“It was frustrating to gather bits of disconnected information without understanding how it all fits together.”
― Wendy Percival, Author
I readily identify with the Percival quotation as I begin to write about the Paul Kyser family. Because I don’t know enough, the storyteller that lives within me wanted to create my own tale. With a fascinating historical backdrop, (the 1890’s when Paul Kyser moved to Rocky Mount, I could carry on from there. We have some idea of the manners and fashion of that decade. I could write a whole chapter about the 1890s through 1905 as part of the Edwardian era, also known as the Gibson Girl era. Dana Gibson created the iconic Gibson Girl look with extra wide puffy tops and blouses paired with a curved corseted waist, A-line skirts, voluminous Gibson hair topped with a large flower and feather hats. Men’s style was still formal from the Victorian era but growing more relaxed. You see how easy it is to set the stage for the beginning of our Kyser story.
Did you ever play one of my favorite games of making up the beginning of a story and dropping out, letting the next person continue on, and the next and next? It’s great fun with children, but this time I am going to play the game with you. I’ll give you some details about Paul Bynum Kyser (1856-1937) and his family, and from what you’ve been told, who you might have known, please help me understand how it all fits together. ThePaul Kyser family keeps on giving with multiple generations of interesting people who left a great mark on Rocky Mount. Connected by marriage in ways you may not have known or forgotten, this has the making of a long tale. Help me with it.
(Use the COMMENTS section below: to write what your contribution. Thank you!)
Recently I wrote about Andrew Clark, Investor, who is renovating two commercial buildings on Main Street. The Kyser Drugstore building is pictured here at 135 S.E. Main St. In 1979, Kate Meams wrote in a Central City Historic Buildings Inventory about this building.
“The Kyser Drugstore was established in the 1890s by Paul and Emily Kyser* and moved to its present location c. 1912. Mrs. Kyser has the distinction of being North Carolina’s first licensed woman pharmacist, though family tradition states that she never practiced. The building, altered somewhat over the years, retains two cast-iron pilasters manufactured by Mesker Brothers, a firm well-known for this type of ornamentation. The building also possesses one of Rocky Mount’s earliest neon signs, recently put back in working order.” *Emily Royster Howell
This photograph says: Main Street looking North, showing the Kyser Drug Co. Rocky Mount, NC. (Corner of Main and Tarboro St. )
The Kyser home at 219 Sunset Ave
Two notable chapters in this story are Paul Kyser’s son and youngest child, James Kern “Kay” Kyser, who became a noted entertainer, which included musical comedies. His daughter, *Virginia Kyser, who married Walter Carleton Noell. Walter became one of the first franchisees of Hardees Foods, and with his two nephews, Nick and Mayo Boddie began Boddie-Noell Inc. The downtown Carleton House Motel and Restaurant were named for Walter Carleton Noel. *Virginia Graves Kyser + Walter Carlton Noel
Below: This is what The Carleton House once looked like. An important place marker in Rocky Mount. It has been bought by Jesse Gerstl and his investment group and once underway will be saved. There are exciting plans and hopefully, it won’t be long until we are headed to the restaurant again as in earlier days. We will raise a glass of sweet tea to Walter Carleton Noell and to his wife Virginia and the Kyser family.
After Paul Kyser’s death, one of his sons-in-law, James Stanley Pierce I (1897-1965) took over management of Kyser Drugs, which was probably the 135 Main St location.
PLEASE ADD ANY DETAILS YOU CAN IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW