Thursday, May 10, 2007

Remembering N.C.'s 'Torpedo Junction'

Newcomers to North Carolina may sometimes be mystified by tales of the Hoi Toide accent long spoken by natives of the Outer Banks region.
Or alarmed by the notion of a region that until well into the mid-20th century didn’t always have indoor plumbing, paved roads or bridges to link them with the mainland.
Or intrigued by stories of Allied ships that were blown up just off Cape Hatteras by German submarines – so often that the area became know as Torpedo Alley. Or tales of Nazi saboteurs who came ashore at Nags Head or Kitty Hawk, bent on winning the war and making the United States a German possession.
The stories are true, but no one ever told it better than in the fictional story of "Taffy of Torpedo Junction" by the late writer Nell Wise Wechter. She grew up on the Outer Banks and spoke the dialect sometimes known as the King’s English, which frequently substituted “oi” where inland folk use the simple “i”. Thus, when the water would be up, they spoke of a “hoi toide on the sound soide tonoight.”
In 1957, John Blair Publishing of Winston-Salem published Wechter’s “Taffy of Torpedo Junction,” the story of a teenage girl who lived on the banks with her grandfather. She had a horse named Sailor, a dog named Brandy and a great story after she stumbled into a Nazi spy ring operating on the Banks.
Frank Stasio of WUNC Radio took note of the 50th anniversary of the book Wednesday on his program “The State of Things.” You can go to this link and read more or listen to the program. Or you can find out more about the book at UNC Press . UNC Press picked the book up in 1995 and has published it since then.
When she published the book, Nell Wise Wechter was teaching at the old Central Junior High School in Greensboro where my mother taught, and my sister and I read the book as soon as it came out. It’s a quick read, written originally for young folks, but it’s a story that appeals to all ages.
If you’ve never been to the Outer Banks, or don’t know much about the period, “Taffy” is a good way to fill in a lot of gaps about how people lived at the edge of the sea in the 1940s, before the post-war boom began to transform that area and make it more like the rest of North Carolina.
By the way: the model for Taffy is still with us: Carol Dillon owns the Outer Banks Motel in Buxton on Hatteras Island, Stasio reports. Wechter taught her before she moved to Greensboro and was inspired to build the story around her. And as you’ll hear if you listen to the audio, my friend Dennis Rogers of the N&O has always felt the “Taffy” story would make a great movie for Disney. He’s right.

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Anonymous said...

Jack could you imagine a submarine coming as close to the coast like they did in WWII with a Nuclear bomb on board ; Oh BOY why did I say that . Think about it Jack the AlQEUDA getting hold of a used SUBMARINE and driving it up the coast to with a NUKE BOMB and just detinating it and even killing themselves; Man Oh Man thank GOD for SONAR and the U.S. NAVY.

Anonymous said...

Jack we need to have a DRAFT now before its to late : JACK this ALQUEDA thing will last for ten yeard , look up ARAFAT and ALGEIRS and the FRENCH Foriegn legion; We lost out ground force ten years ago and need to get it back quick; Why if a cruise ship full of ALQUEDA floated up here one night they would start running though our neighborhoods waking everybody up and yelling " GOD IS GREAT". Next they would try to fit us up with turbines and bed sheets , which we could wrap those around us. I think we ned to get the Country strong for a while choppy waters coming.

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