I took Belle down to Wilmington on Saturday for an early birthday celebration. We met up with Kodecker to go get Belle’s ears pierced. The rest of our time was spent loafing around town. Since we had so much time to kill, I took them out to Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier. They blew my mind by saying they’d never been before.
Johnnie Mercer’s is a local icon. After I moved to Wilmington as a kid, I lived less than five minutes from Wrightsville Beach. Over the years, I spent a lot of time at Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier. I think everyone who grew up in Wilmington did. There are photos of my parents out on the pier together in the early 1980s. Of course, it looked a lot different back then.
The Atlantic View Pier was constructed out of wood back in 1937. Two years later, avid fisherman Johnnie Mercer purchased the pier and gave it the name we’ve come to know and love. Unfortunately, Hurricane Hazel destroyed the original structure – so it was replaced in 1954. Ten years later, Johnnie passed away in a car crash. His wife held on to the property for another five years before selling it to Bob and Shirley Johnson.
In 1996, Johnnie Mercer’s was hit by back-to-back hurricanes. Bertha in July, followed by Fran in September. I remember my mama taking me to see the hurricane damage around town. The wooden pier was so damaged that there was no saving it.
So many of my memories were tied up in that pier. My daddy carved his and my mama’s initials into it – I remember him showing them to me when I was little. Papaw took me fishing there. And mama would go get me snacks from inside when the two of us spent our days in its shade.
The replacement pier was completed in 2002. Constructed of reinforced concrete, it’s 1200 feet long and can withstand 200 MPH winds. The landmark became the first concrete pier on the North Carolina coast.
This one should stand the test of time, giving Belle and Kodecker the chance to make as many precious memories of the place as I have.