The Larema Coffee House (Larema “my friend’) is the perfect place to make a new friend. Denise Watkins, owner of Sky-Vue Skateland, asked me to join her to meet Knox Porter who she has known since school days. Knox grew up in rural Edgecombe County amid tobacco and cotton fields and the flat plain of a landscape nursery. In the second grade his family moved into Rocky Mount and here they lived until Knox was seventeen years old. Always looking forward, Knox finds life to be adventurous and abundant. He is happiest on a new road he has never traveled. Knox says, “I felt like author Jack Kerouac who based part of On the Road upon living in West Mount. He said, “I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
A few weeks ago, Knox drove from Charlotte, NC where he lives, for a quick 33-hour return to Rocky Mount. Knox was eager to see the entrance to Wesleyan College. “As a landscape nurseryman who propagated, my dad -Knox Porter, Sr. gathered acorns from his hometown of Tarboro and grew them into trees in the sandy loam of his Edgecombe County nursery. In 1960, the Live Oaks were moved to adjacent Nash County & transplanted at the entrance of North Carolina Wesleyan College before the first students arrived. The local paper described Dad’s creation as an impressive array of trees & shrubs.“The oaks now seem to approach the clouds while displaying a magnificent spread. A product of Edgecombe still adorns Nash in a strong, stately manner. The quality instilled by Dad exists to shade, beautify, and create memories. His array remains impressive.”
Knox explains what drew him back to Rocky Mount.”The conflagration at QVC burdened my heart, realizing that location was only a few miles from my first home. I remembered how my father was useful to the neighbors in our quiet community. I knew that if he were here now, he would assist. Envisioning green flora growing in the flat, loamy soil, I remembered that was home and the newly unemployed were my neighbors. Thus, I began a journey which I never planned to make. I drove east on 64 with vision and purpose that the fire would not permanently burn, or set ablaze, vulnerable, traumatized families. Visiting a non-profit in Rocky Mount, the director enthusiastically agreed with my out of the box ideas to offer support to the unemployed.” Knox Porter will be back!
Now I have a new friend who began reading the blog, Mainstreetrockymount.com and leaving comments on the Main Street Facebook page. I value his expertise. With the spotlight on Rocky Mount housing he added this to my FB post on the matter.
“There is a shortage of affordable housing in the US. In many cases young families need a starter home. Thus the needs of children must be considered. Are the area schools ones in which pupils are receiving quality education so that they can break the cycle of poverty? Are adequate parks & public libraries near by so that young minds can expand with recreation, sports opportunities, bike rides, plus exposure to flora & academic resources? If the answer is yes, build the houses here, If not, consider the criteria posed in my questions.“-KP
Knox’s comment about a blog post:The Carlton House – A Second Chance To Get It Right
“Knox Porter, Sr. was a successful landscape nurseryman in Nash & Edgecombe for decades. The Carleton House was one of the many businesses which were adorned by his creative, skilled design. RM was a better place for he was passionate about shrubbery becoming tools of an artist’s palate. Kay Kyser was as passionate about the appearance of his new motel. Not liking the installation of plants which he saw, Kyser spoke his mind to Porter who continued with his design. When the last mulch was applied, Kyser saw the genius of Porter’s creation, sought him out and apologized. The RM of 1961 was full of men like Mr. Boddie, Mr. Noell, Mr. Kyser, and Knox Porter. They cared about the institutions they served because they had concern for the people within them. They cared about building a strong community which contained architecturally significant structures complemented by treasures of nature. RM was a showcase due to their excellence. I remember eating in the Carleton House on its first evening, Good Friday, 1961 & again on Easter. As a member of the Boys’ Chorus of R.M. Wilson Jr. High, I loved when we sang at Optimist Club meetings there. Annually an Owen Mills photographer would take portraits at this inn. On a recent visit to my hometown, I was deeply saddened upon seeing the decayed condition of this property. I wonder what my father who said: “Leave it better than you found it,” would think.”
Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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