This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘history’

The Old Paths: I Miss Mayberry

**This was originally published on Thursday, July 12, 2012, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column is updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog. I had blogged about this subject in July 2012, using some of the material from this column. However, much had been changed during the transition from the column to the blog, so I am now blogging the original newspaper column to preserve it for history’s sake.**

Andy in HeavenSummer always puts me in a nostalgic mood. (Yes, I know—I’m ALWAYS in a nostalgic mood but even moreso in summer.) I think it’s the fact that summer takes me back to the old paths of my childhood when days were longer, lazier and brighter somehow.

My childhood was the era of “The Andy Griffith Show,” long summer breaks from school, working hard but laughing a lot in the tobacco field, making homemade ice cream down in Grandpa Bray’s yard, listening to Uncle Sam pick the guitar while my daddy and his brothers sang “Uncle Pen” or “Let Me Be Your Salty Dog.”

It was Sunday afternoons under the shady old oaks while relatives sat in lawn chairs and talked about the weather, their ‘baccer, what all they had put up for the winter. It was swimming in the creek to stay cool on hot July days. It was  playing in the woods with the cousins ‘til Mama called us in.

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I’m the littlest girl, wading in the creek….long, long ago…..

Those days are long gone. Summer vacation ends earlier in August now, I haven’t touched a tobacco leaf in a lot of years, Pa Bray is dead and the extended family only gets together down at his old farm a couple of times a year. Nobody has time to sit in the yard on Sundays—too many ballgames or practices. Indoor air conditioning has long replaced creeks as the cooling method of choice, and there are too many crazy people in the world today to let your kids hang out in the woods all day.

There is really only one constant still left from my childhood days—The Andy Griffith Show. I can turn on the TV every day at 5:30 p.m. and see faces from my childhood—Ange, Barn, Thelma Lou, Aunt Bee, Opie. That show aired years before I was even born and probably has been on the air somewhere every year since.andy, barney, gomer.png

When I watch it, modern life ceases for me. I retreat to a black-and-white world where Barney advises me to “Nip it in the bud!”, Andy strums the guitar on the front porch, Opie shares his heart with “Paw” and Aunt Bee keeps them all well-fed.

But it isn’t all sunshine and flowers. Barney sometimes sneaks off to call Juanita down at the diner while poor Thelma Lou sits at home. Opie tells occasional lies and has to confess to Andy. Aunt Bee’s pickles taste like kerosene and sometimes she can’t seem to beat Clara Edwards at anything. Ernest T. Bass is ever chunking rocks through windows while Otis just keeps getting drunk.

Even the paradise of the fictional Mayberry has its occasional thorns—just like real life.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched old clips of Andy Griffith on YouTube and even posted a short one on my Facebook page. It was the familiar scene—Andy with his guitar on the porch with Barney by his side. Andy was singing “The Church in the Wildwood” with Barney adding the harmony.

The episode was called “Man in a Hurry.” The contrast was marked—Andy and Barney peacefully singing, Barney stretching lazily and saying, “Well, I think I’ll go home, take me a nap then head on over to Thelma Lou’s to watch some TV” (emphasis on the “T”), while the man in a hurry paced back and forth.

That same theme is often on my mind: how can we modern folks with cell phones, social networking, email, video games and more TV channels than you can shake a stick at slow down our lives to savor the simple things we recall from childhood?

…..Like catching lightning bugs and putting them in pop bottles instead of playing the Xbox. Sitting on the porch while the moon rises instead of watching “Criminal Minds.” Playing the piano for the family to gather ’round to sing instead of viewing the latest music videos on YouTube.

Truth be told, I’m too busy to do any of that.

I miss mayberry words.jpg

But “The Andy Griffith Show” reminds me that life was probably better when we had the time, or rather TOOK the time, to do these things. Andy was a busy sheriff on call 24/7, but he managed to take Opie down to the fishing hole. (Whether or not they whistled while they walked is undetermined!) Sometimes he and Helen Crump spread a blanket on the grass and enjoyed a picnic.

