The Happiest Seaside Cottage

Three generations of fun-loving families makes this one of Southport’s favorite homes

This spring I went to a birthday party for a local loved one, Taylor Joliff. During the party, I happened to notice the earrings of the lady sitting beside me.  I said, “Those are the coolest earrings!” and she replied, “Thank you. One of my dear friends, who is no longer with us, gave these to me and every time I wear them, I think of her.” We continued to talk and she introduced me to her husband, David. The couple was David and Patsy Walker and throughout our conversation, I learned of David’s genuine love of Southport; a love that stemmed from his childhood memories at the Phillips/Aldridge Cottage on 312 W. West Street, a home that David and Patsy now own. And a home that Patsy had recently renovated. I told them about our monthly home feature in Southport Magazine and asked if they would be willing to allow us to feature their home. They graciously agreed and we exchanged contact information.

I reached out to Patsy and we set a date to meet.  She arranged for Marilyn Swain, David’s cousin, who lived in the cottage, to join us. David was unable to attend but he provided the following story about the house:

The cottage was built in 1905 by Mr. and Mrs. Phillips. Mrs. Phillips had a brother named Harry Aldridge, who lived with the Phillips in the cottage at one time. When the Phillips later moved to Wilmington, they sold the cottage to him. Harry married Miss Mamie (as I knew her) and they had a son named Harold. According to my father, Dan Walker (who grew up in Southport during the 1920s and 30s), Harry Aldridge was the town’s electrician and he was also very active as a fireman for Southport. Harry Aldridge had passed away before my memory began, but I remember his wife very well from the late 1950’s. Miss Mamie was a homemaker, a good cook who loved to bake, and she was fun loving. When my father was a teenager, he delivered groceries from Lancaster’s Grocery on Howe Street to 312 W. West Street on a regular basis. He said it was always a fun stop and there was always some kind of “foolishness” going on between Harry, Miss Mamie, their son Harold and whoever was visiting. He said one time Mr. Lancaster (my mother’s father, my grandfather) asked him why it was taking so long to deliver groceries to that address. I’m not sure what he told him at the time, but he told me that Miss Mamie always had something fresh baked for him to eat. However, she didn’t like “carry outs” and expected him to eat it in front of her, so he could tell her how good it was. Fortunately, it was always good!

Harold went to Wake Forest College and served during World War II. He married a local Southport girl, Victoria Lancaster (my mother Jessie’s older sister) and they had one daughter, Marilyn (who graduated from Southport High School in 1968) and now lives in Wilmington with her husband John Allen Swain (also from Southport). Uncle Harold worked for the county and became a Southport community leader in many ways. He served on the Southport Fire Department for most of his adult life and was the fire chief for a number of years. He was a Southport Alderman and is credited with being one of the main promoters of the NC 4th of July Festival in Southport (as we know it today). Aunt Vickie worked for the Brunswick County Clerk of Courts office which was in Southport for many years before it was moved to Bolivia and was also very involved with community activities. Their home was always open to family, friends, and visitors and was the place to be on July 4th. The upstairs was often used as a meeting place for the firemen and the Southport garden club.

mamiestoop harrybert frontyardvickie

Harold and Victoria’s daughter, Marilyn Swain also wrote about some of her memories at 312 W. West Street:

The garden club banquet was held upstairs. They moved the beds and furniture and set up a low table using plywood and cinder blocks and the ladies sat on cushions on the floor. My best friend and I were the servers that night. This was also the meeting that broke up the garden club thanks to daddy and a couple of his friends. Before the night was over, they showed up (just a tad over indulged) with a child’s training potty in which they had emptied a beer and then put in a Baby Ruth (candy bar) for effect. These friends were always showing up at the house at all hours of the day and night leaving “presents” for us. I remember a coon dog tied to the swing and howling in the middle of the night, a 5 foot alligator (live) on the front steps and tied to the porch railing and for Daddy’s 40th birthday; they buried a metal pipe in the front yard, inserted a carpet roll and set it on fire. When we came running out the house after hearing the fire siren, it looked like a giant birthday candle burning and the entire fire department and half the neighborhood was standing there and singing Happy Birthday. Never a dull moment at 312 W. West Street!

