Promise' Land, NC Stories & Story Tellers

Gentle Days

Gretchen Guthrie Guthrie

Reprinted from Carteret Love Song

... The gentle days took place in a part of Morehead City called the Promise Land. Most of the older inhabitants were fishermen, born and raised on Shackleford Banks. After moving to the mainland they continued looking to the sea for their livelihood and many of their sons were inclined to do likewise. Their economical life style was quite different from that of our present-day fixed incomes. When fish were plentiful there was money to buy new curtains or a piece of goods for a dress; when they were scarce one made out with what was available.

... It was always with much excitement that we children awaited Pap’s return from the west’ard on Friday afternoons. The “pop-a-de-pop, pop-a-de-pop” of the old Lathrop engine coming down Bogue Sound set our hearts to pounding for it meant he had arrived and we would have an extra nickel on Saturday - if we had been on good behavior. We watched as Papa rowed a skiff ashore from the snapper, never noticing, as Mama did, that his shoulders were a little more hunched or that the lines on his face were a little more pronounced. Times were hard for everyone in the gentle days; but life was good and life had purpose. What was lacking in material possessions was made up for in physical and spiritual strength.

Most social activities in the Promise Land consisted of church affairs, quilting parties, oyster roasts, picnics and other similar outings. There was no need for a reminder that one should love his neighbor. Love, concern, and sharing were facts of life. It wasn’t in the least unusual to spend a night away from home sitting up with a sick friend.

Penicillin and other miracle drugs, yet undiscovered, were many years in the future, but despite infections we survived. From a depression and a war most of us emerged as responsible members of society and, in view of today’s world confusion, realize as we look back that those days were truly gentle.

Childhood in the Promise Land endowed one with a treasure house of memories from which much joy can be relived. A gleaning of these memories has been included here to share with others who recollect experiences from their own gentle days ... in the own promise land.

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I remember the first day of spring. Sweaters and jackets were removed, and off came worn, scuffed and very cumbersome shoes. For weeks, ere the official arrival of this day, the older and more daring had walked home from school barefoot, shoes in hand ...

I remember the southwest breeze wafting the curtain across the foot of the bed, bringing the smell of the sea and quickening even a child’s heartbeat.

I remember dipping sugar cocoa snuff with a yaupon toothbrush ... the delight of mustard and Karo syrup on a cold biscuit .... the tangy taste of sour grass in spring.

I remember the silhouetted forms projected like movies on the bedroom wall by approaching car headlights ...

Remember cloppers? Cloppers were tin cans stomped furiously in the middle until the two ends clamped together around the heels of the shoes, holding them firmly in place. They made a marvelous racket when one walked across the porch on down the sidewalk...

I remember the beautiful purple colors squeezed from pokeberries ...

I remember the stubbed tow which did not heal all summer ...

I remember Kib Guthrie’s store on the corner of 12th and Evans streets, and how Kib would greet his customers with “Come right in , don’t be ashame, go to Mr. Wallace and get your pur’-seine.”

I remember waiting for ice truck ... the scramble for flying pieces as the iceman made three quick stabs with his pick and exactly one nickel’s worth of ice fell away from the main block ... fingers numb with cold long after the wet and shredded newspaper had been discarded.

I remember the landing where Papa tied his skiff, and watching in awe as he gill-strung a dozen hogfish on a “merkle” limb stripped of its leaves.

I remember calisthenics on the net spreads ... “front porch sitting” in the summertime and mosquito smokes ... movies for 10 cents ... when children played with other children.

I remember the sound of the first wind shift in the fall and the music it played in the maple tree by the kitchen window ... the cold trek from beneath mountains of quilts to the front room heater ... bare legs and fire “freckles” ... the aroma of “light’ning” bread on Sunday morning ...

I remember the love and warmth threading the neighborhood together in worship, work, and play. In crisis, love, on its own accord and for its own sake, spilled from brimming hearts to permeate and fill the voids where grief and sorrow hibernate ...

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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