Something that totally surprised me about Johnny Mercer’s pier in Wrightsville Beach was the price for admission. That there was a price for admission. There was never such a price when I lived in the area.
This was the first time I’ve ever encountered a charge just to walk out on any pier: $1 per adult, $0.5 per child. This concept was so foreign to me, it took me several seconds to realize the guy behind the counter was serious. I had to see the sign on the door to really believe it.
As a teenager, visiting Emerald Isle beach each weekend with my family, I walked out on the Bogue Inlet pier with friends and girls a multitude of times. (Really: friends a multitude, girls a few.) The BI pier was a regular “strip” for teenagers to see and be seen at the beach. At night, the covered and sided benches along the centerline of the pier were perfect places for making out with the weekend babe. (Not that I ever did that, Mom. This is just something I heard about other people doing.)
A charge to just walk out onto the pier would have ruined that whole teen rite of passage. There was no mall at the beach, so without the free pier access, we would have been relegated to walking on the unlit beach sand or hanging around the trailer parks and campsites near our parents. One you can’t see anyone or be seen by anyone, and the other you can see and be seen by people you really don’t want to see or see you.
There was just something about the warm, night wind, the roar of the crashing waves, the smell of dead fish, and the swirl of fishing line and barbed hooks flying about that just set the mood for teen cruising. Nothing said, “Let me hold you close,” like the danger of getting hooked like bait while walking on a dim, wet, and uneven wooden pier.
Ah, the good old days when teenage hormones overrode all sense of romance. We were at the beach! Summer love was on our minds. For that, a public pier was as good as a mall back home.