It means bicycling around town all day long and never seeing a stranger. Playing pool at Mrs. Furplus’ arcade (was there ever a woman any kinder to the youth in her community) or redeeming soda bottle deposits at Harrelson’s for candy and more cold drinks. It means shopping at the Army-Navy surplus next to the Creech’s or, for everyday clothing items, at Mrs. Leggett’s store. (what a beautiful soul she was) It means pedaling past Potlicker, dead asleep beneath what was, at that time, the only stoplight in Brunswick County. Then seeing him that evening at Taylor Field while playing Little League baseball and breathing a sigh of relief that he survived another nap at the intersection of Howe & Moore Sts. It means swimming the Yacht Basin to wash off fish scales & blood & guts so I could spend some of the cash I just earned eating fries & a burger at Louis Dixon’s while listening to “Green Tambourine” & “Dance to the Music” on the juke box. It means shark fishing off of Capt. Dick Skipper’s dock and looking across to Ft. Caswell, wondering how many pretty girls I might meet at the Canteen after sneaking onto the grounds of the Baptist Assembly later that night. Or experiencing Christmas Eve-like excitement as that year’s honorary 4th of July naval vessel arrived and made anchor in the river. With the 4th upon us so was the Jaycee’s donkey ballgame (my favorite event), the street dance, a newly crowned queen , raffle tickets to buy (and then to help sell a few years later), the parade & fireworks. It means seeing Jo Jo Fullwood push his lawn mower down the roadside to his next job. (Jo Jo may have been the hardest working man I ever knew) It means seeing the latest Elvis movie at the Amuzu then walking past the old cemetery on my way home. (or did I run past?) It means playing in the Bonnett’s Creek culvert that still runs under Moore St., exploring the banks of the Cape Fear from Willis’ dock to the ferry landing, camping at Bald Head, progging for flounder on the sand flats behind Battery Island with Hoyle, Tommy and Mike, riding bikes to Robin’s Nest to look at Mr. Harrelson’s peacocks & bobcat, playing hide and seek on the big hill at Long Beach, fishing the Ella, Jaybird Shoals and BHI point in a 20’, Simmons Sea Skiff. Knowing folk with names like Pappy Stubbs, Cash Caroon, Basil Watts, Gumstump, Butterball, Gunk, Tebo, Gaboon, Puddinhead.
It means catching fat, yellow-belly spots at Caroon’s crab dock when I was 12. The ones I strung onto a cotton cord and hung across the handle bars of my bike for all to see as I pedaled 1/2 mile to home. Whereupon I cleaned them in the back yard, by myself, and gave them to mom to prepare for our family’s dinner that evening. It surely means the happiness and joy I felt as I reflected back over the events of the day and the pride that came with the realization that I had contributed to my family’s welfare.
I suppose it goes without saying, but say it I must….”Southport means a lot to Steve Gainey!”