There was a sense of community that few of us still experience. Neighbors visited. Men gathered down at Floyd’s to talk. Goober and Gomer were never too busy down at the garage to lend a helping hand.

“Wake up, Leslie! It’s a fictional town on a TV show!” you may say.

Is it? I seem to remember living a similar life when I was a kid. We had a community club where the neighbors had Rook tournaments and potluck dinners. Mama invited ladies over to quilt. The Bray cousins and I would wander through pastures, climb cherry trees, swim in Belews Creek before the lake existed.

So maybe that’s why we still watch a show created in 1960—a show with no real relevance now in many ways, a show that belongs to the days of yesteryear…..because it reminds us of so much that was good and that we wish could be again. And because the true values of the human heart haven’t changed much at all since 1960—love for family and friends, a need to be part of something meaningful, a yearning for simplicity.

i miss mayberry chorus

Imagine my shock when I had been pondering these Mayberry-esque issues of life and then heard that Andy Griffith had passed away. It seemed unreal. How could Sheriff Taylor be gone? Shouldn’t Ange have lived to at least 120?

Before I knew it, I was unexpectedly bawling like a baby. I had had no idea Andy Griffith’s death could possibly make me cry.

But you know why I think it did? Not just because I loved Andy. But also because it seemed to be the end of an era. There had not been a minute of my life that Andy wasn’t figuratively sheriff of Mayberry.

Losing Barney, Aunt Bee and most recently Goober was sad, but losing Andy—the figurehead of the show—is much tougher. It somehow makes the Mayberry world he created retreat even farther into the shrouds of the past. It makes me feel more detached from childhood.

It’s been a long time since I really was a child, but “The Andy Griffith Show” makes me feel that young again. I’ll keep watching it as long as it’s in syndication. And I’ll remember…..and I’ll treasure it…..and I’ll keep wishing I could make my life that simple again.

I miss Mayberry.

andy and opie walking

The Old Paths: What about the children?

**This was originally published on Thursday, September 26, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column is updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

Little did I know in early September 2013 when I penned a newspaper column about time healing our hurts that our county would suffer several horrendous hurts that very week. I had used the example of Sonia Luster—the 16-year-old killed in an automobile accident on her way to North Stokes High School in 2008—noting that she died the day before the Stokes Stomp, our county’s signature festival.

NSHS--Dee Luster

Sonia Luster’s mom, Dee, at the North Stokes High School graduation the year that Sonia would have graduated—wearing a shirt with a picture of Sonia graduating from an earlier grade.

Imagine my horror at the 2013 Stokes Stomp when I heard the tragic news that three other Stokes County youth had just been killed in auto accidents—one the night after I wrote my column, two others the night before the Stomp. My heart felt like lead as I was told the heartbreaking details of the wrecks that affected every high school in the county.

One victim was a West Stokes High School student, another a South Stokes High student, another a recent graduate of Meadowbrook Academy in Stokes County. One driver, who survived but was charged with DWI and two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, had attended North Stokes High.

I had left the county fair in King on Wednesday just an hour or so before the first wreck occurred on nearby Meadowbrook Road. On Friday, I had left a prayer meeting in Walnut Cove just an hour before the second wreck; it happened on Highway 89—the very road I traveled to get home. Being so near the accidents, both in place and time, made me strangely affected, although I knew none of the victims.

Not knowing them didn’t matter anyway. Mothers lost sons those nights. I am a mother of two sons, so this was heart-wrenching to me.

What was also devastating was the fact that alcohol was involved in both accidents. One driver was of legal drinking age, the other was not. Legal or not, no one should drink and drive. Why is this a problem? And why does Stokes County have one of the highest rates of alcohol-related crashes in the state?

