Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Old Man’s Boy Turns 100

Capt. Adkin's home (Ruark's grandfather)
  Today, the Old Man’s Boy in Robert Ruark’s classic childhood memoir, The Old Man and the Boy, turns 100.  (Click here for my review of the book.)  Robert Ruark was born on December 29, 1915 in Wilmington, NC.  Although he grew up in Wilmington, graduating at the age of 15 from New Hanover High School, but he spent much time growing up with his grandfather (the Old Man), in Southport.  His grandfather, who was a pilot on the river, taught him how to fish and hunt, along with many other lessons in life which he conveyed in his childhood memoir.  Ruark attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, graduating at the age of 19.  He served a bit in the Merchant Marines and as an editor and reporter for a variety of newspapers.  When World War II broke out, he joined the Navy as an Ensign on a gun crew on a merchant marine ship and later held a desk job censoring private correspondence between those fighting in the Pacific and their families and friends, making sure no military secrets were contained in the letters.  Always a lover of the outdoors, he  spent much time hunting big game in Africa, and become a leading columnist for Field and Stream.  Like his father, Ruark had a drinking problem (his death was partly due to cirrhosis of the liver) and died in 1965.

The Star News had a major article about him today (from where some of the above information came from, although I knew some of his history from having read several of his books).  Interestingly, I did learn that his first published book, Grenadine Etching, is a spoof on Gone with the Wind.  It sounds interesting but is supposedly hard to find.  Much of Ruark’s writing is now seen as macho and out-of-date (and somewhat racist), but I still highly recommend the The Old Man and the Boy (I first read it in the 8th Grade) and The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older, which I read a fifteen or so years ago. 

ferry from Southport to Fort Fisher


There was a birthday party/open house at the Robert Ruark Inn (his grandfather’s home) in Southport this afternoon.  Since I’m in Wilmington, I decided it was time for a road trip.  After lunch, I drove across the Cape Fear to Leland, and turned south on NC 133, driving along the west bank of the river, crossing Town Creek and passing Ft. Anderson (a Civil War era fort), Sunny Point Ocean Military Terminal (it's off-limits), the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant (ditto) and on into Southport.  I visited the Inn, which appears to be a great place to spend a few nights, and looked around a bit at the memorabilia.  Then I then walked around this seaport town before heading back to Wilmington via the Southport/Fort Fisher Ferry.  It’s a great round trip—the ferry ride is 30 minutes long and cost $5 for a regular sized vehicle.
Looking from Southport to the mouth of the Cape Fear
Baldhead Lighthouse on the horizon, left side
Navigation light on the right side
Thanks to everyone who asked about my father.  I'm back up in North Carolina and staying at his home.  He will get out of rehab on Thursday and is doing much better.  
Mid-channel and passing the ferry heading to Southport

40 comments:

  1. I read Ruark's book I think in the 8th grade, which would have been '59. It fit everything I wanted in life, from the old man/ kid relationship to the imagined outdoors life.
    I re-read it a year ago, noticed all the same things you probably have, the stereotyping and other things. It doesn't do well with modernity in many respects, but is still written with a warm heart. And I identify far too much with the old man now.

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    1. I probably should retread it, along with Guy Owen's "The Ballard of the Flim-Flam Man" which is another eastern NC classic.

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  2. A spoof of Gone With the Wind sounds entertaining. Glad your dad is on the mend. Happy New Year!

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    1. Reading a review of it, I'm not sure I will read the spoof. One "die-hard" Ruark fan said he forced his way through it only because Ruark wrote it.

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  3. Glad to hear that your Dad is improving. Sounds like a fun motive for a road trip.

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    1. Thanks--this could easily be a couple of days trip and one day I'll have to go back and stay at the Ruark Inn overnight.

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  4. Great post, glad that your dad is getting better.
    Happy New year !

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    1. Thanks and Happy New Year to you, Olivia!

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  5. Im glad your dad is better, Happy New year Sage!

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    1. Thanks, Gloria. I hope you had a wonderful New Year Eve!

