(Childhood Memories Continued.....)
I recall in the summer I worked a bit picking blueberries. The blueberry farm was owned by Mr. Harold Huntington. Raeford Charles Horrell, my 1st cousin 2X removed, oversaw the blueberry farm and lived on the farm with his family. The weather was hot, as I recall and it was hard work. Standing all day and searching each bush to ensure you got all the ripe berries picked off. You would have to fill a bucket, which I believe was about 25 pounds when completely full. You were paid about a nickel a pint, if I remember correctly. I know it didn't seem like much and it seem to take forever to fill the bucket.
Working in tobacco was "not fun". As a fact, it was backbreaking, hot and dirty. You would wind up with a bad sunburn if you weren't wearing protective clothing. "Cropping" tobacco or picking off the ripe leaves from the stalk was no easy chore. You could work for 8 hours a day in the hot sun and be paid a whopping $4.00. The pay was about .50 cents an hour. I also remember working at the barn, unloading the drag which was full of green tobacco leaves. They had to be placed upon the tables where the other workers would form it in 3 or 4 leaf bundles and string it on a stick. This stick would then be hung in a barn to dry and cure. Unloading a barn of dried tobacco was equally no easy chore. It would be hot and you would be perspiring and then you would get all the dried sand and such falling off the leaves onto your body as the sticks of dried leaves were passed down. And you ask why I didn't become a farmer -- this was one decision I had made and most quickly, without reservation. I did not enjoy working in tobacco, but needed the monies for school and clothing. However, one does have to respect our ancestors who were farmers and made this their way of life.
When the opportunity presented itself for me not to have to work in the tobacco field and such, I grabbed it quickly. It was working for Mr. & Mrs. Bill Jenkins in their store at the curve outside Atkinson in what was known as Rankinsville at one time. I did everything in the store. Stocked the shelves with food items, swept and mopped the floors, scooped ice cream, cooked hamburgers and franks or as they were called "hot dogs" - not to forget, pumped gas and worked the cash register.
Bill and Flonnie Jenkins would be out working in their tobacco fields or some such place and get back just at lunch rush hour to help me with the crowd of field hands. I much preferred this work than to be out in the tobacco fields myself. I worked in their store in the summer and after school for a year or so.
I recall going to Crystal Beach at White Lake in Bladen County. This did not happen often, but was quite a treat when it did. We would go on a few rides and maybe play a game or two. Most of our day was spent playing in the water.
As I grew older into a teenager I recall working at the lake for a few summers. Once, I worked
as a waiter/carhop for a small diner and another summer I rented floats by the hour. I also assisted in running the booth selling peanuts, cold drinks, and
cotton candy and such. The rental of the floats was the easy part. It was the retrieving of the floats by people who refused to return them after their allotted times that gave me the problem.
I would have to go search up and down the beach and water for the float and let the people know their time was up. Most people were
fine with it and gave it to me without question. Others could be just plain "nasty and difficult" in their overall attitude.
In 1921, W. M. Corbett opened Crystal Beach adjacent to Goldston's and in 1939 he installed the first amusement rides at White Lake. These have since grown into a full size operation at both Goldston's and Crystal beaches, where more than 20 different types of rides are available to the public at present.
In 1951, White Lake became incorporated and soon moved to insure that the crystal clear waters would always remain just that way, by voting to install a vastly adequate water and sewer system.
White Lake is very unique in that it has a white sandy bottom and is blessed with crystal clear waters. This is because it is fed by subterranean springs.
I personally knew W. M. "Bill" Corbett, Jr. and his wife "Billie". Also, his two sons, Murphy and George. They lived on Beatty's bridge road. My uncle, Pete Mehalko, worked the farm for Bill Corbett.
I knew two of his sisters, Marguerite and Olga and the two youngest daughters of Olga, Annie Maude and Marguerite.
Annie Maude was a teacher in the 1960's at Atkinson High School and one of my teachers.
As I recall my eighteenth birthday was somewhat of an exciting day. At least for me, a country boy living in a small country town. I turned 18 years of age on this day back in 1963. Sometime in the afternoon I went to a neighboring town of Burgaw, which was about 15 miles away. It is there that I registered for Selective Service, which was an obligation at that time.
My grandmother and uncle arrived, travelling from New York, to attend my graduation from high school which was taking place that evening in the Atkinson High School auditorium. So you see, a good many things were happening on this day to me and I suppose that being the reason I haven't forgotten about them and have maintained these memories, keeping them tucked away until something triggers them to resurface.
Our class trip was taken some weeks later to Washington, DC and a stop at Luray Caverns in Virginia. It was a trip I anticipated and remember vividly. I still have the class photo taken in Luray caverns and sometimes come across it while searching for something else. I spent my last few months in Atkinson at home with a brother being born in the first week of October and my leaving for New York at the end of the month.
I recall going into Burgaw to the train depot where I boarded the Atlantic Coastline railroad and headed north to New York. Some hours later we arrived in Rocky Mount where I had to change trains after a long 3 hour wait for the connecting line to continue my journey North.
Arriving the next morning in New York's Grand Central Station, I was met by an uncle who escorted me to Queens, NY to the home of my grandmother. We took a ride on the "EL" or elevated subway train from Manhattan to the borough of Queens and to the section of Jackson Heights.
It is here my life in New York began, but I have never forgotten my "home" in Atkinson, North Carolina and have made it home on vacation almost every year since leaving. It has now been 47 plus years since I left. Where has the time gone. Seems like only yesterday I boarded that train!
On March 31, 2011 I once again after 47 years and 5 months, made a move from New York to Tucson, AZ. It was a big change in some respects in terms of the climate, landscapes, mountains, desert and so on, but I do love it here.