Atlantic, NC -- Stories/Story Tellers

"Atlantic Memories"

By Louise Holloway Mason

Background: Louise Holloway Mason married Michael A. Mason on July 27, 1921. They had four children: James Anderson Mason (died at 18 months), Pauline Mason Smith, Michael A. “Andy” Mason Jr. and Nancy Mason Moore. In 1961, Mike and Louise moved from Core Creek to Atlantic when he retired and enjoyed life there until his death on April 25, 1967. Louise died on Jan. 13, 1983. Louise was principal at Cedar Island School in 1923 (?). She went by boat to Cedar Island each Sunday, boarded with family there and came back to Atlantic on Friday. Mike was a commercial fisherman at the time. “I am going to speak about things that were part of our lives in the early years when I became part of Atlantic – so my title will be … I Remember When … It was 1921 – a year of excitement, surprises and new experiences for me. I finished high school in Columbia, went to summer school to become a teacher and married Mike A. Mason (from Atlantic, who was teaching in Columbia) – all in the summer of 1921. We were married in Columbia, had a beautiful church wedding at 8 a.m. in the morning, caught a train out of town at 10 and traveled to New Bern where we spent the night in the Gaston Hotel. Next morning, we got on another train to Beaufort. There we boarded a boat (the mailboat) to come to Atlantic – no highways to Atlantic.

Remember the mailboat? It took about four hours to come from Beaufort to Atlantic because the boat stopped at every village to put off passengers and mail. I was not a sailor, so even before we started, Mike bought lemons so I sucked lemons all day. (I don’t know if I was sick from the boat ride or the lemons!)
Finally we came in sight of Atlantic, how happy I was to think the boat ride was ending. But then there was a long wharf to walk before we hit solid dirt. But, wait, there was yet another surprise waiting for me! When I stepped off the pier, I found out the land wasn’t solid – it was pure black sand that filled my beautiful black satin high heels! To complicate matters, we had a long walk to Mike’s parents home on the Shell road. Needless to say, my shoes were ruined and my spirits low! Can you imagine what I found when we arrive at Mike’s parents home – a “getting over panel.” The yards were fenced in, but no gates. There was a step on the outside, you stepped over the fence and there was a step on the inside We stayed in Atlantic until September, then moved to Sneads Ferry. I taught two years there in a four teacher school. Mike was principal and I was a primary teacher, with a few music pupils on the side. Mike’s salary was $125 a month and mine was $75. By this time, after two years in Sneads Ferry, the roads were open to Atlantic. We bought us a band new, four-door Ford and went back to Atlantic. Our new car was a “touring car” with snap on curtains. I think we paid $600 cash for it. By this time, there were few cars on Atlantic. Trucks were coming in to bring fresh produce, soda pop, ice cream, milk, ice and other fantastic things.

Do you remember how we combed our hair – dog ears, teased pompadours, switches and braids – and hose with seams and how much time we spent getting the seams straight? Do you recall the hours we spent washing on a scrub board, boiling clothes in an iron pot in the backyard, ironing with flat irons, scouring the floors and porches with lye or sand, trying to keep the old iron stove polished? Remember when we washed out hair with Octagon soap and dried it in the sun. Do you remember the 2 cent stamp, Lovie Jane Morris’ milk punches, the all-week Black Dow sucker, Winston’s ice cream shop where we could to and sit down and enjoy ourselves?

Atlantic had quite a few interesting stores, Cecil Morris, Clyde Morris, Winston’s Dee Mason’s Luther Smith’s Melvin Robinson’s… Then we were blessed with electric lights, early 1940s, I think. This opened up a new life for us – a new school, churches. I remember our first picture show. It was in the school house (I think Mr. Paul from Beaufort brought the movie reel down to Atlantic). Since Atlantic was producing so many teachers, our board of education added an extra course in our school so teachers could stay home and get a certificate or renew their certificates. Our little village of Atlantic was progressing – two theaters, bus service, stores – but then came the Depression. With the WPA our men dug ditches, clammed for 40 cent a bushel in trade or anything they could do to support their families. It was during the Depression that Mike got a job on Core Creek Bridge and we left Atlantic for 20 years. Then came Pearl Harbor. War broke out – remember food rationing, food stamps, no ties or gasoline, blackouts on the coast, fear of enemy submarines? People on the coast were lucky. We had plenty of seafood to eat and also dried beans, collards, molasses, sweet potatoes and green huckleberry dumplings!

Some have called these “the good, old days” and they were good days because we knew no better, but would you want to go back to them? A very hard question to answer…

This article was written by Mrs. Mason in 1980 for a talk given on “Fun and Fellowship Club” in Atlantic. It was brought to the Mailboat by Pauline Smith of Beaufort

Reprinted from the MAILBOAT, Fall 1991 Vol. 2, No. 3

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