster: Alright. Whatever. We got plenty of time. I'm glad you guys have got sun this afternoon.

Petty: Are you sending out for lunch?

[tape change]

Fritzler: All right. Well, we're back and, Surfer Joe, you want to pick it back up? We'll be taking about the growth and development of East Coast Surfboards, how you started and how buildings grew. Would you talk about that?

Petty: Well, it started out in Lanc's father's grocery store. He was primarily buying out the competition.

Lancaster: When he bought the Cupboard Grocery, the folks who owned that actually had bought this little meat market that had operated for some years, and they used it for a storage area. So we had a porch and we had a couple of areas inside that we sort of worked in to begin with, and then early, I guess the first full year that we were working, we built on the back of that the area that Harold mentioned, where we did all the gloss work. And we bought a five-ton window, which we built that work for and routed into the glossing room.

Petty: Glossing room.

Lancaster: Which happened to be a meat storage locker, which, by the way, had a lockable door on it which occasionally wouldn't open from the inside.


Fritzler: Anybody ever get stuck in there?

Lancaster: Oh, yeah.

Petty: Whenever I'd get mad at Lanc, I'd take a stick and make it so he couldn't come out.

Lancaster: Right. (laughs) But when it became obvious that-- we were shaping on the little side porch; we were contaminating all of the air inside with foam dust. And, you know, then you run a gloss over on a board and it looks clean until it dries, and then you know you've got to sand all of that off and re-gloss it. So we moved the shaping work and the foam storage out into the second building. Although I don't recall the issue with the foaming folks, I'm sure my dad took care of that.

Petty: He did.

Fritzler: Was your father pretty supportive of your endeavor?

Lancaster: Yes. He couldn't have been more supportive. He didn't contribute any money.

Petty: No.

Lancaster: But then, we didn't ask for any. But he was certainly very supportive of that. It pleased him, I think, that we were doing some productive. But I worked for him. So did Jeannie. End up, on the store there as long as we were down here. So I might work all day and then go in and work a night shift there or get up and open up for them and work until time to go to work at the surf shop. So, you know, it was just a family thing. But they were very supportive.

Fritzler: Now in the town minutes, the little grocery store is referred to dash, bag, and groceries. Was that the little meat-- ?

Lancaster: That was the meat market.

Fritzler: Okay, the meat market. Okay, so the Cupboard--

Lancaster: The Cupboard Grocery on the--

Fritzler: It's over there.

Lancaster: Yeah, right. Well, both of them were already there. But, geez, Albert Newkirk owned the Cupboard Grocery and then had it for several years, and just added on the meat market. It had a little grocery service there as well. I think Mr. Newkirk had bought him out some years before that because the little meat market sat empty for several years.

Fritzler: But it would be fair to say that they were neighborhood businesses?

Lancaster: Oh, absolutely. And at the time they were the only two businesses, other than here on the north end of Carolina Beach. And, of course, when we closed the Surf Shop, later on my dad sold that, and they pushed that store in the out building down and built [inaudible] on that. So today the only two businesses is on the north end of Carolina Beach, the Cupboard and the North Pier.

Fritzler: It's funny, almost 40 years later.

Lancaster: Yeah.

Fritzler: Very similar.

Petty: The Cupboard's still there.

Lancaster: Yes, it is.

Petty: Probably more houses on the north end.

Lancaster: Certainly are, there certainly are. The '80s saw most of the-- or late '70s, early '80s saw the condo boom, but there certainly have been a lot more single-family homes, duplexes been up, you know, have been built up there.

Lancaster: I think he took that home to sell off most of the condos.

Petty: That was overbuilt.

Lancaster: Yeah. Which is the problem that we found ourselves in--

Petty: Today, but as townhouse rose and condos.

Lancaster: Right.

Fritzler: Yeah. Now, that's a little bit about the growth of the business, some of the problems that you ran into with the Small Business Administration, culture attitudes towards surfers in general and some of the stereotypes. But a little more locally, as far as your business relationships went, how'd you describe your working with Herman Richardson and Sonny Danner?

Petty: Good. It's a friendly competition.

Lancaster: Yeah, friendly competition. I mean, they were in the shop all the time. We were in their shop all the time. You know, if they found something that they used that worked well for them, we knew about it pretty quickly and the same thing with us. I know we must have spent days with them, you know, telling them what kind of materials we were using, where we were getting it from.

