The Gift Of Main Street

“If you know the art of finding some things in a quiet empty street, then you know the art of happiness!” Mehmet Murat ildan

On the last day of March, late afternoon, after more rain, I headed for Main Street with my new I-phone camera. At this time of day, the 100 block on both sides of Main Street, was a time of quiet and happiness. The reason: The commercial architecture! Below you see a photo of Main Street, Pella, Iowa. Settled by Dutch immigrants in 1847, it is a top 10 Main Street in Iowa. How can you not love these facades? The commercial architecture shown here is a 1st cousin to our own Main Street architecture. Take a few quiet moments and walk with me to find some things you have not noticed. Preserved, restored, repurposed, there will be no better Main Street in Eastern Carolina.

The commercial facades on the Nash side of Main Street starting with Virginia’s on the corner of Sunset and Main in the Kress building. Pull that metal off the front to restore it to its original facade. I love this red brick, great windows. Stroll with me and admire these buildings.

Crossing to the Edgecombe side of Main Street there is more to admire. Let’s look up at the Davis Furniture building and keep walking. Your eye will begin to recognize the original building, what has been added that detracts. In the 100 block of Main on both sides of the street we have a treasure of commercial buildings to save, restore, and repurpose in the on-going revitalization of Main Street. With eyes to see, you will renew your admiration and become a preservationist at heart, feeling protective, energized, and determined to be a voice that sees that no further deterioration is allowed. If you are looking for a group of like-mined people, join Preservation Rocky Mount for a single membership-$20.00. With new leadership, focus and a plan, preservation now needs you; your creativity, energy and ideas. Rocky Mount needs a preservation organization that is respected, counted on, and everyone wants to join. Take a walk downtown and these buildings will speak to you as they do to me. It takes all of us to listen and act.

It Must Have Been Moon-glow

The end of this lovely afternoon gave us a full moon. I stood looking up and could hear Tony Bennett and KJ Lang singing a duet: It Must Have Been Moon-Glow. (Click on link) With small screens propped below partially opened windows, I could hear the birds in full chorus. I didn’t venture out until 2:30 this afternoon to find Redbuds wandering through the tree line. Even the Dogwoods will be in time for Easter. Without a haircut appointment, I would have missed the roadside along Highway 64, which confirmed Spring has arrived.

I’m not sure why Moon-glow and flowering trees on March 26th, has me writing this piece rather than a post on saving our housing, the neighborhoods, believing! There is another Main Street Facebook page to create, and a third novel I can’t seem to write, ‘The End.’ Not today.

This is what I found when getting out of the car before my haircut. I had to take this photo even if it made me late. What a sight. A day that started with birdsong, the flowering under-story woodland trees along the roadside, the sight of these pear trees, and Moon-Glow; quite a day. I hope to recall today when the news of the day makes me crazy, when I swear while watching a City Council meeting streaming live, when I forget what is important and what isn’t. I wish for you a Spring you do not miss.

The Houghtlin Garden

Rocky Mount’s Neighborhoods Should Be Places Remembered with love

The Houghtlin Garden is in some state of disrepair, like the shotgun and bungalow houses spread across Wards 1-4. My garden needs the same attention, passion, and investment. There is a similarity in my mind between the love I feel when I get out of my car to take photographs and the look of my garden this Spring. Regardless of the state of a shotgun house, I always see the significance of this American architecture, what it once was, and can be again. There are the bungalows filled with stories and architectural details. I see the garden in the same way. Spring flowering has taken over and ignores the fact that there is work to be done. I’m not good lifting 40-pounds bags of mulch anymore, but I can drag it on a tarp; a reality check that I can’t work as long or as hard as I once did. All I can say further about that is – damn!

“The old woman paid no attention to the camellia until that morning, when a fleck of pink caught her eye. The single saucer-size blossom was more magnificent than she could ever have imagined. More beautiful than any rose she’d ever seen, it swayed in the morning breeze with such an air of royalty, the old woman felt the urge to curtsey in its presence.”
― Sarah Jio, The Last Camellia

Camellias prefer a position that is in dappled or full shade. An area that gets morning shade is best as direct sun in the morning can dry out too quickly the developing flower buds. Camellias are woodland plants and do not cope well in a sunny, south facing spot. The neglected housing situation has nothing to do with where they are, but who the head gardener is or has been on the City Council. It isn’t fair to say, nothing has been done, just not enough. New leadership with the will to see it through, who welcome investment, who cares about the quality of life available to the people in their Wards, that’s what is needed. This housing saved, and restored will be filled with work force, retired, senior citizens, first time home buyers, singles, young professionals, fireman, nurses, policeman, and kids on their bikes.

