Brown’s Island 4- Leonard Gillikin

Leonard Gillikin at Brown's Island, N.C., 1938

Courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives

Leonard Gillikin posing with pipe on the ocean beach at Brown’s Island. He is leaning on a tripod, presumably one that Charles Farrell used to support his camera. Though relatively young—he was born in 1913— Gillikin was the lead man on the mullet gang at Brown’s Island.

This is the 4th in a series of Charles A. Farrell’s photographs from Brown’s Island, in Onslow County, N.C., in 1938. An earlier version of this story appeared in Southern Cultures, a quarterly journal published by the UNC Center for the Study of the American South.

He is wearing a cloth fedora at a rakish angle and a coat of the kind of herringbone twill that was issued to laborers in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the Roosevelt administration’s “New Deal” work programs for the unemployed and underemployed during the Great Depression.

The Federal census indeed lists Gillikin as a CCC road worker, though no doubt he also farmed and fished back home in Otway.

You can see the sun on his hands and face. Behind him an axel for an automobile or light truck rests on the beach, perhaps intended for conversion into a cart. In the distance, the camp’s hogs are grazing among the sea oats.

At Brown’s Island, as at all of the state’s mullet camps, the fishermen worked on shares, not for wages; the captain typically earned an extra half- or full share, as did the owners of the boats and seine.

Tomorrow– Buck Gillikin, the camp’s cook

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