Petty: It was a good friendly conversation. Of course, they knew our boards were better. (laughter)

Fritzler: But they learned from you? They came after you a year or so.

Petty: Yeah.

Lancaster: Yeah. And actually they made a little bit different-- they had their own shape that they were after and a little bit different approach to making their boards. And they worked fine for them.

Fritzler: Can you flesh that out a little bit, about the different shape and the different approach?

Lancaster: They tended to be a little bit wider and a little bit thinner. And maybe that was a predecessor of some of the smaller boards, because they certainly seemed more maneuverable than some of the boards that we had, particularly early on. Although, as you can see from that one, we've certainly gone to thinner boards that were a little bit lighter and easier to handle. But Sonny Danner was one of the better surfers in the area. He was tall and thin.

Petty: About that long and he won every paddle board-- every paddle contest.

Lancaster: Right. But he, you know, just the mechanics of his body on the board, particularly a thinner board, let him do things with boards that didn't come along until we got the small board. So they were after that board, which was a little bit different than what we were building.

Fritzler: What kind of tool did you use, you know? I was able to track down that article in the News and Observer.

Petty: Oh, yeah?

Fritzler: And working with those at the News and Observer, Joe and I went up to Raleigh and actually found the negatives at the state archives and they made [inaudible]. And so we're working through the agreements that will allow us to use them for free for educational purposes, so I'm excited. But there is a photo of two gentlemen. I imagine it's Sonny and Herman in the shop, working on a board. And they have an electric planer-- or not a planer, but an electric sander and a few other tools. So that brings up another question, what kind of technology were you guys using to build these things?

Lancaster: All hand tools, I think. We used regular carpenter's clamp pipe clamps to glue up the stringers and the foam pads, which is where we set most of the spoon or rocker in the boards. Used just a power plane, a hand plane to remove most of the material. We used to shape early on sheer form planes, both the longer type and the hand plane, but then later on they started making this sandpaper mesh that looked like screen with sandpaper on it.

Fritzler: Alligator skin.

Petty: Yeah.

Lancaster: Which was particularly effective for doing rails. I think Harold's principal tools in the glossing room were a pair of scissors and a box knife.

Petty: A squeegee.

Lancaster: Yeah, and a squeegee, yeah.

Petty: And a roll of tape. That was it.

Lancaster: So, you know, we weren't in the environment that they're in today where they set up a planning machine. The parameters that they want feed in a blank and have it come out finished except for the rails on the other end.

Fritzler: But, you know, for many shapers, at least, you know, local shapers who aren't big-time corporate endeavors, a lot of the practices and tools are still the same.

Lancaster: Pretty much the same?

Petty: If you're doing it by hand, yeah. It's nothing unusual.

Lancaster: Not really. It's like fine wood joinery work. You know, there's some of that that you can use power tools on, but most of the fine joinery work, particularly for boats and things like that, is done by hand. And so it doesn't get any better than that. You just get skilled with the tools that you use and practice is what makes that work.

Fritzler: So did you have an electric planer? You said a power planer.

Lancaster: Yeah, an electric planning pipe. It has a rotary wheel with three cutting knives in it, and I think one of the toughest parts of-- it was-- keeping the knives sharp.

Petty: Well, that and not bearing down too hard.

Fritzler: Did either of you have boat building experience?

Lancaster: Boat building?

Fritzler: Boat building or did you take woodshop in high school, junior high, anything of that nature?

Petty: Not me.

Lancaster: Me, either. In shop or in whatever those skills are called, I took mechanical drawing. But I know Harold had repaired boats and I had, too.

Petty: Yeah.

Fritzler: That's what I meant.

Petty: Okay. No, I never built one but, matter of fact, we were thinking about, to help us getting through the winter, putting a bay large enough to get, say, a 25-foot trailorable boat in that I could work on during the winter.

Lancaster: And that was one of the design things for the 30-foot building in the back. We had double doors where we could actually set the trailer down beside the building and turn it into--

Fritzler: That's what I was looking for.

Petty: I did some of that. And, matter of fact, I even worked on a couple of Corvettes. But, you know, fiberglass work to fiberglass, if you've got some idea of what you're doing.

Lancaster: Right. The big there would be whether using polyester resins or--

Petty: Epoxy.

