My dad, J. C. Sherrill Jr., owned and operated Anchor Green Enterprises Amusement Park, better known as “The Circle” in Atlantic Beach, NC along with my grandfather, JC Sherrill Sr. From its start in 1957 to early 1980’s, the company would include a miniature carpet golf course on the front right hand corner and bumper cars, and would continue to grow to include the entire east “triangle” – a triangle shaped lot where both operated and leased some of the stands, rides and other concessions.
I have a lot of memories from this era, as do my two younger sisters, my aunts, uncles, and cousins- all of whom grew up spending their summers on or around ‘the Circle.’ It was a different time then- the beach was open for all and was a place for families to bring the children during the summer, you felt safe and everyone was decent, polite and seemed to look out for each other, a place where you “dressed up” to go, and the town provided both free parking and lifeguards.
Change is inevitable, and the beach was no exception. It was in the 1970s when the beach seemed to take a turn. Plenty could speculate the contributing factors- the gas crisis, high interest rates, the Vietnam War; but simply put- the beach began to evolve. What once was a place for families, now was a popular place for nightlife. Once the change began, there was no stopping it and it didn’t take long for it to become unrecognizable. Although efforts were made to reverse the transformation, it just hasn’t been the same since, not like in its “hay day” in the 50’s and 60’s. Dad never sold alcohol, and since most of the parking was owned by and under the supervision of the Town of Atlantic Beach, he was unable to control how the parking was utilized by the folks who visited. This wasn’t the case for the other parks and family entertainment venues in the area.
Everyone has a special story or fond memory of ‘the Circle’ in Atlantic Beach, NC; it has touched a lot of lives through the years. There is now even a Facebook page dedicated to the ‘Remembering the Circle.’ I can recall vividly the faces, sounds, and smells from when I was growing up. Cotton candy, popcorn, peanuts, candy apples, the Merry-go-round, bumper cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, the Ferris wheel, the Paratrooper, the Scrambler, the Round Up, the Squirrel Cages. That’s just to name a few. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Other “Main beach” memories for me would include- The Embers Club, David Lee’s Bath House, The Big Surf, The Pavilion, Horton’s Motel and Mr. Horton’s Water Works. At the time, Mr. Horton provided the water as a private company for the entire town. The residents of the island dreaded come Easter weekend, when high demand would cause the water pressure to reduce down to nothing more than a trickle!
The Coral Sands Motel, John’s Motel, Gambles Motel, Davis Beachwear and Beach Bingo are just a few more places from “memory lane”.
Of all the jobs that the Circle had to offer, I found the golf course was my favorite place to work. This is where we sold the popular snow cones. In order to get the ice to shave to form the cones, one of the staff members would go to Beaufort, on the other side of the little draw bridge, and buy a truck load of “block” ice from Carteret Quick Freeze. These blocks of ice were about 3 foot tall, 1 foot deep and had a length of about 5 feet. We would try and go early due to the temperature increasing throughout the day as well as the amount of traffic. Some of you may even remember the days of the old Atlantic Beach draw bridge. If you happened to get caught in traffic, it wasn’t nothing to lose 1/3 of the amount of ice you started with! After we returned, we would use ice tongs to place these blocks in a large cooler. We then used ice picks to chip off pieces to grind and ultimately make the shaved ice that forms snow cones. My, how the times have changed!
The time between Easter weekend and Labor Day weekend was always the busiest, and even though it was pretty hectic at times, our family always made time to gather around the dinner table.
Although times have changed, nothing ever changes the friendships developed, the lessons learned, or memories made at ‘the Circle.’
I formed Total Comfort Heating and Cooling, Inc. in 1985, just a stone’s throw away from ‘the Circle.’ Today, I use many of the same people skills I learned from my father and grandfather growing up at ‘the Circle’ in my daily life. I am excited for the opportunity to transfer these memories and skills to my daughter and son, who just like myself, my father and my grandfather, plan to serve the folks who love Carteret County, in their own personal way.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about ‘the Circle,’ feel free to contact us at Total Comfort. I would be more than happy to further discuss our history. Remember, at Total Comfort, your comfort is our commitment, and we are here to serve you. Thanks for visiting and sharing the memories.
– J. Cecil Sherrill III