SNEAK PEEK: Memories of a Fisherman’s Wife by Alma Jean Irving

Memories of a Fisherman’s Wife by Alma Jean Irving



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Starting on the day Jean was born into a family of strife with an alcoholic father and parents that fought every weekend.  She was raised with a sister and three brothers.  The three oldest of the children were very close in age and did everything together as young children.  The other two children came along later.


She went on to marry her first love at age fifteen. He was twenty.  He drank a lot of beer so consequently there were a lot of problems.  Over the years he was unfaithful to her multiple times.  He was not yet ready to settle down.


He was a commercial fisherman and times were hard.  He would go out and get whatever seafood was in season to sell and bring some home to cook.


He spent lots of time away from home, sometimes two or three days. Sometimes he would be working but a lot of the time he was just goofing off or spending time with other people and sometimes it would be other women.


Jean spent a lot of time cleaning the house and moving the furniture around from boredom.  Other times she would work outside the home.  She tried to keep a stable home for the kids.


Sometimes he would take the children out in the boat fishing and clamming.  An accident happened when he had the two boys out in the ocean in a small boat.


Roland escaped near death several times from events that happened while working in his fishing profession as a commercial fisherman.


What happens to him?  And what happens to the girl in this story?


This story keeps your interest to the end.





Chapter 1

It began for me on March 9, 1940. I was born to my mom and dad, who

lived in a very small home with no bathroom, just an outhouse, and no

electricity. Eventually, we did get some electricity. We lived on a dirt road

in a neighborhood just at the edge of the city limits of Wilmington, North

Carolina. My mama named me Jean, and my paternal grandmother (our

ma-me) stuck Alma on the front of it. I had one sister, Carolyn, who was

about eighteen months older than me. About eighteen months after I was

born, a brother, Sammy, came along. Sammy and I ended up with very

curly white hair. Carolyn’s hair was straight and darker. As we grew up

together, we became very close. We did everything together, which was

not much, considering we were very poor and did not have money to go

anywhere or buy things.

Even though we did not have anything, we did not miss it because we did

not know what it was to own things. Our dad made some of our Christmas

toys. He was a carpenter by trade, so he would get some wheels from the

general store and make wagons, scooters, wheelbarrows and doll baby

cradles. For Carolyn and me, our mom would make rag dolls or buy dolls

with no clothes and make the clothes for them. On Christmas mornings,

when we got up, we thought that we had gotten a lot of things even though

they were few in comparison to other children’s toys. We’d always get one

major thing, which was usually a doll for the girls and a wagon or scooter

or something like that—homemade—for our brother. We would usually

get our stockings filled with an orange, tangerine, apple, and some hard

Christmas candies. One time, my brother got an onion and a switch in his

stocking for being a bad boy. We had a neighbor that loved us, especially

Sammy. She nicknamed him “Meany”.

We did not have fancy things or a television. TVs were not in existence back

then. We would use our imagination to figure out things to do to keep us

occupied. We would lie on our back in the grass and imagine the clouds

were shaped like animals and things. We would spend hours looking for

four-leaf clovers. We played all the childhood games: red rover, ring around

the roses, blind man’s bluff, simple Simon, hopscotch and jump rope. We

also climbed trees, did cartwheels, ran, jumped, and dug in the dirt. We

could think of all kinds of things to do to keep us occupied and out of our

mom’s hair. Oh, we had so much fun back then when life was simple.

For a while when we were still small, our ma-me would come stay with us,

and she would help out with us kids. When we were sick, Mama, Daddy

and Ma-me would treat us with tar plasters, mustard plasters, caster oil

and chill tonic. That chill tonic (to build us up, according to what Mom

said) tasted absolutely terrible, so did the caster oil, which we got after each

holiday to clean us out. I always got a whipping and a second dose because

I always threw the first dose up. They would put tar plasters on us for the

croup and upper-chest congestion. If that did not work, then we got the

fiery hot mustard plasters. Each one of them would take one of us and hold

us down with the mustard plaster on our chest for about ten minutes. We

would be screaming and hollering and kicking because it was so hot on our

chest. It would burn us. Our chest would be red when they got through

with us, but it must have worked because whatever was wrong with us, it

would get better.

