Take a look at the picture for a moment and ponder what you see. The only thing different in the picture from it early days are the power lines. The old place, when the shutters are opened for the summer, offers the air the opportunity to flow freely from the ocean breezes. It is ventilated in all direction and with the high pitched roof, the heat of the sun fails to penetrate it beyond the upstairs. And even then, with the shutters open, the evening cooling makes it cool and comfortable up there for sleeping as well. Couple that with the wide spacing of the lots, it never gets unbearable and, consequentially, there is no need for air conditioning. Meanwhile, today we require air running all day long and can't hear the soothing sounds of the ocean and find ourselves having to constantly replace units due to the fast deterioration caused by the salt air. Is that a step of progress or an economical step back? It all depends on your point of view and each of us must decide for ourselves.
Imagine what it was like to be a part of a summer back then. The family packed up from places like Edenton and Hertford and boarded a sailing schooner or early steamer and sailed to the docks at Old Nags Head. From there they both walk and road wagons over to their summer quarters on the beachfront, likely ready for a cooling ocean swim after the warm trek across the above water sandbar that is Nags Head. There might even be an added supply vessel transporting their things to cover the entire summer. Even some livestock was common to be brought, with temporary pens being constructed or, in the case of some homes, being quartered under the high stilted cottage. Evenings on the porch were common, singing songs and playing cards or board games to gaslight. In the day, daily chores started things off with time for swimming, hiking the dunes and doing all things to a relaxed schedule. No one was bored because no one knew about gadgets and regular upkeep of the cottage was taken care of while there. They often enlisted subsistence living fisherman and craftsmen to help, the year round locals being capable of doing all things for themselves.
They rode out many a storm from nor'easter to hurricane and since they had not yet experienced electricity in the early days, they missed it not. They maintained plenty of supplies and fuel and after the storm was gone quickly returned to their normal routine. Families up and down the close knit community got together routinely and the small general store and post office was the only place for an outing. Parties with dancing were held in their homes and they laughed and joked like there was no tomorrow. Hearing a fiddle and banjo were music in the cool night air. Little boys played pranks and were mischievous, yet they knew just how far to go before they would be punished.
Picture yourself in a buggy riding down the hard packed beach, the fresh air in your face and the briny fragrance filling your nostrils. Maybe it was for a picnic on the beach, a visit to another neighbor or even seeking the perfect surf casting spot. Whatever the pleasure, it was glorious, simple and fun and by the time the dangers of malaria were passed, the families would board the schooner again and sail home, already contemplating their memories and what they wanted to do different the following year. It was a different time, a beautiful time and a time that can never be recreated on the Outer Banks and I thank a great photographer, Bill Hinkle of Manteo, for providing the picture which inspired me to write this blog today. Bill is an excellent artist with camera and I particularly love his black and whites which force your attention to the detail of the picture, not the colors.
If you like stories about Nags Head and the Outer Banks and would like your own source for some of the nostalgic ones of the mid-twentieth century and earlier, please take a look at my books about Nags Head and surroundings, they are available at the following link in both paperback and Kindle Unlimited formats: https://www.amazon.com/James-Dick/e/B00HFCMOVO. You can even sample a few pages with no obligation if you would like on that site. Have a blessed and productive day.