My uncle has been entertaining my mom’s side of the family (of infamous Pumpkin Roll Fame) since January with a daily email of stories and pictures from the family archives. One of the most fascinating stories to surface so far was the trip to Assateague Island, and so I share it with you now:
In April after the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, we took part in the insane expedition to Assateague Island. The pictures don’t do justice to that amazing "drive along the beach and camp out" trip.The group drove south to the mainland in Maryland and loaded the Shidner’s pick-up truck on a barge that was towed to the island. Maybe there was a second truck. Once on the island, the tires were deflated somewhat so the rear-wheel drive truck could ride over the dunes and down along the hardpacked sand at the surf-line. Everyone rode in the back or on top of the truck. Whenever the truck got stuck, we all got out and pushed. We never saw another person on the island.
The few existing houses had been ripped apart or washed out. The men headed south to where the fence both barred access to Virginia and kept the wild ponies on the Virginia side. However, the storm had destroyed the fence at the waterline and we drove out and around it into Virginia. Along the way, we saw a half dozen skeletons of wrecked wooden ships that had been buried under the dunes for centuries, but uncovered by the storm. The big keels and ribs remained.
The weather was cold and sometimes rainy, so the men took the extraordinary step of taking over the US Coast Guard Station that was evacuated and abandoned during the storm. The station was atilt and the lower story was full of sand. We cut open a fifty-five gallon drum and fabricated a stove, which they hooked up to the stovepipe inside the Coast Guard Station. We slept upstairs in the barracks. Looking back, it’s hard to believe we just invaded government property!The storm had not affected wildlife; we saw sea turtles laying eggs, raked clams and oysters, and tried to catch the wild ponies. That was the trip where we found the baby raccoon, who became our pet, Racket.