One time, Ma-me was going to whip me for something that I did not do,

but Carolyn told her that I did it. I ran around and around the house,

trying to get away from her, but Carolyn caught me by the tail of my dress

on the front steps and held me until Ma-me could whip me. They never

whipped Carolyn because she was puny. We loved our ma-me. Sometimes

we would spend the night with her. She died when I was about eight

years old, I guess. She had gone to Hampstead, North Carolina, to visit

her sisters that lived there, and while she was there, she had a stroke that

killed her.

Our daddy was an alcoholic, and our mom was a housewife. Mama would

raise chickens and grow vegetables to eat. She would plant flowers in the

yard to try and make it pretty. Daddy would work all week and come

home on Friday night in a taxicab as we did not have a car. He would

bring home a week’s supply of groceries on Friday night. He always had

a bottle of whiskey with him. On Friday nights, we would usually have

pork chops with grits and pork and beans. Most of the rest of the week,

our only meat would be fatback or bologna with rice and dry beans, which

mom had cooked all day. She always made biscuits, dough bread, or corn

bread. Then on Sundays, we always had fried chicken with potato salad

and a vegetable and some kind of bread and banana pudding (made from

scratch). I can remember Daddy sobering up on Sunday, and he would get

in the kitchen with Mama and help her make Sunday dinner. We could see

him in there picking on Mama and trying to get on her good side. We kids

would go to Sunday school every Sunday at the East Wilmington Baptist

Church, which was on the same road that we lived on.

Mama usually started arguing with Daddy on Friday because he had bought

a bottle of whiskey. Then on Saturday, Daddy would catch the city bus and

go downtown. He would spend most of Saturday morning in the pool hall

now known as the Dixie Grill at Second and Market Street. He also did

some shopping for things we needed at home. Sometimes he would bring

one of us a pair of shoes if we needed them. Then the next time, another

one of us would get a pair of shoes. He would ride the bus home and get off

about a block from the house and walk down the dirt road to home. One

time, I can remember Daddy getting off the bus at the corner a block away.

Mama was on the front porch fussing because she said Daddy was drunk.

I asked her how she could tell. She replied, “Just look how he is walking

and look how red his face is.” Well, he just looked his normal bowlegged

self to me. No matter, he always had a white bag in his hand with candies

for us kids. We loved to get that bag of candy on Saturdays. You see, it was

the only candy we ever got. He never forgot to get something for Mama,

even though he knew she would throw it back at him and say it was a bribe

because he had been drinking. He would always have another bottle of

some kind of alcohol for himself. He would drink the rest of the day, and

Mama would nag at him and keep on and on until they would fight.

Sometimes she would throw things at Daddy. She threw a fork at him one

time, and it stuck in his eyebrow for a second before it fell to the floor.

One time, he was sitting on the end of the porch with his legs dangling

over the end. I was standing on the ground. Mama came running down

the porch and just pushed him right off. Daddy did things to her too. I can

remember him choking her until she turned blue and pushing her around.

They called each other bad names when he was drinking.

One time, Daddy took my sister, brother and me to a Halloween party at

the community center in town. Daddy had gotten drunk and was sitting in

a chair about to pass out. We were afraid the policeman was going to take

him to jail, so somehow, we managed to get him outside and get a taxi to

take us home. When we got home, Mama was so mad that she threw a jar

of nails at him as he was walking in the door and almost hit me as I was

standing right beside Daddy. She was really mad because Daddy did not

have the money to pay for the taxicab, and Mama had to use bill money to

pay the taxi driver.