Lancaster: Epoxies, right.

Fritzler: Now you mentioned you had to actually glue up the foam with the stringer?

Petty: Yeah.

Lancaster: Well, when we started off we ordered these already glued up. We decided what we were going to try to sell, and we would order the blanks cut and the stringers glued in. That was pretty pricy because we were paying West Coast labor to have that done. So, I don't know, one of us called Clark and asked about that. They said, "Well, we could send you the blanks cut, taped back together so, you know, you won't damage the phone, and you can buy stringers anywhere you want to or we'll sell them to you."

Petty: And put whatever you want in.

Lancaster: Right. And so it was a whole lot cheaper to do that.

Fritzler: And where did you get the stringer wood?

Lancaster: We ordered most of it from them, although if somebody wanted something unique-- I don't remember, somebody wanted some pine wood in their board and so we just went down to one of the local lumber yards here and bought a piece of straight hard pine, had that run to thickness, and put it in there. I couldn't imagine why they wanted to do that, although it looked nice in the board. But all the balsa and redwood that we used came from, you know, came directly from Clark. One of the things that we did do, we used, particularly with clear boards, we would use colored glues. But we used polyester, polyurethane resin-- we just put a little color in there-- and we put some pinstripes along with the wood stringers in there, which was kind of different. We didn't make a lot of those, but a few.

Fritzler: And then the coloring of the board, did you spray at all? Did you use spray or did you use brush?

Petty: [inaudible] and I would start with the laminated tape, putting just, say, a few drops of white or red or whatever in it. Take the clearness out and then you sand coat, put a little and then gloss coat.

Lancaster: And we'd get a tinted board like that. Lots of times, if we were going to do colored panels or something like this green one, that'd go on last, you know. Harold would do the whole thing with the principal color, and then the last thing that would go on before the final coat would be whatever panel color you were going to do. And the principal thing that you got to there was you needed a smooth surface to lay the color panels in so you didn't have runs or uneven edges on the panels. You ended up sanding an awful lot of resin off so that you didn't have a lot of buildup.

Fritzler: What kind of tape did you use, masking tape?

Petty: Just masking tape, yeah.

Fritzler: No special tapes?


Lancaster: There were some interesting experiences with masking tape. We first started taping off the edges so we wouldn't have drips around. That didn't work because you couldn't get the tape out before it disintegrated. And then we tried other things where we used different kinds of masking tape.

Petty: We didn't have a whole lot of choices.

Lancaster: No, that's right.

Petty: And particularly on the East Coast.

Fritzler: You had the width choice [ph?].

Petty: Right.

Lancaster: And that was just about it. But the interesting thing is, it's like Harold said, you know, you want this resin to go off immediately so it's not there gathering dust. So if you take a panel off and you're running a color on it, well, you needed to do that and you needed to get the tape off. And you needed to do that while the resin, well, before it got tacky but before it would run when you pulled it.

Petty: Well, whenever you go to cut and if it started fraying, it wasn't ready to cut.

Lancaster: Right.

Petty: And whenever if you cut and the fibers wouldn't flare out, okay, now it's time to run the knife around it.

Lancaster: Right. And the masking tape, if you were there a minute too long when you pulled it off--

Petty: It was part of the board sometimes.

Lancaster: Well, it was part of the board or you left a jagged edge on the color that you just laid on. So the idea was it had to be almost perfect timing. You had about a 30-second window. You pull the tape off and the resin would just settle so that you had a smooth edge. But, again, if you get distracted or, like Harold said, you waited entirely too long, then there was an edge of masking tape in the color because it would not come off. And of course we did use orbital-- not orbital but rotary sanders with foam cushion pads and sanding discs.

Petty: About two inches pad.

Lancaster: And Harold's principal concern with that, particularly with the kids that were doing the sanding, is, you know, they'd get to talking to somebody and they're using this rotary sander and all of a sudden you've got this beautifully glassed board with your couple of coats of resin on there with this big groove cut in it.

Fritzler: That's horrible.

Lancaster: So how do we patch that?

Petty: We used more color.

Fritzler: Yeah. (laughs)

Lancaster: But in some cases--

Petty: Like Albert's board. (laughs)

Lancaster: But in some cases you actually have to go back in and patch the fiberglass because they'd cut through the deck.

