My Rocky Mount Life: Part Seven

If you’re a resident of Rocky Mount, North Carolina who’s been reading this recent series of what’s good about living within the city limits, have you thought of something yourself? One reader has, and I’ll share her contribution in this post. As usual, I’ve got a few ideas myself. Read on for today’s list of five reasons why life is sweet in “The Mount.”

#1. My Harris Teeter

I wasn’t always a city girl. I grew up in Edgecombe County, halfway between Rocky Mount and Pinetops. Going to town, usually the bigger Rocky Mount, required planning. There was no dashing to the market to pick up something for supper, unless you counted the local country store with its limited selections and often higher prices.

So to me, a BIG advantage of living in the city limits of Rocky Mount is convenience. I’m now only a few short minutes away from my local Harris Teeter. Rotisserie chicken for dinner, anyone?

#2. Boice-Willis Clinic at 91 Enterprise Drive

While I’m on the subject of convenience, living in the city limits of Rocky Mount means I’m only a few minutes away from my doctors, dentist, and–if needed and I hope it isn’t–Nash General Hospital.

Just in the last month, I went for my blood work and annual physical at this recently-built satellite location of Boice Willis Clinic on 91 Enterprise Drive. I left my house twenty minutes before my appointment, had plenty of time to find an easy parking spot, and was still early.

#3. Ichiban Japanese Steak House

My oldest grandson (age 13), often picks Ichiban when I offer to treat him to lunch. I totally agree with his choice. This Japanese restaurant has been in Rocky Mount for quite a few years, serving a “chef show” along with the traditional wok-style meal.

At lunch, it’s hard to choose between the salad with ginger dressing or Ichiban’s broth soup; the chicken or the shrimp or the steak for the meat entrée; the delicious sweet carrots or the onions and zucchini to accompany that meat. Of course, you can get it all and then have leftovers to carry home for another meal!

There’s also an extensive sushi menu for those who like their seafood raw.

#4. Best Friend’s Dog Park

Not being a dog owner (or lover, if you want to know the truth), Rocky Mount’s Dog Park is not something I had thought about including on a list of what’s good about life in Rocky Mount.

But long-time city resident Barbara Nuckols has this to say for those of you who appreciate a place within the city limits for your pooch to play:

“The Best Friend’s Dog Park…is located where Riverside Apartments were before Hurricane Floyd destroyed them. There are three separate fenced-in sections: one for small dogs, one for agile, and one for all dogs. Benches and tables are provided for pet parents. There is water for pets in little swimming pools….

“I’ve been out there when there are multiple dogs playing in all three areas. Some people take their dogs there after work. The same dogs and parents frequent the park so you can make new friends as you watch the dogs play.

“There’s a double-gated entrance area where parents can safely release their dogs without worrying they will run away.”

It’s me again. Thank you for that detailed description, Barbara. It almost makes me want to be a dog owner just so I can take a pet to this park.

#5. The Picnic Tables at Sunset Park

Barbara Nuckols also mentioned the pavilion area across from the tennis courts at Sunset Park. Three large covered picnic areas with multiple tables lend themselves to all types of outdoor celebrations. Church services are also held there. When I attended West Haven Presbyterian, the congregation met at the largest shelter once every fall for a Sunday worship service followed by a catered barbecue meal.

The picnic shelters are only one of the features at Sunset Park; I’ll cover more in future postings. Again, if you have something you love about Rocky Mount that I haven’t mentioned, send me some information. I’ll go take the picture!

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My Rocky Mount Life: Part Six

A few of you responded to the request made in my last post to share something you love about Rocky Mount. HOWEVER, you didn’t send me a picture or write a paragraph. I guess you decided filling up this blog is my job. So here goes Part Six in this series that highlights what’s good about our hometown.

#1. Thelonious Monk Mural

Have you seen this huge mural of Thelonious Monk downtown? If not, cross the railroad tracks at the corner of the old Belk store (more recently Towel Town). Turn left on SE Main. You can’t miss it. Awesome!

