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The History of The Mullet Bucket

The Mullet Bucket has been a decades long tradition, representing the rivalry between West and East.

Sally King, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Monday, September 4, 2023

For many, it might seem like a normal high school football game, but in Carteret County, the Mullet Bucket has been the most popular and most important sports game to West and East students alike. 

The first Mullet Bucket was played in 1949 when the current buildings for West and East Carteret were things of the future. Students that would go to East went to Beaufort High School, while West students went to Morehead City High School. The bucket itself was simply a bucket for fishermen to store their mullet fish in, reflecting the fishing industry of Carteret County. The original two mullet buckets are now in possession of an old West Carteret football coach and the owner of the Carteret News-Times, while the current bucket sits proudly in the trophy case of West Carteret. 

I had the pleasure of talking about this historic competition with Mr. Rodney Kemp, who attended Morehead City High School in the 60s. Mr. Rodney reminisced about his first time watching the game with his father, when the football stadium was on Fisher Street in Wade Brothers Ballpark.

“It was the greatest spectacle I had ever seen - bands, uniforms, the game itself.”

Not too many years later, he was bearing the same uniform with his team on the Morehead City High School football field. When he went to high school, the Mullet Bucket was a huge deal - even more important than some would view it today. He recalled one game in particular, against Lejune, where he caught an interception that aided in a touchdown. After this play, his coach ran to him and told him that he would be starting in the Mullet Bucket, and Mr. Rodney could not be more thrilled. “I’m still getting chills thinking about it,” he said, as he described his anticipation and excitement for playing in the big game. 

There had been a tradition that many might not be aware of, regarding a particular reward the winners would receive. The bucket would be taken to a Restaurant on Arendell Street called Doms. Doms was run by Dom Femia, who would open another location, Dom and El’s with his business partner, El. The two split up down the road, and El opened his own diner, El’s, which is the drive-in we all know and love on Arendall. Doms was a very popular restaurant at the time when Morehead City had little to no fast-food restaurants. It was the place you would take a girl out to eat to impress her, Mr. Rodney told me, so the players felt like kings when walking into the diner wielding the bucket. They would present it to Dom, who would fill the whole thing up with hamburgers for the team to share.

“When we finished the hamburgers, we would fill it all up with soda,” Mr. Rodney laughed. “Winning that year was one of the biggest sports thrills of my life.”

However, in the case that you didn’t win (and had won the year before), it was customary for the captains of the losing team to bring the bucket to the winning team’s school. The captains would walk through the halls with the large bucket, heads hung low, and present it to the joyful winners. “(The students) would boo and hiss when you went to return it,” Mr. Rodney recollected. 

With the joy and disappointment felt by players, students, and members of the community in the past, we will join once again for the sports event of the year on September 15, at 7 PM. We hope to see you in the stands, and we hope you’ll be pulling for the Patriots! 

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