Today, Friday, June 21, our longest day and shortest night of the year, the sun brightened our skies on the first day of astronomical summer in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. As I write this at 5:22 in the afternoon, the sky is an amazing Carolina blue color. The sun remains strong and there is a lovely breeze. It is the kind of day one would think should be marked as extra special, crossing another threshold into the next summer of our lives.
My guess is we all got on with our schedules without a flashback to bare feet, shorts and tee shirts, even bruised knees, already brown as berries. A summer that stretched before us with ice cream cones and a pile of books from the library. Our bikes raring to go each morning waiting for the day’s adventure. In my case, the background of the days seemed full of Cubs Baseball with Jack Brickhouse providing the running commentary.
In the earliest days, there was running under the sprinkler stripped down to underwear and later a swim in the pool or even better, sitting on the sand at Lake Michigan, smothered in a mixture of baby oil and iodine, for which my skin pays the price today. All of us with our memories of family and hot days with no air conditioning, open windows at night with bugs hitting the screens. And waiting – – for the 4th of July with grand fireworks at Northwestern University’s Dyke Stadium.
I have this feeling that as we begin real summer, trying to eat enough corn on the cob and watermelon, appreciating the smell of meat sizzling on the grill, it is as important a summer as there has been in a long time. The new Rocky Mount has arrived and like new plants in the garden, it needs looking after. We have an October election that gives us a voice according to our desires. We have new businesses opening, restoration/preservation taking place. Support these places, keep your eye on meetings that you need to get to in order to plant your flag for positive change. You catch my drift.
As the evening quiets down, and the last birds swoop across the sky, and the first day of summer begins to retreat, we have much to be thankful for. The return of a lost soldier, the neighbor across the street that puts your paper on the doorstep, friends who are the wind beneath our sails, and family, for better or worse, that God arranged. And for the possibilities in our lives, especially the possibility of this new Rocky Mount on a summer solstice evening.
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“This is the place of places and it is here.”
Today I am introducing a new category to Main Street Rocky Mount…selling dreams. The name was inspired by a chapter in David Halberstam’s book, The Fifties. (Please take a minute and click to read what I have written about the book.) Halberstam writes about Ken Jones at General Motors who wanted to use the new medium (TV) to tell stories visually and to minimize words. If there was to be any storytelling let the camera do it. Enter Cinematographer, Gerry Schnitzer, whose work reminded Jones of Norman Rockwell. Together, they produced their first 1958 Chevrolet ad that included music we remember, “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” Schnitzer said, “Jones and I were selling dreams, not cars.”
Visiting Villa Place Historic District I found THE ‘place’ as Gertrude Stein says at 304 Pearl Street. I like to think this blog, Main Street, is about selling dreams of preservation and revitalization. In 1999 the current owners started to refurbish this wonderful home and their dreams for it have been realized. Now it is time for someone else to write the next chapter at 304 Pearl Street. Set in the historic district of Villa Place, perfectly located three blocks from the downtown core area, this home, and many of its neighbors that have been restored are all about dreams. Enough words, let the photos speak for themselves. 304 Pearl, Rocky Mount, NC
This view up the drive is one of my favorite scenes in Villa Place. The Borrowed View (a gardeners term) shares the painted beauties beyond. It reminds me of the colors in a pencil box.
Click Here to see the lovely exterior and interior photographs provided by Janet Watson.
Click on images to Enlarge – Keep clicking to further enlarge
Norman Gold’s 1934 letter to the Carolina Cotillion Club membership informing them of the band arrangements and their assessment fee of $2.50 for the dance. This letter suggests that 1934 was the last of the September dances.
Below is a wonderful article written in the fashion of home town newspapers of the day. If you remember when wedding announcements described the clothes people wore to weddings, the color of the bridesmaid dresses with details of the brides dress….seed pearls cascaded across the bodice….all the names of the out of town guests, family names and how they were connected to the bride and groom, even the names of the flowers in the bouquets, you will swoon with nostalgia over this newspaper clipping. (Speaking for myself, of course, having wiped a tear over these memories) Marian Herring’s scrapbook is filled with newspaper clippings, sadly turning yellow, now loose behind plastic page protectors. But, oh, the stories contained within this album.
Who can resist the caption below this picture published in 1955
Back in 1929 Thomas J. Pearsall (shown in inset) was president of the Carolina Cotillion Club and led the active member’ figure with Miss Elizabeth Braswell of Battleboro, who is shown here on the porch of her home. They were married in 1930 and are the parents of two sons, Tommy and Mack, who are of “June German age.” Friends of the Pearsall’s will be delighted to see how little they have changed since 1929 -although there have been changes in their clothes.
In further details of the 1929 dance, I can’t leave out…..“The club figure is to be unusually intricate and elaborate and for this the young ladies attending will be presented novelty corsages, the corsage proper being attached to bags of ostrich feathers which will be suspended from the arm boy silent cords. These floral and feather baskets will be in variegated shade and the effect will be very lovely.” I mean, how wonderful is this!