Thelonious Monk, of course, was a famous jazz pianist and composer. His Rocky Mount connection? He was born here in 1917. The mural was painted by Scott Nurkin of the Mural Shop in Chapel Hill.

#2. Edgecombe Community College

Now I know Edgecombe Community College has a split campus, with part of the College located outside Tarboro. But there’s a Rocky Mount campus that definitely enhances our city. What better to have in a downtown than an institution of higher learning? I love its location at the historic Five Points area. I remember years ago when classes were held in the old post office there.

Riding by on a recent day between semesters, I could see that parking was no problem. However, I do wonder where students and faculty leave their cars at this urban campus during a busy fall semester. What does the College plan to do when the City uses its option to build work-force housing on what is now one of the College’s parking lots? Hmm.

#3. Nash Community College

I’m not totally sure my former place of employment passes the inside-the-city-limits test that I imposed to be included in this list of what’s good about life in Rocky Mount. But it seems unfair to include Edgecombe CC without Nash CC. Also–disclaimer here–this school gave me a job for a lot of years.

During my time there, I witnessed the phenomenal growth of the campus. I saw the construction of the Business and Industry Center and the Science and Technology Building. Soon after I retired, the new Continuing Education Building went up.

New buildings are great, but the increased enrollment which required their construction is the real story. People came (and are still coming) to Nash Community College (and Edgecombe CC, too, for that matter) to better their lives.

Rocky Mount is lucky to have not just one, but two, community colleges. Being able to train a local work force helps to lure industry. Also, the college-transfer program can save a family big bucks on the first two years of college.

And I appreciate those Nash CC continuing education classes I took in Spanish as well as the curriculum course I sat in to learn how to create a blog, even if my old brain struggles to learn anything new.

#4. Church Street Churches

Let’s move from education to religion. If you’re from Rocky Mount, you surely know there’s a Church Street. In fact, there’s a North Church Street and a South Church Street. I’m sentimental about the part of Church Street that’s populated by, what else, churches.

Old churches, to be exact. First United Methodist Church, which I attend, has a plaque out front which proclaims the church was established in 1856. There’s something about a historical church that speaks to me. “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,” we Methodists sing. There’s a comfort there, I guess.

I think of Church Street as home base for other denominations, too: First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Church of Good Shepherd (Episcopal) can all be found within a mile or so of one another on this aptly named street in downtown Rocky Mount.

#5. Central Cafe

Another plus on Church Street is Central Cafe. This small brick restaurant on the corner of Church and Western Avenue is a Rocky Mount institution. People who grew up and moved away often find time to visit Central Cafe when they come home. The food is simple: basic breakfast items and then a menu that revolves around hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries for the rest of the day.

Central Cafe is definitely a local hangout, especially for the breakfast crowd. For several years, my retired in-laws would meet a crowd there on weekday mornings to drink endless cups of coffee and chat. The restaurant lends itself to that kind of visit.

#6. Bin & Barrel Wine Bar

Bin & Barrel, owned by Sarah and Ryan Hicks, is located in Station Square in downtown Rocky Mount. I admire this husband and wife team for (a) daring to open the first wine bar (that I know of) in Rocky Mount, and (b) choosing a downtown location.

Like other businesses, I’m sure they’ve been hurt by the epidemic, but I remember a packed wine tasting I enjoyed pre-COVID. On a recent Tuesday when I visited, the business was closed due to what looked like some sort of construction/repair work being done.

I took a picture of the sign to remind myself to visit again.

Did you notice I have six items this time instead of the usual five? I guess I could count the two community colleges as one.

Which three do you think were recommended to me? I’ll tell you in the next post!

