Most Islanders of my father’s generation had humble aspirations when it came to a career and profession. I guess that most of them assumed that they could and would make a living just like their ancestors had done for as long as anyone could remember. But in spite of what might have been seen as a lack of ambition in some circles removed from where they lived, there was a strong work ethic for many of them. This included doing all that was necessary to provide for your family without having to depend on others. No one epitomized this attitude more than my grandfather Charlie Hancock, called Ole’ Pa. His most frequent advice to his children and anyone else who would listen was that they should always be “doin’ something.” “That was,” he said, “the only way to make sure that you will ever amount to anything!”
My parents were married on the last day of December in 1927. Having got his “lawyer” Danky to forge my grandfather Dick’s signature on the consent form needed to marry someone who had just turned fifteen, Daddy decided to make sure no one had time to change anyone’s mind. He had approached his soon-to-be father-in-law about getting permission, but was told that Mama, just one month past her fifteenth birthday, was still too young to be married. But “Ole Pa Dick” consented by adding, “if that’s what she wants, and if you can find someone willing to sign my name, I won’t say nothing about it!”
So even though it was a Saturday he was able to get to Beaufort and back in time to arrange for a wedding. He had asked Mama to meet him at his father’s store on the main road at around 6:00 in the evening. Mama later explained that she had confided her plans to her mother, and that Grandma Bertha was not happy, but did not try to stop her. On her arrival at Ole Pa Charlie’s store, Daddy escorted his bride-to-be down the path and to the landing just to the east of his father’s home. There at the home of the Justice of the Peace, Mart Guthrie, he knocked on the door and, showing him the marriage license, explained to Mr. Guthrie what he had in mind. The magistrate expressed his willingness to perform the ceremony, but only after he had “finished his supper” that he had just started. Again, unwilling to accept any delays, Daddy offered an extra five dollars if Mr. Guthrie would interrupt his plans. The extra money did the trick and Mart’s wife Rebecca agreed to serve as the witness.
So it was that within just a few minutes of arriving at Hancock Landing, my father and mother were legally married and ready to set out on their life together. According to Daddy, they walked up the path to Ole Pa’s store and he bought her a soft drink (Coca Cola), before escorting her across the road to the home of his oldest sister, Louisa. She was called Ezzer by almost everyone, was recently widowed, and had three small children to raise on her own. Having always been like a mother to my father – his own mother had died when he was only four years old – she was willing and happy to have him bring his new wife to live with her and her children.
My parents would live with Ezzer for the next eight months while their own home was being built just to the east of where they had been staying. It was literally less than twenty feet from the facing windows of one home to the other. Both were on the “Hancock Land” that my grandfather had staked out when he arrived at the Island from the Banks three decades earlier. And Ezzer would remain as much a mother as a sister to my father for the rest of her life. Her children, Audrey, Inez and Creston (Sno’ball) would be much more than cousins to the ten children that eventually were born to my parents.
Charlie and Margarette spent their first night together just a few steps away from where they would be for the next seventy years. But awakening the next morning in the southeast bedroom they had little time to ponder or dream about what those years together might be like. Even though it was the first day of a new year, and a holiday for almost everyone else, they were awoken by the sound of someone rapping on their window almost exactly as the first sunrise of the new year broke though the twilight sky.
Pulling the shade and raising the window my father was startled to see his father, Ole Pa, standing outside with an anxious, even a hurried and frustrated expression on his face. “I can’t believe you are still in bed this time of day,” he exclaimed to my father as he peered through the opening in the glass. “You ain’t gonna ‘mount to nothin’ if you lay in bed this long!"