Chester Lynn, proprietor of Annabelle’s Antiques on Ocracoke’s Back Road, recently came into possession of a 1947 missive written on the letterhead of the North Carolina Department of Conservation and Development. It was addressed to Miss Frances Walsh of Portland, Maine. Unfortunately, the second page is missing so we do not know who wrote the letter. Nevertheless, it provides an intriguing snapshot of the village of Ocracoke in the mid-20th century. Following is the extant content of the letter.
May 29, 1947
Dear Miss Walsh:
Ocracoke is all that Hal Boyle [presumably Harold Vincent “Hal” Boyle (July 24, 1911 – April 1, 1974), a prolific, Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist for the Associated Press] said about it, though he didn’t draw a picture complete enough for you to use in making a decision.
Ocracoke Island is a long sand spit, part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. At the southern tip, where the banks broaden out a bit, is the only village, and in fact only habitation, except for a coast guard station at the north end (Hatteras Inlet).
It is quite unlike the settled New England coastal villages frequented by tourists and artists. The homes are grouped around the harbor, and a few sandy trails lead through the sparse vegetation, mostly water oaks and yaupon (American holly).
There are about 550 inhabitants, most of whom are fishermen, coast-guardsmen, store-keepers, and fishing and hunting guides. They are a friendly and contented people, but there is no evidence of wealth on the island, no industry, and little trade. Many of the adults go barefooted in the Summer and it is a good idea, too. The people are not glamorous, nor even picturesque, but few of them are worldly, and with the exception of the boys back from the wars the majority of them have lived all their lives on the island. Visits to the mainland are infrequent for most of them.
There is a simple, but adequate hotel (Wahab Village Hotel, D. F. Boyette, manager [this is the present-day Blackbeard’s Lodge]), rates around $5.50 per day American. The hotel is the best place to stay, though you might get room and board with some villager. There also are a few furnished cottages (write Mrs. Maude Wahab, or Wahab Industries), and the hotel has at least one furnished apartment.
Otherwise the facilities are simple. There is a movie which opens at intervals, but not every night. You can swim in the surf or the sound, but the surf is a good walk from the hotel. You can rent a skiff for use in the harbor (Silver Lake), or for Sound fishing, and there also are powered boats for hire for fishing. The surf fishing is excellent for channel bass and sometimes for blues. There are very few cars but you can rent a command car or jeep taxi for getting around.
There is no saloon, jail, health department or other evidences of government.
I like this and other Outer Banks Communities, but realize that it quite definitely is not the conventional tourist place.