Friday, June 22, 2012

Same Ocean, Different Year

Having as much singularity as a grade school student’s essay on “What I Did on my Summer Vacation,” the collection of beach photos amongst Agnes Tully’s personal papers fans no desire to possess and cherish. Yet, I struggle to toss the memorabilia of a close relative. Somehow, these nameless faces may turn out to be significant, I think.

I need to be ruthless—to redirect that sentimental outlook. To purge my mind of such thinking, I’m clinging to the myth of permanency while invoking the powers of the internet. If I post such ephemera here, it will be saved for generations to come, right?

Only if any generation cares to come see…

And so we begin with the obligatory shot of the ocean—how many photo collections include that nameless expanse in their albums?!

This series, thankfully, bears two kinds of labels. One, for the ocean view above, shows a description on the reverse of the picture: 
Ocean at Wrightsville, N. C.
July 1911

Its companion, placed on the reverse of the shot below, shows sailboats in the dim distance approaching a pier on quiet waters; it was also identified as Wrightsville.

The photographs are also labeled with a second identifier, in a fancy hand, with something that looks like a person’s initials: possibly H. E. G. Unfortunately, I can think of no relatives connected with the Tully family who could claim such initials.

Following the mysterious initials is an additional word, which appears to be “feist”—or in one case, “fesit.” Could this be a reference to nearby Wilmington’s Feast of the Pirates Parade? Or the Feast of the Pirates Festival?

There is another photograph in this set, along with the beach pictures labeled Wrightsville. It is a street scene labeled “Wilmington N. C.

Checking online references, while there is no Wrightsville in North Carolina, there is a Wrightsville Beach. It happens, conveniently, to be about ten miles from a town called Wilmington. The two were for years connected by an electric streetcar—the beach trolley bringing hotel guests from the town to the waterfront. The perfect turn-of-the-century summer getaway.

The beach resort included a recently-opened entertainment center, the Lumina Pavilion, which drew dance bands—and the crowds that adored them—to the area. With this draw for musicians—and since this July, 1911, sequence predates Agnes Tully’s wedding in 1912—it makes me wonder whether Agnes had come to the area as part of her musical ensemble’s tour.

Or perhaps it was just as simple as those tedious schoolgirl essays at the close of vacation—just a series of unremarkable shots of a vacation that held special memories for only those few who shared the experience.

All photographs dated July, 1911, are from the personal collection of the Tully family, except the color panorama of Sunrise Over the Wrightsville Beach, courtesy Wikipedia, which photographer Ken Thomas has released into the public domain. 


  1. I would think the old photo of Wilmington with the trolly car would be a collectable (that is, please don't discard this one!)

    I have stayed (overnight) at Wrightville Beach (and boated past it a couple times on the nearby inland waterway). It seems to have been a hangout for the "Blockade Runners" of the Civil War era.

    Agnes would have been (scratches head) about 23 years old and be married the next year at the time of these photos.

    I wonder if her musical ensemble included the "fatherless" children we've encountered in your blog?

    In all of her papers, did she leave a program or any such note of who was in the ensemble, where they may have played, or even the type of music they played?

    1. Actually, Iggy, a distant relative did send me a digital copy of one of Agnes' programs, which included a picture of the small ensemble on the front cover. Of course, that has since been one of those "lost in the ether" mysteries I've agonized over. Who knows where my copy is. Who knows where the original is!

      If I remember correctly, it was a trio of women in the group. Violin was featured, mostly in classical music, and I seem to remember vocal pieces, too.

  2. You might enjoy this site:

    It describes getting around Wilmington c. 1910.


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