When I was about nine years old, Mama had another baby, Edward Ray—a

baby brother for us. I remember we all used to sleep in the same room

with Mama and Daddy, but with the new baby, the room was getting very

crowded, so a couple of my aunts came over and took Mama and Daddy’s

bed out of the bedroom and put it in the living room where the heater was.

Mama had a very small crib for the baby to sleep in.

One day, Mama was in the yard, at the fence, talking to a neighbor. I was

in the house with Ray. He was asleep in his crib. He woke up and started

crying. Instead of calling Mama to tell her, I was going to be smart. I

decided I wanted to take Ray out to where Mama was. I took him out of

the crib and held him up to my chest with my hand on the back of his

head. I came down the steps and started across the yard. With him up to

my chest, I could not see where I was going. I tripped over a tree root and

fell right down on the ground face-first. I was so sure that I had hurt the

baby. I never took my hand off the back of his head. The jolt made him

start crying again. I was so terribly upset by now that I was crying. I was

not hurt and neither was he, but my pride was really hurt. So now today,

sometimes we tease Ray and tell him that his problem is that I dropped

him on his head when he was a baby. We always get a laugh out of that.

Time went on, and things were going the same as usual. We moved to a little

bigger house after Ray was born. This house had only one bedroom, but it

had a huge living room. Mama and Daddy bought two heavy bedspreads

and hung them in the living room on a wire that Daddy had strung from

one side of the living room to the other to make partitions for us so we

could have a little privacy.

We still did not have an indoor bathroom; we still used an outhouse.

Mama got her first electric washing machine while at this house. It was

a wringer-type washing machine. Before that, she would wash clothes in

a metal washtub of water and use an old scrub-board. She boiled some

of them in a big old black pot outside where she had built a fire, out of

wood, around it. Anyway, she was really tickled to get that electric washing

machine. She did not have to use that old scrub-board anymore.

It wasn’t long before we had to move again, this time, to a different side

of town. We moved to Winter Park across the street from our maternal

grandma. We lived there for a while, and Daddy continued his drinking.

Mama managed to purchase an electric sewing machine. That was her

pride and joy. She made payments on it for a long time. She loved to

sew, and she made a lot of our clothes as we were growing up. When we

were small, she would make our clothes out of feed sacks or flour sacks.

The sacks came in different colors and print. She had even made our

underwear at times. She made more things for us girls than she did for

the boys. My sister liked pink and I liked blue clothes. Those were our

favorite colors. One time, we had a yellow skirt with blue birds on the

print. The skirt had straps with a piece of cloth crossing between the

straps in the front. The way we told them apart was that one of them

had two birds on that crossover cloth, and one of them had only one

bird. Carolyn and I were about the same size. We did not wear each

other’s clothes. We even sewed different colors of thread into the toes of

our socks to tell them apart.

Sometimes Carolyn and I would go spend the night at our grandma’s

house across the street. Our Aunt Joyce still lived at home. She was

about four years older than Carolyn. We enjoyed spending the night at

Grandma’s house.

Along about this time, I can remember being at school on the playground

during recess. I saw that two boys had my brother, Sammy, down on the

ground, rubbing the side of his face on the dirt. Boy, I don’t know what

hit me except for instinct to take up for my brother. I went running over

there and yelled at the two boys to leave my brother alone. They just

looked at me with surprise and then got up and walked away. I must have

looked pretty mad at them or something.

It was not long before the landlord made us move due to the fact that Daddy

could not pay the rent. We got thrown out on the sidewalk by the sheriff

department. It began to rain, and Mama was so afraid her new sewing

machine was going to get wet. That was all she cared for. Daddy went and

found us a place to stay back over in East Wilmington, but Mama refused to

move there. She had gotten used to having a bathroom and running water

by now, and the place Daddy was going to move us did not have running

water or indoor bathroom. So the family was split up. Carolyn went to stay

with one aunt and uncle, and I went to stay with another aunt and uncle next

door to where Carolyn was staying. Mom took my two brothers, Sammy and

Ray, and went to stay with Grandma. Well, my daddy moved by himself,

and I was really torn up about it. I loved my daddy no matter what. Things

got worse for him. My aunts talked my mom into taking Daddy to court for

child support. He could not pay, so between child support and a bad check,

my daddy went to jail for a while.