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My Rocky Mount Life: Part Five

What follows is a tale of two visits. This week, I went downtown to take pictures of the inside of the Imperial Centre to further highlight this fine Rocky Mount cultural facility, as I promised to do in my last post. A sign at the entrance asks that all visitors check in at the main desk. I’m a rule follower, so I did.

Receptionist: How can I help you?

Me: I write a blog and recently I’ve been featuring all that’s good about Rocky Mount. I’d like to wander around and take some pictures to include with my next post featuring the Imperial Centre.

Receptionist: (reaching for the phone) I’ll have to ask Kim about that.

Me: (sensing trouble) My blog is really no big deal. I don’t think you need to call anyone.

Receptionist: (hanging up the phone) I’m sorry, but you’ll need to make an appointment through the City’s Communication Department (also something here about “protocol” and “procedure” as I began to lose it).

Me: Well, I’m sorry you have to work for the Gestapo (yes, I spoke unkindly).

I left without pictures but went home and, remembering the receptionist had called someone named Kim, I dialed up the Imperial Center and asked to speak to her myself. We had a mostly cordial chat. She told me when she heard the words “blog” and “pictures,” she decided I needed to go through official channels. She declared the incident a misunderstanding. I was asked to come back.

I did, as you can see from the pictures below. On my second visit, the receptionist again called Kim and said, “Mrs. Pridgen is here.” I held my breath but was given an orange visitor sticker and waved through.

What I learned from this experience is when going to the Imperial Centre, do NOT tell them you write a blog and want to take pictures. Say you want to see the free exhibits in the Arts Center. Act like you own the place, which, if you’re a Rocky Mount taxpayer, you kinda do.

Enough of this crazy story. Let’s talk about the different features of the Imperial Centre.

#1. The Children’s Museum and Science Center

One of the saddest losses during the infamous 1999 Hurricane Floyd was the catastrophic flooding of the Children’s Museum at Sunset Park. But there was a rainbow at the end of this storm. The museum is now housed as part of the Imperial Centre. The new digs are state-of-the-art. I’ve enjoyed taking my grandchildren there to see the special exhibits, ride the old Gurganus Brothers’ Supermarket mechanical horse, and interact with all sorts of hands-on activities. And of course, we always have to go see the alligator (or is it a crocodile?).

#2. The Arts Center

Exhibits here are ever changing. One of my favorites was the collection of Charlie Killebrew photographs, which spanned years and years of Rocky Mount people and events. Currently, there’s a magnified insects series of pictures, something my fourth-grade grandson might like to see.

#3. The Theater and The Lobby

There’s also a community theater at the Imperial Centre, but the doors were locked, probably because it was a Thursday morning and there was no play. I wasn’t about to ask to be let in to take a picture. But I can say that I have seen some fine local productions in this venue.

Since I have no picture of the theater, here’s one of the lobby area of the Imperial Centre. The space can be rented for parties; I’ve been to a few here, pre-Covid. I love, love, love the brick walls and metal features of this former tobacco building.

Moving on to a couple of other highlights this week, I have the following:

#4. The Dunn Center at Wesleyan College

We aren’t Greenville with East Carolina University or Chapel Hill with UNC, but Rocky Mount is a college town. The pretty campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College sits on the city’s northern outskirts along Highway 301. Founded in 1956, Wesleyan is a Methodist-affiliated college with roughly 2,000 students.

Probably what most Rocky Mount residents enjoy most about Wesleyan is the Dunn Center. I’ve been to plays, concerts, and children’s dance recitals performed in this spacious auditorium. It’s a wonderful venue for such.

#5. Anne’s Donuts

Anne’s Donuts and I go way back. When I was in Beta Club in high school, circa 1971-72, we members would sell boxes of Anne’s Donuts for, get this, sixty cents a dozen. There were high school boys who would consume all twelve of these delectable sugar-glazed concoctions within minutes after purchase.

I remember going with my best friend in the school truck to pick up the supply for the Beta Club sales (she drove and I rode shotgun). We’d be given a free bag of donut holes for being the delivery girls.

