Saturday, October 25, 2014

Change of Policy

I have been thinking of doing this for a while, and now it begins. Starting today, except under unusual conditions, I will not be publishing blog posts on Saturdays or Sundays.

So, please check back again on Monday. I will continue to publish Ocracoke Island stories, history, and current events on week days. I love collecting and sharing these stories. I hope you will continue to enjoy reading them.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Corned Fish

"Corning" means to preserve in salt. On the Outer Banks before refrigeration, fish were often "corned" to preserve them.

Corned fish were packed in wooden barrels with tight fitting lids to keep varmints out. The barrels were stored in the shade, and the fish would keep for many months.

According to a 2009 article (http://hamptonroads.com/2009/11/forgotten-art-corning-preserves-fish-months) in PilotOnLine.com:

"The fish should be scaled, beheaded and gutted. No trace of entrails or the black membrane that lines the cavity of the fish should remain. Then the fish should be butterflied, so the maximum amount of flesh will be exposed to the salt.... Once the fish is prepped, sprinkle the bottom of the container with a 'heavy dusting' of salt. Lay the fish on the salt and give it a heavy dusting - it is not necessary to completely cover the fish with salt. Continue layering fish and salt. Seal the container and place it in the refrigerator [obviously, old-timers did not have this option, but corning still worked].

"After three or four days, the salt should have pulled the water from the fish to create a brine. Keep an eye on the water level, and when it stops rising, open the container and add enough fresh water to cover the fish completely and enough extra salt so that crystals are visible. You want to have the water dissolve as much salt as possible. The fish is safe to eat when it is "struck through," meaning that the salt has completely penetrated the flesh. To determine if the fish is struck through, press the flesh with your finger. 'It should be firm, hard, like a board,' Merritt [Jim Merritt, owner of The Catch Seafood at Five Points Community Farm Market in Norfolk] said. After that, it no longer requires refrigeration and is ready to eat...."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spies on Hatteras

In the Fall, 1973 issue of Sea Chest, a publication of the Cape Hatteras School, there is a one-page article titled, "Spies on the Cape."

According to the article (which I found more than a little bit confusing), a young German named Hans Hoff visited Hatteras Island for about a month in 1932. During that time he allegedly took photos of the lighthouse, Coast Guard Station, weather bureau, etc.

Later, during WWII, he and two other German spies were said to have landed on Long Island, New York, in a rubber raft. They were apprehended, tried, and convicted. Hoff, according to the article, was sent to the electric chair.

The article even indicates that a movie was made about this event.

Trouble is, I have not been able to verify any of this story.  The only Hans Hoff I have been able to document was an Austrian Jew (born 1897). He was a psychiatrist who was expelled from Austria in 1938. Hoff seems to have been a shadowy figure who worked as an agent for the OSS, and went to Iraq where he was involved in very questionable practices involving eugenics and experiments on human subjects.

Were there German spies on the Outer Banks during Wold War II? We may never know for sure.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spies on Ocracoke

During the latter half of the twentieth century I occasionally heard stories of German spies landing on the Outer Banks during World War II.

In my article about Mme. Scheu-Riesz and the 1940 & 1941 summer Artists Colony on Ocracoke (http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112908.htm), I wrote, "Rumors circulated throughout the village suggesting that [Mme. Scheu-Riesz] and her fellow artists might be German spies. Although only a handful of islanders held this view, those closest to the artists reported that they were secretive, and reluctant to socialize with villagers. Workers at the hotel noticed that Workshop teachers and students covered their books and poems, and turned papers over whenever others approached them.

"Most of the Workshop participants enjoyed spending their days on the beach. Islander, Jake Alligood, had an old flat bed truck that he had converted to an island taxi, and he often drove them across the tidal flats to the ocean. It was not unusual for the teachers and students to walk to the beach after dark. Mme Scheu-Riesz seemed especially interested in the flashing beacons and other navigational aids, about which she asked numerous questions. She was also observed making frequent calls, by ship to shore radio, from the Coast Guard Station.

"Several island teenagers, intrigued by the exotic artists and intellectuals, and looking for adventure, decided to snoop around their quarters. They had listened to adults as they discussed the artists' unconventional behavior and different lifestyles. Connections to foreign countries, strange dress, and a degree of eccentricity had made them suspect. Could the artists really be undercover Nazi spies?

"The 'detectives' never discovered any incriminating evidence."

Read the entire article (http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112908.htm) to learn why Mme. Scheu-Reisz and her colleagues were almost certainly not spies.

More about spies on the Outer Banks in tomorrow's blog.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Superstitions

A few traditional Outer Banks superstitions:
  • If you wear socks to bed you will wake up with a sore throat (as a teenager I often went to bed with socks on because I'd go out barefooted in the evening and come home late, too tired to wash my feet...but I never remember waking up with a sore throat).
  • If you sweep after sundown, you will sweep a member out of your family (seems like a creative justification for not working at night).
  • If you go in the front door, and out the back door, you will have bad luck (Blanche often reminds me of this when I visit her).
  • If a bird gets in the house, it means bad luck (a house wren once found an opening, and built a nest in my screen porch; when the eggs hatched the baby birds flew all around the porch, pooping on everything. It was definitely bad luck!). 
When I was a teenager I came across this quotation by Francis Bacon (1561-1626): "The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Books

People occasionally ask me what books I've read recently. Here is my book list from the last couple of months:

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Zealot by Reza Aslan

On the Historicity of Jesus, by Richard Carrier

Christianity, the First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Atlantic, by Simon Winchester

Einstein, by Walter Isaacson

Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin

Talkin' Tar Heel, by Walt Wolfram & Jeffery Reaser

Kneeknock Rise by Natalie Babbitt

A Man of Misconceptions by John Glassie

Ten Thousand Breakfasts by Ann Ehringhaus

Death and the Afterlife by Samuel Scheffler

Numerous booklets, articles, and book chapters about whaling and porpoise fishing on the Outer Banks (look for a Newsletter article about this in 2015).

I also recently watched Woody Allen's movie, Annie Hall. And I started worrying that I might be like Alvy Singer, reading too many serious books! Then I remembered that I also enjoy The Funny Times.

Maybe some of our readers have book suggestions for me and other folks who follow this blog. Leave a comment if you do.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pilot Boat

In the colonial period and beyond, ships risked running aground attempting to cross the bar at Ocracoke Inlet. Pilots, seafarers familiar with local conditions, were established at Ocracoke in the early 1700s (the earliest name for the nascent village was Pilot Town). The pilots' task was to guide ships across the bar, and bring them safely into Pamlico Sound.

The pilot boat was typically double-ended, 20 – 25 feet long, and high in the bow and stern. The hull was constructed of lapstrake planks (overlapping planks of cedar, cypress, or other native wood). The lightweight pilot boat could be outfitted with a mast and sail, or it might be rowed by 4 to 6 men.  

Whaleboat at Mystic Seaport
Photo by Stan Shebs




















Rowed pilot boats were used later in the eighteenth century and into the early twentieth century by shore-based whaling operations along the Outer Banks.  It is a fascinating story. Look for an article about North Carolina whaling in a future Newsletter. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092114.htm.