While Daddy was in jail, Mama got the family back together, and we moved

to a small garage apartment in the Seagate area. We had to change schools,

and I really did not like my new school. We only stayed in that apartment

for about a month because Mama found another place, a small duplex in

Winter Park near Grandma and Granddaddy. I was able to go back to my

old school. That made me happy.

Daddy came home from jail while we lived in the duplex, which was only

three rooms and a bathroom. It was so crowded. By now, I was about twelve.

The neighborhood only had boys, and they were bullies. They would bully

Sammy and tease him a lot. They picked on Carolyn and me unmercifully.

Mama was pregnant with my youngest brother. Daddy had gotten in jail

again; I can’t remember why, but I would guess from writing a bad check

he could not make good on. Meanwhile, my brother, Howard, was born

in 1952. About six or eight months later, Mama moved us across the street

into a two-bedroom house. That was a little better. By now, I was about

thirteen years old and was going to Lake ForestJunior High School. Back

then, that was the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. We rode the school

bus to school from Winter Park. We walked about half a mile to the bus

stop every morning, no matter the weather. There was always a big group

of kids that caught the school bus there every morning. School was about

five or six miles away.

I was so painfully shy that I got an incomplete in my English class because

I could not get up in front of the class and do an oral book report. I made

good grades otherwise.

Our house was behind another house. The lady that lived in the house

in front of us had a bunch of brothers and sisters. One time, one of her

brothers came to visit, and I was there, and she introduced me to him. His

name was Roland Melton. I really thought he was very handsome and smart

because he was about four and a half years older than me. By this time, I

was around fourteen because I remember him being about eighteen.

Mama could not afford the rent where we were. She was working for $15 a

week in a small machine shop, rewinding motors, if I remember correctly.

That did not go very far with a family of five children. We did not get food

stamps; there was no such thing. We did not get AFDC checks or any help

from the welfare as there was no such thing as checks from social services

back then. There were no food pantries or anything of help. Mama did

find out that we could move into a project and the rent was based on one’s

income. She got us on a list to rent one of the apartments, and we were able

to move. She could not afford to hire someone to move us, and we did not

have a car. So she got Roland to move us in his daddy’s big truck.


Chapter 2

After the move, Roland asked me out for a date to go see a movie. I asked

Mama, and she said it would be OK if Carolyn goes with us. So Roland got

Carolyn a blind date. I was fourteen at that time, so he was my very first

date. We went to a drive-in movie. Carolyn and her date were sitting in the

backseat, and she had to fight him off all night. Roland was a gentleman

that night, and all he did was kiss me a few times and kiss me goodnight.

We were nice girls, and we did not know much about people or how we

should be treated. We had been overprotected all our lives, and we were

really ignorant of many things in the world. I guess you could call us really


Roland did not come around real steady but every now and then. Carolyn

and I met some of the girls in the project. They all seemed to be more

experienced and knowledgeable than us. We would go to the playground

on the weekend nights and get together with some of the other kids in the

neighborhood. Occasionally, we would all go for a walk. None of these

kids had money to spend. Carolyn and I started babysitting some on the

weekends to earn some spending money and to buy our school clothes.

Sometimes there would be a party at the community building that we

would go to on special occasions.

One time, there was a sock hop at the school. I was in the eighth grade,

I guess. I put on my saddle Oxford shoes and my circle skirt, which was

black with pink-circle patterns on it. I had a pink blouse to go with it, and

of course, let’s not forget the scarf around the neck. I could not dance, but

I went anyway. One of the boys in my class came up to me and held out

his hand to ask me to dance with him. My reaction was a slap on his hand

and a no.

