aGeorge Sr., Buddy Corbett and Irving Corbett with an early life-saving rowboat on the beach outside the Carolina Yacht Club.
PHOTO OF A ROWBOAT on a wheeled cart is a reminder
that everybody could catch a mess of just about everything
back then. The rowboats towed seines, weighted fishing nets
that hung vertically in the water.
“That’s something you don’t see anymore around here,”
he says. “About late August and into September there were
at least two and maybe three long-haul seining companies.
Johnnie Mercer had one, Walter Stokley had one, and I
believe the Robinsons at Lumina had one. In those days, you
would see acres and acres of popeye mullet swimming from
north to south, one right after another. Those seiners would
drop one end of the net on the beach and then row around
the school of mullet and come back in on the other side of
them, making a big U and corralling them and then pull-ing
in both ends of the net to pull them up on the beach. I
remember one time Johnnie Mercer pulled in a school that
weighed 52,000 pounds. At least that’s my recollection.”
Fish weren’t the only plentiful marine life back then.
“I remember also you could go anywhere in the waters
behind the beach and throw out a line with a chicken neck
on it and get a mess of blue claw crabs,” he says.
Crabbing and fishing weren’t just for recreation when
Clark was a boy. They were done out of necessity.
“Crabbing was very popular, particularly in the early days,
which was part of the Depression,” he says. “You ate a lot of
fish, you ate a lot of crabs. And another thing in the early
days, there were the folks who caught shrimp on the sound
and walked down the beach with baskets of them, selling
them. They did the same with pigfish and blackfish that they
caught by rowing out into the ocean. Others had carts they
pushed up and down the beach, selling fresh vegetables. This
was in the days before refrigeration, or before really good
refrigeration. You had iceboxes and trucks that came by daily
with great big blocks of ice that you put in your icebox.”
Clark is quick to dismiss some pictures, like the one of him
as a child scrunched up in a white enamel basin.
“That’s not worth anything, but that’s me taking a bath,”
The tub is outside, on a boardwalk running next to the
house. It isn’t connected to plumbing, and it triggers a mem-ory
of a time before taking a hot shower was simply a matter
of turning a tap.
“I remember that to get hot water we, and I think most
people, had a gas-operated hot water heater,” he says. “So if you
wanted to take a hot shower, you turned the gas on and heated
the water that way.”
A conversation about water brings up a not-so-pleasant
George Jr. takes a bath in an enamel basin on the boardwalk
outside the family’s beach cottage, circa 1932.
WBM march 2018