Settling Down in Eastpoint
By Richard E. Noble
We lived in a local Eastpoint campground for about 3 or 4 years before we decided to settle down here. To be truthful I think it was my wife who longed for roots more than I did. They accuse women of being "nesters." My wife is definitely a nester - but that is one of her qualities that attracted me to her. She was able to turn every place that we ever lived into a "home." It didn't matter if it was a tiny efficiency apartment in Miami or the back half of a Chevy van.
When she suggested that we start looking around to buy something, I went along for the ride. We owned 40 acres in Arkansas that was just sitting there doing nothing. So why couldn't we own an acre or two here in Eastpoint - even if we never used it?
Surprisingly, there wasn't much for sale here in Franklin County in those days. Rumor had it that all the "locals" who were land owners were saving their land for the day when the prophesied boom arrived. There were very few realty offices and even fewer for sale signs.
We got the name of a couple of prosperous locals and went knocking on doors. I remember one place in particular. It was a nice home, but really nothing compared to the mansions we had all around us in Miami. We were told that this family was the wealthiest in Eastpoint and that they had carpets that were 2 inches thick on their floors. This was meant to be very impressive. Since nearly everybody in Eastpoint oystered for a living we felt no dishonor in approaching the front door of this Eastpoint "mansion" with the 2 inch thick carpets in our white boots and working garb.
We knocked on the front door, a lady peeked out at us through a side window - she didn't appear to be all that excited about our presence. She opened the door a crack. While she looked us up and down, we asked if she had any lots for sale. She looked at us as if we were making a joke. She said no and immediately closed the door.
It seemed that oyster people were not considered good risks back in those days. We actually had enough cash to buy an acre lot just about anywhere in Eastpoint. We didn't want to spend all of it, though.
We got the name of a local Realtor who had the reputation of being willing to sell property to oystermen - and on time. His name was Ben Watkins and he had an office in the old Gibson Hotel building. The Gibson had been condemned and was about to be torn down when Mr. Watkins rescued it.
We went over to his office and he actually took us out to look at some of the acre lots he had out on the Wilderness Road - oyster boots and all. The lots were very reasonable. It fact we could have bought two or even one 5 acre lot.
We then heard about a man who owned a campground out on the east edge of Eastpoint. He had cleared some land behind his campground and he was also willing to sell to oystermen on time. He had a son-in-law who oystered for a living.
He had three lots available on a dirt road out behind his campground. The road was called the old Escape Rd. We liked the less populated neighborhood. We picked out a lot and made a down payment.
For awhile we just made payments and went out and picnicked on our new lot. It took us about a year to get a septic and a light pole. Then finally we moved from the campground to our lot. We pulled our travel trailer out there and camped. Then a hurricane came and shut the bay down for a whole year. We somehow found part-time work, continued to make our payments and got by with the help of our savings. It was another two or three years before our new mobile home came rolling down our dirt road to be set up on our lot.
Our trailer home was the no frills model - no furniture, no nothing. Our living room was filled with our old lawn furniture. It took another three years before we had our new home and property paid off - we even had a few pieces of conventional furniture by that time.
We have a scrap book with pictures of our mobile home coming down our dirt road to be set up. We have pictures of every new porch or addition that we ever made to our home.
Now we have lived in this little mobile home for 20 to 25 years - rent free. This place doesn't owe us a nickel. Nevertheless, I have been told over the last ten years that my "property" is worth from $100,000 to $200,000. My mobile home is worth nothing but the ground under it is supposedly worth all this money.
I must say, this is all very, very strange.