Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Voices from the Past: Eugene Price (1960)

Today's Voice from the Past is Eugene Price of the Goldsboro (NC) News-Argus. It references a North Carolina lure (or fly) known as the Hamil Fly. I believe it's a lure or the author, who would have known better, would not have called it an "artificial fishing lure." But I could be wrong…so does anyone know what a Hamil Fly looks like? The article was picked up by the A.P. news wire and ran in the Christmas week of 1960.

Goldsboro Writer Finds Out What Happened To Hamil Fly


Now I know what happened to the Hamil Fly.

It was a victim of alienation of affection.

The Hamil Fly was an artificial fishing lure made by my fisherman friend Arch Hamil. It was spectacularly successful. No self-respecting tackle box was without one.

Then one season it was gone. And so was Arch. The awful truth leaked out at a recent meeting of the North Carolina Camellia Society.

Arch Hamil, fisherman, maker of great lures, teller of good stories, has been captivated by a flower.

Hamil, who should have been spreading his hands expansively, trying to make a monster out of a fair size bass, cupped his fingers as he held a delicate, imaginary bloom and talked with other society members.

"It is simply lovely…" Arch was saying. And the man before him listened rapturously. Not at all like a man listens, tongue in cheek, disbelief in his eyes, waiting his turn to add inches to his latest, catch.

"What's with this camellia kick?" I managed to ask of Arch finally. "These people seem to flip over this flower or plant or whatever it is."

He was obviously hurt, but still my friend, and smiled indulgently. "Let me tell you a story," he began. "I was visiting a friend in another slate and he asked if I wanted lo see his camellias. I wouldn't have known a camellia from a sunflower or a dandelion, lout you know how it goes ... I told him I'd love to see them and out we went."

"It was dead winter, freezing cold. We stepped into his greenhouse and it was like entering a new world. Here were all these beautiful flowering plants. It was breath-taking.

"I was completely captivated. He gave me some cuttings and that's how I got started."

Now Arch has a greenhouse of his own, the cost of which ran into four figures, and it's filled with hundreds of camellias. He and Mrs. Hamil spend most of their time there when Arch isn't running the store downtown. And much time is spent travelling to shows and meetings throughout the country.

Not long ago they had one of their blooms selected for the Lable of honor at a major show.

That's equivalent to catching a 10-pound bass on a two-pound leader.

"Are all these folks as nuts — that is, as enthusiastic — as you over these camellias, Arch?"

"Oh, I'm just a novice. These folks are the pros. Some of these people have plants from which cuttings would be worth $10 or more."

"You mean one little old sprig?"

"Yeah, that's the only way you can be sure with camellias…" and his eyes lit up at the mention of them.

He explained that in camellias, you might plant 100 seeds and not get a bloom worth the powder and shot.

Camellia lovers are a close-knit breed with a language all their own.

"It's like this,' Arch explained patiently, "you have japonicas and you have sasanquas — now that's like having speckled Iron and blue fish. They're both fish but they're different."

Just before it sank in, Arch started rattling off names as hare as Chinese arithmetic — which isn't altogether unreasonable since the camellia originated in the Orient.

Not all the names are difficult, however. One beautiful plant, for instance, has the rather refresh ing name of "Rebecca Jones."

Surprisingly, there are more men enthusiasts than women, but there are quite a number of husband-wife teams.

"It is something they can do together and enjoy. Particularly attractive about camellias is the fact that you can always find some thing to be doing in the green house—something to take one's mind off everything else in the world," explained Arch and he was at it again: "There's just something about a camellia. You have to step into the greenhouse from the dead of winter and see all that color and freshness and life and…"

And the Hamil Fly was just a good bass bait.

-- Dr. Todd

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