1933 Hurricane, Rowing to the Post Office
May 27, 2014
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Cape Charles Historical Society has for more than a decade been recording oral histories of the area’s earlier days. A grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities enabled 15 interviews to be transcribed, and the Historical Society has made this one available for readers of the Wave. All the transcriptions may be read at the Cape Charles Museum.)
1990 Interview of Virginia Fitzhugh conducted by Virginia Savage
VIRGINIA SAVAGE: I am talking to Virginia Fitzhugh, who was born and raised in Cape Charles. Virginia, Who was May Beth’s mother and father?
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. They had the drugstore down on Front Street where Jack MacMath later had a drugstore. Mallory Taylor, that was her mother and father. She was much older than me. She would have been in her hundreds.
The house next to the Miller house, coming east, was built by Mr. Wilkins and that’s Elliott Wilkins’ grandfather?
Yes. He was Tucker Wilkins’ father. Old Man Wilkins lived there and Mandy Tate, because we rented from them. I lived where Joe Restein lived for five or six years [1 Randolph Ave]. After we were married. We wanted to buy it, but Old Man Wilkins wouldn’t sell it to us.
Now let’s come down this side of the street and that side, too. There was another Wilkins built that house and the next house, the Leatherburys were living in it when I came over here. And then Ray Hickman bought it, and Bonny owns that now. Did Leatherburys build that house, do you know?
Cross over the street, and the house that you are talking about, Joe Restein’s, the Aubrey Nottinghams lived there before that. Now take me back in that house.
We lived there. Now, who lived there in the beginning, I can’t say.
Now, somewhere along the line Edna Bounds’ mother lived there because Edna told me her mother built that house. Elliott said no way.
No, ma’am. Elliott’s grandfather built that house. He built that house, the house next door to it. Ruth Kerr lived in it. And when we wanted to buy that from Mr. Wilkins, he said that he had made a house for each one of his children. And he was leaving the houses to his children. And what they did after he passed away, that was up to them. But that was the only legacy that he had to leave to them. So this house was to go to one of his children and the one next door and, of course, the one they lived in.
We lived there for five or six years, and I guess we would have kept on living there if it hadn’t been that Daddy died. And Mother, she didn’t know how to do one thing, so we had to move back in with Mother. But we did want to buy that house real bad, because we had done a lot of things to it. We loved the beach and where it was. We lived there when the first hurricane came. We went to bed that night and we thought it was a Nor’easter. We slept like babies! And slept through it. Edie Jean was small and they were in a room facing the beach and they had twin beds in there. And I always went in to look at them before I went downstairs to get breakfast. And I looked out the window and I said, “Everybody get up quick! We’re in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay!” See that’s when the water went all the way up to the Post Office. And there was a man named Sterling and he rowed a rowboat from his house right up to the Post Office.
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Was this the storm of 1933? That washed away the Cobb Island Station?
That’s right. That was the first hurricane that was around here. There never was one before. See the sand all came up on the boulevard. You couldn’t see the boulevard at all, it was all sand.
Did you have a boardwalk at that time?
No, not anything. You went right off the boulevard right down into the sand, right to the beach. So then exactly one month from that day he said they had another one. So everybody was alerted. Every fifteen minutes on the radio, a bell rang and it told you where the hurricane was. And the sun was perfectly beautiful and you couldn’t believe a hurricane was coming up the coast. And we had one just as bad. So that was when everybody had little boats tied out along the beachfront. And Mrs. Beauchamp, can we tie up our boat in your yard? My yard was full of boats. Little boats. And it looked so funny to see them with the sun out. But, honey, we had another hurricane just as bad. And those old boats were riding high. And the water came right up to the doorstep coming in. So don’t tell me about hurricanes. But the funny thing about it was we thought it was a Nor’easter and slept through it!
Isn’t that amazing! And none of the old timers could remember a hurricane before that one? I never heard that.
Well, you know my Daddy he walked down to the beach. He said, you know, something is brewing somewhere. He said there was great rollers out on the sandbar. He says that shows that the barometer is falling and there is something coming somewhere. And that was the first time.