Years ago, I sat on a committee that had received a grant to study the high incidence of alcohol-influenced wrecks in the county. We spent hours searching for the root of the problem and how to resolve it. We even brought in teenagers to help. An initiative was launched to lower the number of these accidents.

And still they happen. Why?

There are many reasons: lack of fulfillment in people’s lives that leads to alcohol abuse, that youthful feeling of invincibility which results in the skewed thinking of “It can’t happen to me,” too little awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, etc.

One of the age groups most affected is youth ages 16 to 25. We can argue that we are not training up our children in the way they should go, that peer pressure to consume alcohol is strong, that irresponsible adults are purchasing alcohol for underage drinkers.

But I will also argue that there aren’t enough worthwhile activities for youth in Stokes County, especially on weekend nights. If you’re in King, it’s a little better; you are near Highway 52 which will take you in a flash to Winston-Salem where there are multiple things to do, such as bowling or going to the movies. In King itself, there may not be too much to do except eat at a restaurant that stays open late. The Stokes Family YMCA is located there, but it closes at 8 p.m. Friday night and 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Late at night in Walnut Cove, you can go eat at a couple of restaurants. That’s about it. You can’t even do that in Danbury, Pine Hall, Lawsonville or Sandy Ridge.

There are those of us in Walnut Cove dedicated to helping local youth prosper through education, recreation, service, a move of God; we are lobbying for a recreational center in town. We argue that kids need a place to shoot basketball, have space for games/seminars/tutoring, watch movies, hold Christian youth rallies and functions.

There are not even any real parks for children. There is an outdoor public basketball court in the London community of Walnut Cove—not ideal late at night or in freezing weather. There is Fowler Park—a lovely place but one which has no bathrooms or playground equipment. What kid wants to just sit under the picnic shelter or walk around the short path? At Lions Park, there is some rather outdated playground equipment, but again, no bathrooms unless baseball games are going on nearby.

So if you are a young person in Walnut Cove on a weekend night, you can either hang out in the Food Lion parking lot or hang out in the Food Lion parking lot. And repeat.

How do we get what we need for the youth? Community involvement is a start. We need more people to care about this issue. Most adults either have children, will have children or have/will have grandchildren who need a place for wholesome recreation in town. So you SHOULD care.

Some of you have lots of money that you can’t take with you. (Yeah, I said it.) Some of you know where to find money/grants, even if you don’t have any money personally. Some of you have land that would be a perfect place to locate a rec center. Some of you have skills that could be used to construct and outfit such a place.

So what’s stopping us? I say we can have a place in Walnut Cove (and other towns) that will give our kids somewhere to go to do something constructive. Would you rather see your kids at the local rec center playing handball, basketball or Uno late on a Friday night or out on back roads drinking illegally and then driving around because there’s no place to go?

If you are willing to put your hand to the plow to make this happen, contact me; I will be glad to welcome you to the group that is pushing to provide something for our youth in this town. My heart is to bless the children. I know the Town of Walnut Cove needs revenue; that’s why the leaders push for businesses to come to Town. But can you imagine how blessed Walnut Cove would be if Town leaders would get behind the effort to bless the Town’s children? Revenue would follow, per God’s promise that if you seek first His Kingdom, everything else you need will be added.

We don’t need any more young people killed on our roads because alcohol was an easy answer for “What is there to do?” That “easy” answer often turns into something hard for all of us to bear. We’ve had enough of that. It’s time to redeem this next generation. Who’s up for the task?

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The Old Paths: Lighting the fire for learning

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on April 18, 2013. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in this blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper.

fire for learningWhen I taught public school, I was often dismayed by the lack of interest I saw in many of my students. By the time they came to me in their final year or two of high school, they very often had lost the desire to really learn. They were more concerned with passing the test, getting the grade for the college transcript—whether or not they ever really learned a thing.

