A Pair of Hoosiers Get to Meet Out At Sea

Lou Ann Homan
Andy and Edward Carlson
Andy and Edward Carlson

Andy Anderson was the grand marshal for the Ocracoke Fourth of July parade.

I began to think about Andy a few days later. I met him once before and I had a vague remembrance that we had something in common.

Ah, yes, I thought, Andy is from Indiana, and so the story begins. I stop by his house, but he is sleeping so I make an appointment for an interview.

Today is the day and I am excited to spend time with Andy and take a photo or two. With my camera slung over one shoulder and my writing tablet tucked under my arm, I walk up the old wooden steps to his house. As I knock on the door, I can’t help but notice the small brass historic plate on the door, “Albert Styron, 1923.”

No one answers so I knock louder and the screen door is opened by Edward Carlson, Andy’s nephew. I follow Ed into the parlor where Andy is waiting for me. As I make my introduction I am very glad I am on time.

I take a seat in a low chair and place my camera on the floor. I continue to chat as I do this and settle in for the interview. I notice right away how tall and regal Andy is even while seated. His hair is wavy and there is barely any gray. Ed takes a seat and I get out the notebook. At this very moment I want to be from the New York Times because that is where this story belongs.

Andy and Ed tell the story together.

Andy was born in 1918 in Frankfort. He tells me how his dad died a month before he was born. It was the flu that took so many lives then. When Andy was old enough he went to work at a local fruit stand. The mention of the fruit stand sends our conversation to the topic of sweet corn. The three of us agree that no place in this world grows better sweet corn than Indiana! I add to the list rhubarb, tomatoes, cucumbers …

In 1943 Andy joined the Coast Guard. I smile wondering how a nice Indiana farm boy ends up in the Coast Guard. He says he was on his way to join the Navy, but the Coast Guard intervened. He took the train to Baltimore.

“What did you think of the ocean?” I ask.

“Not much,” he says, “can’t swim.”

We all have a good laugh over that one. He was then sent to Cape Hatteras and finally to Ocracoke. “That’s it,” he said. “I thought I would see the world, but this was as far as I got.”

His job was riding his horse up and down the beach each day to patrol. He said it was pretty desolate here and not much to do. I happen to know better than that.

“There were dances, Andy, at The Pamlico Inn and the Wahab Village Hotel every Saturday night. Don’t tell me you didn’t go!”

He admitted he went and that was where he met Mary Styron, a smart, pretty Ocracoke gal. He told me they went to the dances, but never did dance.

“Can’t dance,” he said. I laugh again.

When he was discharged from the Coast Guard, the two of them took the mail boat to South Carolina to be married. He then carried Mary off to Indiana where they both worked at the fruit stand.

Eventually Andy farmed successfully, and Mary worked as a switchboard operator in Manson. They spent 50 years in Indiana. They retired back to Ocracoke in 1996 where family was waiting. Mary died in 2007, leaving Andy with a lifetime of memories.

“We never had an argument,” he says.

He then shows me around the house and points out all the lovely furniture he made in Indiana. These cupboards are full of family dishes. Andy’s hand-carved birds adorn the house as well.

We sit back down to begin our farewell. I notice my notepad is face down on the floor.

“What do you miss,” I ask, “about Indiana?”

“Evenings,” he says, “rolling fields of corn, the work of a farmer.” I sigh.

“Sweet corn?” I asked brightly before we all cry. And so we laugh.

We say our goodbyes. They insist I come back. “I will,” I say.

I let myself out and walk down the steps. It is great to meet a fellow Hoosier on Ocracoke Island, out to sea.


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