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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No. 123 Brothers, Sisters, Cousins and a World at War

For a century and a half the surnames of families on the Island, and before that at the Banks, had remained mostly constant. The families that moved down the coast from the Tidewater area of Virginia might not have come as a group or at the same time, but by the middle of the 19th century they had settled down and together. Except for an occasional venture up Core Sound towards Marshallberg, Davis or Sea Level, or across the channel to Beaufort or Salter Path, the men and boys, as well as the women and girls of Harkers Island found wives and husbands among the same families as had their parents and grandparents for as long as they could remember.

The came Word War II.

Or more precisely, then came the soldiers, sailors and marines that were stationed all along the lower Outer Banks, and especially near Cape Lookout, to protect against incursions from enemy submarines and surface ships. Only a few of the newcomers lived on the Island as most were housed in barracks at the Cape, at Ft. Macon, or father north up the Sound. But Harkers Island with is "show house" (movie theater), community center (Carl' store), and several cafes and general stores, soon became the preferred weekend and evening hangout. Then and there could be found at any given time dozens of men looking for a diversion from the military service that had interrupted their lives and left them far removed from their own families, friends, and especially their girlfriends.

By the time the last of them left for home after the war, a number of them were accompanied by wives they first had met while serving near the Island. Others left behind wives or girlfriends, and sons and daughters, who were unwilling to say goodbye to their Island families, but who kept the surnames of war-time lovers for themselves and for their children.

Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, men and boys from the Island had volunteered and were serving in the Navy and Coast Guard. After the draft was enacted with the Selective Service Act of 1942, hardly a neighborhood or family was left untouched by a tearful goodbye to a son, brother, or cousin who was drafted or enlisted to serve in the armed forces of the United States at war.

Then, after the long war finally was over, those who were fortunate enough to make it home found an Island that had been changed while they were gone, almost if not quite as profoundly as the lives of the soldiers and sailors who just a few years earlier had been obliged to leave their Island homes.

Though all of this occurred in the decade before I was born, its effects were everywhere to be felt in the world I grew up in, and among the family and neighbors that made up my world.

In fact, three homes there in a small enclave of our neighborhood, all in a row, epitomized how the war both affected the people, and influenced life on the Island for decades to come. In the northeast corner of our neighborhood family was the home of Willie and Carrie Guthrie. Just to the south, less than a hundred feet away but across the path we called the "Old Road," was the home of Aaron & Annie Moore. The two houses were connected by more than a property line and a path. Aaron Moore was Carrie Guthrie's brother, and Annie Moore was Willie Guthrie's sister. One house farther south and up the path towards the Landing was the home of Vannie & Lula Guthrie. Vannie was Willie and Annie's brother.

By the time the last shots were fired in the Europe and Asia and the last solder and sailor left his barracks near the Cape, four sons from those three houses has served either in Europe or in the Far East. Just as significantly, four daughters from two of those houses had been married and started families with soldiers or sailors who were stationed in our area. Within just a few years all but one of those husbands had gone back to his native home, and two of the three had left behind their Island wives and children.

As those children grew older, kids on the Island became familiar with new family names. In our neighborhood those names were Irvine, Craver and Beamon but elsewhere on the Island there were lots more that became just as commonplace. By the time a generation had passed and the “baby boomers” started their own families, the younger Islanders assumed that these names had been here all along --- just like the Fulfords, Guthries, Moores ... and even the Willises.