Today, I take my grandchildren to the Sunset Avenue location for an after-school snack. They’ll eat two or three, while I try to limit myself to just one.

People rave about Britt’s donuts in Carolina Beach. To put it in the vernacular, that place ain’t got nothin’ over Anne’s.

This is my fifth post in this series, each listing five things I love about living in Rocky Mount. If anybody would like to chime in with a favorite that I haven’t mentioned, send me a paragraph and a picture. Whatever it is needs to be within the city limits.

If I get at least three, I’ll do a guest blog featuring your choices. My email address is patsy.pridgen@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

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My Rocky Mount Life: Part Four

While my hometown of Rocky Mount has its problems, I’m choosing to look for what’s good about life in this eastern North Carolina city. Here in Part Four of My Rocky Mount Life, I list another five reasons why I enjoy living in the city limits.

#1. The Rocky Mount Walking Trail

I can’t claim to have traveled all 7.1 miles of this trail system that links several of the city’s parks, but I do like to walk the stretch that connects Battle Park and Sunset Park. Crossing over Falls Road on this part of the trail, I can see the sprawling brick structure of the renovated Rocky Mount Mills, former home of the second cotton mill in the state, dating back to 1816.

I enjoy the pretty views of the Tar River along the way. (Some people call the Rocky Mount Walking Trail the Tar River Trail). Plenty of shade is a bonus, too, especially in summer.

#2. Books and Beans Coffee House

At the end of the Rocky Mount Mills campus near the Tar River is the coffee and sandwich shop Books and Beans. Owned by my former Nash Community College colleague Etaf Rum along with her husband Brandon Clarke, this is a delightful place to get a signature sandwich, or, if you’re into it, a specialty coffee.

Etaf and her husband also own the popular Rocky Mount restaurants Barley and Burger and Tipsy Tomato. And, get this, Etaf is famous! She’s the author of the New York Times best-selling novel A Woman Is No Man. Her literary background shows in the names of the sandwiches on the Books and Beans menu: The Bell Jar, the Hemingway, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye. Delicious sandwiches with novel-ty titles!

#3. Gardner’s Barbecue Restaurant

If you like eastern North Carolina cuisine–and I do, I do, I do–there’s nothing like a Sunday dinner, dine in or to go, from Gardner’s. Here in Rocky Mount that Sunday “dinner” is eaten after church around noon, a meal people in other parts of the country call lunch.

At Gardner’s, there’s eastern-style, vinegar-based, chopped pork barbecue. (I could get started on the barbecue wars here, Eastern style versus Lexington… but I won’t.) Gardner’s also features fried chicken, collards, Brunswick stew, and chicken pastry, to name my favorites. Loving both, I get half a dozen corn sticks and half a dozen hushpuppies with my to go orders.

I usually patronize the location closest to my home, the Gardner’s at Westridge Shopping Center, but I’ve noticed the super-duper buffet is at the Highway 301 location. Did I mention the banana pudding?

#4. Lilly & Lane Boutique

Tucked in close to Harris Teeter at Westridge Shopping Center is the cute ladies’ clothing store Lilly & Lane Boutique. I duck in here when I need birthday or Christmas gifts for my young adult daughters. There’s an array of trendy tops, pants, dresses, and accessories to choose from, all reasonably priced. And the sweet girls there do the prettiest complimentary gift wrapping.

Sometimes I even find something for myself to perk up my old lady style.

#5. The Imperial Centre

I could write an entire blog about the Rocky Mount Imperial Centre located downtown on Gay Street: in fact, I intend to say more in my next post about the various features of this premier cultural facility. Today, let’s simply focus on the building that houses the Arts Center, the Children’s Museum, and a community performing theater.