When the June German dances are reinstated in our future, let’s have a display of the clothes once worn on these occasions. By some miracle, do you suppose one of the bags of ostrich feathers is still out there? I will be returning this wonderful scrapbook to Nancy Richardson, Rocky Mount, whose mother, Marion Herring, compiled it. Nancy’s father’s name is on the blank invitation shown in Part 2 of this series. The June German meant the world to Marion Herring. We think of her fondly for her devotion to this historical social event that meant so much to the lives of many. She deserves our thanksgiving for the preservation of these precious bits and pieces of memorabilia. Next year I will write more June German memories. Please add in the comment section below your favorite memory.
“The arts are the best insurance policy a city can take on itself.”
Woody Dumas, former Mayor of Baton Rouge
In our day to day lives of work and family responsibilities, there isn’t a lot of time to wax poetic over a question like, what speaks to the stability of a community? That’s why I am writing this post. When I first launched this blog last July, I visited the BAAC where the people involved are welcoming and talented. Unable to draw a straight line myself, I am thankful for the beauty creative people bring to our lives.
I grew up in Evanston, a suburb north of Chicago, and was taken regularly into the city, to the ballet, to the opera, to museums, and theater. The city provided a cultural playground. I understand how the arts speak to the stability of a community, how necessary they are, not only for those who live here, but for the people moving to Rocky Mount. They want a diverse population, a cultural context that the Mills, Railroad, and Tobacco stories provide. They want a historically relevant sense of place, and they want a place that offers art, music and theater.
I think you would agree that those of us who live busy lives often take for granted places in Rocky Mount that are important pieces in the revitalization puzzle. Think of the Tar River Orchestra & Chorus, the many facets of The Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences, The Dunn Center for the Performing Arts, and the Artisans Center: all essential to the stability of the community. The Artisans Center is an incubator space for creative people with plenty of room for expansion. It has endless potential still untapped. I’m concerned this place will remain under appreciated until we understand what a critical piece the arts have in drawing people to the area and the enrichment of our own lives.
The Bel Air Artisans Center has had extensive love and money poured into the building, turning it into a creative place for the entire community. The building is for sale, but its mission remains important to the future. This is a plea to artists, for all creative people in the community to consider your significant role in the future of the city. I want the community to rally around all the arts because they represent more than we may have realized. In the case of the Artisans Center, you may not need a studio, but you would enjoy the inspiration of artists hard at work. Visit, bring friends, let’s think of enriching ways to entice people to the BAAC. Support music, the performing arts, the cultural scene. And….don’t be surprised if you find me in the street directing traffic towards
115 S. CHRUCH STREET. Hours: Thursday-Saturday 10-5 (252) 442-8115
I wrote last week about a conversation I had with Vann Joines, entrepreneur, when we discussed what makes people pick the places they live. Part of that answer is that people are looking for diversity, a sense of place, a cultural context that is unique. Rocky Mount is such a place! The architecture in and around downtown represents a strong link to our stories, where once, holding grandmother’s hand we went downtown.
Main Street and its environs are filled with significant buildings that feature distinctive architecture and decorative masonry. Have you noticed that at certain times of the day, the windows reflect both sides of Main Street as through a looking glass. Think of the great metaphor this is for our Twin Counties efforts; each side reflecting the beauty of the other! The historic character of downtown is one of its greatest economic assets which creates a unique experience, distinguishable from a suburban commercial site that can be found anywhere in the country. Once we wanted to ‘get away,’ we didn’t particularly value our stories of growing up in the Mill Village or ties to the Railway and Tobacco world. All that has changed. The success of today’s towns and cities hinge on how well they embrace their great cultural history, their unique past while building a future that meets the needs of today.
Calling all realtors: Invest your time, talent, your imagination and determination to promote this unique place. Bring your clients into the area! It will take some research to discover the historical significance of the properties you show, but use that research to pitch the sale. You’ll have to use your imagination to point out the possibilities of restoring a building or a residence, but doing this is a great New Years Resolution; putting new energy into your sales technique. If only this post could convince realtors…..stop assuming that clients have no interest in living in the downtown area. There is money to be made, but more then that, think of what your enthusiasm can do for the redevelopment that is taking place. Won’t you add your expertise and efforts to help create a future that will grow exponentially with success?
Continuing the Call: Let’s rethink our appreciation for these downtown buildings. Here is a great example of one that is for sale at 232 SW Main Street. One of your colleagues is already involved with at least two sites for sale on Main Street. We NEED you to believe in this area again, forget the nonsense of how dangerous life is. People are living and working downtown everyday. You are missing an opportunity to build something up again, something to be proud of that will bring you income and bring Rocky Mount recognition and pride. How can you resist? Think….I’m needed, I could make a difference, why the heck not!
If you know someone who is a realtor, please share this link. Help me reach them. Thank you! SFH
Click on the Youtube Video for a FUN Lionel Christmas
Or be lucky enough to live in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and see a train everyday! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year