The family often vacationed at Carolina Beach in the early 1930s, and in the mid 30s Dad had a beach house built there. The cottage was located a mile north of the town center and was separated from the ocean shore by sand dunes. A year or two later Dad had two smaller cottages built on the same property even closer to the ocean. In the summer of 1938 the family left Pleasant Garden and made a permanent move to the beach. A much larger home had been constructed on Harper Avenue in the center of town, and that became our residence for the next seven or eight years. The house was named Guilford Cottage, and I believe there were seven bedrooms. At the front of the house there was a spacious dining room with French windows. A comfortable living room adjoined it. We spent many happy hours in that place. During vacation season, several of the rooms at Guilford Cottage were for rent, and over the years there were a variety of interesting guests.
In September 1938, I began attending fourth grade classes at Carolina Beach Elementary School, and that was my school home for the next three years.
Carolina Beach was on an artificial island formed by the inland waterway to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, and the Cape Fear River on the west. Wilmington Beach and Kure Beach were smaller oceanfront communities to the south of us, and Fort Fisher, an old Civil War ruin, was on the southern tip of the island. Carolina Beach had about 1,000 permanent residents
Carolina Beach & Environs
in 1938 and there were perhaps an equal number of people living elsewhere on the island. In summer months, the population of the several beaches swelled to 50,000 or more. The nearest town of any size was Wilmington, about 15 miles to our north.
When we first moved to the beach the ocean strand was wide and the sands were white and clean. Sand dunes separated most of the beach cottages from the ocean. It was a grand place for swimmers. There was a sand bar about 120 feet offshore. At low tide the ocean was no more than four feet deep between the shore and the bar, on the bar the water was less than two feet deep, and beyond the bar the ocean deepened gradually. Children could safely swim in the shallows, and the strong swimmers could go further out. What good times I had there.
In 1865 the area around Carolina Beach had been the site of the greatest amphibious military operation in American history up until that time. Thousand of Union troops had come ashore and established a defensive line across the peninsula, isolating Fort Fisher and enabling its capture by a combined naval and ground assault. Thousands of cannon shells had fallen on the Confederate positions, and evidences of the battle were still being unearthed during the late 20th century. Offshore there were the remains of numbers of Civil War blockade runners as well as other wrecks. It is an interesting area for history buffs.