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 email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.