“Another thing that is unforgettable is the water at the beach,” he
says. “It smelled like rotten eggs. It stunk, and a lot of people wouldn’t
drink it. A lot of people wouldn’t take showers in it because it smelled
so bad. For that reason we had a company called Greenfield Water
Company, which brought spring water from Greenfield Lake in 5-gal-lon
and 1-gallon jugs that they sold all up and down the beach.”
A photo from 1946 shows Clark sitting in a lifeguard stand, shortly
after he graduated from New Hanover High School. It was a natural
job for someone who grew up around the ocean — even if it wasn’t as
exciting as he expected.
“Lifeguarding wasn’t as glamorous as it is thought to be,” he says.
“It is probably the most boring job in the world. Because you are not
even supposed to be reading. You are supposed to be looking, and
that is not much fun. The lifeguards in those days, as I specifically
recall, we worked for the police department. There were no necessary
qualifications. No one had to have first aid experience or classes or
anything like that. In addition, we had no
supervision. We came to work when we
were supposed to, and nobody checked on
that or checked when we left. And if it was
raining we went home. But in spite of the
looseness, we never had a drowning at any
place on the beach that had a lifeguard
stand. I think that’s remarkable. That
doesn’t mean that we didn’t pull a lot of
people out of the surf, because we did. I
remember one Fourth of July, we pulled
30-something people off of the jetty at
The jetty, he recalls, was right
behind Charlie Roberts’ grocery story.
“I distinctly remember Robert’s
Grocery,” he says. “I remember
Charlie Roberts, I knew him. I knew his wife,
Dorothy. The story is that Charlie, when he got sick, Dorothy was a
nurse and she took care of him. He said, ‘If I get out of here, I want
you to be my wife.’ She said ‘OK,’ and they did. They were very suc-cessful
as a husband and wife and as grocers.”
Other old Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington names fall readily off
his tongue: Bellamy. Murchison. Wise. Corbett. Bill Blair, father of the
current mayor. Johnnie Mercer, namesake of the iconic pier. Lawrence
Lewis, who built the Blockade Runner. Bill Creasy.
Looking through the album takes Clark on a journey through the
past, but he still thinks of the future.
“I was born May 19, 1928,” he says. “With any luck at all I’ll get to
be 90 come May. I’ve had a lot of luck so far.”
The present isn’t so bad, either. He has a new girlfriend. He looks
forward to visits from his sons and grandchildren. And he still fishes
regularly, going out in his bass boat a couple of times a week.
“I’m so lucky,” he says.
George Jr. on a lifeguard stand at
Wrightsville Beach in 1946, in a
December 2017 selfie with his sons
Bill and George III, and on the front
deck of his current home on Waynick