WHITE LAKE — It has been called “the most beautiful body of water in the eastern United States,” “the nation’s safest beach” and “a child’s paradise.” First commercialized around the turn of the 20th century, White Lake has since been a draw for people around the country, and, in a month-long series, the Bladen Journal will pay homage to the people and places that both treasure the lake and make it a treasure. This week, we will look at the family that treasures White Lake so much that they are one of its longest-running visitors.
Mitchell Collins, from Rockingham County, first visited White Lake in the 1950s with a church group. When he began working with the Department of Transportation, he would regale his co-workers with stories of the lake and its beauty. A group decided to make the trip together, and around 40 friends and co-workers loaded up their gear and their families for the three-hour drive.
“We looked like a Gypsy caravan going down the road on Friday evening,” laughed daughter Nancy Moore as she remembered her childhood trips.
“One of my earliest memories is when what is now Shady Shores was an FFA camp. That was the first time we ever went down there. They had a big community gathering building in the middle, and the men slept on one side in screened-in porches and the women and children slept on the other side,” she recalled.
Soon, however, they opted for a little more privacy and began pitching tents in what was then Marquee Beach.
“We just about took over the whole campground,” Moore recalled. “It was hilarious. It was as hot as blue blazes, we slept in sleeping bags, and we would eat outside at the picnic tables that were at every campsite. We cooked outside and ate outside, even if it rained.
“Even if it rained,” she stressed, “we’d still be swimming in the lake. We only came back if there was a thunderstorm. We had a good time.
“We were always playing pranks on each other. There was this guy that drove a yellow Corvette convertible, and we thought it was the stuff, so they got to teasing him and telling him they were going to roll his Corvette to the end of the pier and that when he woke up he would have to figure out out how to get it back. He slept on the ground holding the door handle,” she said, laughing. “We did stuff like that all the time.”
Moore recalled another time that her father — who, through his job, had access to inner tubes from heavy road machinery — brought the inner tubes to White Lake and inflated them for use as floats.
“We piled 20 people on that thing, and it never went under,” she said. “It was the perfect place for children — it was family-friendly and so much fun.”
Eventually, the Collinses bought two lots on Gum Street and put a mobile home there, and, when Moore got married and had children of her own, she made sure that they made their own memories at the place that is so special to her.
“Nothing compares to White Lake,” she said. “It’s basically home for us, because we have so many good memories. That’s where all our fun times were had.”
Moore and her mother, who is now 86, come down for about a week every month, all year long.
“It’s changed over 55 years, of course,” Moore sighed. “It’s more commercialized, everything is bigger and better, there’s a gazillion more people, but we were just happy sleeping in sleeping bags in tents. Times change and people change, though.”
As for her future plans, Moore said, “I hope to inherit the house, because I want my grandchildren to come and have as good a time as I did at White Lake.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.