Seeing the pear trees a blaze, driving through the historical districts of Rocky Mount, I am filled with nostalgic for home, for my youth, for the remembrance of things. Wherever you are, take my hand and think about what you would write this spring about gardens, riding your bike through a safe neighborhood and each home along your way that you still remember. Rocky Mount neighborhoods must become places to grow up in, or grow old in, that will be rememberd with love.

“Memory in these incomparable streets, in mosaics of pain and sweetness, was clear to me now, a unity at last. I remembered small and unimportant things from the past: the whispers of roommates during thunderstorms, the smell of brass polish on my fingertips, the first swim at Folly Beach in April, lightning over the Atlantic, shelling oysters at Bowen’s Island during a rare Carolina snowstorm, pigeons strutting across the graveyard at St. Philip’s, lawyers moving out of their offices to lunch on Broad Street, the darkness of reveille on cold winter mornings, regattas, the flash of bagpipers’ tartans passing in review, blue herons on the marshes, the pressure of the chinstrap on my shako, brotherhood, shad roe at Henry’s, camellias floating above water in a porcelain bowl.” Author: Pat Conroy 

Another Reason To Save Rocky Mount’s Boarded Homes

The backstory to this post is The Robert E. Lee Monument; the historic statue dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee by noted American sculptor Alexander Doyle. It was removed (intact) by official order and moved to an unknown location on May 19, 2017. The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. In my outrage over the editing of our American history and the taking down or destroying of these works of art, it hit me that in actuality, I knew little of substance about General Lee. Thus a new direction in my reading life; a form of an archeological dig into the famous people who have shaped my world. I loved what I was reading so much, it led me to a different time period and another public figure I had no in-depth knowledge about. I began reading about Franklin Roosevelt and the litany of names connected with this period. These fascinating books have kept me up at night. It isn’t a statue this time, but Dr. Suess who has me on another reading binge.

The people who have escaped the insane asylum have declared that the Dr. Seuss books must be eliminated. The keepers of the asylum have yet to put a foot down to stop this insanity telling us what we can read. I have put aside my English mysteries and am once again reading children’s books. Kindle Prime gave a free download of The Borrowers, a children’s fantasy novel by the English author Mary Norton, published by Dent in 1952. It features a family of tiny people who live secretly in the walls and floors of an English house and “borrow” from the big people upstairs in order to survive.

The Harpsichords lived in the drawing-room, they moved there in 1837, to a hole in the wainscot just behind where the harpsichord used to stand. They lived on Afternoon tea. In the old days, it was better — muffins and crumpets and such, and good rice cake and jams and jellies. They had to do their borrowing in such a rush, poor things. On wet days, when the human beings sat all afternoon in the drawing-room, the tea would be brought in and taken away again without a chance of the Harpsichords getting near it — and on fine days it might be taken out into the garden. There were days when they lived on crumbs and on the water out of the flower vases.

If you regularly read this Main Street Rocky Mount blog, you know that I write about the Preservation, Restoration, and Repurposing of Rocky Mount’s commercial architecture. I write about saving our at-risk neighborhoods, saving the shotgun and bungalow homes in Wards 1-4. While reading The Borrowers, I have a new reason to champion this cause. You will join me, I’m sure. I didn’t know about the little people who live under floorboards. If a house sits empty, the Borrowers have to emigrate.

When I check on things downtown and in the neighborhoods, I now guess the houses where the Borrowers have lived. Learning about them has increased the urgency to restore our housing assets that are boarded-up and left to further deteriorate. Go and find a house in Ward 1-4 to care about, to think about, have ideas on how to save it. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

If you see my newest bumper sticker, you will understand what it is about.

Save The Borrowers’ Homes

Rocky Mount Is Becoming “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

Main Street Rocky Mount and the surrounding streets (Tarboro, Washington, Thomas, Church to name a few) is the place to go for delicious food or a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, great Southern cooking. You can even have the ‘Best Sandwiches Ever’ on the Douglas Block. They all have their unique atmosphere and are welcoming. The restaurant choices continue to grow from the Rocky Mount Mill to the old standbys…Chew & Chat, The Central Cafe, The Shiny Diner, the area around Harris Tetter on Sunset Avenue. Covid knocked these businesses upside the head, but they survive to tell that story. Beyond ‘pick-up’ you can safely, park your car, and come on in.

