It was the summer of ’72, the last summer of my childhood, when I fell in love with Emerald Isle. That fall I would start my senior year in high school and meet my husband of 34 years. Through June, July and August I lived quietly and simply with my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Clarence in a tiny bedroom in their green and brick house on the corner of 2nd Street and Ocean Drive. Just 10 years earlier they had retired to Emerald Isle to pursue their passion for salt water fishing. Other friends bought modest beach homes nearby and asked them to be caretakers and rent to other friends, and Emerald Isle Realty was born.
Summer suppers for us meant fresh caught blue fish and flounder, shrimp purchased from friends and neighbors in Salter Path, or crabs netted ourselves to go with clams we raked up from Bogue Sound. Aunt Mildred had other friends I got to know that summer from early morning visits to the Evans Street Curb Market in Morehead City, where we bought fresh tomatoes, corn, butter beans and watermelon salt-kissed by our south-westerly ocean breezes.
Situated mid-island, their beach home meant I was a baseball throw’s distance from the ocean or the sound. My summer job was to help Aunt Mildred answer the phone to take reservations from families in NC, VA and PA looking for a beach cottage. We’d answer their questions, “That’s right, no air-conditioning, just open all the windows and let that ocean breeze cool you down.” Or, “Yes ma’am, there is one TV, but most folks just like to sit on the porch when evening comes.”
Noon-time, I took a 2 hour break to swim, sun and walk on the beach. Sunsets after supper, I’d often take long walks on the beach toward Salter Path, running up and down wild sand dunes with the closest cottage hundreds of yards away.
My love affair with my island home continues to this day. After college, my husband Mark and I settled here and raised three island children of our own. Best of all though, not so much has changed and you can still enjoy just such an idyllic vacation in our little village by the sea. We’re still welcoming the children and grandchildren that I got to know that summer of ’72. Farm families like Winberry Farms are still growing world famous Bogue Sound watermelons, and at Capt. Willis’ Seafood Market (with the red roof) you will always find fresh, local seafood. We are still famous for those soft, south-westerly breezes, but the homes are now air-conditioned, so it’s your choice whether to turn the AC off and throw the windows wide open. Sitting on the porches though is down-right encouraged.
From time to time, I’ll be sharing what I love about life on Emerald Isle and help you to discover some truly special places to visit on the Crystal Coast. Stop by and visit often—that’s what we mean by Southern hospitality. You’ll become a friend and neighbor, too.
Julia Batten Wax