Many years ago in the late 1960s, when Peter and I were new biology graduate students at the coast on a collecting trip, we visited rental offices along Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle. We were seeking a beach front property to rent for $100 for the week (which we thought was a lot). Being from eastern North Carolina, I had been coming to Atlantic Beach (and eventually Emerald Isle) all of my life. At each office where we sought a rental for $100, we were scoffed at — until we met Jim Batten at Emerald Isle Realty. He said he had a property that he owned, so he could rent it to us for $100. He rented Fincannon to us. It was ideal. We could see the ocean in front and the sound out the back through the kitchen door (which was always open, of course, with no air conditioning). The Indian Beach pier was close enough that as the years went on and our twins were born (in 1977), Peter could fish at the pier and I could hang a big red cabbage bag on the outside shower head if I needed him to come back to the house (remember, no cell phones).
Our daughters, in 1978 playing on the dune deck at Fincannon and in 1983 in front of Fincannon.
As other parts of our family began to join us, we outgrew Fincannon and stayed in many other properties. We have never missed a year in an EIR house since that very first year in Fincannon. Jim Batten almost sold us a cottage many times and when the new offices were built he joked that we owned one of the posts, having given the company so much business. Mary Batten was always the gracious hostess and would invite us to visit with them on their lovely porch that looked onto the sound. She loved sharing stories about her trips to Ireland. There’s no way we would rent from anyone else- the Battens and the EIR staff had become family. When one of our favorite places was no longer with EIR, we found a different house for the next year because the service and hospitality of EIR was more important to us than any particular property.
There was a time, when our children were young, that our life was punctuated with time at the beach. We took our twin daughters out of school for a week in May (the week of my birthday and Mother’s day) and went to the beach where they still had “beach school.” They knew genus and species names of beach organisms before they knew common names (Donax and Emerita and Ocypode albicans). Then our Girl Scout troop would come for Memorial Day weekend. We’d have our regular summer week, usually during the week that our daughters celebrated their birthday, and finish up the season by bringing our Episcopal Campus Ministry group down for Labor Day.
All of our relatives have joined us at some time or another. My father spent some time with us in the A-frame near the Indian Beach pier the year after my mother died in 1975. Peter’s parents spent time with us in 1978 after our daughters were born, both to help us with them and to have some family time. That first generation is no longer with us and we are now the oldest generation. Peter and I and our brothers with their families have, in various combinations, come most years. And now we have the youngest generation in the children of our daughters – the fourth generation to join us.
Last year, our beach plan was almost derailed. Our daughter’s father-in-law (Ron) was diagnosed with incurable cancer. But he decided he was determined to come to the beach. We were skeptical, but, indeed, he and his wife flew in from St. Louis, as did my daughter, with her husband and daughter. Others flew in from Albuquerque. Peter and I drove from Chapel Hill. We all converged at RDU and began our drive to the beach.
We got a call, on our drive down, that our cottage was not going to be available due to an unexpected need for repairs; in our 30+ years with EIR, such a thing had never happened and our anxiety level skyrocketed because we knew that Ron was going to need to rest as soon as we arrived. At this point, a miracle/gift equal to that first one from Jim Batten occurred. Jaime Batten worked magic and arranged for us to be in a most wonderful property. When we arrived, there must have been 8 people cleaning to get the house ready for us (and they did a superb job). Remarkably, there was an elevator that Ron could use. By the second day, he was recovered enough from the trip to be able to make it to the beach! His bathroom had grab bars that were particularly important. The house was truly a miracle and we sent up many prayers of thanks for Jaime Wax, and for her family at Emerald Isle Realty.
All of us have beach pictures displayed in our homes – why, because the agenda is play and all our best comes out and all our worst is not called on. We look happy because we are, we smile because life is good, and we look like we love one another because the awareness of that love is with us every minute as we play together. This picture of Ron from last year does not look like the picture of a man who was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and who was, just the previous week, told that he will not be with us long. This wonderful picture demonstrates that time at the beach can lift our deepest concerns, at least for a while.
We will ALWAYS remember this particular beach trip because of the amazing generosity that EIR extended to our family in a time of grief and need. We have taken many, many pictures. Thank you for the love and hospitality that we have felt from you all for four plus decades. We are so grateful to you all.
This is a picture of our family from 2011, smiling and happy.
Other memories from over the years include:
Jim Batten on his daily beach walk, barefooted and chewing on his cigar.
1977 staying at Red Fish Blue Fish for the marriage of Peter’s brother, Frank, which occurred at the surf’s edge by the full moon
Walking to the pier to call the pediatrician when our one-year old had a fever and there were no phones in the cottages.
Picking up our keys that were pinned to a clothes line after hours in the vestibule of the office on Second Street.
Amy and Anna eagerly going through the catalog of cottages in an attempt to find a house with a dishwasher so they would not have to be the dishwasher.
Our daughter’s first kiss in the darkened laundry room under our cottage.
Grandpa going down the water slide with our daughters the summer following his cardiac by-pass surgery and nearly causing all of us heart attacks.
Two Grandmas putting on a Talent Show for the grandkids on a rainy beach day: Seeing grandmothers dressed up in silly costumes and singing silly songs from their school days was a memory never to be forgotten.
We anticipate many more Emerald Isle memories as we continue to look forward to our vacations with Emerald Isle Realty.