I am afraid it may be even worse now that EOGs/EOCs/ WHATEVERS have become the law of the land. My heart goes out to dedicated teachers who feel they must first teach for a test rather than light a fire for learning. Their hands are tied in many ways.

Could the push for performance be dousing the flame of learning and curiosity that is so inherent in children? Are the bright-eyed kindergarteners ending up as glazed-stare teenagers?test for the test

I believe children are naturally programmed to want to learn and explore. And when they come in contact with a teacher who encourages that, the flame for learning is fanned into a raging fire. I am more and more convinced that Stokes County overflows with such teachers, despite the necessity of focusing on tests more than in days of yore.

I saw this when I watched the news story that CBS did on the Civil War camp at London Elementary School. Yes, I got teary-eyed every time I watched it. I wanted to stand up and salute somebody or some flag or something!

Walnut Cove making national news—I thought I would pop with pride! But the best thing was that we made the news for something so wonderful, so worthy.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nc-teacher-helps-fifth-graders-make-history/

When I covered the Civil War camp at London in my career at The Stokes News, I wanted to be a fifth grader again—to be in the class of Mr. Marshall or Mr. Boyles or whoever was lighting the fire to learn in these kids.

When you live it, you learn it. Reading about something is marvelous, but when you experience it, it comes to life in a way that touches your soul as mere words never can. You can read a romance book and mentally swoon, but when you fall in love yourself, you physically and emotionally swoon and are changed forever.tests--joke

When my kids were younger, we did The Prairie Primer—a curriculum based on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When we read about Ma churning butter, we churned some ourselves. It was one thing to read about Pa’s muzzleloading guns, but it was another thing altogether when my daddy showed us how his muzzleloader operated.

I pray that my children will never forget what we learned as we read those nine books aloud and did the hands-on activities suggested. Chances are, they won’t, because they experienced so much of it. Neither will the fifth graders who experience the Civil War camp at London.

Today, I attended the Stokes County Historical Society’s annual fourth-grade tour. I was amazed that all fourth-grade classes in the county didn’t take part; it should be mandatory. But I believe the ones who did came away with a greater understanding of what their forefathers went through and what made this county great.

I know that I did. I was fascinated by the stories of local history and the various implements used on the old paths as seen in the Stokes County Historical Museum. My love for history was fanned even more!history--love it

And as I stood at the Moratock Iron Furnace and sat inside  Davis Chapel, I remembered the many teachers who lit the fire for learning in me—especially those who made history come to life. (I am a firm believer that if we don’t study history, we are destined to repeat it.)

I thought of Mr. Ron Jessup whose charisma as he led us through our history lessons made me want to hang on to every word. He so inspired me that I creatively wrote a journal, speaking from the first-person perspective of a heartbroken girl whose favorite cousin had gone away to fight in the Civil War.

Mr. Jessup was so moved when he read my “journal” in our eighth-grade class that he immediately led me down the hall at Southeastern Stokes Junior High to Ms. Glenna Hicks’ ninth-grade history class. He had me read it to them, his face beaming with pride.

That was my introduction to Ms. Hicks—perhaps the greatest history teacher to walk the face of the Earth. When I had her the next year for part two of American History, I was in ecstasy every day for about 50 minutes.

She breathed history. You would’ve thought she was there for the proceedings that led to World War I. Surely she was on hand to witness WWII from the inner circles of nations. Her lectures held me on the edge of my seat as I furiously took notes on everything she said.

teachers

She wasn’t teaching for a test. She was teaching what she knew, what she loved, what she wanted to light a fire in us to love—the oh-so-important history of our nation.

The fire that Ms. Hicks helped ignite in me burns yet. And I want to pass it on to my children. It still burns in other former students of hers, such as history teacher Graham Flynt at North Stokes. Think of how many young people Flynt has taught to love history as well. The fire spreads still.

