As I was growing up in Manteo and Elizabeth City, North Carolina, during the Great Depression of the ‘30s, I fell I love with the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I loved to lose myself in their world as they white-washed fences, ran errands for their parents, slipped away to raft and fish the Mississippi River,
My buddy Billy Hackett (left) and me at play on Roanoke Island.
studied the currents and dangers of the shoals, and came to know intimately the land forms they traversed. Every day was a learning experience for them. But despite the fun and adventures they had, the ultimate goal was survival.
Actually, life outside of that fascinating literary world was much the same for me at the time. Survival was the ultimate goal – with a little fun and adventure mixed in to keep it interesting! But every single day my parents had to struggle to provide the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing for our little family. Those things most of us take for granted today were hard-won goals back then.
Mom and Dad in Manteo
In his own right, my father was a pioneer. A self-taught man, he designed and built the first replica of Fort Raleigh in Manteo and, soon thereafter, “The Lost Colony” amphitheater. (Many other outdoor drama amphitheaters would follow.) A British immigrant, he first had to learn the nature of the new place he called home and how he could care for it and manipulate it to make a life for himself and his family. Meanwhile, my mother was blazing her own trail as she raised her children and created the first plant nursery on Roanoke Island. Creativity and determination propelled my parents as the dreamed, scheme and struggled against difficult circumstances and odds.