The imposing brick structure now called the Imperial Centre was once a Rocky Mount branch of the Imperial Tobacco Company of Great Britain and Ireland. I’m proud of how this former tobacco complex, built in 1903, was successfully repurposed after Hurricane Floyd destroyed the old Children’s Museum and the Tank Theater in 1999. It’s an example of how the Rocky Mount City Council can act in a positive manner for the good of all.

From downtown to Westridge Shopping Center, there’s a lot to like about my hometown. I’ll be back with more.

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My Rocky Mount Life: Part Three

My posts of why I love my Rocky Mount life seem to be a hit. I don’t know who’s sharing my blog or how, but a link somewhere has brought lots of positive response. Hurray for Rocky Mount! I’m inspired to continue.

Here’s this week’s list of what’s good about Rocky Mount, as always in no particular order. I’m simply highlighting where I’ve been or what I’ve seen most recently.

#1. The Train Mural

Lots of long-time Rocky Mount folks have someone in the family who once worked at the Atlantic Coast Line Shops in south Rocky Mount. In my family, both my husband’s grandfather and father were employed by the railroad for a while.

The railroad tracks running through downtown Rocky Mount mark the Edgecombe/Nash County line. The whistle of the train has been a soundtrack of the city. In a nutshell, the railroad features prominently in the history of Rocky Mount.

Recently, this beautiful mural, designed by Marion Clark Weathers and painted by Ashley Fabrizio, both local artists, sprang to life on the side of the Station Square Building. The mural is stunning. It’s been featured on Tar Heel Traveler and in Our State Magazine online, among other accolades.

The lead train is a CSX freight. The second, the one with the vibrant purple and silver, is the passenger train the Champion. If you live in Rocky Mount and haven’t seen the mural, by all means take a trip downtown.

The mural is across the street from the Helen P. Gay Rocky Mount Train Station, an interesting historical place to visit as well. Here’s a side view of this building, originally built in 1893.

#2. Prime Smokehouse

Also downtown, across the railroad tracks on the Edgecombe County side, is one of my favorite restaurants in Rocky Mount, The Prime Smokehouse. As you can guess by its name, many of the entrees feature smoked meat. My number one choice? The Prime Brisket. But you can have ribs, pulled pork, chopped beef, wings, or “bronzed” chicken, to name a few others.

I eat here for the sides as much as the entrees. The macaroni and cheese is award-winning, and the cornbread contains actual kernels of corn.

I’ve heard the Smokehouse is soon to leave the historic Douglas Block and relocate to the Rocky Mount Mill Village campus. I’ll be sorry to see them leave the downtown location, but judging by the pre-Covid lines of waiting diners, I assume the restaurant needs to expand. And, of course, the Mill Village is a lively location.

#3. The Bath Place

Down the street from The Prime Smokehouse is a locally-owned shop where I buy handcrafted “bath bombs.” If you have a young daughter or, as in my case, a granddaughter, chances are you know what I’m talking about. The Bath Place sells not only these bathing concoctions but also an array of other made-from-scratch soaps and hand sanitizers.

I feel like I’m in a big-city specialty shop when I visit The Bath Place. The owner, Kimberly Thigpen, is a lovely lady who began her business by making soap in the family’s kitchen. She’s won all kinds of awards for her business.

#4. Braswell Memorial Library

I’ve been advised not to forget Braswell Memorial Library as one of the reasons I love my Rocky Mount life. Don’t worry, fellow library fans, no way could I overlook this gem! I read a few chapters in a book almost every day, and so I often visit the library, situated where Falls Road, Peachtree Street, and North Grace intersect, close to downtown Rocky Mount.

I’m so old and I’ve lived in or near Rocky Mount so much of my life that I well remember patronizing the original Braswell Library, located across the street. To tell the truth, I was initially sad when the new one was built. Going in the old location was always a trip down memory lane for me.

But I quickly grew to appreciate the much expanded, airy, modern Braswell Memorial Library. I’m sure I’ll be there sometime this week to get a new batch of books.

