The Diary of Sue Austin








COMMUNITY LIFE - Marsh Causeway

COMMUNITY LIFE - 1933 Hurricane


COMMUNITY LIFE - Socialization



Commemorative postcard of the Creeds High School Class of 1932. Click the image to expand.

The Senior Class Prophecy

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Knotts Island Diary

by Sue Fentress Austin



The senior class picture. Click the image for details.

School Life

4 Jan l932..Started back to school after Xmas holidays. Had to read my book report in class, "King Lear”. As in today’s world the children returned to school from the Christmas holidays on the Monday after New Years Day. The Knots Island children in grades 8-11 (there was no 12th in 1932) rode in an old, unheated bus to Creeds High School, then located across from the present day R-CO gas station. Actually the little school was BEHIND the local grocery store standing alongside the main highway through Creeds.

Let us briefly skip ahead to the 1940s--This store was originally opened by Guy Capps, who was a major produce broker for Princess Anne County and, to a lesser extent, Knots Island. Tunis Corbell told the author that he remembers approaching Mr. Capps in 1940 for capital to start a farming operation on Knots Island at age 16. Tunis was accompanied by his father and Guy extended credit to the young man to plant his family farm and the Luther Beasley farm (located where the Knots Island Store is located today). Older Mr. Corbell was working at the Ford Plant in Norfolk, VA. The Capps store in the early 30s had been taken over by Fred Halstead with Arthur Ansell being chief clerk. The chief clerk was the father of Curtis Ansell who not too many years later became the successful owner and operator of Back Bay Grocery Store for many, many years, retiring shortly after 1999.

Back once again to the 1930s .... Halstead’s Store was adjacent to the little school and the children could go next door and buy lunch items. Typical eats were a 5 cent can of pork and beans or a nickel loaf of bread. The usual lunch allowance was a dime. High school boys often splurged on something else very popular - tobacco. They rolled their own cigarettes in that day. There was yet another little operation nearby known as the Creeds Café and this was ably run by William and Effie Land. There the school children, with money, could also purchase lunch items. One very popular recess item was the 5 cent pickle and some of the girls would happily divide this sour treat amongst themselves. In later years, Mildred (White) Strawhand told the author about her first taste of ground up beef in this restaurant. She pronounced it "delicious” and said always before her beef soup eaten at home had contained beef “chunks" and this ground up beef was something totally new. This restaurant was a hangout for the younger generation at night too. Mostly just the men frequented it after dark because of the intoxicants that were sold. The overwhelming majority of the students had to make do with a free lunch packed each day by their mother. There were lots of biscuit sandwiches with a ham slice or fig preserve sandwiches and such, plus plenty of available water to drink. The Island children hated to leave their warm school, with running water to travel across the always muddy Marsh Causeway. The bus, vintage 1927, and furnished by Currituck County, was not trustworthy. Extremely hard to start (with no automatic starter), it had to be hand—cranked and frequently was "down" with mechanical problems. The children either had to stay home and miss class or a parent/friend with a car had to drive them over to Creeds, nowadays, a 15 minute drive, but with the muddy, unreliable dirt highways of the 30s and cars that did not go 55 mph, a much longer drive to be sure. The Brumley children, regardless of the weather conditions, walked out a long lane (now Brumley Road) to await the bus at the Eddie Munden (Jr.) Store. Nita (Brumley) Dixon said, "He was a good man and would let us sit by his old heater which he had gotten cranked up. There was a bench to sit on to warm our damp feet and get warm. He loved children, was so very kind and took such good care of us, kind of like a “big daddy." In all the four years of meeting at the store, never were there any behavior problems."

5 Jan 32..I came from Latin and someone had put water on my desk. Boys (and we know instinctively that it was a male!) they were no different than now in the enjoyment of aggravating the girls.

6 Jan 32..4-H Club, didn’t have Latin. Got two hard lessons, Latin and English. Adell was interested in attending college and the school obtained several college catalogs for the two sisters to look over. One college was in the western part of NC, in the mountains, and the girls even considered attending that particular college, Mr. Ozlin was the 4-H leader, students in this Club met in the auditorium. Nita and Adell were not members and remained behind in the classroom. Adell was always thankful when anything replaced her Latin class! Latin was THE hardest subject in high school for this little lady. Our Island Miss jotted down this cute poem her teacher had used in the 1932 Latin class:

“Snow, snow, beautiful snow
You slip on a flake
And down you will go."