Fritzler: And with the tools, were they electrical or air?

Petty: Yeah, electrical.

Fritzler: Electrical?

Lancaster: Yeah. No, that would have entailed the cost of a compressor and they weren't available as easily as they are today and certainly were much more costly. We couldn't afford that yet.

Fritzler: Did you guys put anything unique in your boards? I think, was it one of you, told me about Sonny Danner would put flies that would-- glass a dead fly in some of his or Herman? (laughter)

Petty: You could say. Okay, the board that is up at Jim's up the Coast--

Lancaster: Right.

Petty: -- he showed me the spider.

Fritzler: Yeah, the spider.

Lancaster: Well, you know, and one of the things about their shop, of course, it was just an open building and I don't think they had much climate control. If you live down here, you get flies and spiders, so I don't know how many of those there were intentionally put in the boards. But one of the things that Harold got to very early on, although we didn't make that many of them, is actually laying cloth or tissue designs under the glass of course. You see a lot of that today, where the patterns are actually sprayed on the foam.

Fritzler: Or if you get a floral pattern.

Lancaster: Right. That's right. And then you glass over that. But he had a couple of things where he put in batiks or prints or florals, which were pretty unique and certainly far ahead of what was available at the time.

Fritzler: How many surf boards do you think you manufactured over the three or four years there? Do you think it was a thousand?

Petty: Lanc put the numbers on this. Ask him.

Lancaster: You know, we talked about that here early that spring. We ended up with between 400 and 500 numbers. But I think we started, when we finally got into production and were numbering the boards, I think we numbered beginning with 101. So while initially I thought maybe we had done 400 and some boards, but I think we did 300 and some boards, plus the unnumbered ones that we did in the beginning.

Fritzler: So somewhere in the 400 mark, maybe?

Lancaster: Somewhere under 400.

Fritzler: A little under?

Lancaster: Yeah.

Petty: Yeah, I could eliminate that if I put a number rather-- on my board rather than putting a number on it. I just wrote "The End."

Lancaster: Right.

Fritzler: I think that's pretty special, though.

Petty: Yeah.

Fritzler: There's no questioning, "Did we have 528 instead of 527?"

Lancaster: No, you know, and I don't remember what the 400 number was, but it was somewhere in the 400s. And again, recollecting the-- I think we started production with 101, we were somewhere between 300 and 400 boards. And I don't remember whether it was 301 or 399 but, you know, somewhere in there.

Fritzler: You didn't ever have any, you know, special models. They were all East Coast surfboards. But did you ever have any models, somebody's model or anything?

Lancaster: No, and who was it that we were talking-- the Atomic Kid.

Petty: It was the guy on the left coast.

Lancaster: The one that-- Did I send you a copy of the material that we sent to him?

Fritzler: Anderson?

Lancaster: Yes. Yeah, he came across the website. He was like, "You know, I've been trying to get information on these guys for years and never could track anything down, and now you've got it. Can you put me in touch with them?"

Lancaster: Well, and he talked to someone or someone talked to someone that had an East Coast surfboard made especially for the Atomic Kid.

Fritzler: Yeah, that was Peter Anderson up in Maine.

Lancaster: Yeah. And we wracked our brain and I'm just going to say without a doubt that we never made--

Petty: I never glassed a board that had anything.

Lancaster: That had anything the glass something for an Atomic Kid.

Fritzler: It could have been an after-market insert.

Lancaster: It certainly could have. All you needed to do was sand that down.

Fritzler: That's right.

Lancaster: Put in a, you know, either do it by hand or put in some sort of decal and re-glass it.

Petty: Seen a lot of funny things. We had one kid come up when they were renting boards, and he wanted to rent one. Fine. And he already had a rack on his car, but no board. And we said, "Hey, you know, where the battle acre is down at Fort Fisher?" He said, "Yeah, I do." I said, "You want to go down there. Breaking good today." He said, "I ain't going surfing. I just want the girls to see a board on my car." (laughter)

Lancaster: You know, that's funny. We had a lot of that. We had a lot of that. Somebody'd come by with a rack and "I want a couple of boards." "Well, it's so much a day." "I'm going to have it for a couple of hours." "Well, the surf's not up right now." And like Harold said, wanted to ride around.

Fritzler: So they had seen kind of beach blanket movie?

