Longtime Topsail Beach residents look back at town’s 50 years

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:34 AM.


TOPSAIL BEACH — Shortly after the military abandoned its guided missile-testing program on Topsail Island in the late 1940s, people hoping to own a piece of tranquility by the sea got their chance.

Bobby Humphrey recalls his father’s eagerness to move the family from Wilmington to the island. In addition to concrete observation towers, a few of which still stand today, the U.S. Navy left enough infrastructure behind to make the island more inhabitable.

The Humphreys built one of the first houses on the southern end of the island, where they lived year-round beginning in 1952.

Winters on the island brought isolation. Few families lived in their beach cottages during the winter. Humphrey was a young boy at the time, and finding other children his age to play with was slim pickings.

He looked forward to summer, which inevitably drew larger crowds and childhood friends.

"We explored the woods and cut trails through the bushes," Humphrey said. "When I got older we’d go flounder gigging and try to sell the fish to make enough money for gas money to go water-skiing."

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