Students received calling cards in their final year to be used, probably when mailing out their graduation invitation to friends. On January 11th, students began reviewing for exams that were not to be held until the 21st. Their reviews were very serious, day alter day, and students were also expected to continue this extensive review at home too. One night alone, Adell had 26 pages of Latin to look over. Her diary relates that she spent one entire Saturday reviewing for exams.

19 Jan 32..School today. Has been very cold We are still reviewing for exams. Have not but little time for other things rather than study. Papa helped Mr. Hughes kill hogs. Mr. Hughes & Mr. Gordon came. Lessons tonight. Finally exams were over and grades received: English, 85; Geography, 89; Biology, 88; Latin II, 77. My but I was happy Adell wrote at the passing Latin grade. Besides studying, there was a weekly music lesson taught by a Knots Islander named John Taylor Waterfield. Somehow or other, Adell seems to frequently miss her weekly music lesson-lack of enthusiasm maybe? No, probably Adell was too tired. Farm chores had to be done each evening after returning from school. And her chores were not ones that could be accomplished in just a few minutes either. Corn had to be shelled, either by hand or with a hand-crank wooden machine and that was only one of the several chores she was expected to do. Then, most important of all was the homework. Education was held in HIGH esteem at the Brumley farmhouse.

10 Feb 32..School today. Had an English quiz. Got a Civics test tomorrow. Got to study for it now. Got some clippings about “work" today. Mr. & Mrs. Ansell came here. Pa set out a cedar today. I didn’t take music. It is noticeable that children in high school and even college during that era cut out pictures/clippings frequently as part of their class work/homework. Adell’s pictures were for a Civics class of people "working.” In the 30s magazine pictures were not readily available. What farmer could afford to subscribe to magazines to read? He was more concerned with feeding/clothing his family! Apparently picture illustrations were a prized “hands on" way of studying. It might be noted that Adell’s Civic class of 1932 was a study of civic affairs and duties and rights of citizenship.

19 Feb 32..School today. Had to be vaccinated for Dip. It scared me very much. Colin & Jim came tonight. Played dominoes. Children at Creeds received several Diphtheria shots during this particular month of school. The very next day, Adell mentions Learned how to spell a word (chautchauc), a very unusual word and not even in the author’s small Webster’s Dictionary. Native Islander, Tunis Corbell thought that Adell’s strange word might have actually been “Chautauqua". There is a town in NY State with that name and in the thirties, a theatrical movement started there. They came to Knots Island and pitched large tents on the school ground to give performances for perhaps a week. Historically, they were quite a cultural movement at the time and had the blessing of the school and others. They raised money by selling capital stock shares in their company good for only the period they were on Knots Island with claimed prospects of making a good profit. The only problem was that almost everyone on Knots Island bought shares which gave them and their families free admission so that there were no profits. He remembers Walter Brumley saying that a beautiful lady (chief fund raiser) jumped into his horse cart while he was traveling down the road and sat down beside him and started her sales pitch. He said by the time she had finished the pitch, plus nuzzling up close to him, he would have signed over his whole farm if she had asked for it!!. The Creeds students even organized a Literary Society in the year 1932 at Creeds. And try to suppress a chuckle - the teachers, or at least several, frequently enjoyed a game of marbles at the noon outside time! Colin Doxey and Jim Miller were two young men of the Island, older than Nita and Adell by two or three years, who frequently visited in the Brumley household.

2 Mar 32..School today. We decided upon motto for our class & flower — Aim High (Roses) heard about Lindburg's baby being stolen. Alas, Adell’s diary entries did not always give her high marks in spelling..ha ha!