While David did not live in Southport, he explains how his connection to Southport deepened through the years:

 was born and raised in Wilmington, but most of my relatives (grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins) on both sides lived in Southport, so we visited often. From a young age I remember Uncle Harold and Aunt Vickie living at 312 W. West Street with their daughter, Marilyn (my age) and Miss Mamie. The older folks I knew at that time seemed very serious to me, but Miss Mamie was determined to have a little fun along the way. I think her fun-loving spirit rubbed off on Uncle Harold and Aunt Vickie too! I can honestly say that Uncle Harold and Aunt Vickie were two of the most fun-loving people I have met in my lifetime and they both had a positive influence on me. I have a lot of wonderful memories of visiting Southport, this home and the people who lived here. My wife and I are very happy that my cousin Marilyn was willing to sell the cottage to us and keep it in the family.

house6 paper KITCHEN-FLOOR

My wife and I decided to remodel the cottage with a more open look. We also added a bedroom and bath, but the beautiful coral color on the outside was Aunt Vickie’s color. Soon after Aunt Vickie had the cottage painted coral, I drove right by and missed it completely. Most “Old Southport” houses were painted white or had no paint at all (as seen in a lot of old pictures). My wife and I loved the color and it reminded us of Key West, the Caribbean, vacation, fun and Aunt Vickie. When I asked Aunt Vickie how she decided on the color, she said, “Getting old is for the birds and I decided to brighten things up around here”!  That she did in more ways than just the paint color.

Patsy never thought that she and David would ever live in the cottage.  “We had no intentions of moving here.  We would use it as a vacation place or rent it.  And then the more I came, the more I was like I don’t want to rent this place out!”

 

David writes about how it has been since they moved into 312 W. West Street:

My wife and I sold our house in Charlotte and moved in this cottage three years ago. We love it here!  It feels like home and the fun-loving spirit that was sprinkled in this town by people like showing-living-roomMiss Mamie, Uncle Harold, and Aunt Vickie lives on. I tell people living here is like being in a fraternity for mature adults high on life.  Near the end of my father’s life, I took him for a ride around town and to lunch by the water (Mack’s Café to him). The house he was born in (in 1918) on Moore Street and the other three houses he lived in on Moore, Bay and Atlantic have all been remodeled and/or restored. He said that day and I will never forget, “Southport is a wonderful and beautiful place to live”. My wife and I (and many others) agree with him.

homeowners

I was sorry that David was not able to be there the day I met with Patsy and Marilyn. However, I could still feel his spirit. Patsy gave me a tour of the home starting with the upstairs that she fought so hard to achieve. She explained how it took her several years to complete the renovation of the home. “This is my passion. I love it. I like getting in and tearing down the walls. Anything I can do, I will do it,” she said. Patsy would find items for the house and store them until she was ready to use them. The kitchen cabinets were some she got from Lowe’s Home Improvement. “They were getting rid of the display units and I said I would buy them,” she said. Several of the drawers have see-through Plexiglas that were once filled with dried pasta.  Patsy traded it out for seashells to fit the coastal theme of the home.

home-feature1

Whenever Patsy was told she could not do something by the contractor, it would make her angry and she did not like to take no for an answer. She found that over time, she would eventually get her way or come up with a creative way to make it work.

When the upstairs was getting remodeled, some of the pipes had to be exposed on the ceiling below and Patsy did not like it. “So I just got out my sticky notes and placed them where I wanted it to be and there you go.” To hide the exposed pipes, the dining area is now graced with beautiful architectural detail.

I wondered how Marilyn felt about the changes to her childhood home. “Actually, I was impressed,” she said. “Because they made enough changes that it was different, so it wasn’t like I was coming home. And she kept enough things that were the same, so it was like coming home.”

Some of the original things included the kitchen floors and the bedrooms downstairs.

porch

It was so heartwarming seeing the twinkle in Pasty’s eyes as she would flow from one story, straight into another without skipping a beat and learning that she really didn’t want to live in the house but that she realized how important it was to her husband. “He stopped doing a lot of things just to be a family man- I just thought, I am being selfish. If this is that important to him, we can make it work.”  And they did.  “We started staying here and I just fell in love with it here. And I tried really hard not to like it because I didn’t want to be here full time!”  Pasty joked.

Throughout the cottage you can feel the warmth of love. The love that originated with Harry and Miss Mamie, continued with Uncle Harold and Aunt Vickie and now continues with David and Patsy.

One Response to The Happiest Seaside Cottage

  1. Sharon Knox-Tucker says:

    Kris, I so enjoyed this article. I lived next door to Patsy and David in the late 70’s in VA and they are fun-loving…have spent a few weekends with them in Southport and absolutely love what they have done with the house and the property. The renovations demonstrate their imagination, creativity, and the respect for the culture and heritage of family and the community. As Patsy says, ‘living in Southport is like being on vacation every day’.

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