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The Wilmington Shroom Field

Wilmingtonians pre-2002, this one is for you!

The Wilmington of my youth was a magical place. It was a tiny city by the sea. Southern accents were common, locals were abundant, and traffic was the worry of some distant place like Atlanta or DC.

Bands of children roamed the streets. We climbed trees, rode bicycles, and drank from water hoses.

We grew into teenagers who snuck out bedroom windows and ran wild in the night.

Today, memories of moonlit swimming sessions at Shell Island float to the surfaces of our minds. We all remember buying cigarettes from the little corner stores downtown – and Breaktime serving up beers to minors.

The clearest of those memories are probably of the Wilmington shroom field. Y’all know the one I’m talking about. It was off Military Cutoff between Eastwood and Ogden. Now it’s known as Mayfaire.

But in the time before Mayfaire, from the 1940s through 2002, it was Oak Ridge Farm. Few of us knew the farm’s name – or who owned it. Yet, all of us were familiar with it.

Teenagers from one generation to the next passed down the secrets of the field. We’d catch our parents talking about it while reminiscing with their friends – or an older cousin would whisper in our ear as we drove by.

We all knew. Out in that pasture, magic mushrooms sprouted from the cow pies the cattle left baking in the sun.

More than once, I found myself in the Wilmington shroom field. Friends giggling at my side with flashlights in hand. Those are some of my best memories – even when we crawled back to the car empty-handed, caked in mud and smelling of manure.

I’d almost forgotten about those nights until a fellow Wilmingtonian, Ellie, messaged me on Instagram.

Ellie and I got to chitchatting and realized we were about the same age. We mused how strange it was that we’d never met – and then she dropped a bomb: Ellie grew up on Oak Ridge Farm.

She shared stories of her family finding people shrooming in the pasture. Sometimes, they’d be hallucinating from eating as they picked. Kids in high school called her the “shroom queen.”

When I asked if I could write this post, she was delighted. She even sent me the above photo. The cattle are standing behind the same barbed wire fence I rolled under so many times as a teenager.

That picture makes me realize I owe her family a sincere apology. I’m sorry for the times I tagged along with someone who carried a pair of wire cutters with them – and the times people left Boone’s Farm bottles behind.

But perhaps more importantly, I want to say thank you. Thank you for the beauty that once existed on Military Cutoff. Thank you for the memories. And thank you for making hundreds, if not thousands, of Wilmingtonian’s teen years magical.

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  1. Jeff wrote:

    I grew up in Wilmington (we moved there when I was 9) and never knew this–maybe it was a NHHS hangout as I grew up in the Myrtle Gove Sound area and went to Hoggard. Night ramblings were often along the old railroad tracks at Maco, in Brunswick County, looking for Old headless Joe Baldwin and his lantern. The took the tracks up (It was the old Atlantic Coast Line and rain just south of the Seaboard) in the late 1970. The two railroads had merged.

    Published 1.20.24
    • Cassie wrote:

      It was pretty well known to most Wilmington locals. My Mama knew about it and she went to NHHS – but my Daddy was in the Hoggard district, and he knew about it too. I went to Laney and Hoggard, but hung out with kids at New Hanover. We were all familiar with it. Maybe you just hung out with a different crowd. 😉

      We used to do that too! I actually wrote a post about it! Cheers to all those happy memories!

      Published 1.21.24