Title: Here Now - A postcard history of Carolina Beach
Author: Si Cantwell
Publisher: Star News
The rides are back on the Boardwalk at Carolina Beach, and Elaine B. Henson thinks they're picture-perfect. Well, she'd actually be happier if the rock music coming from them weren't so loud. But as a longtime devotee of Carolina Beach, she likes the idea of carnival rides returning to the beach.
She said the carnival rides and stores opening in the Boardwalk area are bringing new life to the heart of the beach town.
Henson is author of "Carolina Beach: A Postcard History," part of Arcadia Publishing's Postcard History Series.
The book, available at stores and shops in Carolina Beach and at Barnes & Noble, traces the beach town's history through postcards.
She's been collecting postcards since her friend Susan Taylor Block
suggested them as a way to decorate the walls of a beach house she and her husband, Skip, bought in 2003. She wanted artwork with a historic look to put on the walls of the 1940 cottage. Postcards seemed like the perfect fit.
Since then, she's bought about 1,000 postcards, including 300 from Carolina Beach.
She mostly buys them on eBay, paying an average of $20 a card for the historic views.
She has learned about the history of Pleasure Island's largest town as well as about the history of postcards.
By 1860, Henson writes, there were already 72 households on Federal Point, from the present Snow's Cut Bridge down past Fort Fisher.
In 1880, Joseph Lloyd Winner bought a tract of land, laid out streets and called it St. Joseph. The remote outpost didn't prosper, but Capt. John W. Harper,
whose steamship rides had sparked interest in Federal Point, and some partners built a two-mile railroad dubbed the 'Shoo Fly' a few years later to carry steamship passengers from a pier near Sugar Loaf to a pavilion on the beach. It was a hit.
The pictures tell the story. Women in the early 1900s clutch a rope "life line" as they wade out into the surf in front of the Hanover Seaside Club. Little girls wearing Sunday school dresses dig in the sand.
The little town grew quickly. By 1933, parking was a problem on the Fourth of July. A postcard from the 1930s shows a Ferris wheel and another carnival ride near the pavilion on the Boardwalk. A World War II-era postcard shows two service members flanked by 10 bathing beauties, walking arm-in-arm near a sign advertising Britt's Do-Nuts.
A postcard from 1947 or so depicts a huge Sunday afternoon throng on the Boardwalk and beach. Folks in Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes mingle with people wearing bathing suits.
It looks like fun.
The book shows bygone buildings, noting when they were torn down. All too many were lost in this decade.
On Aug. 9, 1941, the town's postmaster told the Carolina Beach Sun newspaper that the post office was averaging 25,000 postcards going out per week.
Henson values postcards. She said sometimes they're the only image of a building or streetscape.
"People don't go around taking pictures of places," she said.
She grew up on Greenville Loop Road, visiting Wrightsville Beach until her parents began renting a cottage at Carolina Beach. She remembers the carnival rides on the Boardwalk, and the nearby steel pier with its Skyliner cable car ride.
New shops and restaurants are breathing new life into the Boardwalk, she thinks, and the carnival rides add to the excitement this summer.
Her family still enjoys Britt's Donuts.
A storefront shooting gallery is a favorite with the younger set.
The Shoo Fly train is no more, but Capt. Harper's vision of a lively beachfront is once again alive and well.