7 Mar 32..Wind blew hard & cold. I didn’t go to school. Very lonesome. Edgar went. Grandmother came. I fixed Latin phrases today. Numerous diary entries show that hard studying paid off with an "A" on her Civics book, an “A” on her Biology essay, and still another "A" on a test in Biology. The crank-type bus, with a hole in the roof frequently broke down and the children missed school. Sometimes their pathetic bus meant improvising as in mid-March: School today. Bus broken down. I went with Lucy Bonney to get her car. We went to Creeds passed bus. Melford & I fixed English. Had a debate. Bus broke this afternoon, came down on Cannon Ball to Hallstead ’s, got in with Lucy came home. The Cannon Ball was mainly transportation for the Creeds, VA students in the early 1930s and traveled through the back roads of Princess Anne County. It also served as a church bus when needed. John Land Miller, who lived at the northern end of Marsh Causeway Road, was one of the drivers. Living on Knots Island and attending school in Virginia had its special set of problems for the young teens to deal with, and the wintertime unreliability of the bus was at the top of their list! Mildred (White) Strawhand of the Island remembers Eddie Fentress standing up through the hole in the bus roof and yelling as the bus passed by Corry’s Hunt Club located on Marsh Causeway. Adell’s father had to depend on an old Essex car that had to be cranked for it even to start. Ed Brumley often had to drive his girls to school. He was one of the few parents who made trips back/forth to the County Seat seeking a better solution to the on-going bus problem. Tunis Corbell, however, believed the Essex got a bum rap. Many of the male youth thought Ed Brumley’s Essex was really a nice car and when he first got it, Ed’s car was the envy of many who still were riding in the Model T Ford. Actually all cars were cranked until the mid—thirties. Most people were angry when they first started leaving the crank off as an option because the self-starter and storage battery was believed unreliable. The old cars were not as unreliable as today’s generation seems to think. They could be hard to start, especially on cold mornings, but most people got them going after pouring in boiling water and a few things to warm them up. The old Model T radiator often leaked and people would put in two or three eggs which blocked the leaks after the water got hot and the eggs cooked; also corn meal was often used to plug leaky radiators when it congealed. Overall, Tunis says, folks usually got where they wanted to go. Some folks who could not afford 15 cent gasoline would burn 5 cent kerosene in their Model T’s and what a noise they made going down the road missing and backfiring continuously! Tunis also remembers that John Miller’s yard contained a windmill which was the source of water for the Corey Club. The crew that worked there for Mr. Corey had to repair the pipeline to Bahl’s Island several times a year. The water that came from wells tried at the Clubhouse was salty on every test. The tall tower that used to stand on Bahl’s Island was a lookout for poachers on the marshland. Tunis loved, as a young man, to climb up the tower with Tilford Williams and view what looked like “the world" to a young child. Bahl’s Island was located beside the Marsh Causeway and the tower finally fell down in the latter part of the 1990s.

18 Mar 32..School today. The funny musician came and played this morning. He came down the isle singing "Springtime in the Rockies "Love Letter in Sand "Goodnite Sweetheart”. One of Adell’s classmates ventured that the musician taught music lessons in Norfolk and shared his talents at the country school.

23 Mar 32..Fixed my Civics cover. I cut lots of letters in Biology Mr. Chaplin guessed what we thought about which was: personal appearance, in the future, getting married, your sweetheart & parents. Mr. Chaplin wore several hats: school principal, upper math, algebra & Latin teacher and he even drove the school bus at times.

4 Apr 32..School today. "Boob " gave us candy today in "study hall". Mr. Williams dissected an earthworm in Biology. This fellow nicknamed "Boob" was actually fellow Knots Island classmate Norwood Ansell who several months earlier had turned a mouse out in English class. He certainly enjoyed a good joke and no doubt the other students must have admired his daring! He wasn’t the darling of the teachers though! Norwood lived towards the north end of Knots Island and visited the Brumley girls frequently. His mother, Ethel, was a sought-after seamstress who made beautiful suits for the men. Norwood never married, but became active in politics and represented the Island in Raleigh, NC during the 50s or early 60s as a State Representative. Sweet little Adell occasionally (?) chewed gum in class, and even ate candy in school. . .and, once got called down about the candy by Miss Bracey. Bet she didn’t go home and tell her parents about that! Felix Williams was a Math/Algebra/Physics teacher as well as Biology. He was very kind to the Knots Island children Nita (Brumley) Dixon remembered. Nita was superb in math while sister Adell struggled to make passing grades. Felix once said to Nita, "I hate to fail Adell on that math. Can’t you please work with her more at home?" Nita told him how hard her sister tried to understand problem solving. At the end of the school year, Williams went to the office and got the senior records and figured everyone’s grades right in his math class. All the math students knew immediately who ranked highest. Ruby Halstead was first and Nita Brumley was second. Grace Williams and Vera Munden also made excellent grades. Mr. Williams was one of several teachers who drove down from Virginia Beach each morning in a single car. He is remembered as a very dedicated teacher, determined that each child should achieve a good education.

