Cathy Thomas Altman's watery family roots go back a long way in Calabash, N.C.
When people say Calabash, images of delicious piping hot fried seafood come to mind. When I say Calabash, a way of life comes to my mind.
I grew up in Calabash and was raised on the Calabash River. My great grandparents settled in Calabash in the late 1700’s and operated a lumber mill, from which they transported lumber via ferry to Shallotte, and then on to the port of Wilmington.
My grandfather, affectionately known as “Captain Foggy” was a charter boat captain that took passengers out on the river and to the Atlantic Ocean in a boat he built for recreational fishing and sightseeing tours.The river was our life. It was how families survived. My father was a commercial fisherman and taught me how to shuck oysters at the age of four, which I put to good use in the restaurants, diners would pay me fifty cents per roast to shuck their oysters.
I can remember standing on drink crates to reach the counter to add the hot french fries to the platters – helping “head and peel” the freshly caught shrimp that would be served later to hundreds of hungry diners.
I can still see my father and the other fishermen on the docks along the river where they would sell the freshly caught shrimp to tourists (which they still do today). I remember the first time I waited tables and was tipped $20. I also relish the memories of the outdoor oyster roasts cooked over a fire pit with a side of hush puppies also cooked outdoors.
I’m proud to be from Calabash and all that it stands for a small fishing village where people made their living. I am proud to be part of North Carolina’s Seafood Capital of the World!
Cathy Thomas Altman lives in Cherry Grove Beach, SC, just a few miles south of Calabash. She was elected to the Calabash Town Council at age 18, which made her the youngest & first woman to ever serve on the town’s board. Cathy is the President & CEO of the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held for four years. Learning more about her family history is a passion and she has discovered that her great grandparents were great friends of the Sprunt family of Orton Plantation fame. In fact, the hall tree that still stands in Orton’s home was a gift from Cathy’s great grandparents, Samuel and Georgia Thomas.