Lancaster: Oh, yeah.

Petty: Yeah. Wanted to be a surfer dude.

Fritzler: Used to call them ho-daddies.

Petty: Ho-daddies.

Lancaster: Right.

Fritzler: They're ho-daddies if they just came from Burgaw or something and wanted to ride around with your surfboards. Ho-daddies.

Lancaster: And Harold and I thought we were surfer dudes and he and I are standing back there covered in resin from one end to the other, okay? Worst-looking pair of shorts or a T-shirt that you ever saw. And I think I'm a surfer dude. I don't have any of those fancy clothes.

Fritzler: I see you've got a skateboard there between your legs. Could you tell us a little bit about skateboard manufacturing?

Petty: I don't know who-- I think Meat here came up with the idea.

Lancaster: Well, like Harold said, we were always looking for things to do in the wintertime, and I think this is one of the first things that we could do off season. We, of course, were experimenting, as you see. One of the characteristics of today's skateboards is length and flexibility. Well--

Petty: No flexibility.

Lancaster: (laughs) No. This is one-inch ash. I've got to tell you that you can wreck any kind of tools trying to work with this.

Fritzler: And those are clay wheels, right?

Lancaster: They're a composite of some sort. We bought these from Chicago.

Petty: I don't remember.

Fritzler: I remember getting those trucks when they came, because those were about the first ones after steel.

Lancaster: Yeah.

Fritzler: They came for roller rinks and they sold trucks individually.

Petty: Yep, they did. And I think we-- Chicago Bearing or Chicago Wheel used to make these and we bought a bunch of ash and a bunch of trucks and said, "We'll just knock out a few of those." And like I said, the work involved in these was way more than we anticipated, and we used up all the ash and we still had all the trucks. (laughs)

Petty: And that was the end of our inventory. We never had any more inventory after that.

Lancaster: And of course the skateboard sold, you know, just like that. [looks at phone] Get this and make it go away before-- Jeannie will kill me.

Fritzler: So did you, you know, I know when we talked before some of the kind of, I guess, lighthearted activities that went around the shop were fish fries and block parties. So what were those like?


Petty: That's why we did a lot of it.

Lancaster: Well, we would--

Petty: We had the lot-- we had a couple of medics from Lejeune that would come down-- and maybe there was three of them; I don't remember how many but we let them stay there. And they would bring us this medicinal grain. Oh, my God, you'd take them--

Lancaster: I didn't want to remember that. (laughs)

Petty: You'd take a sun drop and an eyedropper, maybe three drops in it, and it still would kill you.

Fritzler: Really?

Petty: Uh.. uh..

Fritzler: That powerful?

Petty: Well, I may be embellishing a little.

Lancaster: Well, let's just say you didn't have to put a lot of this stuff in to make a real drink.

Petty: There you go.

Lancaster: But, you know, we told-- we didn't talk to you too much-- but when we were working on the beach, we used to fish a lot. And of course Harold had grown up in the fishing community, so we would find time to go fishing early in the morning, late in the afternoon or when there wasn't anything going on. We'd find somebody to fish with. And, you know, some we'd eat then and a lot of them would end up in the freezer. And we'd get a freezer full of fish and we would borrow Harold's grandmother-- who had the big frying pan?

Petty: Mama Edna.

Lancaster: Right. These big frying pans. And we had a rack made on some cinderblocks and so we would cook all of these fish, have slaw and cornbread, and have a fish fry. And whoever was around, all the kids in the neighborhood or whatever, we'd eat up all those fish.

Petty: Well, and plus some of the guys from either Bragg or Lejeune would bring us rations, field rations or, you know, whatever, C, K. I always had something to nibble on.

Lancaster: We had something like that going on all the time. And like I said, the kids from all over the beach, Wrightsville beach at Wilmington, would be there all the time. We'd go buy a case of soft drinks and, like Harold said, open up whatever we had there and they'd sit around and eat and we'd clean up. (laughs)

Petty: And maybe sell a board.

Lancaster: And maybe sell a board.

Fritzler: Tell me, how old were those kids generally, what was the age group?

Petty: From 10, 11, 12 up to--

Lancaster: Up to, you know, late teens.

Fritzler: So it seems like parents trusted--

Petty: Trusted us.

