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

Making Their Home In Rocky Mount -Carole Mehle

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Carole Mehle

An artist, a writer, Carole Mehle is a Rocky Mount native with a drive and dedication that contributes everyday to the place she calls home. She graduated from Rocky Mount High School and laughingly says, “I teach to support my art habit.” Edgecombe Community College, the Rocky Mount campus, is lucky to have Carole who teaches English and Humanities. Carole is downtown everyday, a prime example of staying at home and making a life that is creative and interesting. She has a grandmother who is 103!  and checks on her everyday. That gives you insight into this young professional woman.

Carole paints, collages, creates mixed media, makes jewelry and glass magnets. She wrote a novel when she was ten years old. I bet she drew the cover jacket for it as well. She has a studio at Bel Air Artisans Center and is involved in planning an Artists Open House this fall. Once the date is announced, I urge everyone to attend. Carole will tell you what an amazing place the Center is. The artists help critique each others work, inspire each other, and have formed a community that is important to Rocky Mount when seeking creative companionship. Carole is a great spokesman for working and living in Rocky Mount.

A quote from Carole: “I have so many good memories of growing up in Rocky Mount, from riding the train at Sunset Park to visiting the Children’s Museum and Braswell Library as a child. I remember many wonderful afternoons spent shopping on Main Street, and going in the back doors. Much of my life has centered around Main Street, from my first “nursery school” on Hill Street to a former workplace on Howard Street and my current workplace on Tarboro Street and my space at Bel Air Artisans Center. I have always made the arts a part of my life. In the last few years, between the emergence of the Dunn Center, the Imperial Center, Nash Arts, and the Bel Air Artisans Center, Rocky Mount has developed culturally. For me, that has really made staying here a much easier decision. Because I was interested in things like art, music, drama, books, and culture that the general populus of our area does not seem too interested in, finding outlets and people to encourage these outlets has greatly enhanced my life, and hopefully those I touch on a daily basis — perhaps without even having to say a word, thanks to my art.”

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Making Their Home in Rocky Mount

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Robin Owens Latham

Robin is a bright, articulate, native born Rocky Mount woman, who is living and working in a place she has always called home. One reason she remains is to live close to her family. Robin has memories of  accompanying her grandmother on errands downtown Rocky Mount, stopping at Almands to pick up a prescription, on to Sonny’s Take Out for a foot long hot dog and a 10 ounce Coke. Robin says, “Coming downtown was just what you did.” She can tell you a lot of  ‘once upon a time stories,’ the history of things, about the people who began to move away in the 1950’s, who have now inherited downtown buildings which they can’t bring themselves to sell, but have allowed the buildings to sit vacant. Robin has lots of ideas about these challenges, and is a big proponent of her home. Rocky Mount is lucky to have her on their team.

Robin graduated from Northern Nash high school and has gone on to teach English full time at Nash Community College.  You can find her nurturing the creative side of herself at The Bel Air Artisan Center in a studio she shares with her husband, Mike Latham, the current Chair of Rocky Mount Historic Preservation Commission. Robin paints, collages, works in mixed media, and makes jewelry. The best birthday present I’ve heard about in a long time is the gift Mike gave Robin; the gift of her studio at the Center. FYI: Different size spaces include utilities and 24 hour access and can be rented by the month. No wonder the current 12 studio artists are big supporters of the Center. It provides them exposure, and the inspiration they derive from one another. Here is a quote from Robin you will enjoy.

“My dream is for the downtown area of Rocky Mount to come back to life. My family and I shopped downtown frequently all throughout my childhood. I loved the old Belk Tyler’s, Almand’s Drugstore, and so many more great shops. There are some wonderful local businesses still there and newly added. We just need more! If I had a billion dollars, I would buy up the buildings and give grants to people to create businesses on Main Street – some with apartments above! Life brings life! We can do it!” 

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Handcrafted with copper or aluminum wire and a variety of beads - vintage beads, semiprecious stones, etc
Handcrafted with copper or aluminum wire and a variety of beads – vintage beads, semiprecious stones, etc