Category Archives: buildings

Old Christmas 2020

For most, the holiday season ends with a celebration of New Year’s Day. But in the villages where I live, many of us extend the festivity to  another lesser known holiday. Old Christmas is a remnant of the Julian carried over to the Gregorian calendar. In Rodanthe it occurs the first Saturday after New Year’s Day, has a local history dating back a couple hundred years, and is celebrated at our community building.

Originally an early 1900’s schoolhouse, the building has been renovated and expanded to serve the community.

Festivities start with the oyster shoot where participants fire shotguns at paper targets. Whoever has a pellet closest to the bullseye wins a bag of oysters.

Folks mill around and wait for their turn to shoot.

Young Owen O’Neal tries his luck at a bag of oysters. Old Christmas has long been part of his family heritage.

                                        Santa wants a bag of oysters too.

Skating is an activity recently added to the events.

 Joey O’Neal shovels oysters roasting on his homemade grills.

  Eddie O’Neal and Eric Anglin are some of the first to shuck a few.

Empty shells begin to pile up under the table.

                                      Phillip Beck shucks one out for a youngster.

Cooks in the kitchen prepare a traditional meal of stewed chicken and pie bread.

The deserts are to die for!

   By the time night falls, the shells continue to fall.

Joey has gotten his groove on the grills. I’d give him an A+.

Back inside, the band Chicamacomico plays on in anticipation of Old Buck.

Justin O’Neal prepares the legendary bull before entering. Like ancestors before him, Justin has become Old Buck’s latest caretaker.

The appearance of Old Buck is an evening highlight.

Kids love meeting him.

Briggs McEwen sets his son on Old Buck’s back for a fun ride. But as soon as he came, he’s quickly gone for another year.

    In the end, I asked if Old Buck needed a ride home, so we loaded him into the back of my Toyota. It was another Merry Old Christmas!

 

 

The Liberty Memorial

Last year when Denise and I visited relatives in Kansas City, Missouri, we were treated with a great tour of downtown. There were so many interesting things to do and see.

One of the finest museums that I’ve ever visited is prominent in the landscape. The National World War I Museum was opened in 1926 and features a 265 foot stone spire as a tribute to those that served in the First World War.

One can spend days, weeks or longer going through the complex. Our second day visit was on a rainy morning and as we went in, I was attracted by the glass ceiling over the lobby entrance, so I went back out in the drizzle and made two exposures over the wet glass panels. One was vertical and another horizontal. They were quick, handheld shots with my current camera of choice, a Lumix mirrorless body with interchangeable lenses.

One of the most prestigious local art shows here is the annual Frank Stick Memorial Art Show hosted by the Dare County Arts Council. It began 41 years ago and I’ve entered a piece in nearly every one.

This year I decided to print the above mentioned photograph and apply an age old photo technique. I remembered experimenting with solarized prints in my darkroom around 1980 and the results were usually surreal and unpredictable.

Tones are often reversed resembling a negative. Photoshop made this easy to accomplish and turned a drab day into one looming and dramatic. I entered a 16×20 print and was given an Excellence Award. There were over a hundred entries and ribbons for me have been rare in this venue.

This year’s show was poignant in that it was dedicated to my friend and prolific Nags Head artist Glenn Eure who passed away last September at the age of 86. He was a well-known and gifted artist. A Purple Heart recipient, he served combat tours in Korea and Viet Nam. I think he would have liked my print entitled TRIBUTE IN KC.

The inscription on the monument reads: IN HONOR OF THOSE THAT SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR IN DEFENSE OF LIBERTY AND OUR COUNTRY

 

Close Call Jose

Late Summer through Fall has long been my favorite time to be on Hatteras Island. Crowds thin and weather conditions become more tropical. There are so many pluses, then tropical influences can develop into hurricanes.

I’ve always relished waves spawned from a distance. Sitting well offshore last week Jose generated some of the best surf in years. For a few of those days however, seas washed over the highway in spots and even shut it down for a tide cycle. I went to Rodanthe to investigate.

During road closures, north Rodanthe becomes a staging area for exiting traffic.

Sea water flows in from the beach and because of it’s salinity is highly corrosive for automobiles splashing through.

At the end of Surfside Drive sits another imperiled cottage.

In 1980 this beach house was 4 lots back from the oceanfront. Now look at it.

With NCDOT shutting down the main road, Mirlo Beach looked pretty empty and bleak.

NCDOT was busy working in the usual places, like S-Curves.

