Remembering Growing up on Ocracoke, Part II

Last month I published the first half of a short journal my father, Lawton W. Howard (1911-2002), wrote shortly before his death. This month I share the second half of that journal. My father had only the most basic formal education, and I have transcribed his journal almost exactly as he wrote it. I hope his comments provide a small glimpse into life on Ocracoke Island a century ago.

Lawton (on fiddle) with Fowler O’Neal:

You can read the first half of what he wrote here.


The 4th of July was a great day at Ocracoke that was the day the big horse penning they sold colt and mare’s & studes. The horse pen was between Van henry and the school them days. Walter Oneal was out there with home made ice cream selling ice cream. 5¢ comb. I think it 1927 the older men wasn’t going to pen hore that 4th July I don’t why they were mad about something So another pal Ansley oneal and myself pen horse that day I asked my Father if I could use his horse & Ansley asked his Grandfather if he could use his so we could pen horse that day well the two of us left 2 am in the morning and started for Hatters inlet. We got at the Coast guard Station around 5 am. Rested & gave our horse some food & water we stayed for a couple hours. And then we started Ocracoke Village rounding up the wild horse on our way back we got back around 1 PM after noon some off the older men said we had more horse in the pen that day than they had seen for a long time.

The Life Saving Station at Hatteras Inlet (1883-1955):

Some time we would go out to Bald Beach and have a horse race the Horse my Father was really a good runner no other horse could beat him. You had watch him if he saw a piece off paper move on the other side road he would jump across the road so you had to watck him at all times. One time I was running him from the light house toward home. With out a saddle on. When I got about where Philip has his house the horse saw a young fellow laying in the ditch by the road so Bill the horse name had to put his brakes on so over his neck into the road but I did not get hurt. Got back on and went to the Station and put him back in the pen.

We used to play cat. this is Ball game something like Baseball. We had three base and home plate I don’t know where cat come from I guess the Older men gave it that name. the only thing that wasn’t the same as base Ball was we would hit the man running from one base to other We would hit the man with the ball. My mother made me a ball made out off yarn and cover it with Leather from an old shoe. And sew it on the ball. It look just like a baseball.

In the year off 1926 or 1927 a banana ship run a shore at Hatteras Inlet. The coast Guard Station took the crew at the Station for a week I know my father and some other crew from Ocracoke Station had to go at Hatters Inlet Station to helf the crew there in case if they had any trouble with the crew of the Banan ship and then throw all the Bananas over board so they could refloat the Ship at high tide which they did. Our beach was full off banana for a good while so we had all the bananas we wanted for some time. I had never saw a ship that big before.

The Banana Boat:

I went fishing with Simon E Balance I work for Simon and Luther work form Mr Balance Luther oneal & I were about the same age. We went at night they would ankor the boat and to hear the trout make a noise I then I would jump over board with the net and stand and hole the net until they would go around the fish where I was and pull the net in the boat and take the fish out off the net. When the Older men got enotch fish we went to Hatteras and sold them We stayed at Hatteras at Tom Angles place he was a black man the only one on hatteras at that time We stayed at his Stayed all night and had breakfast and all for 25¢ the next day come back to Ocracoke we had only a small sail boat. I made $25.00 that week. I felt rich.

I found $10.00 when I was about 12 or 13 yrs old. My father stuck a note up at the store for week if any one had lost $10.00. so no one claim it my mother sent to Sears an got me a suit of cloths the first suit I ever had I really though it was pretty it a blue.

Mr Ben Oneal lived next Door. In the house Gayenell lives in he had cow was out of the pen. So miss Elithe Gaskins & Mamie Styron was over to Tom Jackson to see his mother Tom was a pal of mine. I heard the two women were talking about how scared they were off Mr Ben cow. I went home so later the two women were going by our house going home. Down point I waited until they got by the Island in. I went up to the back off them and jump in a hole with dry tree limb jump in the hole and said “mow” did they run each one a baby in theire arms they didn’t stop until they got pass James Jr. house they look around to see if the cow was there and they saw me they shook their fist at me because I was laughing at them.