#5. Planet Fitness

Okay, I’ve been downtown for most of this post. Let’s relocate to the Golden East Mall area, where I want to give a shout-out to my favorite place to exercise, Planet Fitness. Like Hobby Lobby, which I featured in an earlier post, I know Planet Fitness can be found in other cities. But also like Rocky Mount’s Hobby Lobby, Rocky Mount’s Planet Fitness is well-run, clean, and customer-friendly.

No critics, judgement free!

Finally, listen up. If I haven’t yet highlighted what you love about Rocky Mount, be patient. I plan to continue. I’ve got lots of worthy places, activities, and organizations on the list!

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My Rocky Mount Life: Part Two

While others lament that Rocky Mount has seen its heyday, I enjoy living within the city limits. Here’s my second list of five reasons why.

#1. City Lake

I’ve driven by this impressive, man-made body of water beside Sunset Avenue thousands of times and just about always, I glance over to appreciate its beauty. The lake was a project by the Works Progress Administration to create jobs in 1937, during the Great Depression.

City Lake has undergone renovations over the years, with a complete beautification project in 1993. Today, there’s a half-mile walking trail circling the lake, a gazebo, and a fountain. Whimsical metal sculptures have been added in recent years.

I would say City Lake is one government project that’s been worth the money.

#2. Chico’s Mexican Restaurant

When my Greenville friend visits, she likes to eat at Chico’s, located within easy walking distance of City Lake. Never mind that the original Chico’s is in her town. She likes the Rocky Mount location because of the setting: the old power plant building, which overlooks the Tar River.

I like Chico’s for the location reason, too. But I also love the food. My favorite? The Enchilada Suisa stuffed with chicken. My husband always order a Combination of Two, one beef taco and one chicken enchilada. If we completely want to forget about calories, we split a Fried Ice Cream for dessert. Without a doubt, Chico’s Fried Ice Cream is the best Mexican dessert I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s a look inside the restaurant. The two dummies in the swing (upper right) are a playful, quirky feature of the decor. Those windows in the back overlook the Tar River.

#3. The Koi Pond

Now I love pretty much everything about the Mill Village in Rocky Mount, but the Koi Pond Brewing Company is a standout. It was the first craft brewery at the Mill Village, and I guess that’s why it’s still my favorite. I’m never disappointed in my pint, and Josh the barkeep is a friendly, familiar face, even behind his mask.

The taproom is located in what was once the mill superintendent’s house. In its former life, the Mill Village was the home of the second cotton mill in the state, established in 1818. It was the longest in operation until the mill closed in 1996.

I love that The Koi Pond is keeping an old mill house alive.

#4. The Farmer’s Market

Business is booming at the Farmer’s Market. I stopped by on a recent Saturday in April for a fun shopping excursion. The choice was vast and varied: baked goods, homemade soaps, plants, meat, oysters, etc. And, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables.

The location off Peachtree Street is centrally located and easily accessible.

#5. Azaleas in My Neighborhood

In my last blog, I talked about how much I enjoy the walkability (is that a word?) of my neighborhood. Here’s another perk where I live: the azaleas. During this time of the year, mid-April, I feel like I’m in fairyland.

I have a smorgasbord of colors in my yard: white, red, lilac, pink. My neighbor across the street has a stunning display of solid white. Around the corner, the residents seem to favor pink. It won’t last long, but these well-established, mature azaleas are absolutely lovely when they bloom.

I’ll be back again in my next blog with five more reasons why I love my Rocky Mount life. Believe me, I have plenty to choose from.

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My Rocky Mount Life

I live in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, a city that is losing population. People who’ve left cite a variety of reasons: incompetent local government, high utilities, a lack of good-paying jobs, nothing to do.

I admit my hometown has problems. I can be the first to rant, for example, about city council members who vote to hold their annual retreat at an exclusive, out-of-town resort during the hard times of a pandemic. At taxpayers’ expense, of course. But I’m not here for a roll call of all that’s wrong. Not today.

