But what about the way the beach cottages were built? Well, they certainly couldn't be built on rock, but they could be built that didn't take away from the beauty of nature which all beaches had at one time. Sure they were built with wood instead of stronger concrete and steel, but the masterful construction made them both blend in with nature and amenable to dealing with what nature could throw at them. Large, strong pilings driven much deeper than the ravages of the storm could reach, extra nails in heavy duty wooden shingles which didn't splinter and crack and the lock down old fashioned shutters that shut the interior tight from wind and rain were standard features. Even more importantly, building was recommended on the highest locations on the beach where a natural gradual dune rose toward the surf with the ocean fronting side of the unit on the downward slope, significantly above the sand on those pilings. Compare that with today's oceanfront with high rises and concrete everywhere and packed so tightly together that when the water does get through, it undercuts concrete and flows like rapids through the narrow openings available, increasing in force and pressure.
Sure, some were foolish and built either too close to the shore or too low in the old days, but generally those were washed out over time and not rebuilt, as was not uncommon in the Kitty Hawk area where frankly the road was too close to the ocean even only twenty years after it was built. The old ones that lasted, however, some of which live on today were better planned. And it was around the late 1970's as the boom was really getting into full swing that caution was thrown to the wind. The result was the interior sand flats being built on as well with no concern for how excessive rainwater or overwash could naturally percolate into the soil quite rapidly. Today, there is no such escape valve and the result is frequently a toxic stew which ends up being pumped into the very ocean that beach property owners claim to have such reverence for.
There is no denying that I date myself, am getting old and show my personal bias in these remarks. But the one thing I can do is share the experiences that those of us who are getting older had, hoping that others can understand the simple pleasures we had as well. Our summer vacation didn't involve staying in cottages with game rooms, elevators, in ground swimming pools or even air conditioning. No, it meant sitting up late at night with a deck of cards, staying out in the fresh air and playing physical games all day long, or figuring out how to make a needed buck (many of us didn't have allowances back then) by cleaning fish, helping the fishermen with their nets, or collecting bottles. Child labor laws weren't such a big deal back then, so we might even help clean a cottage for rent, sweep driveways and porches after a northeaster or do other odd jobs. It gave us the funds we needed, not for fancy electronics or entry into high tech entertainment facilities. No, it gave us spending money for the snack bar and going to the skating rink, the center of attraction for its day. And when boys became teenagers, that facility was the drawing card for the girls of our age loved to skate and many a puppy love romance both began during, and ended at the end of the summer there.
There's also so much more. We could watch and help the local fishermen cast and retrieve their nets for fishing right in front of the cottages, always bringing home a bucket of fish for a wonderful breakfast. Or we could walk down the beach and cross the beach road to walk up Jockey's Ridge without facing wall to wall traffic on the roadway or having to be driven to a parking lot to make the climb. And those dunes were huge, looking like towering peaks back then instead of the pancakes they are today. Then there were the special dinners out at local establishments run by folks who spoke with the now disappearing local Elizabethan accent and served more than we could usually eat, not like a couple of shrimp and a dab of crab being called a meal. Finally, with no TV, the old small battery radios kept us up with the tunes of the day and we had wonderful discussions on the beach since we had never heard of a smart phone. At the same time the dogs ran free and so did the children who, if they were lucky, might even get a ride up Jockey's Ridge in an old Army surplus Willys jeep. Not that was a real treat. Plus, there was nary a serious incident or a kidnapping, for on a small town and local beach, people looked out for each other.
"Summers at Old Nags Head" can never be like that again and I suppose that's just natural. But the joys and pleasures they brought to us are something everyone should be able to experience and I guess that's why I write about them, hoping that I can show in words what can no longer be shown any other way. Thank the Lord for the good fortune that he gave me in my earlier days.