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Monday, April 7, 2014

No. 13 Manus Fulcher was headed home to Harkers Island

(Troy) Manus Fulcher was one of many young men from Harkers Island who either joined or was drafted into the military during World War II. Born in 1914, he served in the Pacific and spent most of his time on the Japanese island of Saipan. After the war he returned home and married Estelle Guthrie, and moved with her into a small house he built on the northeast corner of the land owned by Willie & Carrie Guthrie, Estelle's parents.

Manus was a self-trained mechanic and carpenter who in his spare time became perhaps the closest thing our neighborhood had to an engineer --- or even an inventor. After being one of the first people on the Island to have and drive a motorcycle, he fashioned his own version of that contraption by installing a lawn mower motor onto a bicycle. The sound of Manus riding his lawn mower-motorbike was familiar to anyone who spent any time at all on what we called the "Old Road."

Manus Fulcher is in the foreground of this group who
were mending nets one morning at the Landing in 1960.
Besides doing odd jobs as a carpenter on homes and boats, he was also a gunsmith and the neighborhood handyman for sharpening saws and knives, and especially for repairing and servicing small motors. Old mower engines were his specialty. It was said that he could fix any motor as long as it was still in one piece. My father once took an old "grass cutter" to Manus because he could not get it to "fire" and start, no matter how many times he yanked on the rope. The next time he saw Manus and asked him if he had been able to get the motor running, Manus' response was that not only did he get it started, he had to remove the wire from the spark plug "cause every time the door slammed (and jarred his back porch) the engine would start!"

Manus was also a talented artist who instead of a canvas used smooth boards and old paper to draw portraits – often full length – of friends, movie stars, and other well-known figures. It was not unusual to walk by a boat or wall he had been building and see a recognizable face that Manus had sketched with his "no 2" pencil while enjoying a break from his labor.

Late in his life, in the mid 1960s, he went to work for Julian Guthrie at the Hi-Tide Boatworks in Williston (less than ten miles north of the Island on US Hwy 70). Julian's crew at that time was made up entirely of his Harkers Island friends. These included my father, Charlie Hancock, Roosevelt Davis and “Danny Boy” Lewis. The latter was the son of Brady Lewis, the Island's most renowned boat-builder. Then there were the Guthrie boys, including Julian’s nephew, Will Guthrie, “Bonnie” Guthrie and his son, "Tuck", Graham Boyd “Graby” Guthrie, and Curvis Guthrie Sr. whom everyone called ”E.” All were accomplished boat-builders, but Manus was among those considered to be a "finished" carpenter who could do the fancy trim work that came after the boat had been framed and planked. When his work was done, the boat was ready for the water.

Like so many of his time and place, Manus went out of his way to avoid any kind of conflict or contention. He was humble in both personality and means, and after having faced the anxiety and uncertainty of war-time conflict, had no time at all for even the slightest of confrontations. I can say that with some certainty because I witnessed a stark example of his passivity first hand.

In the summer of 1967 Julian hired me, along with my brother, Telford, and E's son, Curvis, to help at the boathouse for the summer. One day it was my assignment to help Manus and Graby put the finishing coat of paint on the sides of a sixty-five foot "head boat". We were using an expensive brand of paint that was reserved for the final finish on boats just before they were launched and ready.

Standing on the typical staging of the time, a 2" X 12" wooden board laid between saw-horses, the three of us were hurrying to finish the job. In our haste, one of us (probably me) moved too abruptly and the staging fell, spilling us and the paint onto the saw dust flooring below. We knew we had done something real bad. The gallon of paint that we had wasted cost more than any of us, and maybe the three of us together, would have made for that day's work.

Graby and I instinctively scurried to clean up our mess, and hopefully hide the evidence of what we had done before it was discovered by Julian or anybody else. As we hastily brushed more and more saw dust and shavings over the remains of the spilled paint, Graby noticed that only the two of us were helping in the cleanup. In just a few minutes we had the scene looking as if nothing had ever happened, but before we could resume our work, we determined to find out where Manus had gone while we were “mopping up.”

Just a few moments later Graby hollered for me to come look out the west'ard window towards the highway that was only thirty feet or so from the door to our shop. There was Manus standing by the road with his right hand held out and his thumb extended, trying hard to "bum a ride". He was weary of what might be said when Julian learned what had happened, and he was not going to wait around to see or hear it! Manus Fulcher was headed home to Harkers Island.

(Originally posted 19 March 2011)

(From a motel room in Pigeon Forge, TN 19-Mar-2011)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

No. 12 You ain’t gonna ‘mount to nothin’


Most Islanders of my father’s generation had humble aspirations when it came to a career and profession.They 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 father, Charlie W. Hancock
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 grandfather, Charlie S. Hancock
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!"

Originally Posted by The Education of an Island Boy at 1:24 PM Tuesday, March 8, 2011