With eyes to see and a heart for change, I hope you will acknowledge, that in spite of other things, SO MANY good things are happening each day. The preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the commercial buildings in the historic downtown area are becoming supercalafractiousexpalodous; a word we all learned from Mary Poppins.

Come downtown and enjoy the evolving scene. My dream has come true! Saturday, March 20, first come, first served at The Prime Smokehouse or Tap 1918 at the Mill. I can’t wait to have trouble finding a parking place during the week so I can say to the naysayers…..”See I told you so.”

Below: Lou Reda’s on Sunset, Blanches Bistro on Tarboro, Larema Coffee on Tarboro, Moe & D’s on Church, Traxs at Station Square and MORE.

Rocky Mount Citizens Are ‘Crying’ Over Litter And Damn Mad About It

“Iron-Eye Cody was the ‘Crying Indian’ in the “Keep America Beautiful” public service announcements in the early 1970s. The environmental commercial showed Cody in costume, shedding a tear after trash is thrown from the window of a car and it lands at his feet. The announcer, William Conrad, says: “People start pollution; people can stop it.” The ad won two Clio awards, incited a frenzy of community involvement, and “helped reduce litter by 88% across 38 states”, according to one reliable source. – Wikipedia”

Will Rocky Mount’s tears produce the same results?

From a Keep America Beautiful webpage, here are some facts.

Along roadways, motorists (52%) and pedestrians (23%) are the biggest contributors to litter. Research also shows that individuals under 30 are more likely to litter than those who are older. In fact, age, and not gender, is a significant predictor of littering behavior.

Why do people litter? Personal choice, individual behavior – Nearly one in five or 17% of all disposals observed in public spaces were littering, while 83% disposed of litter properly. 81% of littering was intentional, e.g., flicking, flinging, or dropping. On the other hand, individuals who hold the belief that littering is wrong, and consequently feel a personal obligation not to litter, are less likely to do so.

Litter begets litter. Individuals are much more likely to litter into a littered environment. And once there, it attracts more litter. By contrast, a clean community discourages littering and improves overall community quality of life.


Like most of you, I don’t throw things onto the roadsides. It isn’t done…we know better! The prevailing attitude that takes no responsibility for one’s actions is evident on the roads in Rocky Mount. It is good citizens that are picking up after those who are trashing and irresponsible. We have a litter crisis on our borders. Imagine those who are following new jobs here and see this disregard for what everyone knows with ‘walking-around sense’ not to do. What can be done about it? Leave a comment below with your advice. Thanks.

THIS HAS GOT TO STOP – THE ONLY CURE IS YOU, AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE

No Need To Drive To The Beach For Great Food And A Beach Atmosphere – It’s Here

Not everyone has an opportunity or cares that much about driving to the beach, wherever that is for you. Eating out at the local restaurants is part of the fun of going to the beach, however. What about off-season when you’re dying for some fresh shrimp or you love crab legs and seafood in general? Oh, my goodness, have I got a place for everyone in Rocky Mount with a great menu and that beach atmosphere.

TASTY CRAB HOUSE -1545 Benvenue Rd. Rocky Mount -252-210-2942

I went to Suddenlink at Cobbs Corner a few days ago and two doors down I noticed a sign in the window, Grand Opening. Turns out the Tasty Crab House opened last May but has been carry-out food until now when dining-in is finally available. After taking care of business, I went in afterward and discovered a space that is tasteful, smart looking, inviting, and am I glad I had this adventure. The dining area is eye appealing. The women’s bathroom is a high-end tiled area, new and clean, with friendly young people greeting, serving, making things pleasant. Cheating on my gluten-free life, I ordered a shrimp basket with a choice of fries. Lightly breaded, it was delicious!! AND, the sweet tea made this girl happy.

Though the storefront windows keep the interior a surprise until you are inside, take a look at the slide show above and you will see how far from ordinary the Tasty Crab House is. Of course, plenty of parking in the mall parking area. THE ONLY regret is that it isn’t in the historic downtown Main Street area. Main Street has great food, or coffee, wine, sandwich places that are setting a high bar downtown for reasons to come and enjoy these businesses. This is essential for the revitalization of Rocky Mount’s downtown. It gives out-of-town guests places to eat, and for the rest of us to come downtown to love the architecture, streetscape, preservation, restoration, and repurposing of the significant commercial buildings.

