Now the Town of Nags Head, what there was of it, was along the Roanoke Sound adjacent to the docks, so wagons and buggies would cart the summer residents across the raised sandbar along what is today Soundside Road to the oceanfront nearly due east of the town. Imagine a newcomer for the first time passing by Jockey's Ridge to the north and showing their amazement. And the children on board with them, well, you can just imagine their plans to play pirate or soldier on that massive set of dunes in the near future.
Today, with so many of the original homes having been restored to the same exact specifications as originally built but with some modern amenities in the plumbing and perhaps air conditioning department, a drive by brings a picture of a place held still by time. Now some also have been moved closer to the road due to beach erosion over time, but the neighborhood has qualified as a National Historic District which some designate Cottage Row. I would certainly hope that it will always be retained as such, since so much of the history and tradition of Nags Head is captured in those wonderful old cottages which blend with the natural environment rather than clash with it.
When I returned to Nags Head for a visit a few months back, I walked the beach in that beautiful area and just imagined what living back then must have been like. It really wasn't very difficult, for the Nags Head where I grew up in the 1950's and '60's was in many ways more closely related to the prior days than today. Oh, we did have a highway, cars, electricity and inside plumbing, but most of the cottages in that period were much more in tune with the unpainted aristocracy than today's McMansions and massive hotels and resorts. And whoever wanted to swim in a swimming pool when we had nature's grandest swimming pool right at our front door? It was a family beach where most everyone knew everyone else since the same families returned annually to renew acquaintances. The beach was largely wild and free, crime was practically non-existent, excepting childish pranks and dogs needed no leash. But we didn't bring our livestock to live off of while we were there and we didn't have Elsie the Cow living in the open area under the pilings. Not even my Outer Banker mother would have wanted that, but then again, she could go to the local grocer for that, unlike those early folks who had no stores available and had to be totally self-sufficient.
I can imagine an existence where when the sun went down, excepting the light of a kerosene lantern, not much was going on except having a wonderful conversation on the oceanfront porch, perhaps with an after dinner drink along with friends, while the kids told ghost stories and teased one another and voices and laughter were the only sounds heard other than the rhythm of the waves on the sea. The lead-in to a hurricane when the power went out was somewhat similar, though not as cheerful. But, wow, the quiet and the imagination and the ability to just sit and talk without an electronic device would, I think, be something that we want to bring back today. The art of conversation has nearly been obliterated as we move too fast without realizing that when we get there it isn't nearly so grand as we expected. I am glad that I at least experienced something not too dissimilar to the more distant past in my youth and young adulthood fifty-plus years later.
It won't happen today or ever again as the waves of what we call progress roll over everything in their path and, after all, nothing lasts forever. "Summers at Old Nags Head" were from a different world in a different time, but they will always live on in the hearts of those who experienced them. Memories are something we should always be thankful for.