Seventeen year old Adell noted this amusing incident on the bus ride home from Creeds one long ago afternoon. The hands on the bus tickled Vivian & I. Vivian (Waterfield) Jones, almost 70 years later, remembered who those hands actually belonged to — Nathan Etheridge and Eloise Jones who were probably holding hands on the seat behind her and Adell. Just a little tickling fun, but Adell thought it worth noting in her diary once upon a time. She also jotted down her favorite perfume, something called Ben Hur, which definitely did not survive much beyond 1932!

Adell’s senior year was fast drawing to a close. The class play for the graduating seniors was entitled "Gateway to Happiness" and Adell mentions on April 7th that all enjoyed seeing it. The night before she had accompanied Nita to the practice over at Creeds. It appears that Adell enjoyed the play, but Nita was the one who had a part on stage. This probably suited Adell, who was extremely shy before a crowd.

12 Apr 32..School today. Had quite a time in Biology. Oswald & I trying to pronounce "sow-hog". Nita & Papa went to Creeds for Public Speaking & PTA. The eldest of the Brumley girls, Nita, was a participant but did not win this particular Speaking contest. Fellow classmate Vera Munden did, but what an honor to have been in the running. Another classmate, Mary Ruth White was also a speaker; she remembered that nurse Clara Barton was the topic.

27 Apr 32... In Civics I wrote about Teaching. I haven ’t finished it yet. Dissected a frog in Biology. Called Nita tonight & told her I heard a rooster. The very next day Adell says she carried class insects to school. So interesting to see kids bringing this type of "show and tell" into a senior classroom. Very young children would do this nowadays, but certainly not seniors. However, at this time, there were few magazine pictures available for illustration. No taped, video materials or computer generations either. So yes, the real things were often taken into the classroom environment and appreciated. It was a way of life-hands on, real things. Foolishness in class was not acceptable in the teaching environment either. Teachers would have been pleased with Adell’s insects, happy that she had showed interest and had gone the extra mile to share them with classmates. Mary Ruth White got off easy in collecting her insects. She said, “Daddy’s men were helping him tear down a house he had recently purchased and they would pick up any insects/bugs that I might need for my class assignment." Another classmate, Rhetta Newman could recall dissecting that particular FEMALE Frog because when cut open, the eggs just “poured out"!

3 May 32..May Day at Creeds. I didn’t go. Too cold to wear my linen dress. On May 2nd the annual May Day was held at Creeds School. Adell could not attend as her one and only appropriate dress was made of linen and the weather was too cold to wear it. There was no back-up dress choices for either of the sisters.

6 May 32..Got to coughing in Latin & had to go out. Now days having a cough in class shouldn’t be a big deal. Yet in the 1930s only simple, home remedies were available. Day after day, our 17 year old school girl mentions her terrible cough at school. Couldn’t read English paper in class for coughing. Finally on Wednesday the 11th , Adell stayed home from school, spent the day in bed but her diary still records, got to study Latin & Civics now. Adell even missed church on the 15th because of the continuing problem. Finally a boy named Billy S. on May 17th brought Adell cough medicine to school. Afterwards, no more mention of the cough problem.

7 May 32.. Went to the “old schoolhouse " to a quilt selling. Marion got it. Had a spelling match & I sit down first on "artillery". The author can readily believe her mother did not last long in the spelling match! The lucky winner of the quilt was Marion, who was the father of Adell’s close friend, Vivian (Waterfield) Jones. 13 May 32..I got Mr. Chaplin to help me with Prophesy. Will Ballance came in afternoon, Colin came tonight. I wouldn’t tell him who Prophesy was. Heard Lindy baby found dead. Three days later Adell is again enlisting Mr. Chaplin’s help with the paper she was assigned to write on Class Prophesy (Read it here) for her Senior class. Mention is likewise made of a Senior Reception being given by the Juniors. The month of May was study time for final exams. Grades received were 86 in Biology, 78 for the hated and feared Latin III. Caps/gowns were received-on the 27th. The Senior Graduation song went thusly:

Here’s a toast to our High School
And to the Junior Class
For the Daisy Chain
You have made that link
The further with the past
Here’s to this, the “Junior Class"
And the friends that we have loved so long.