My daughter and I had lunch at the Smokehouse on Saturday. A huge tournament was going on at the Event Center. A full parking lot. I counted 24 people that came in as groups from the Center to eat on a break in their playing schedule. Those in addition to people already there like ourselves. We talked on the street with a man and his son from DELEWARE that had a daughter playing. The younger son was not allowed in so they were headed to walk through town. They’d been to Nabs for lunch. We gave directions because they wanted to see the Train Station etc. We got complimented on being tour guides and on our cheerleading. They were headed to Tap 1918 at the Mill for dinner after the tournament. The success of The Event Center is SO IMPORTANT to the stakeholders downtown who are creating a place for all of us to enjoy. Though not downtown, The Tasty Crab House is an amazing addition to the food scene of Rocky Mount along with other destinations beyond Main Street. The Tasty Crabhouse is something else to celebrate, support, and enjoy!

Nancy Drew – The Case Of The Missing Election

Nancy Drew is a fictional amateur sleuth in the series written for girls after the great success of The Hardy Boys. She lives in the fictional town of River Heights with her father, attorney Carson Drew, and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. As a teenager, she spends her time-solving mysteries. Nancy is often described as a supergirl. In the words of one of the characters, Bobbie Ann Mason, she is “as immaculate and self-possessed as a Miss America on tour. She is as cool as Mata Hari and as sweet as Betty Crocker.” Nancy is well-off, attractive, and amazingly talented. Why wouldn’t I pick her to be the detective on the case of The Missing Election?

From her notes, Nancy Drew is offering below a few facts of the case. She is quoted as saying, “The postponement of the election of four seats on the City Council in 2021 is the last thing Rocky Mount NC needs. It is bad enough that at least two of the seven seats continue to hold the city hostage with their ‘My Will Be Done’ agenda, but adding another year without the opportunity to fill those seats with new leadership is unthinkable. The chance that the City Council would vote to hold the election at their own peril is unlikely.”

Census delay likely to postpone city elections
AMELIA HARPER Staff Writer Feb 23, 2021 (Excerps)
Nash County Elections Director John Kearney said Monday during a meeting of the Nash County Board of Elections that due to delays in the release of 2020 U.S. Census data, this year’s election in Rocky Mount likely will be postponed.

“It is anticipated that the 2020 census data will not be available until September, so that means that none of the towns or council members or anyone else is going to be able to get that data to work on redistricting,” he said. “The main issue here is the City of Rocky Mount because it has wards.”

“The U.S. Census Bureau delayed its field operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and asked Congress for authority to delay the release of census data by 120 days,” the statement said. “This would delay the release of data used by North Carolina for redistricting legislative and congressional seats and local offices elected by district. This would compress the timeline for redistricting. If changes are needed to the districts of municipal offices elected by district and the census data is not released in time, elections for these offices scheduled to take place in the fall of 2021 could be postponed until 2022.” Because of this, Kearney said he is “99.9 percent sure that the City of Rocky Mount elections will not be held until the primary election of 2022.”

“I can’t do filing before the redistricting is done and the City of Rocky Mount cannot address redistricting until the census data is released,” Kearney said. “The normal filing period for the City of Rocky Mount elections normally begins on July 26, well before the time that the census data will be released.”

Kearney said in a later interview it is possible that the City Council could decide to proceed with the elections with the current wards. However, that decision would likely open up the likelihood of a slew of lawsuits, he said.

Four City Council seats are up for election this year: the Ward 2 seat occupied by Reuben Blackwell; the Ward 3 seat held by Richard Joyner; the Ward 6 seat occupied by W.B. Bullock and the Ward 7 seat held by Chris Miller.

Further Research Shows The process remains in the State Legislature’s control.

In 25 states, the state legislature has primary responsibility for creating a redistricting plan, in many cases subject to approval by the state governor. In North Carolina, state lawmakers will play a significant role in that effort in the months to come.

The 2020 census results should be released this spring. Once they are, the Republican-led legislature will begin drawing new political maps that would be used through the 2030 elections. The census will likely show North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the country. That’s expected to lead to an extra seat in Congress, increasing the House delegation from 13 to 14 seats.

Nancy Drew will remain on the case of The Missing Election as long as necessary. Ms. Drew said, “The failure on the part of the US Census Bureau to finish their work on time is preposterous. Those citizens that participated did their part. Using Covid as an excuse is not acceptable. In Rocky Mount’s case, the postponement of the fall election only prolongs the price the taxpayers are paying under the ‘My Will Be Done’ agenda with characters that have stayed long enough in office.”

