I never knew whether to believe this tall tale – until I found historical proof.
Growing up, whenever it was really, really cold, my grandmother would tell us about the winter the Pantego Creek froze solid in Belhaven and my great-Aunt Dot rode across it in an automobile. Aunt Dot was the youngest of four girls, and also the prettiest. My Granny’s other sisters were sweet and kind, but I remember Aunt Dot as oh-so-stylish — she wore high heels, red lipstick, and had red fingernails! I can just imagine her in her best flapper style, complete with raccoon coat, laughing her way across the ice in an open Model T that day! Keeping in mind that autos in the early 20th century were not very heavy, but can you imagine a body of water approximately a half mile wide freezing solid in eastern North Carolina? Although I loved this family legend, it had the makings of wonderful tall tale, told to delight the grandchildren and help us to imagine our relatives in their younger days. To my surprise, several years ago Our State magazine featured an in-depth article about this unique early 20th century weather event. I was fascinated and intrigued with the details of that weather anomaly and its impact in eastern North Carolina, and I quickly realized that Aunt Dot’s adventure may have actually happened!
“This Week in NC History” is a brand new e-newsletter published by Our State magazine. In its inaugural issue, which arrived in my inbox in January, Brian Mims’ story, The Big Freeze details this unique weather event. It’s a fascinating story, particularly if you are familiar with the coast. For all those who have sought warmer winters in North Carolina I encourage you read this story. I think you will be very surprised by the photos and the ways this deep freeze in 1918 affected the residents and businesses on the coast, allowing it to create stories that were passed down through generations. What North Carolina “tall tales” abound in your family? I’d love to hear from you.