29 May 32..I didn’t go to church today. We went to the Baccalaureate Sermon tonight. We were a little late. Why? They had to wait for us. What did I say? I felt top heavy in that cap. The reason why the Brumley girls were late in arriving is lost to the ages, but chances are the car could have been the reason. Adell also wrote down her weight as 115 pounds. Another person, not a graduate, also remembered that particular night and the magic of it so many years ago. Tunis Corbell, a classmate of Adell’s oldest brother Edgar (called EW in her diary), attended with his parents because his aunt, Mildred Lane was graduating. Mildred was his mother’s younger sister.

30 May 32..Class Night. Stage-garden scene. All seated-card tables. Here ’s a toast to our High School & to the Junior Class. At school I worked on my Prophesy paper. Marjorie helped me. Got lots of presents today. Class Night. I read my paper. My present from Mama Ruth was candy. Colin carried Nita. Got strawberries coming back.

31 May 32.. "Come and gone. " Didn’t go to school today. Went to Commencement tonight. Received my diploma. Got lots of beautiful presents. Nita went with Colin. Mr. Mores spoke. Nita & Ruby spoke. The girls did receive many nice gifts; some mentioned were: $2 from Elvin Cromwell, handkerchief from Nerva & Romie, pocketbook from Ada & Luther Waterfield and candy from Mrs. Lellie. Effie Waterfield & Belle Simpson also gave Adell a gift. The Elvin Cromwell’s of Virginia Beach were very kind to the children of Ed & Minnie. Ed Brumley served as a hunting and fishing guide for Elvin Cromwell. He and his wife once invited Nita and Adell to their home for an entire week. The girls played with the Cromwell daughter who was close in age to Nita and Adell. Another funny (but not so funny!) happening Commencement Night was related by classmate Rhetta Newman. She remembered that she was wearing a long pink dress that had ruffles and was "paced,” a French term for edging. On the way back home to Knots Island while riding in the Clubhouse Station wagon which was “open", her diploma blew out! Harvey, her father, drove back and forth across the Marsh Causeway several times while Rhetta frantically looked for her diploma. Finally she found it and thank goodness it had not blown into the canal! She even recalled the nicknames they had for the two cars the Club owned — Pokey and Buzzard. Pokey even had curtains which certainly made it something special to this young Rhetta. Nita also remembered that night because she honored her family so when she gave the Salutatorian speech which she wrote, and went as follows:

“Parents and friends, the Class of ’32 extends to you the most cordial welcome.

"We are about to reach the goal towards which we have been striving for the past four long, yet seemingly short years. We are soon to enter upon a different life, which is stretched out before us. We are to assume those graver burdens, which beset us, as we leave the threshold of High School. We must cast away our privileges, pleasures and many of our friendships that Creeds High School has afforded us, only to hold them with the firm grasp of our memories. The school has made our equipment good, our armor strong, that has made us better qualified to meet our worldly battles face to face remembering that the progress of our nation is depending on the men with strongly developed brains.

Our minds are in accord with that great novelist whose saying bid us ‘Keep your standard of knowledge high, attempt great things, expect great things and you will accomplish great things.'

The time is now at hand when it is necessary for us as a class to give up those never-to-be-forgotten lessons acquired here at Creeds School. The time has come for us as a class, to part, but we can defy those circumstances, which will arise to weaken those ties of friendship so dearly formed by us during our high school years. In future years in both prosperity and disaster they can be but a source of the greatest pleasure and comfort to us. We go forth as members of a large family to meet again when occasion offers, always ready to help one another, and never forgetting to honor our school.