Commissioner Guido Brunetti Sheds Light On Councilmen Knight and Blackwell

I have traveled to Italy on a wonderful garden tour in Tuscany. To this day I revisit memories that I relish. I’ve researched and used both Lucca and Pienza, my two favorite cities, for locations in my second novel, Facing East. The tour did not include Venice, but I’ve spent hours there through the mystery series written by Donna Leon. Over time I have come to consider the intelligent and capable Police Commissioner, Guido Brunetti as one of my most interesting and likable friends who waits for me on the pages of Leon’s books. Brunetti and the ensemble of characters never fail to deliver a satisfying mystery. In each book, Leon explores Venice and its wide spectrum of issues. In finishing the latest Leon read, Through a Glass, Darkley, I found an interesting corollary to help me think about Councilmen, Knight, and Blackwell who persist in maintaining control over everything. If challenged, asked questions, their deflection is the predictable accusation of racism that motivates scrutiny. I continue to look for answers on how this is allowed to go on. Brunetti was helpful.

Brunetti is an erudite man. In this case, he is thinking about Dante’s Inferno. What category would Dante have assigned the villain? To the hoarders, who are condemned to push their heavy stone, for all eternity? Thinking about these categories, Brunetti remembers a report in a science column in La Repubblica on experiments done with people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Many of them lost the use of the brain mechanism that told them when they were hungry or full. If given food repeatedly, they would eat again and again, unconscious of the fact that they had just eaten and should no longer be hungry. Brunetti finds this applicable to people afflicted with the disease of greed: the concept of ‘enough’ had been eliminated from their minds.

Frustrated, amazed, and baffled, I keep waiting for justice, that does not come. Without shame, Council meeting after meeting, the ‘My Will Be Done’ agenda persists. Mr. Blackwell’s seat is available. His Ward may reelect him, but at a great cost to the city. After twenty-plus years, what started out as good intentions and energy to serve, has become skullduggery on steroids. It is never ‘enough.’ This is what happens when greed takes over. Case in point, The Unity Cemetery project by volunteers that represent the U N I T Y that is possible in Rocky Mount. That fact sent two councilmen into orbit. Scroll down to read any comments that may be left on each blog post.

The Restoration of Unity Cemetery Brought Back A Campfire Story

SETTING THE STAGE FOR A STORY: First, you must put on your Norman Rockwell glasses to return to a time of innocence, of patriotism, where a boy and girl sit at the soda fountain drinking from two straws, a sleeping boy is nestled with his dog beside him, of the family gathered around the Thanksgiving table. The Post Magazine covers captured a time and a place through Rockwell’s artistry that seems long ago and far away. While looking at William Manley’s photographs of the restoration of Unity Cemetery, it took me back to a story I once listened to while sitting in the woods around the campfire, and shooting sparks disappeared into the darkness above us. The circle of faces around the campfire glowed in the light of the fire.

The YMCA played a big part in my life. The girl’s department and staff helped form who we became. After ditching a meeting I was to attend with the director of the Women and girl’s department, in favor of fries, a cherry coke, and friends, down at Cooley’s Cubbard, I was called on the carpet. It was explained that as one of the leaders in my class, things were expected. I was told, “to those much is given, much is expected.” I have never forgotten this admonition from a significant authority figure in my life that I loved and did not want to disappoint. I would be a different person were I growing up today. Correcting behavior and offering a moral compass to a young person isn’t allowed.

The Y had a two-week girls camp every August that I first attended after 4th grade. My last year at Camp Echo in Fremont, Michigan was the summer after I married. I was the Assistant camp director to Zenol Moore, who explained what was expected of me. I saw the Borealis for the first time at camp. Waking everyone, the camp girls brought out their sleeping bags and on our backs, we watched the flickering colors and movement. Another summer, a group of girls, flashlight in hand, made their way into the woods to the campfire site and listened to a story. Zenol was the storyteller. The younger girl’s eyes were becoming heavy after a full day. In the firelight, Zenol told about a village church where one by one the villagers came, lanterns swaying. The light from the individual lanterns began to fill the church. Even one missing light was noticeable. Do those girls remember the ‘moral of the story?’ How important each of us is, bringing light to the world. The girl that remains within me, remembers the shinny faces, the singing, the smell of the woods, the silhouette of the trees around us, and the story.

On February 6th, 2021, many volunteers came to Unity Cemetery, spreading out across the sections they worked on, I believe they also brought their light-filled hearts. UNITY is what they are about and their unity is the flame we can light our candles from.

This is written for the Unity Cemetery Volunteers with respect and admiration for the light they bring. (SFH)