My Father the Pepsi Cola Man: Rudy Gray Recalls Growing up in Waves, NC in the 1950s

Edited excerpt of oral history recorded by B. Garrity-Blake for Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s “Ethnohistorical Description of the Eight Villages Adjoining Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” 2005, IAI Inc. Map drawn by B. Garrity-Blake.

My father started working for Pepsi Cola, hauling Pepsi Colas out of Elizabeth City down here on Hatteras island.  I can remember when we would leave real early in the morning around about 5 o’clock to go up to catch the ferry out of Oregon Inlet.

At that time it was a wooden ferry that they take over Oregon Inlet, and they would have a chain hoist rig that would raise up the front of the ferry. They would drop a wooden ramp down on the beach. You would drive your truck up on the ferry real slow on this rinky-dink thing. 

 He would cross the inlet and go to Elizabeth City and that’s where he would pick up the Pepsis. The paved highway never started until what we call Whalebone Junction. 

It was an all-day affair from the time he left here and went across the ferry, drove to Elizabeth City, and back. My dad would stop and drop some Pepsis off there to the fishing center in Oregon Inlet.  It’s not like it is today.  It was just a small fishing center.

My father distributed Pepsis on all of Hatteras Island. He had lumber, boards, 2 by 12s or whatever he could find on the beach, and kept them shoved up underneath the truck. We’d be going along and the sand would get real soft like it does in the summertime. He would get stuck in the sand, and he’d have to pull those boards out from underneath that truck and start boarding his way.  He’d drive on the boards a little ways, then get another board.  It wasn’t real easy getting down here like it is today with the highway.              

I’d go with him to deliver the Pepsis. At one time I felt like I just about knew everybody on Hatteras Island except the people that was here in the Navy or Coast Guard.

In the olden days back when I was a kid the grocery stores is where all the older men would hang out in the afternoon.  It was a gathering place. At my grandfather’s store, A. H. Gray General Merchandise in Waves, there would be 10 or 12, 14 men sitting around talking, some of them playing dominos, checkers, and stuff like that.  People had more time to visit and socialize more than they do now.  Everybody’s got to hustle and bustle today.

Map 7.2 Waves.jpg