Lancaster: We were pretty parent friendly. You know, one of the things, "Why did you build boards the way you did," Carolina Beach particularly was not a moneyed community. And we sold some boards that came apart pretty quickly with a little use. We double-glassed all our boards, and they didn't tear up. They might discolor, but the boards are fine. And they were heavy, but the upside of that, parents thought spending, I don't know, somewhere over a hundred or a couple of hundred later, was--

Petty: That was an expensive board.

Lancaster: That was a big investment. And the last thing you needed was some irate parent in there. "You sold my kid this board. He used it once and it broke in half." But, you know, they-- well, fortunately or unfortunately, a lot of the parents knew us, so they were perhaps a little bit apprehensive about kids being around the shop. But I think we were mostly past all of that, and we were looking after the kids. We didn't want to have any problems coming from the shop. Then, too, we didn't want any parents worried about how their kids were. Every now and then I'd get a call at home at night, "Is so-and-so there?" "Yes, ma'am, he's down at the shop." "Well, are you checking on him?" "Well, I was down there at 8:00 or 9:00, and he's down there with three or four of the other kids." "Well, are they going to be all right?" "They'll be just fine." You know. But it was a very supportive environment, you know, from the parents.

Unidentified Man: I recall my folks thought of you folks as coaches, you know? You were coaches.

Lancaster: Pretty much.

Unidentified Man: We looked up to you that way, and I'm here to testify they were great boards. You built one of my first surfboards, the one out in the-- the large one with the black on the news there. And they were very durable; a fine surfboard. I really thank you for doing that, one of my magic boards. And I know my folks and folks down at Wrightsville Beach, everybody looked up to you here down at Carolina Beach. And the boards you produced here were high quality, durable and we loved them.

Lancaster: Yeah.

Petty: Built them to last.

Fritzler: What other kinds of activities were you into? Surf movies were pretty popular those days.

Petty: You don't want to know about some of the activities.


Fritzler: No, I do. I do.


Lancaster: Is this going to be a family oriented tape?

Fritzler: Yes, definitely.

Lancaster: I don't think you want to know about those. No, actually, we had a lot of opportunities to take groups of kids to see some of the early movies. Endless Summer came down here and played, at it played at Wrightsville Beach as well. And we bought a couple of hands full of tickets to take some of the kids to see the movie. We certainly went to see all of them.

Fritzler: Did you guys see it play up in Wilmington?

Lancaster: Actually, the both times I saw it, once it was at the Wave at Carolina Beach and once it was showing at Wrightsville Beach. That's where I saw it.

Fritzler: It showed the skyline, it showed all around.

Lancaster: Yeah, I didn't see it in Wilmington. I saw it once at Wrightsville Beach and once at Carolina Beach. But we went to surf contests. We would furnish the kids with boards if they didn't have one, and we'd take a panel truckload up to Wrightsville Beach or up to Virginia Beach, up to Atlantic Beach. I don't think we went down to Myrtle. I don't think they had anything going on. But we ended up paying for most of that, food, gas, that kind of thing, for the kids.

Fritzler: That photo we were looking at earlier, it's the group of you guys, I guess South Island Surf Club. There's I guess the panel truck in the background. You guys were all standing in front of it. It has surfboards on top of it. Was that your truck?

Lancaster: I'd have to look at that again.

Unidentified Man: I think that was Dennis Barber's? I think-- oh, the one-- his was the chuck wagon in time. Can you see the wagon in there?

Lancaster: Yeah. No, that's not ours. This was a 1952--

Fritzler: Is that your surfboard?

Unidentified Man: No. No, it is not. No. No, the trailer was the chuck wagon and then the top of that right there was the top of the Barber's motel. That's where that was.

Lancaster: We had a 1952 Chevy one-ton panel truck, which was as close to driving a tank as you probably would ever want to experience.

Fritzler: Were you guys into the Beach Boys?

Petty: Well, that's-- I danced, I shagged, and girls would come down and, you know, would say, "Do you like beach music?" "Oh, yeah, I just love the Beach Boys." That's not what I'm talking about.

Lancaster: Carolina Beach in music and dancing are perhaps a whole other story. You know, everybody will tell you that the shag originated somewhere in South Carolina. It didn't happen that way.

Unidentified Man: Deacon Hicks [ph?]. But we bopped.