The oceanfront at Mirlo Beach has long been an area of high erosion rates. Homeowners there are certainly in a real estate bind, and with another storm named Maria coming, things are likely to get much worse.

I couldn’t resist a self portrait opportunity and wondered if this porch swing would still be intact next week, after Maria sweeps by the Outer Banks.

Hurricanes are a fact of life here and although we tend to compare some storms to others, they are unique unto themselves. The ones that pass well off the coast can be beautiful and dramatic, with spectacular skies.

In 1991, I made this photograph of the leading edge of Hurricane Bob as it approached Cape Hatteras. An evacuation had been ordered and the following day we experienced gusts near a hundred with the eye going by about 25 miles offshore.

With Hurricane Maria, about 300 miles to the southeast, we’re under an evacuation order. Tropical storm and storm surge warnings are up. Now it’s a waiting game.

Vintage

The way photography is today, you can’t believe every picture you see. Images can be enhanced or altered relatively easy. My photography has been pretty straight forward. I’ve always tried to make prints how I shot them. In the real darkroom tools were fairly limited compared to digitized versions.

Last year I had a commission to work on a book cover with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters as it’s main theme. It needed to look like it could have been the early 1900’s. The historical fiction book entitled Seaspell was written by local author Bronwyn Williams and published by Chapel Hill Press.

I scoured through thousands of images before I came up with a working concept. In 1996 I was using a medium format camera producing negatives measuring 2 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches. The larger negatives yielded some pretty sharp prints compared to 35mm.

The main shot I used was taken from an unusual northwest angle near the old coast guard base. Visible to the right was the original keepers quarters. To make it look more dated, I removed a utility pole, some shrubs and the boardwalk extending from the lighthouse over to the beach.

Other items needed to be added though. In the original photo, the sky was clear and featureless. I had taken another photo as Hurricane Edouard passed offshore on September 1 that same year. It showed the lighthouse from another angle, but displayed gorgeous clouds as a result of the nearby storm.

I selected those clouds and pasted them into the featureless sky, and it made a dramatic difference. To give a little more depth to the composition, a strip of blue ocean was added between the dunes from a third photograph. The publisher later added a figure walking down the path.

It took some time to throw it all together and still appear genuine, but it illustrates you just can’t believe everything you see.

Down Under Down

Over the years I’ve seen restaurants here come and go. Some fail faster than others, and it’s not an easy business to achieve success. It’s about quality, quantity and customer satisfaction, among other things.

One of the most successful restaurants in our town was started at a location where several other restaurants had come and gone. The Rodanthe pier complex had reincarnations of restaurants in the same building with names like Cross Currents, Under Currents, JL Seagull and Down Under. There were others prior whose names have escaped me.

Undoubtedly the most successful was the Down Under, founded by Skip and Sheila Skiperdene. The name was coined by Australian ex-pat surfer Skip, who married Sheila a North Carolinian, and they began the Aussie-themed restaurant. It took a year or so to catch on, but with planning and hospitality it became hugely popular. Most summer evenings had dozens of patrons lined up outside the front door waiting to be seated. This went on for about ten years, when personal circumstances ended the epic run of Down Under circa 1999.

This 1989 aerial photograph shows the pier complex, including the restaurant building under the arrow. The proximity to the ocean made a dramatic venue for diners, but also contributed to it’s demise.

An aspiring restauranteur then bought the trademarked name and stepped in to continue to operate the business. Something however was missing and the restaurant was not quite the same. A few years later, things really went south when Hurricane Isabel pummeled the property.

After continuous battering from high seas, storm surge from Hurricane Isabel finally took it out in 2003. This photograph taken by my wife, was probably the last shot ever taken from the upper deck of the restaurant. It was a harrowing experience.

An aerial image shows the newly built Gallery restaurant circa late 1980’s. It featured local art, and a home-grown herb garden. The Gallery made national news when a man died from eating bad tuna there, ending that venture.

The Gallery was sold to a new owner and renamed Waves Edge. They employed local chefs preparing great meals. This 1991 photo was taken during their hey-day. It was popular with locals and visitors alike. That lasted until personal issues forced another sale, this time it was changed to Blue Water Grill, featuring an upstairs wine bar.

The new Down Under owner wanting to sustain the business, bought the building in Waves that had previous lives as The GalleryWaves Edge, and Blue Water Grill.

The new Down Under struggled for several years and eventually landed in foreclosure. It sat vacant and unmaintained a few years until it was bought by an adjacent property owner then demolished on June 27, 2017.

Going, going… pretty much gone!

Down Under is history. And it all began with Skip.