Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spies on Ocracoke

During the latter half of the twentieth century I occasionally heard stories of German spies landing on the Outer Banks during World War II.

In my article about Mme. Scheu-Riesz and the 1940 & 1941 summer Artists Colony on Ocracoke (http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112908.htm), I wrote, "Rumors circulated throughout the village suggesting that [Mme. Scheu-Riesz] and her fellow artists might be German spies. Although only a handful of islanders held this view, those closest to the artists reported that they were secretive, and reluctant to socialize with villagers. Workers at the hotel noticed that Workshop teachers and students covered their books and poems, and turned papers over whenever others approached them.

"Most of the Workshop participants enjoyed spending their days on the beach. Islander, Jake Alligood, had an old flat bed truck that he had converted to an island taxi, and he often drove them across the tidal flats to the ocean. It was not unusual for the teachers and students to walk to the beach after dark. Mme Scheu-Riesz seemed especially interested in the flashing beacons and other navigational aids, about which she asked numerous questions. She was also observed making frequent calls, by ship to shore radio, from the Coast Guard Station.

"Several island teenagers, intrigued by the exotic artists and intellectuals, and looking for adventure, decided to snoop around their quarters. They had listened to adults as they discussed the artists' unconventional behavior and different lifestyles. Connections to foreign countries, strange dress, and a degree of eccentricity had made them suspect. Could the artists really be undercover Nazi spies?

"The 'detectives' never discovered any incriminating evidence."

Read the entire article (http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112908.htm) to learn why Mme. Scheu-Reisz and her colleagues were almost certainly not spies.

More about spies on the Outer Banks in tomorrow's blog.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Superstitions

A few traditional Outer Banks superstitions:
  • If you wear socks to bed you will wake up with a sore throat (as a teenager I often went to bed with socks on because I'd go out barefooted in the evening and come home late, too tired to wash my feet...but I never remember waking up with a sore throat).
  • If you sweep after sundown, you will sweep a member out of your family (seems like a creative justification for not working at night).
  • If you go in the front door, and out the back door, you will have bad luck (Blanche often reminds me of this when I visit her).
  • If a bird gets in the house, it means bad luck (a house wren once found an opening, and built a nest in my screen porch; when the eggs hatched the baby birds flew all around the porch, pooping on everything. It was definitely bad luck!). 
When I was a teenager I came across this quotation by Francis Bacon (1561-1626): "The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Books

People occasionally ask me what books I've read recently. Here is my book list from the last couple of months:

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Zealot by Reza Aslan

On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Christianity, the First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Atlantic, by Simon Winchester

Einstein, by Walter Isaacson

Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin

Talkin' Tar Heel, by Walt Wolfram & Jeffery Reaser

Kneeknock Rise by Natalie Babbitt

A Man of Misconceptions by John Glassie

Ten Thousand Breakfasts by Ann Ehringhaus

Death and the Afterlife by Samuel Scheffler

Numerous booklets, articles, and book chapters about whaling and porpoise fishing on the Outer Banks (look for a Newsletter article about this in 2015).

I also recently watched Woody Allen's movie, Annie Hall. And I started worrying that I might be like Alvy Singer, reading too many serious books! Then I remembered that I also enjoy The Funny Times.

Maybe some of our readers have book suggestions for me and other folks who follow this blog. Leave a comment if you do.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pilot Boat

In the colonial period and beyond, ships risked running aground attempting to cross the bar at Ocracoke Inlet. Pilots, seafarers familiar with local conditions, were established at Ocracoke in the early 1700s (the earliest name for the nascent village was Pilot Town). The pilots' task was to guide ships across the bar, and bring them safely into Pamlico Sound.

The pilot boat was typically double-ended, 20 – 25 feet long, and high in the bow and stern. The hull was constructed of lapstrake planks (overlapping planks of cedar, cypress, or other native wood). The lightweight pilot boat could be outfitted with a mast and sail, or it might be rowed by 4 to 6 men.  

Whaleboat at Mystic Seaport
Photo by Stan Shebs




















Rowed pilot boats were used later in the eighteenth century and into the early twentieth century by shore-based whaling operations along the Outer Banks.  It is a fascinating story. Look for an article about North Carolina whaling in a future Newsletter. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

OPS Art Show & Auction

Last year's Art Show & Auction at the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum was a huge success. (You can see photos and read about it here: http://site.ocracokepreservation.org/Art-Openings.html.)

Mixed Media by Maureen Ciancio















OPS is planning another Art Show & Auction for January, 2015. This is how it works: Just request a small blank canvas from OPS (Phone: (252) 928-7375 Mail: Ocracoke Preservation Society P.O. Box 1240 Ocracoke, NC 27960 E-mail: info@ocracokepreservation.org). Amy will send it right out to you.

Collage by Jamie Carter















Then create your work of art...in any medium -- oils, acrylics, watercolors, collage, photography...and send it back to OPS. 

Mailboat Aleta by Pat Schweninger














The 2015 Art Show & Auction will be held Saturday January 24, 5-7pm. Fabulous artwork done by incredible people will be available at this silent auction event. Hors d'oeuvres and wine will be served.

Request your canvas today! And be part of this wonderful, creative fundraising endeavor.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Clay Figures

In March I posted a short video of my grandson Lachlan and his paper critter. (In case you missed that, you can see it here: http://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2014/03/paper-critter.html.)

Lately, he has been creating small critters with low-fired clay. Just thought I would share a few of his many creations.













Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Toothache Tree

While reading a 1973 issue of Sea Chest, a journal of Outer Banks history & stories published by Cape Hatteras High School students, I was reminded of the Pellitory Tree, also called the Toothache Tree, or Southern Prickly Ash. These small to medium sized trees are not abundant on Ocracoke, but can be located throughout the island.

A Toothache Tree on Howard Street















The Toothache Tree sports sturdy thorns on its trunk and branches.

Thorn Protruding from a Larger Pellitory Tree















Chewing on a sliver of the tree's bark will numb the mouth and tongue, and was used to relieve the pain of a toothache. A piece of the bark inserted in a cavity would help ease the pain, and a sack of the bark held against the gums will relieve pain and swelling.

Smaller Tree in Blanche's Yard















Another old-time remedy from Ocracoke Island. (Enlarge the bottom photo for a better view of the thorns.)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.