During this time frame of my life, my gym teacher would get pretty upset

at me for biting my fingernails. This was a lifelong habit I could not shake.

She threatened to put tape on all my fingers. She asked me if I would leave

it on, and I told her no, I would not. Well, that was that, and I still bite my

fingernails on a regular basis.

When Carolyn was in the eleventh grade, she got asked to the senior prom.

I was not yet in high school. I was in the ninth grade. The girls in the

neighborhood wanted me to go to the prom also. They set me up with a

blind date to the prom. Carolyn and I had to borrow prom dresses from

a cousin of ours. Mama managed to buy Carolyn and me a cheap string

of pearls. Everyone gathered together at one location to go to the prom.

When the boy I had a date with came, he was driving his own car. I did

not want to go with him alone, but the rest of them said they would meet

us at the prom. The rest of them went and caught the city bus to ride to

the prom. This boy, John, drove me all over Wilmington. I did not know

why, but when we finally got to the school, he left me in the car so he could

go check to see if we could get in. He stayed awhile and finally came back

to the car. He told me it was too late to get into the prom. So he took me

home. Carolyn and the rest of the group were worried about me. I learned

later that John went back to the prom and got up with his girlfriend with

whom he had been broken up with. So while he was driving me around

town, he was actually looking for his old girlfriend. When he found her at

the prom, he then took me home, and he went back to the prom. I really

didn’t care, but it was a little hurtful and embarrassing to me.

Another time, a whole bunch of us got together on a Saturday night.

None of us had anything in particular planned. We all decided to walk the

five miles around GreenfieldLake. I will never forget. I had on a yellow

dress with a big collar around the low-cut neck. It was one of Aunt Joyce’s

hand-me-down dresses, but I loved that dress. Anyway, there were boys and

girls in the group, including my sister, Carolyn, and my cousin, Martha

Lee. I was near the back of the group. One of the boys ran over and tackled

and pushed me into the azalea bushes near the lake. I screamed bloody

murder. Carolyn and someone else came and pulled me out of the bushes. I

stayed away from that boy after that. I never liked him anyway. None of us

were with anyone as a date or couple. We were just looking for something

to do other than sit around. Grass stains were all over that dress from the

grass and bushes he pushed me into. Sometimes we would sneak into the

drive-in theater near the lake. We would go to the back end near the woods

and sit on the back row and watch the movie. We did that a few times. I

was afraid we would get caught and be in trouble. The others were a lot

braver than I.

Daddy came home again after we moved to the project. He got back to

his drinking, but he would work during the week. He would drink all day

on Saturday and pass out by evening. Daddy would not let us go out nor

have friends over. He would not even let Carolyn and me sit on the front

steps. He said we were attracting boys. But on Friday or Saturday night

after Daddy passed out, Mama would let us out of the house to have a

little fun. We still did not have a TV or a telephone. By the time I turned

fifteen, Roland would come around a little more often, and we would go

to the movies occasionally. Roland brought his cousin over one time and

introduced him to us. His name was Harvey. He and Roland were the same

age, but Harvey had been away in the service. Well, Carolyn and Harvey

dated with Roland and me. Roland asked me to marry him. I was having

a bad time in school, and I just wanted to get out of school and out of the

life we were living at home. I also felt like I was really in love with Roland.

I was determined to marry him. I was only fifteen, and that was way too

young, but I felt I had nothing else in my life to look forward to. Daddy

raised all kinds of fuss and said he was not going to let me marry that boy.

We got married in October of 1955. Daddy threatened not to let Mama

back in the house if she signed for me to get married. To this day, I cannot

figure out why she let me get married so young. I guess she figured times

are hard, and it would be one less mouth to feed and take care of, or maybe

she figured that I would get into trouble or something, like get pregnant.

