For the men stationed at Fort Miles during World War II, recreation activities were abundant

By Michael Morgan
Photograph by Delaware Public Archive
From the April 2024 issue

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“Just one year ago,” Delaware Coast News columnist Virginia Cullen wrote in May 1942, “the silent, saffron slopes of Cape Henlopen were known only to the wind and the tides; to a few straggling fishermen casting in the thundering surf. Where leisurely picnickers basked under the soporific sun. Where berry pickers for the sleepy little town of Lewes gathered wild plums and cranberries in the spring.” But since then, with World War II underway in Europe and the clouds of that conflict drifting across the Atlantic, construction crews had invaded the peaceful sands of Cape Henlopen to begin work on Fort Miles, which would become one of the most modern military installations on the East Coast. Eventually, massive concrete gun emplacements, bunkers and the ubiquitous spotting towers were built on the sands of the cape.

Sprinkled among these instruments of war, however, were tennis courts, a baseball diamond and other recreational facilities for the more than 2,000 men garrisoned at the fort.

This annual winter fundraiser in Georgetown is one shell of a time

By Bill Newcott
Photograph by Scott Nathan
From the Winter 2023 issue

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Table 3 is waiting for more oysters. A dozen or so men in ball caps and sweatshirts are shuffling anxiously from foot to foot, most of them fidgeting with the handles of the short, rounded knives they clutch in their hands. 

A few puff impatiently on cigars. The thick smoke curls toward the ceiling of the Georgetown Fire Company garage, churning into a growing cloud fed by countless more fat cigars and glowing cigarettes in this enormous, but closed, space.

Some 800 men are crammed into the firehouse, and a lucky hundred or so have spots at the eight 10-foot-long oyster shucking tables: rustic, rectangular wood affairs, slathered with generations of green paint. A shelf rises in the middle of each one, topped with containers of ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, salt and black pepper. 

Also up there are bags of oyster crackers, which I’d always assumed were named that because they look like little oysters. Not so, it turns out: They happen to be a traditional oyster side dish and frequent ingredient in oyster stew. 


A lifelong dance floor shuffler tries to step up his ballroom game

By Bill Newcott
Photograph by Carolyn Watson
From the Winter 2023 issue

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‘We’re gonna go for a stroll on the boardwalk,” says Thom Pemberton, which is a tad confusing as this is a dance class in the basement of the Cape Henlopen Senior Center and we’re a good quarter-mile from the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk.

I squint at him quizzically, and I catch on Pemberton’s face the fleeting realization that he might be dealing with an idiot. He gestures elegantly to the linoleum floor.

“This is our boardwalk, right here,” he reassures me. “And I want us to just, you know, walk in a big circle here as if we were walking along the boardwalk.”

My wife, Carolyn, smiles sweetly.

“He knew that,” she lies. 

We link arms and stroll in a wide circle to the sound of Sammy Davis Jr.’s not-at-all annoying “Candy Man,” slowing occasionally to avoid colliding with the four or five other couples here for Pemberton’s regular Thursday morning beginners class. My mind knows those pairs have barely more dance experience than I have; my sinking heart realizes that, compared to me, they are the reincarnation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.