Lenny and Shirley
by Shawna Black
Lenny and Shirley were married a long time ago. Shirley was 16 and Lenny was in his early 30’s, I believe. Lenny and Shirley were both raised on Harkers Island, NC. Shirley was my mother’s aunt.
My mother’s family is generations deep in the history of Harkers Island and the surrounding area. The people were English immigrants and originally settled an Outer Banks “town” they named Diamond City, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1899. Some of the people who lived in Diamond City moved inland after the storm to Harkers Island. Shirley's grandparents, Alfonzo Guthrie and Alice Hancock, had migrated from Diamond City to Harkers Island after the 1899 storm. The old stories tell of the residents moving what was left of their houses, piece by piece, to the new island. The only thing left in Diamond City today is the graveyard, most of the remaining headstones damaged by the wild horses that live on the banks. The complete story of Diamond City and the 1899 hurricane is here and is a fascinating story written by one of my cousins if you’ve got the time to read it.
The only way on or off Harkers Island was by boat until a wooden bridge was built in 1941. The island received electric service when my mother was three years old. The island had been separated from the mainland for decades, and the older generation of the people who lived there still had a variation of an old English accent. This accent was alive and well with Lenny and Shirley. The combination of Lenny’s accent and the loss of most of his teeth made it quite challenging at times to understand him. The younger generation has lost this strong English accent but they definitely don’t have the typical “Southern” accent.
Lenny worked as a cook on a dredge boat while Shirley took care of not only her own family but also had the responsibility of watching out for my mother due to my grandmother’s poor health. Very interesting people, they were, and made for a great portrait. Lenny died several years ago and Shirley died earlier this year. They were married for nearly 50 years. I’ll never forget the way Lenny wanted to smell your neck when you gave him a hug or how Shirley would cry at the drop of a dime.
This is a picture of Lenny and Shirley. I cheated a little with this photo. After I scanned the original black and white print, I manipulated the image in Photoshop and saved it as a duo-tone. I can really see the character of these two in this portrait.
Rest in peace, Lenny and Shirley.
Shawna never heard the word impossible