Davis, NC Storms

What About Next Time? The Hurricane of ’33
Davis Shore

On September 15, 1933, a hurricane was brewing, but no one in Carteret County knew about it. There was no radio, television, or weather reports to give us the news. I was a very small child, but it is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday. The weather had been bad for several days, raining and blowing. The older folk called it a “mullet blow” or “sheep storm.”

The wind shifted to the northwest just before night on the 15th and had a big part in bringing the water out of the river down on us. There was no electricity down east at that time, so lamps, lanterns, and flashlights were our means of light. Soon after dark, our next door neighbors came to our house. They were wet, cold and frightened. The man of the house and his wife, with their son, daughter, and her pet cat “ Mickey,” brought us the news of the tide being up and a bad storm coming.

It was very exciting to me, because my playmate had to come to spend the night at my house. I was too young to know anything about a hurricane so I didn’t worry over the fact that the hurricane could do a lot of damage.

Papa, my brother, the next door neighbor and his son, left the house with a lantern, in search of a small skiff that Papa had tied to a pine tree before dark. When they got there, the skiff was gone. They had started wading back home when another skiff floated by and Papa said, “We all lit on it,” and pulled it back home with us. The tied the skiff to a post on the back porch. By that time, the tide was coming into the house.

Plans were soon made to leave our house and go to the home of Mama’s sister. She had a big two-story house with a porch all around it, located on the corner of Highway 70. The women and children, with Mickey the cat, got in the skiff, and the men waded alongside to pull and steer it but we didn’t get very far before the skiff sank and we went to the bottom. This happened just abreast the Harry Frisbie Cemetery which is right next door to our home.

Mama had brought along a bed quilt, to help keep off some of the rain and cold wind, and she held on to it for a while, as it was all hand made, and represented a lot of hard work but when the boat went down she had to let it go and we all joined hands and started wading up the dirt road to my aunt’s house. When we finally arrived, there was not a drop of water standing in her yard, but a lot of her trees were blown over. We could hear piano music and singing as we neared the house. All of my aunt’s children were good singers, and one daughter played the piano very well. I don’t think she ever had any music lessons, but she had the magic touch. The song they were singing was “Peace Be Still.” It goes like this:

Master, the tempest is raging, the billows are tossing high,
The sky is overshadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh.
Carest thou not that we perish? How can thou lie asleep?
When each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep.

CHORUS:
The winds and the waves shall obey my will,
Peace be still, Peace be still;
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
or demons or men or whatever it be,
No water can swallow the ship where lies
the Master of ocean, and sea skies.
They all shall sweetly obey my will,
Peace be Still, Peace be Still.

The best I can remember, there wasn’t another note sung after we appeared, wet and bedraggled, with news of the rising tide and the storm. We all spent the night with her and her family, along with another of her neighbors, who had a baby boy. He was a very pretty baby, and slept through the hurricane. The night passed very fast for me. Just after daylight the next morning, someone noticed a skiff loaded with people, and it was Mama’s brother Carlie, his wife, his little girl, and his neighbor, wife and their girl. This neighbor of Carlie’s was a very smart woman. She had dry clothes for her family, and a big pan of “Davis Shore” rolls, all packed in a 50 pound lard can. The water never did go into my aunt’s house, and we could see the third stair step at our house, and everything was a big mess. The cow had lived through the storm somehow, and so had the hogs. The fall garden was gone and there were plenty of drowned chickens. The was lots of chicken eaten for a few days after that.

Sometimes during that day, Paul Davis and Lester Babbitt came to our house and asked Papa to go with them to the Outer Banks “Old House” in search of Paul’s parents, Mr. And Mrs. Leroy Davis, and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Salter who were living there. Papa’s boat, the “Hilton,” was the only boat left on the shore. Papa said he didn’t see much need of going, but he went. Sometimes the engine ran on only a few cylinders, made a lot of noise, and he wondered if they were going to make it, but they did. He ran the boat up in the clubhouse yard and tried to make anchor, but the yard was so hard the anchor wouldn’t hold, so he left the clubhouse and ran the boat into the bank or marsh, and Paul jumped overboard with the anchor and buried it in the marsh, where it held fast.

Papa had carried a small skiff in the hull of the “Hilton,” and he and Paul and Lester poled up to the clubhouse. The folks were all living, but they had had a bad night and most of the clubhouse had been destroyed. Late that evening, they started back for Davis, and found a lot of concerned people on the shore to welcome them back home. Papa sold the “Hilton” soon after the hurricane, to Robert Merrill, from Lowland, NC and had another build, which he called the “Fran.”

The old clubhouse was destroyed by fire on May 25, 1970, (the day Dr. Peacock died) and a new clubhouse has been built which is called “Rod and Gun Club.” It has all the modern conveniences, but the memories of the old clubhouse and the “Hilton” are still dear to me.

Source: Mailboat, Fall 1990, Vol. 1, No. 3 reprinted from Once Upon A Time: Stories of Davis, North Carolina by Mabel Murphy Piner, 1979; pp. 59-60.

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