Instead, I want to talk about what’s right. Why, with all that’s frustrating about this city, I still choose to live within its limits. Here, in no particular order, are five reasons I like my Rocky Mount life.

#1. My neighborhood. See that street below. It’s part of a two to three mile walk I often take within the residential area where I live. Notice the speed limit. Residents generate most of the traffic, and most of them obey the law. The wide streets, low speed limit, and little traffic make it an ideal place for walking, just one of the features I love about my neighborhood here in the city limits of Rocky Mount.

#2. Stoney Creek. Whenever I go to Lowe’s Home Improvement, I pass over the short bridge between it and Sam’s Club. I think of this tucked-away shortcut running adjacent to Highway 301 as a secret passageway. I’ll glance in my rearview mirror, and if no one is behind me, I stop and look at Stoney Creek for a minute.

#3. Mama’s Pizza. A sign hanging in the front window of this Italian restaurant on Benvenue Road proclaims: “There’s a big difference between the big chains and the Independent Pizzerias.” I agree.

I love Mama’s lasagna and pizza. A friend of mine swears the restaurant has the best shrimp marinara she’s ever eaten. Service is good; prices are reasonable, and Mama’s is a ten-minute drive from my house, right here in Rocky Mount.

#4. The Rocky Mount Garden Club. Since retirement, I’ve been a member of this group of ladies who love their yards as well as their community. Pre-Covid, we met monthly for a program, refreshments, and catching up with one another. Just this past week, a few of us got together in a member’s garage for a “plant exchange.” I took iris bulbs and came home with an aucuba plant.

The club has been in existence since 1934 and is open to anyone interested in learning about horticulture and serving the community.

#5. Hobby Lobby. Now I know other cities have a Hobby Lobby, but the one in Rocky Mount is sooo conveniently located. (I’m thinking about the time I drove over a half-hour from one side of Charlotte to the other to find a Hobby Lobby). It’s also well-stocked, clean, and attractive. This weekend, I popped in twice to buy these cute little Easter bunnies and eggs (40% off!).

This is my first installment of why I enjoy living in Rocky Mount. Stay tuned for more. Maybe I should rename this blog myrockymountlife.

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Marching into March

I got home from a four-day trip to the beach and was greeted by a burst of spring in my Rocky Mount backyard. While I was away, the calendar flipped to March, the weather was mild, and these daffodils decided to show their sunny faces. I’ll have to check to see if the forsythia is blooming in the side yard. It can’t be far behind.

Covid Anniversary

It’s been just about a year now since the coronavirus epidemic began. Only a year? Ask anyone whose children have spent the last months learning primarily through Zoom. They’ll likely tell you it’s seemed like forever. In fact, it’s been a long haul for everyone.

On a positive personal note, in two days I’ll get my second Moderna vaccine. I’m in the 65 and older group, which, as you probably know, puts me in a high priority category. Sometimes it pays to be an old lady!

I can’t wait to get the final “stamp” on my vaccination card. It’s crazy how excited I am about a shot, something I usually dread. Oh, I’ll still mask up and keep my distance, but I’m looking forward to that feeling of protection provided by the vaccine.

My Wedding Anniversary

My four-day trip to the beach (mentioned above) was to celebrate my 44th wedding anniversary. On February 27, 1977, at the ripe old age of 23, I said “I do” to a guy I’d been dating since high school (with a couple of minor breakups here and there). Marrying this fellow was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Although we are polar opposites in many ways, we share fundamental beliefs about major stuff, like childrearing and right and wrong. 

Fun Facts: Jimmy Carter was president when we got married. Elvis died in August of that year. Gas was around 60 cents a gallon. My new husband’s annual  salary as a collector at a finance company was less than $10,000. My part-time graduate school salary was slightly better than minimum wage, $2.30 per hour. 