We do truly thank you for coming and trust that you will always remember with a thrill of pleasure the associations of the hour. Be ready, friends, to applaud our every worthy efforts and encourage us on to each approaching climax as we welcome each of you to the first lifting of the curtain, which is to us indeed the commencement of our lives. Again the class of ’32 extends to each of you a most fond welcome." By Nita Lee Brumley

Another fun part of Nita and Adell’s 1932 graduation was provided by The Class Poetess. It was that person’s job to actually write a rhyme about each and every class member. This was either read aloud at Class Night or during the graduation itself A few lines would probably not make it past today’s censor. Grace Williams who was actually born on Knots Island but who now lived in Virginia was the young lady who had this awesome task.


Four years of toil and pleasure have passed,
Since we as Freshman were organized in a class.
It sounds long-but my! How it flew
As we worked, played and grew.

Tonight we on the mirror of memory gaze,
Till our minds are all jungled in a haze.
The foolish incidents along with the wise,
Almost causes us to resort to cries.

We have been unfaithful, unloyal and untrue,
And our dear teachers tonight we hue,
Just one more chance our appreciation to show.
Along with honor, reverence and love bestow.

It is all like some prize lost
And we on the sea of sadness tossed.
And tonight, the end is at hand,
And we, the class 1932 is a happy band.

Our class in the year of 1932
With 18 real members in its jolly crew
Made their launching and claim
Themselves graduated in full
Without shame.

A happy bunch beyond dispute
In this class of 32
To recount the honors galore
Would be a job too much and more.

A vegetarian is Mary Ruth
Though she says it is all bosh
But listen folks! I’ll tell you the truth
She is crazy over ‘cylim and squash.

Of animals Vera is very fond
Whether it be a cow or a donkey
But this I know she is especially fond
Of the animal she calls "Monkey".

Jonsie, the Captain of the baseball nine
Plays on third base and would play fine
If his eyes were not blinded and his faculties dazed
When upon a certain jewel he once begins to gaze.

Nita Brumley a studious member of our class
Labors daily in order to secure a good past
Still, did you know or have you heard
How she sticks in a colon after every word.

Frances Nosay the all round girl
Laughs out excitingly when you speak of a cure
She is all right but has just gone insane
Over a nice fat boy, by name of Rodney Lane.

Alvah Waterfield, the President of the class
Why, he was doing fine
Until alas — one day
Jonsie stole his sweetie away.

Here’s to our book worm Rhetta Newman
Quiet and unpretentious
She is sure to win out in the end
By being kind and conscientious.

Ruby Halstead another studious member of our class
Has done her work with honor
But alas! She has worked the flesh off her poor little bonuses
Trying to keep up with the folks called Joneses.

Another member of the 32 class is Alvah Jones.
A very good fellow — is he
We wish for him all good luck
Whatever his work may be.

Of Mildred Doxey, our flapper, I shall next speak.
So happy, light hearted, and carefree
But listen! I’ll tell you how it all came about.
She is fond of a young man from “Ch arit-ee".

Modesty, sweet modesty, oh! So rare
But I can show you one maiden fair.
Who is so sweet and attractive as you wish to see
And blushes at every thing
That is Adell B.

Walter Munden, a baseball player
And the sheik of the class.
Is a good old scout all though
He has a smile for the girls as they pass
But to one he is true.

Now, I’ll introduce another flapper of our class.
Bessie Everton by name.
She is gifted in the use of lipstick
And with rough, oh boy! She is fame.

Quiet, good hearted, Mildred Lane
We shall never forget
Here’s hoping that she’ll keep ever so calm
Even when “hubby" shall fret.

How fat and good natured is Rodney Lane
While not very swift, he is always the same
And upon his word you can always rely.
Although with young flappers he is somewhat shy.

We cannot close these little rhymes
Without recalling Lillian Etheridge to our minds.
When you see her you’ll find
That she is tall and slim
And always looking out for a favorite hymn.

Melford Grimstead has little to say
But my! How he laughs the whole long day-
He laughs when he is happy
He laughs if he is blue.
But bashful - he is about the worst you ever knew.

1 June 32..School today. I went, was my last day. Got our report cards. Told them all good-by. I went to Essie's tonight. Miss Alice & Willie came today. Lola & Billy came tonight. Parted with the High School classmates-never to meet again together. Good old days of the past-gone-but not forgotten. Adell does not say, but most likely both Alice & Willie Cooper and Lola & Billy Newman brought graduation gifts to the two sisters.


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