Trip Niven's unforgettable beach trip

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 01:19 PM

This is the continuing story of Trip Niven’s unforgettable beach trip. (Correction: two of the house-party girl’s names were combined. It should have read Julia Ann Nicholson Mitchell and Isabelle Secrest Mims.)

 The motel owner insisted upon pressing charges against all three. He also owned the property where the Monroe house party was and which had been trashed by an NC State fraternity earlier. He wanted to set an example for all college students that such behavior would not be tolerated. We informed him that we were merely high school graduates. He was not amused and wanted his tree back!!

As Barney, Buford, and the owner led us (handcuffed) outside to retrieve his tree, we were greeted by raucous applause, cheers, and handshakes from a mob of fellow teenagers showing support. Word had spread up and down the OD coast!

 They expected to see the palm tree when Richard popped the trunk. But there was nothing more than a spare tire, a cooler containing several Moon Pies, a wrinkled madras shirt, and two changes of underwear. The roar from the crowd was deafening. We were hustled into a police car and ordered take them to the palm tree.


On returning to the Police Station, the crowd had dwindled down to the three Monroe house-party girls. And our chuckles became frowns as we began to contemplate the reality of our dilemma. Buford said we would be detained until a responsible adult posted bond (it was more than the $17.50 that was our collective fortune). We were allowed one phone call.


We drew straws to see who would make the call – I lost. I couldn’t call my parents…they were in Florida. Fred’s mother was out of the question. The only logical choice was my grandfather.


Edwin Niven Sr. was a stern man of few words. I imagined his horror as I described our predicament. Since Richard’s dad was currently a Lieutenant on the Monroe Police Force, he would reluctantly make a phone call to attempt to alleviate our situation. Lt. Quick would call the ODPD, explain who he was, and ask for our release based on his police authority and our own recognizance.


Lt. Randolph “Patsy” Quick, a fine Monroe police officer, became a friend to most of the nine to twelve-year-old boys as a Little League coach. He was easy to talk to and we often confided in him things that we would keep from our own parents.


We were soon escorted to the two jail cells, one of which we would occupy. It was around 6:00 p.m.

Shortly after 8:00, Buford said he had received a phone call from someone impersonating a police officer, demanding our release. He told the imposter that the only way those boys were going to get out of jail was for someone to post bond.


Around midnight, two men stood in the doorway - Mr. James Starnes and Lt. Quick.

Richard and Dayle talked with their fathers in private, Buford, the motel owner, and Lt. Quick entered into negotiations. The owner agreed to drop the larceny charges if we each agreed to pay him $90 in damages and replant the palm tree the next morning.


After a few hours of sleep in a nearby Cherry Grove motel, the five of us rode to The Buccaneer where Richard, Dayle, and I replanted the palm tree under the watchful eyes of the owner, Lt. Quick, and Mr. Starnes.

Upon arriving in Monroe, I went over to apologize to Mrs. Beeson. Fred met me in the front yard and began quizzing me about the whole episode. Our exploits had reached Monroe long before we returned. I was relieved that Mrs. Beeson knew where I was and had assumed I with “responsible” adults!


At The Bonfire, Richard and I were treated like heroes. We were asked to tell the story again and again as more and more friends gathered.


I went by my Grandfather’s house after work on Friday to repay the $90 he spent to gain my freedom. The door opened, and I stood face-to-face with “Pop” Niven. I handed the nine crisp ten-dollar bills to him. Not a word was spoken. He shook his head in disgust several times and closed the door.


While we were very fortunate to escape this misconduct without permanent consequences, thanks mostly to Patsy Quick, there are scars.

First, I’m very sorry for the pain and embarrassment that my behavior brought to my parents and grandparents. I was “grounded” for a week. Their silence spoke volumes as an expression of their disappointment.

Secondly, how could I have so callously disregarded the generosity of Fred and his mother by leaving for the weekend without a word to either as to my intentions? Fred and I roomed together that fall at NC State, and the two of us always spoke of the adventure in humorous terms, mostly at my expense. But Mary Ellen Beeson surely felt betrayed. Although she was kind enough to never directly admonish me for my immaturity on the few occasions we met over the years, I always sensed that she felt far less of me, and rightly so, for my actions. I truly regret that also.

 The complete 5000 word Beach Story can be found in its entirety at There's a small "palm tree" icon over toward the right side of the page that will take you to the document.


• Nita Williamson writes a monthy nostalgia column for The Enquirer-Journal.