C.B. Whisman, Soundings’ staff photographer, is a man of many passions. His greatest, of course, is for Mary Ann, his wife of 57 years. They went to different high schools in Philadelphia, but she went to his high school prom and he went to hers. Four years later they married and started a family: three girls in a row and finally a boy. They all sill live in Pennsylvania with C.B. and Mary Ann’s seven grandchildren.
But Mary Ann wasn’t C.B.’s first passion. His hot rod flathead Ford with the super-charger might have been, except that he had started collecting stamps at the age of twelve and taking pictures with his first Kodak camera at fourteen. These twin passions continue unabated at the age of 79.
C.B. discovered his latest passion, teaching, only after he and Mary Ann had retired to Albemarle Plantation in 1999. He saw an ad in the paper from the College of the Albemarle in Edenton looking for an instructor in construction trades. He was already quite busy with OYC projects (dock repairs, painting, etc.) and getting the Sports Club started. Yet, he applied for the COA job and got it. He thinks he may have been the only applicant, but he was eminently qualified because of his experience.
At fourteen, C.B. got his first paying job from his uncle Joe who was the manager of Gimbels in Philadelphia. He worked in the shipping department putting packages in bins to be picked up by UPS. The best part of that job, he says, was after work going to White Castle for hamburgers and coffee.
His next job was in New York Shipbuilding across the river from Philadelphia in Camden, NJ. It launched his career, as working there paid for his schooling at the Spring Garden Institute where he earned a two-year Associate’s degree in metallurgy. He then spent five years as a plumbing apprentice. Two years later he rose to the top of his profession as a master plumber.
His newly acquired skills then earned him a job as plant engineer at the Ben Franklin Science Museum where he was in charge of plumbing, electrical, and heating & air conditioning. He also later became chief operations manager at Philadelphia’s Methodist Hospital. That experience was what COA was looking for.
At the COA in Edenton C.B. started teaching a program in the building trades that soon expanded to Perquimans and Pasquotank counties, as well. He even taught photography at night in Edenton and Elizabeth City for five years, a program that closed unfortunately for lack of support. In Hertford he taught construction trades and photography in a building next to Missing Mill Park on Grubb Street. But that also lasted only four or five years when the program closed from lack of support from the Town of Hertford. C.B. is still upset about that and bemoans the fact that Perquimans County still doesn’t have a decent construction trades program.
C.B. continued to teach at the COA for nine years until a bout with cancer forced him to retire in 2008. He says he was thrilled when a whole bunch of his kids came to visit him in the hospital.
Now C.B. has come back to his first loves, stamp collecting and photography. His excellent work can be found in the Albemarle Plantation Photo Gallery and, of course, on the pages of Soundings every month. When I asked him for his secret to good photography, he replied, “Look for what attracts your eye: color, shapes, composition. Nature has it all. A fallen autumn leaf, a mushroom pop-ping out of the ground, a crying tree.” He showed me a picture he took of a dying, “crying” tree about to fall over. It had caught his eye.
C.B. hasn’t stopped teaching. Now he does it with his eye. And his newest Kodak camera.