Diamond City, NC Today

Cape Lookout - then and now…

Gordon Willis (as told to his daughter, Janet W. Gillikin)

There are not many folk living today that can boast the fact that they were born on Cape Lookout, but Gordon Willis can. Mr. Willis, Sr., whose parents lived ont he Cape during the summer months of fishing, had just settled into the routine of being on the oh-so-familiar" Outer Banks, when little Gordon was born. That was June 20, l9l6.

There were not big trees at that time - only high sand dunes that filled his childhood memories. Certain areas of the Cape were fertile enough for growing vegetable gardens. It is also remember that the Robinson family had some of the prettiest fruit trees ever seen.

There has been little growth of trees and underbrush on the Cape until after the cattle and horses were removed in the early l960's. Since that time, cedars and myrtle bushes have grown six to ten feet tall. In some places "imported " maple trees offer shade from the hot summer sun. One can also see pine trees growing in long rows up and down the Cape sand dunes. These pines wee planted by Boy Scouts in l969 in memory of a local Island Coast Guard Chief, Jack Davis, who was killed on those same dunes while stationed at Cape Lookout.

There was a little one-room, green schoolhouse with a stove and flue, but was unusable by the l920;s because of its worn-down condition. Mrs. Pearl Whitley, of Harkers Island, was one of the last teachers to use this building.

Groceries were brought from Dominic Asdenti's, who purchased his supplies from the "buy-boats" that came to the Cape to purchase from from the local fishermen. The boats came from Morehead City and Beaufort through Beaufort Bar - Bardens' Inlet had not been opened at that time. Besides bringing Mr. Dominic's groceries, hundreds of pounds of ice were delivered, as well as a favorite soft drink called "Orange Julip" that sold for a nickel a bottle.

Most of the meals were simple and consisted of a variety of fresh seafood and garden-grown vegetables. On one occasion, the Willis FAmily had fresh goose for supper. It seems that Coast Guard Captain, Leslie Morris, had some tame, white gees that swam along the shore. As little boys will do, Gordon was walking along the shore, chunking skipper shells to see them bump along the waters' edge. Supposedly, by mistake, one the shells hit a goose on the top of the head, and over it rolled - stone dead. A frightened, young Gordon went running home to Mamma to tell of his disaster. Amends were made when Pappa paid Capt. Leslie forty-five cents for the seven pound goose.

Visitors to the Cape today will see some of the same houses that were built during the early l920's;. One of these is the Coca-Cola House, located about a quarter of a mile from Les and Sally Moore's fish camps. The Coca Cola house was built by some New Bern folk who enjoyed the Cape so well that they wanted a place to camp as well as to fish. Some of the residents of this structure in later years were Wilson Davis and Snowball Gaskill.

Congressman Abernathy, also from New Bern, built a house at the Cape too. The first house built of wood burned - the second house built of cinder blocks was destroyed by lightning. No other house has been attempted since, but the cinder block foundation is still there, to the left of the main path that leads up from the shore by Dr. Barden's house.

The Baker house still stands at the foot of the Coast Guard Dock. The overflow artesian well, located on the Baker property, offered many refreshing drinks to hot beachcombers, and also gave much needed fresh water to the horses and cattle that roamed the Cape for many years. Dr. Baker was bitten by a shark or barracuda, while swimming one day, and almost bled to death before reaching the Morehead Hospital. He sold his house and never returned to the Cape.

The Cape proved to be quite a "lively" place during the summer months after Mrs. Carrie Arendel Davis built a house big enough to take in boarders, as well as house a dance hall complete with snack bar. Weekend parties, at the Cape, were attended by young people from other communities, as well. Mrs. Davis later sold this house to Mrs. Gladys Harker, who ran it for about ten years before moving her business to the east end of Harkers Island.

The original Life Saving Station house is still standing. It is in a different location today and is called the Kelly Willis House. Mr. Willis bought it from the U. S. Government with sealed bids. It is now owned by Sammy Daniels from New Bern. (Mr. Kelly Willis had delivered the mail and supplies to the Coast Guard Station, as well as other residents of the Cape during earlier years).

The old Coast Guard boathouse, used for storing the lifeboats that were manually propelled by lock oars, was sold to David Yeomans and moved about a mile to the north of the Coast Guard Station.

The homes at Cape Lookout are no longer owned by individuals. The U. S. Government now owns the land and all the buildings on the Cape. Lifetime rights have been granted to some of the former owners, but will be suspended upon the death of those presently holding those rights. Most summer months find all of the houses full of people, storing up fond memories that will someday soon be only tales told by old-timers remembering their summers spend on Cape Lookout.

From "Our Shared Past" prepared for the Diamond City & Ca'e Bankers Reunion, August 1999 as a collection of writings, research and recollections to tell the story of the Banks communities.
Copyright 1995, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
All rights reserved.

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