FAMILY TRADITIONS AT HISTORIC JEANNETTE’S PIER, NAGS HEAD


History of Jeanette’s Pier

Jennette's Pier
PHOTOGRAPH BY NC DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCES

Originally built in 1939, Jennette’s is the oldest fishing pier on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Battered by storms and rebuilt many times throughout its 80-year life, Jennette’s was knocked down by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, just after the pier and its five-acre tract were purchased by the NC Aquarium Society.

Jennette's Pier

The Jennette family on the pier.PHOTOGRAPH BY NC DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL AND CULTURAL RESOURCES

When Warren H. Jennette Sr. and his sons purchased these five acres of oceanfront property in Nags Head they had a vision: to build a fishing pier on a small bit of coastline where several small cottages had been used by the workers who constructed sand dunes as part of a government project in the 1930s. Only a few larger expensive homes existed on the land that bordered the ocean.

For $6,000, the Jennette’s constructed a 754-foot-long pier, with a 28 -foot-wide T-shaped ending that maximized the numbers of spots for fishermen. However, poor construction led to the pier’s collapse three years later.

It was one of the first fishing piers built on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so there is historical and traditional significance. There have been generations of families who have fished here since it was first built. There was also a casino in Nags Head which made Jennette’s Pier one of only two main social hubs in the entirety of the Outer Banks.

Jeanette’s Pier Today

Jennette's Pier

Jennette’s Pier reopened on May 21, 2011 and spans 1,000 feet. It is no longer the only pier on the Outer Banks, but it stands alone as a fishing and educational center where children and adults alike can take part in STEM-based educational programs, learn about wave energy research from one of eight test sites in the United States and of course, how to fish.

Family Vacations

This week we returned to the Outer Banks with our second born son and many of his family that included two of his four grown children and their families. It had been about 40 years since our earlier family Labor Day vacation here. Our earlier family vacation included my husband Bob, his father, Bob, and our three young children. We rented one of the original small cottages that were there until Hurricane Isabel’s wind and rains led to their demise in 2003.  The rental fee for the week was a mere $300.

Some of my more prominent memories: I went against dad’s warnings and parked in the sand in our boat-sized 9-passenger station wagon.  We had to pay to get it towed out; the senior Mr. Dickinson next warned us not to try sailing. So, he watched the children while we went ”grocery shopping” in our swimsuits. And, yes, our existence here this week proves that our sailing adventure was a success, Our daughter who was just shy of five years old escaped our sight and wandered in the sand that was riddled with thorny hitchhikers and cacti.  We met our neighbors when they rescued her and were removing the thorns.  Our “big fish” catch at midnight from the local bridge was a healthy eel. But, my most memorable moment came when I saw Burt Reynolds (whose movie “Smokey and the Bandit had recently been released), was fast-approaching us. He took one look at the expression on my face and quickly proclaimed that he was not who I thought he was and made a run for it!

Our 2019 week-long-stay was by far one of our best ever family getaways.  Our four generations included eight adults and three children, including two 4 and 5-year-old great-grandchildren and one 5-month old. Kudos to their parents and grandparents for their loving and respectful natures. I’d like to claim credit for the funny discussions that came up, but again, it was just natural and traditional family exchanges that always exude much wit and laugher exchanges.

This time around we also included our pets: Reno, Harley, and Odie. Reno gets best Pomeranian award; Harley gets best looking white and black long-haired chihuahua, and Odie, gets most cooperative gimp chihuahua award.

Oh how I wish we had recorded the exchanges between our son, Jeff and Granddaddy Bob as they bantered back and forth over driving routes, roads, and turns in and around the Outer Banks (OBX). My best guess is next time Granddaddy Bob loses his pilot’s license to his co-pilot!

One of our better moments between the women and children of the four generations happened while we were in the hot tub. Noah, our four-year-old great-grandson told his mom that he saw something hanging from her nose.  In one fell swoop he offered and swiftly poked his finger into his mom’s nose to retrieve a “booger,” as he called it. Next, he said; “it’s okay,” as he quickly rinsed his finger-poking finger off in the water we were in. Miniature golf was no challenge for the youngsters on their first exposure to it. Again, I’d like to say as much for the great-grandparents but, just bending over to retrieve the balls from the deep-dish cups in all 18 holes was a flexibility challenge!

Overall, our host and hostess were the tops. They thought of every accommodation before, during, and after for everyone of us. I especially loved the bright and cheery 5-bedroom luxury cottage that was just a short walk to the beach and fishing. It’s vaulted ceilings, massive windows, decks and beautiful beachy interiors nicely complimented our wonderful family times.  The beach was a hit with all, despite a few days of harsh waves and enough under current to take out Granddaddy Bob a couple of times—just enough to make us laugh “with him.” Unfortunately, the new rods and great bait were no match for the fish.  We spotted a couple of dolphins, but no sharks which were our the guy’s list to catch. 

And, what would an end-of-summer vacation be without a few ocean breezes and sunburned “pretty in pink” faces, backs, legs, and in one case, feet–despite the multiple applications of sunscreen!

We love and thank our children for another memorable family occasion and we praise God for all his blessings on our family here this week. With His continued graces upon us, we plan to return again next year!

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