The lessons of life on the river

Published 5:22 pm Monday, June 3, 2019

With summer rapidly approaching and school coming to an end, our Pamlico River will be full of boats, jet skis and sailboats. I hope all these school-age kids are looking forward to their time on the river as I did growing up. There will be much laughter, and memories will be made and friendships strengthened as the summer progresses. The river is our biggest asset, and valuable lessons can be taught while on the water. It is my hope that all the young kids of today will have as much fun as we did and be safe doing so. I would like to thank a few people for their kindness as a young boy for giving me this experience

As I entered the big water from under the trestle, no one was as proud of their boat as me. My dad had taken an old jon boat, fiberglassed the bottom and painted it red, white and blue and put a Wizard motor on it for me. I could pull skis and ride up and down the river to visit my friends. The only request that he had was that I call him once I got to someone’s home. Dad sat me down and gave me lessons on handling a boat and told me, “If you respect the river, it will be fun, but if you disrespect her waters it will take you.” Words that I have never forgotten! Dad gave me an opportunity, and I was sure he could take it away as fast as he gave it to me.

The late Herbert Hoell, a classmate of mine, lived at Summer Haven in the summer. Summer Haven at that time had a big, white boathouse where those who lived there kept their boats. Herbert had a big, inboard Chris Craft boat that was mahogany in color. Herbert’s mom was afraid for him to take it out, so we used my boat and skied ’til sunset or ’til gas ran out. Then we went inside and fell asleep so that we could start all over again the next day. Herbert was a good friend and our world is now missing a good and caring person who was so kind to me and many others. His home today has been moved down the road when he replaced it with a bigger home as he got older.

Another person who was so kind to me was Dr. Billy Jackson. Billy lived in Tabor City during the school year, where he was a standout athlete for legendary Coach Jack Holley. He moved to the river in the summer to a house that ironically I live in now. It was Billy who I would spend nights with, and we water skied, and then flounder-gigged at night. The next day, we’d gas my jon boat up and headed out to ski once again. Billy had the prettiest stepsisters in town, Pat and Kay Walker. Like all girls, they laid out on the pier while Billy and I water skied. There was an outdoor shower on the side of the house and nothing was more fun than to take an outdoor shower after a day in the river. Living in that house now, I am trying to figure out where Billy and I slept? It had only had two bedrooms. I think we slept on the porch and enjoyed the breeze from the river. Billy finally moved to Washington after college and had a very successful dental practice and is married to Pattie Williams Jackson. I am forever indebted to Billy and Herbert for sharing their homes with me.

Later in my high school years, we progressed to a motor boat that would carry four people and could pull two skiers. It was because of the lessons of respect and responsibility I had learned from my days in the jon boat that my Dad felt it was safe enough to allow me and my friends the opportunity to learn and love our Pamlico. Yes, I have said it many times: lessons were learned but many friendships were developed. If I close my eyes when passing a pier, I can still hear the joy and laughter generated from those who use to be on those piers. It is my hope that the youth of today will enjoy the Pamlico’s waters as much as my generation did and learn the lessons of life that it will teach you.

Yes, they were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places — Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.