Petty: Well, beach step, can you do the basic or can you bop or, you know. And I didn't know I was shagging for 15, 20 years.

Unidentified Man: I didn't know how to shag either, I always bopped.

Lancaster: Well, I took-- I learned how to shag in a co-ed dance class when I was going to military school in Charleston, South Carolina. And this was in 1952 or '53. But it's a variation of, you know, one of the '30s dances. It's a--

Petty: Take off of the Lindy.

Lancaster: Yeah, right.

Petty: But not as fast.

Lancaster: Right. But the version of the shag that you see today evolved out of the things that were going on, on the boardwalk down here when we were just little kids.

Unidentified Man: I think I recognize that a lot of the good dancers were also good surfers, because they could move around and learn the dance steps. They could also move stepping on the surfboard.

Lancaster: Absolutely. If you were coordinated enough to dance to the shag or whatever this is called down here, you certainly had enough coordination to surf. I don't know if any of these kids dance now or now.

Unidentified Man: Well, they do break dancing. That's that type of--


Petty: That's what my son does.

Unidentified Man: Short boards sort of invented break dancing.

Lancaster: Right.

Fritzler: Speaking of coordination, who was the better surfer?

Lancaster: Harold. Without a doubt.

Petty: Better dancer, too.


Lancaster: That, too.

Fritzler: So let's just start wrapping it up a little bit. You know, we get into '67 and you certainly have a family that's growing.

Petty: I was getting married.

Fritzler: You were getting married. The Small Business Administration was not showing its love for you.

Lancaster: Well, and this is actually going on in the tail end of '66 and winter of '67. I mean, we're, I graduated from school in '66 and I was working full-time for Jeannie's dad. And we were still, you know, building boards there through the winter of '66 and '67.

Petty: I graduated in '67.

Lancaster: Right. So, you know, something had to happen. We're talking about, you know, just making ends meet, working in the surf shop, so we were going to have to do bigger things that we were going to do. You know, we're calling companies. We're looking for money. We're talking about manufacturing techniques. It's like you can't build something big enough to do larger production on Carolina Beach. Then, you know, it just-- it wasn't going to come together. And so we decided that we'd be better off just-- Harold had all the jobs he probably would want in the textile business. And I decided to go into the Air Force. Why would I do that? I'm not sure, but it worked out fine. So it just seemed the thing to do. But I don't know. We didn't make a--

Petty: It was such a shock to me, though, having to get a real job.


Lancaster: Well and, you know, that's true because we were working all kinds of part-time jobs and things like that. And, you know, this was really something that's fun and most jobs aren't. I don't care how much you like them. But we did have a lot of fun. It was a real shock having to get a real job where you had to queue up for something every morning. You didn't have any flexibility at all. But we sort of evolved into that, I guess, over the winter and early spring.

Petty: Yeah. At 27 and 32 we matured somewhat.


Lancaster: Yeah.

Fritzler: So how did you guys, you know, you ended up going to Vietnam, to be stationed in Thailand.

Lancaster: Yep.

Fritzler: So how did you guys avoid the larger meat grinder?

Lancaster: Well, I had gone into the Air Force.

Petty: That one's about to go.

Lancaster: And I looked very carefully for a job that would get me over there. I felt like that was something that I had to do. But I was in the intelligence business and we didn't have a lot of ground people in Vietnam itself except in the larger bases, some of the reconnaissance and intelligence production centers. And I just happened to get a job flying with an intelligence gathering unit, and we were based in Thailand. We flew over South Vietnam every day, at least part of the day. And there early on flew over North Vietnam until that got to be too dangerous. But it was not something that I enjoyed, regardless of the fact that I wasn't right there on the ground. But I had a great career in the Air Force. I certainly don't regret that at all.

Fritzler: And then you spent most of your career in the textile business?

Petty: All of it.

Fritzler: All of it?

Petty: Yeah. Yeah, I just stayed in school to keep my college. It turned out I was, I guess, a draft dodger and didn't know it at the time, whenever it became popular five or six, 10 years later to dodge the draft. I got a notice before the notice in Miami. I got a 2:00 mail and by 4:00 I was teaching waterskiing in Cypress Gardens ski school. And I quit my job and loaded up the car and I was on my way back up here. Went to Wilmington college for the summer, and then up to Lee County to talk to the draft board and tell them I really wanted to get out of college, give me another chance, and they did. And I finally got out of college.