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  6. Majestic house. I'll check out your review. That's wonderful news about your father improving.

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    1. I think "The Old Man and the Boy" might be instructional for those wanting to write YA literature for boys.

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  7. Glad to hear that your Dad is doing better, sage. Prayers for his continued progress.

    Thanks for your wonderful pictures, great posts, and bloggy friendship. Wishing you all the best in 2016 from "the Flipside."

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    1. It is always fun to share photos and stories... I've been doing this now for over 11 years, wow!

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  8. Glad your dad is doing much better. Have a great New Year's, Sage.

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    1. Thanks, Robyn, and have a blessed New Year, yourself!

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  9. So pleased to know that your dad is improving. Hope you made it to your destination today, despite the rain. We very much enjoyed your visit!!
    Safe travels back home and plan to stop again when you are up this way.

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    1. It was a delight, Judy! I hope we can stop again.

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  10. So glad to hear your dad is doing better.

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  11. I am glad to hear that your dad is getting better!

    I have never read The Old Man and the Boy- but now I am curious.

    Wishing you a happy 2016!
    ~Jess

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  12. I am glad to hear your father is doing better - lovely that you can be with him.

    This book sounds lovely, too. I grew up with some friends with the last name of Ruark - a rather unusual name, I think.

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    1. There were a few cousins of Ruark (he never had children) at the birthday party. Maybe they are related to your friends.

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  13. I haven't heard of The Old Man and the Boy - I'll have to look for it.

    I'm glad that your father is better. My best wishes to him, to you and to your whole family. Happy New Year!

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    1. Most book stores in Eastern NC will carry the book, otherwise you're best bet is probably buying it online. I hope you enjoy the book and have a great New Year!

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  14. A lot of writers seem to have struggled with drinking issues.

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    1. Yep, a lot of people struggle with drinking issues but writers seem to struggle at a higher rate.

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  15. That ferry ride sounds perfect. Reminds me of my trips to Martha's Vineyard and how I almost ended up living there when my husband contemplated a job offer in that area. The books that sound racist or macho or wrong in today's world are usually little gems because they're truly written from the heart. I didn't know about your father being in rehab, and I'm happy to hear he's doing better. Hope this new year holds more fun and adventure for you!

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    1. Thanks! If you ever drive up the NC Coast--you can take a number of ferries, starting at Southport, then at Aurora, then at Swan Quarter to Ocracoke and the Ocracoke to Hattaress

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  16. Glad to hear your father is doing well.

    $5 ferry? Round trip? Wow. You can hardly afford NOT to take the trip.

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    1. Actually, it is $5 one way (30 minute ride). But by going through Wilmington and crossing the Cape Fear there, you can make it into a round trip.

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  17. I would love to take that ferry ride. Very happy to hear that your father is doing well. Happy New Year!

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  18. Very happy to hear that your father is improving Sage! This is wonderful news. Happy New Year!

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  19. I lives in the Wilmington area for a few years starting at the time I was in the forth grade. At the time my dad worked construction and my mom did finance work for some credit agency. I loved the place, especially Carolina Beach, which only then was getting turned into a clone of Myrtle Beach.

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  20. I also moved to Wilmington in the 4th grade and stayed there through college and a couple of years afterwards. What school did you go to? I attended Bradley Creek, but lived near Monkey Junction (the bus run began in Myrtle Grove sound at the time and covered Masonboro Loop Road and Greenville Sound Road (now you pass two schools before you get to Bradley Creek)

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  21. So happy to hear that your father is doing better, God Bless you all. This is a marvelous post, such and interesting story, and that house is beautiful too! I hope you are having a wonderful beginning to this new year 2016! I wish you the best.

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  22. Glad to hear your father's doing better!
    Both books sound really interesting (as does the Gone With The Wind spoof!) 00 I'm always intrigued by autobiographical stories of the generation that lived through WWI and WWII. Just learned that children's author Beverly Cleary also has a couple of books detailing her childhood in the 30s-50s -- so many books on my wishlist!

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