When we got home, my aunt Dorothy was there with a cake for us. By

now, Daddy was in a better mood. My aunt Dorothy knew how to make

Daddy smile and forget he was mad. We all laughed a lot that night, and

some made jokes. A few of mom’s neighbors were there. It was a nice small

wedding party.

After the party, we left Mom and Dad’s and went to The Miljo, which

was a drive-in restaurant. A local hang out to young people. We sat there

until 3:00 a.m., and I drank a chocolate milkshake. Roland had a beer.

Back then, you could purchase beer if you were eighteen, and he was then

twenty years old. Afterward, we went to his mom and dad’s house and slept

in his room. We did not have a honeymoon or anything. I did not care. I

just wanted to be with him. I quit school the week we got married. I was

not old enough to quit school because I was not yet sixteen, but I took the

marriage certificate to the school office, and they allowed me to quit.

We continued to stay with his parents. After about six weeks, I passed

out at the breakfast table one morning. When I awoke, I was in the floor

with my mother-in-law washing my face with a cold cloth. The first thing

I heard was my father-in-law saying, “Roland, have you already got that

girl pregnant?” Then it hit me that I had not even worried about getting

pregnant. I did not even know how to keep from it. I was so uninformed.

The same thing happened again the next day. She took me to her doctor. It

was so early the doctor could not tell if I was pregnant or not. The doctor

assumed I was though. For a week or so, I just kept getting nauseated and

feeling really bad. I did not feel like doing anything to help out. She finally

got the doctor to the house to examine me again. He gave me some pills

for nausea. They did not help at all. After a few weeks, my mother-in-law

was getting upset with me. She wanted me to help her with cleaning the

house and any other thing I could do. I got the word from the family that

she thought I was faking. She should have known better because I had

always helped her before. I was sick every single morning, and it took me

all morning to feel better. There were some things I could not stand to

smell. One day, my father-in-law was cooking steamed oysters in a big pot

on the stove. I got so sick I threw up and could not eat anything for a few

days. I just had a real hard time keeping food down. I lost about twelve or

so pounds the first two months. One day, I wanted a bacon, lettuce, and

tomato sandwich. I felt like I could get it down. I wanted Roland to go over

to the grill at HarborIsland and get one for me as his family did not believe

in eating sandwiches. There were eleven kids in the family, and they just

felt like sandwiches did not have a place at their table. Anyway, his mom

did not want him to go get the sandwich for me and had some things to

say about it, but in the end, he did go get one for me. I did manage to keep

it down. It wasn’t like he had to go five miles. The grill was just right over

the WrightsvilleBeach drawbridge. It was probably a quarter to a half mile

from the house.

By Christmas, Roland’s brother, Billy, was coming home from the army on

leave. Roland’s mom started taking the double bed out of our room and

put the twin beds back in there so she would have a place for Billy to sleep

when he got home. She never said anything to me about it, and I felt like

she was just kicking me out. I told Roland to take me to my mom’s and

leave me until Billy went back to his base. He did take me to my mom’s,

but he told his family I had left him. He would not come for me; he just

left me with Mom and Dad for a few months. Later, Roland fixed up the

little house next door to his mom and dad’s house. The house belonged to

them. He came and got me to come back to him, and I did. I had to go

over to his mom’s and use their bathroom on their back porch as the little

house did not have a bathroom. When he brought me back to stay in the

little house, his family would not have anything to do with me, at least

his mom and sisters would not. His dad would speak to me if the women

were not around. So I stayed pretty much in the house while Roland was

working. At this point, he was trying to fish for a living. His mom had

given me a bunch of baby clothes when I was still living with them. They

were from her kids. The clothes were soiled, with buttons missing and rips

in the seams. I spent my days sewing on those clothes by hand for hours

every single day. When Roland would get home, he would always stop at

his mom’s first. They would tell him that I was sitting over there in the

little house reading all day long. Then he would come home and jump all

over me for reading. I was not even reading was what was so bad about it.