Fritzler: Well, are there any things that we didn't talk about?

Lancaster: Well, we probably think of, you know, something that we've talked about individually.

Petty: [inaudible]

Lancaster: Get out of here.


Fritzler: What's that? What's that?

Petty: We don't want to talk about that.

Lancaster: It's a private joke between us. Cut that part out when you come to it. But-- well, that didn't have anything to do with the surf shop.

Petty: Well I know, but part of your maturing into a military person.

Lancaster: Cut this part out when you come to it. But, you know, we probably talked individually and I know Harold and I have talked about a million things that we want to say some time later on, you know, we should have talked about or we should have said something about. But, you know, most of the things that you guys mentioned earlier in one of your-- or we probably covered today. And I know most of the things that we talked about you and I probably talked about, you know, as we talked or exchanged e-mails over the years. I guess one of the things that I found is that there seems to be this huge interest in the birth of surfing in Southeastern North Carolina. And, of course, when you're living it, it doesn't seem nearly that important.

Petty: Yeah. We would have started to write, been writing down things every day if knew this was going to happen in 40 years.


Lancaster: But no, I think we've covered most of the things that we started talking about. I appreciate the opportunity, if someone else is interested in this, to pass it along. And we'll be happy, you know, whenever there's an opportunity, if we think of something else maybe back to include in what you're doing because I think that's important. Because I think that people who live outside the area just don't know the huge amount of surfing, surfing related activities that have gone on down here.

Fritzler: Even within the local area, surfing tends to be more [inaudible] interesting history. It's very-- the industry [inaudible].

Lancaster: It does.

Fritzler: Not a lot of money in the history part of it.

Lancaster: And that's certainly a critical part of culture in the U.S. if not everywhere today. Although we're past the point in time where we can worry about getting old. Certainly that is--

Petty: We made it.

Lancaster: (laughs) Right.

Fritzler: What I'd like to do is, you know, I've certainly written up several pieces just based on personal interviews with you both and then some of the stuff today, but what I'd like to do is approach the folks at Snow's Cut monthly or the Wrightsville Beach magazine and see if they'd be interested in carrying a story about you guys.

Lancaster: That'd be fine.

Fritzler: You know and submit some of this work to them.

Lancaster: I actually know one of the writers, John Prestage or Prestige who writes pieces for them occasionally and know both Mike and-- what's her name, the other editor?

Fritzler: Snow's Cut.

Lancaster: Yeah, Snow's Cut. But I met him in a different environment and talked with her about an interview that didn't take place, just couldn't make a time work for her and me. But yeah, if they'd like to do something, certainly I'd be happy to do that.

Fritzler: Would you be agreeable to letting us?

Petty: Yes, if you'll let me get a word in edgewise. Fine with me.


Fritzler: Yeah, I mean, we--

Lancaster: See, that's the reason he never let me get upfront because he said I talked too much and I was stealing all the sales.

Fritzler: That's good. But yeah, if they're agreeable to it, we would-- Surfer Joe and I would polish up what we've written and let you guys look at it and then, if everything looked all right to you, we'd go ahead and submit it to them.

Petty: Fine.

Fritzler: Because I think one of either Wrightsville Beach magazine or their magazine would be appropriate forums, with the leadership that they get. I think Wrightsville Beach magazine gets a little bit more visibility just because they've been around longer.

Lancaster: They do.

Petty: What about the other one in town, Wilma?

Lancaster: Wilmington Magazine?

Fritzler: Wilmington Magazine?

Petty: Yeah, Wilmington Magazine.

Lancaster: Oh, I don't know.

Fritzler: Well, Wilma is a female-oriented magazine.

Petty: I know. That's why I say you need some male--

Lancaster: You've got to remember. See, Harold's still single.


Fritzler: Thinking with his other head.

Petty: There you go.

Lancaster: Yeah.

Fritzler: But yeah, but I just think this would be a really great piece to write up and share.

Lancaster: Works for me.

Petty: It works for me.

Unidentified Man: Thanks for your time today.

Fritzler: Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you so much.

Lancaster: We appreciate the time and the interest. It was good seeing you again.

Unidentified Man: It was good seeing you. Thank you, sir.

Petty: Get up there.

Lancaster: Don't fall over.


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