July 4th Parade, 1953
June 21, 2016
Following is an article written by Alice K. Rondthaler about one
first July 4th parades. It was published July 6, 1953. (Accompanying
photos are from the Mary Ruth Dickson Collection, courtesy of the
Ocracoke Preservation Society, with the exception of "Miss Ocracoke
& Miss Portsmouth," courtesy Chip Stevens Collection.)
CELEBRATION LONG TO BE REMEMBERED MARKS 200TH
ANNIVERSARY ON OCRACOKE -- Observance of 200 Years of Contented Living
Proves Delightful Occasion for Many People; Jane Bryan, Colored Matron,
Crowned Queen of The Pony Pennings.
By ALICE K.
Ocracoke, July 6. —
Island residents will long remember July 4, 1953 because of the
wonderful home-town celebration on that day. Historically the
Celebration might have been in honor of the 200th anniversary of the
appointment of a town here, since the Colonial Assembly passed an Act
in 1753 making both Ocracoke and its neighbor, Portsmouth, towns.
history of the Island goes further back than that, for the
Colonial Legislature of 1715 had purchased land on the Island for the
maintenance of pilots who had settled here. And, going still further
back, historical records indicate that on June 23, 1585, one of the
Raleigh Expeditions en route to Roanoke Island, made its first landfall
But actually the July 4th, 1953 celebration had no designs on
perpetuating history; it was just a grand, home-town affair, first
suggested last April by Marvin Howard, native of the Island, happily
retired here after years of service with the U. S. Army Engineeers
— a man who believes that everyone likes to have a good time now
Howard astride one of the Banker Ponies:
Pony Penning is an annual event on the Fourth, and
Capt. Howard was particularly interested in this because his father,
Homer Howard, was one of Ocracoke's famous horsemen in the old days.
And to follow the old-time custom, the Pony Penning this year was on
the harbor shore directly west of Silver Lake Inn, and the ponies were
started at daybreak from the northern end of the Island down the east
shore to the Coast Guard Station point. In the old days before the
harbor shore was lined with docks and buildings the ponies came right
along the shore, but this year they were driven straight down
Ocracoke's paved road which borders the Harbor. It was a stirring sight
to watch the herd of galloping ponies round the road into the corral
—- not a pony lost at the entrance corral.
Corralled at the Pony Penning:
visiting yachts in the harbor had natural grandstand seats for the
event. After that, the usual branding, selling, and releasing ran on
through the day. Crowned Queen of the Pony Penning was aging Jane
Bryant, respected wife and mother of the town's only colored family.
Next event of the day was the patriotic service at the local school
with an inspiring Flag Raising, military style, by the local Coast
Personnel at the Flag Raising:
At noon the
women of the Methodist Church served a ham-beans-salad
dinner in the Church Recreation Hall. And immediately after dinner
everyone hurried home to get ready for the Big Parade — many to
be in it; others to watch it. Twenty trucks, or cars gaily decorated, a
dozen horsemen, 35 costumed youngsters, a half dozen majorettes, and a
dozen bicyclists formed a procession a quarter mile long, fllying
banners, penants, signs and ribbons. Horns honked, kids tootled and
kazooed, clowns monkeyed, and majorettes strutted. Many an ancient
jalopy showed off a brand new red, white, and blue coat of paint and
flagpoles high in the air. Brightly dyed feed-sack costumes, all
home-made, brought laughter for the watching crowd which lined the
lanes along the way, pointing, laughing and admiring. Floats, all
home-made, rolled by gaily, wholly unfettered by commercialism or
expensiveness, but showing (so visitors said) more natural charm and
ingenuity than appears in many a small city affair.
Laundry Hanging Out to Dry:
Guard Life Car:
Clowns on Bikes:
procession on horseback were Marvin Howard and Lum Gaskill,
Jr., dressed in gay clown costumes of feed-sack material.
U. S. Coast Guard truck beautiful with its flags and Coast Guard
followed more horsemen and more floats. Judges were all
from "out-of-town" — Carl Goerch of Raleigh, Murray Kempton of
Princeton, N. J., Mrs. Woodrow Price of Raleigh, Edward Pons of
Valdese, N. C, and Patsy Gatrell of New York City. First Prize went to
Danny Garrish and Leslie Howard, who were gorgeously and seductively
attired to represent "Miss Ocracoke" and "Miss Portsmouth" 1953.
Ocracoke (right) & Miss Portsmouth (left):
Prize went to young Billy Wahab Taylor, who was costumed as Uncle Sam.
Prize for the "prettiest" truck went to the Ocracoke Electric
Corporation, which was loaded with gaily dressed little children who
won the award for it.
the most realistic" went to
“Blackbeard the Pirate" with his “Favorite Wife, Mr. Eph
Esham and several other wives who rode the float with him.
the "most comical" went to Mrs. Nina Williams and her sister, Mrs.
Ray Waller; prize for the "most unusual" went to Harold Wahab, dressed
as "Farmer Brown" and driving [a] pony and a cart.
and his Pony Cart:
of local materials" went to Thad Gaskins, whose gaily painted
Ford truck was filled with baskets of cabbage,
tomatoes, and other home-grown vegetables.
and his Veggies:
Other trucks or floats were "The Quilting Party,"
"California or Bust" (with Albert Styron, Jr. attired
in a slat-bonnet), [and] the "Ocracoke Hunter" (with Wilbur Gaskill
from a duck blind).
Wilbur Gaskill Ready to Shoot a Released Duck:
[Along came] the "Fishing Guide" (with Rob Tolson and
[Also joinging the merriment were] the "Graveyard Band"
(featuring Monford Garrish, Ben Spencer,
Roy Parsons and others with guitars and kazoos), and the
"Woccocon" (early Indian name for the Island) Indians, featuring
Larry Williams, Blanche Howard, Calvin O'Neal, Jr., and others.
The Graveyard Band:
In addition to prizes for the outstanding floats, each
a box of shot gun shells for his part in the expedition. And there were
many individual prizes given. Sam Keach Williams got first prize for
the best home-made chicken-feed sack costume; Albert Styron, Jr., for
second-best. Lum Gaskill, Jr., Zora Babel Gaskins [and] Ikey O'Neal
were recognized for horsemanship. Two prizes went to Belinda Styron and
Betsy Carol Styron for excellence in singing. Betty Helen Howard won
first prize of the majorettes, Henrietta Peele, second prize; Ellen
Marie Fulcher first prize as the prettiest, Connie Sue Styron, second
prize; Martha Garrish and John Ivey O'Neal, and Betsy Q’Neal, for
the best children's chicken-feed costumes; Lindsay Howard for
best clown: Lorraine Howard, Edward O'Neal, David and Ann Esham,
Yevette Austin for Mother Goose costumes; a group of Devils were
awarded prizes for being the "ugliest," and many of
the bicyclists won awards.
The day ended with the movie "Blackbeard the
Pirate” at the local theatre, after which in gay mood
250 people jammed the school recreation hall for dancing
and square dancing until midnight. Congressman Herbert C. Bonner
was over for the occasion on one of the Washington, N. C, yachts; other
yachts were in from Norfolk. Everyone had a very happy day, and talk
about town now and for some time to come will be about the Big Parade.