I did not have a TV either. No one around there knew what I was doing in

the house all day because they never came over to check on me or visit or

anything. Roland never gave me any money for anything. Once in a while,

he would give me bus fare to go see my mom and dad. He would give me

a time frame to be home. He made sure I did not spend much time at all

with my family.

One Sunday, when I was about five months pregnant, Roland got all

dressed up in his good clothes and went and caught the bus and went

into town. We did not have a car at that time. He said he was going to a

movie. I begged him to take me, but he would not. He came home very

late that night. He had lipstick on his shirt. I asked him about it, and he

would not even speak to me for three weeks. He treated me like I had done

something wrong. I learned later that he had met an old girlfriend, who

had been living out of town, and she had returned home to Wilmington. I

also found out that the first thing she did was call Roland’s mom. Roland’s

mom told him about it and told him that his ex-girlfriend wanted to see

him. Somehow, he got up with her and met her downtown. I could not

understand it. So after three weeks, I went back to my mom’s to stay for a

while because Roland was not speaking to me either. It was very lonely and

upsetting to me. I cried a whole lot those days. I was at my mom’s for about

three weeks when Roland came over with the company truck on his lunch

hour. By now, he was working for a metal shop near where Mom and Dad

lived. He begged me to come back. He told me to get on a bus and come

back because he had no way to come and get me. Stupid me, that was what

I did. Seemed I learned later that he told his family that he did not know I

was coming back, and he came home and was surprised to find me there.

By now, he had moved all our stuff out of the little house and into the three

small rooms behind the fish market and vegetable store that his parents

had. There was still no bathroom. I would still have to go over to his mom’s

house to use the bathroom. His sister and her husband had moved into

the little house, and Roland had left our washing machine over there on

the back porch for his sister to use. So with the situation of his family not

speaking to me, I would not go over there and ask to wash my clothes on

their back porch. Instead, I would wash in the yard on a scrub-board and

old metal washtub right where they could all see me. No one even offered

me to wash over there or anything.

After three weeks of this, and no one would speak except for his dad when

no one else was around and Roland was not man enough to take up for

me or see that I had what I needed. He also would not stay home. He was

always going off somewhere. I was so lonely and hurt. So I called Mama

and asked her if she could get someone to come and get me. She did get my

aunt Joyce to come and get me and my things in her car. I was now almost

seven months pregnant. Roland and I talked about it, and he said he would

come and see me and bring me some money to take care of me until the

baby was born. Well, that never happened. He or any of his family would

have anything to do with me.

Mama and I washed the baby clothes and got them all clean and in order.

Someone sent me four dozen used baby diapers, and I managed to get one

dozen new ones. Mama borrowed a small baby crib for me to use. I stayed

with Mama and Daddy until the baby was finally born on August 9th 1956.

The baby was a bald-headed little boy. Roland came to the hospital after all

those months and tried to talk me into going to his mom’s to stay with the

baby when I left the hospital. I told him no, that I was going home with

Mama. Roland’s mom and sisters came to the hospital, trying to get on my

good side again. But I knew I could not go back to their house for the same

kind of treatment I had been getting the whole time I was pregnant. I told

Roland that he would have to get us a place to stay away from his family,

or I would not be coming back. So that was what he did.

Roland got us a small house about a mile from his family. It had one

bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. Things got a little

better by being away from his family. We called the baby Bimbo. His real

name was Arnold Roland Jr. The name Bimbo came from the name of a

barge that was being towed up and down the waterway from time to time.

Most of Roland’s family were commercial fishermen. Roland quit his job

and was working as a fisherman.

When Bimbo was about four months old, Roland would take him every

Sunday morning and go visit his family and take Bimbo to see all his

friends and fishing buddies around the waters in the fishing community.

