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As Long as We Remember...

July 25, 2011

Nags Head Vacationing Past

Steven R. Berryman

Forgetting politics and current events for a time, vacation is on my mind. One must only notice the missing traffic from Interstate 270 southbound in the mornings to fully realize this!


North Carolina beach towns have more Maryland license tags than does the City of Frederick right about now, and I just laugh at current vacation strategy, and shake my head.


The golden strand of barrier islands from Kitty Hawk, to Kill Devil Hills, to Nags Head has entire communities of “beach houses,” two to three thousand square feet or more in size. Well, at least they’re up on wood posts and have porches…


Vacationers these days want to leave nothing behind and essentially take their entire world of possessions with them. That’s not a get-away!


Making the biggest change from one’s current routines does a real vacation make. Danger is, you might actually have to get into a conversation with a relative, or read some of those books stacked up in the parlor.


South Nags Head still brings back such fond memories, from back in the mid-1970s, when times were simpler in the world, especially for us children. Beach houses were actually on the beach, spread out in the beach grass, with those idyllic wooden erosion control fences punctuating the dunes.


Back then we took the family vacation as a birthright and too much for granted, as Dad had a thriving law practice and provided so well. Being done with Ocean City, we rented a freshly built H-shaped cottage dubbed the Cope-A-Setic from our neighbors in Old Farm, where we grew up, next to Rockville. It must have had 10 double bunk beds!


The Cope’s house was almost the last house before a segment of National Seashore property began and sat next to a custom built geodesic shaped abode. The Oregon Inlet was just beyond that.


Having no video games, cell phones, and the like, we had puzzles, board games, kites, shovels, and books to read. Well, some magazines and newspapers, too, made from paper!


Sometimes we had just our immediate family, and sometimes had some cousins as well. The changing mix of people kept it interesting.


Of course, hitting the surf was what it was all about, and we dodged five-foot breakers for hours as the norm. If you swam out just a bit, a sand bar got you up a few feet higher for protection.


Threats of rip-tides kept us all on our toes.


Digging fox-holes in the sand to protect our sand castles was a tradition, and we did it well. The protective layers of motes eventually were overwhelmed; the Atlantic always won out, of course; but then we just used the holes to bury each other and laugh.


By then, Mom had brought us subs or sandwiches for a needed break.


Sand in the bathing suit was painful, but outside showers took care of that.


For breaks in the routine, we ventured out every so often to see Neuman’s Seashell Museum, or the Island Art Gallery.


Climbing the famous giant dune Jockey’s Ridge was a ritual, and then a short hop to see the Wright Brother’s Memorial and imagine that first flight.


The theatrical production of the “Lost Colony” was a treat worth attending each year, as the waterfront production was changed-up and rearranged all of the time.


This production was one of actor Andy (of Mayberry) Griffith’s early jobs. He was a native of the area and used to stop in for bait pretty often.


Years later I learned that my wife’s Aunt Dot owned this store, as she was married to the Mayor of Nags Head named Brickle.


Of course, eating seafood out, at the Dutchess of Dare Restaurant, or similar fares, was essential to the beach trip. Many a crusty crab saw his last moments at our brown papered tables, complete with paper towels, paper plates, and wood hammer.


One summer the previous renters of the beach house of ours, the Brouse’s, buried a treasure pack for us, pirate style somewhere on the grounds nearby. We never did solve the riddle of the map, and the booty went to the next vacationers after us.


But the fun had been in the hunt, so the treasure was really not so much missed…


…As we had been on vacation.


[Originally published on July 20, 2009, but some editing changes this time.]


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