Don’t be too harsh when you judge our “then” and “now” pictures. Over the last 44 years, we’ve lived in  eight different houses in three different towns, raised three daughters, built a business (him), taught English (me), and buried three of our four parents.

We’ve seen a lot of life. We’ve been blessed in many ways, and I don’t take that for granted.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wish you all the luck of the Irish. Brighter days, weather-wise and otherwise–are sure to be just around the corner.

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Life Is Looking Up

Nothing has made me happier lately than getting my first shot of the COVID vaccine. After days of dead-end leads, I finally scored an appointment at the Wilson Medical Center here in eastern North Carolina.

If you still subscribe to the Rocky Mount Telegram (and fewer and fewer people do, unfortunately), maybe you read my most recent Sunday column about the difficulty in finding a spot to take my shot. It was a project. But I’m going to be optimistic in predicting that it’s going to get easier as manufacturers learn how to produce the vaccine faster and administrators learn how to put shots in arms more efficiently.

Barbecue!

After getting our Moderna vaccines, my husband and I treated ourselves to lunch at the world-famous—should be if it isn’t—Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson, North Carolina. Our state has barbecue wars, mainly East (vinegar-based sauce) versus West (tomato-based sauce). Living in the eastern part of the state, I vote for vinegar-based and don’t order barbecue west of Raleigh, unless it’s at the Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q chain, which I know has vinegar-based.

The barbecue isn’t the only good thing on this plate, though. Check out the Brunswick stew, fried chicken, boiled potatoes, slaw, and of course, corn sticks and hushpuppies (yes, we want both, we told our waiter). Fine dining in eastern North Carolina.

Spring Is Coming!

If you want to trust a rodent and his shadow, we’re in for several more weeks of winter. I prefer to check my daffodils. They’re peeking through the pine straw, signaling spring isn’t that far away.

Life and Death in Narrow Creek!

I’m happy to announce that book #2, tentatively named Life and Death in Narrow Creek, has been edited several times by both me and the professionals. I’m now looking for a publisher.

If you read my debut novel, Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder (and if you haven’t, why not?), you may remember the small town of Narrow Creek as the setting. Book #2 is now the second in the Narrow Creek series.

What’s it about? Here’s the two-sentence synopsis: Dee Ann Bulluck’s landlord Floyd Powell dies unexpectedly, and his wife Miss Josie is accused of his murder. Amateur sleuth Dee Ann steps in to help Miss Josie prove her innocence. To find out more, click on the link above titled Life and Death in Narrow Creek.

Someone Loves Winter!

“When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do Is take a look at you….” Remember this old song A Groovy Kind of Love by Phil Collins? These opening lyrics describe how I feel looking at this picture of my four-year-old grandson all bundled up, mask included, on Beech Mountain, North Carolina. He loves the snow: sledding in it, rolling in it, throwing it at his brother…there are many possibilities for fun. Spring is coming, but in the meantime, winter isn’t all bad either, at least according to my grandson.

Photo Credit: Aunt Paula

 

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Traveling to Find Snow

“Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though;   He will not see me stopping here, To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

The woods Robert Frost wrote about were no doubt in his native New England, not Beech Mountain, North Carolina. Still, I think his poem describes the experience of stopping to look at snowy woods everywhere, don’t you?

Although there’s been scarcely a flake yet this winter in the eastern part of the state where I live, the weather is a different story in Beech Mountain. I was lucky enough to be there briefly and capture these early January photos.

Here in the coastal plains, there are sometimes mild winters with no snow. While that helps avoid high heating bills, makes it easier to get to the grocery store and, pre-Covid, kept the kids in school, I always feel a winter without snow is somehow lacking.

It’s good to know that there’s at least one mountain location in the western part of the state that can guarantee snow multiple times throughout winter. True, Beech Mountain is a five hour drive for me (that’s factoring in a Chick Filet stop), but for a dose “of easy wind and downy flake,” it’s sometimes worth it.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.” Yes, Robert Frost, they are indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

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