Bimbo grew up knowing all the fishermen and people who hung around

the waters, and they all knew him. Later, when Bimbo was about three

years old, I took him to town one day. We were walking along Front Street

when a man came walking by us and spoke to Bimbo by name and asked

him where his daddy was. Bimbo told him his daddy was fishing. I did not

know who this man was, but I asked Bimbo who the man was. Bimbo said

in his small little-boy voice, “Just a man my daddy and me knows.” Bimbo

knew a lot of people that I did not know, and they all knew him and called

him by his name.

We stayed in that little house until Bimbo was about a year old; then we

moved over on the highway near The Wrightsville Waterway Bridge. The

house was across the street from The Babies Hospital. It was also across

the street and down a couple of houses from my in-laws’ house and their

store. Now that months had passed and things had quieted down, Roland’s

family was now speaking to me again; and from time to time, I would walk

over there and talk to his mom and family. I did not have my own car.

Roland had a car off and on, but I did not have a license to drive until I

was nineteen.

Roland was trying to fish and catch oysters and clams to make money. He

had a hard time keeping a boat in operating condition. He always had a

small wooden boat. Sometimes he had an outboard motor, and sometimes,

he had to use oars or a paddle to get around in the boat. It was a hard

way to make a living. To others, it looked glamorous and exciting. Maybe

it is exciting for the fishermen. They work with the tide. Day or night

depending on what they are allowed to catch at certain times of the year. A

lot of times, for supper, we would eat whatever he had caught that day. We

even had fried spots and grits for breakfast a lot of times. In the wintertime,

when oysters were in season, Roland would go out in the sound and catch

bushels of oysters to sell. Sometimes his daddy would buy some of them

to sell at his fish market, and some he would sell to other places or people

who wanted them. He sold them for $2 a bushel. A lot of the time he

would bring the oysters home and steam them in the backyard just enough

to make them a little easier to open. We would open them and put them

in round white cardboard containers with lids that we bought from Jacobi

Hardware Store. We would put them in the refrigerator and sell them to

people for $1 per quart. We had people knocking on the door, wanting

to buy the oysters. Back then, we did not have to have a permit or health

license to open and sell the oysters. We had gone to town and bought the

biggest refrigerator that we could find to put in the house to store the cold

oysters in. If we did not get them all opened before it was time for him

to go back and get some more, he would put them in a big metal tub and

bring them in the house where I could open them while he was gone. I did

this while I watched Bimbo. It was very hard, but we had to make some

money to live on.

Roland had gotten friendly with an older couple that lived on the street

behind our house. They were from up north. They were very nice people.

They made wine and homebrew for themselves. They taught Roland how

to make the homebrew. Homebrew is homemade beer. They would give

him a couple of quarts every time he stopped by to see them. He would

take fish and other seafood, that he caught, to them.

Roland started making the homebrew at home in a five-gallon crock. He

showed me how to do it also. He would make a five-gallon crock and then

bottle it. A crock would make about thirty-two quarts of homebrew. He

saved quart beer bottles and washed them in hot, soapy water. We bought

bottle caps and a bottle capper so he could cap the bottles after he had filled

them. I helped him do this at times. One day, I was bottling and capping

a batch of it when the preacher knocked on the door. I was doing it in the

kitchen. The preacher could not see the kitchen from the living room, but

I am sure he smelled it as it could smell very strong. I was so embarrassed.

Sometimes on Sunday mornings when no one could buy beer, because of

the law, he always had a person or two knocking on the door, wanting a

bottle of the homebrew to see them through the hangovers from the night

before. Roland would always give them a bottle or two. It was not against

the law to give it away, but you could not sell it.





Alma Jean Irving was born in Wilmington NC.  She has a husband of eighteen years, Gill Irving.  She was born and raised in Wilmington NC.  She has a high school education.  She is the most down to earth person of good character you would ever want to know.


Jean has raised three children with families of their own. She has retired from the work force after working most of her adult life.


Jean wanted to write this book about her life to let others see that you can survive through troubles and trials and still become a strong person.






TWITTER   alma_irving




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