As National Teacher Appreciation Week approaches in early May, take the time to tell such a teacher how much they meant to you. Thank your children’s teachers for their dedication. And let’s all continue to help spark a love for learning that will burn for a lifetime.

teachers--income, outcome

The Old Paths: Fight the Winter Blahs

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on February 28, 2008. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in my blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper. Although much of this info is dated by now, there are still universal truths to be gained by reading it.

winter blahsIf you’re like me, you’re starting to notice the days getting longer and some daffodils prematurely pushing up through February’s hard ground. I actually saw a bird taking a bath in my birdbath today and nearly freaked out; I’ve never seen one do that in the 14 years we’ve lived here! And when I parked behind London Elementary School a few evenings ago, I heard croaking down at the creek—do they call them “peepers” maybe? The sound made me long for spring which is indeed right around the corner. Signs everywhere are pointing to my favorite season!

But until then I’m still working my way through the winter blahs. I’ve found some great ways to beat them. “American Idol” came back on in January, and that sure has helped. (I agree with those of you who say there is to be no idol before God, so yes, the title of that show bothers me. However, my family and I enjoy hearing excellent singing and critiquing below-par singing!)

A friend of mine declared vehemently in the fall that he would NOT watch such a cheesy show as “American Idol,” but I’ve heard he’s on the couch every Tuesday and Wednesday night as he boos Simon or agrees with Paula and Randy. He even headed up a “Fantasy Idol” draft. I’m quite impressed with the labor he went to—cutting out pictures of the Top 24 and working out an elaborate point system. My fantasy football season may have gone sour, but so far, I’m at the top of the leader board in the “American Idol” league! (Eat your heart out, Stokes News employees who beat me at Fantasy Football!)

My favorite-ever "American Idol" David Cook was on the show in 2008 when this column was originally published.

My favorite-ever “American Idol” David Cook was on the show in 2008 when this column was originally published.

Another excellent way of beating the late winter blahs is to have friends and/or family TV sessions to watch ACC basketball. It’s not quite as much fun as the World Series or football season was in my den, but it’s much better than watching “The Weather Channel” 24/7. (Then again, maybe not. How I love that weather stuff!) Somehow I have failed in my job as a mother—the fruit of my labors having produced two Carolina fans. It makes for interesting times when the Duke or NC State fans in our family get riled up. It’s a pretty even split around here.

However, my favorite way to attack those winter blahs is to get out into the community and be active. I enjoyed seeing so many of you at the South Stokes basketball games. And I must confess I was always disappointed during the varsity games. That gym should’ve been packed out instead of half-empty!

“I don’t have anyone playing on the teams,” you may say. Neither did I. Neither did Margie Dunlap or Carol Wiles. Horace and Brenda Boles stayed long after their granddaughter finished playing. Don and Nancy Lester could be counted on to hang around way past the time their relative played. The point is that it was great fun to watch, whether or not you had anyone playing. The sense of community unity was heartening as all races, creeds and genders pulled together for the common goal—a Saura victory.

For many years, my kids and I missed very few ballgames at my alma mater, South Stokes High!

For many years, my kids and I missed very few ballgames at my alma mater, South Stokes High!

Remember the days of Kenny Dennard when there was standing room only in the gym? They tell me the whole town came out to watch on the old paths of the 1920’s and ’30’s when the likes of my grandmother, Reny Richardson Smith, led Walnut Cove High School to victory. Athletics has always been a great common denominator for the varied types of people who inhabit our town and county. I encourage you to come out to watch your local teams whether or not you have a vested interest. You’ll find someone you know there in the bleachers, you’ll see some kid playing that you recognize and you’ll find that the winter blahs are lost in the cries of “Defense!” or “Let’s go, Sauras!”

I found the same camaraderie in London Gym this winter. How encouraged I was to be forced to stand at the door one night last week because the bleachers were jam-packed full! All to watch eight- and nine-year-olds play. That’s the spirit!

Even the little kids' games are exciting at London Gym! And it's free until tournament time.

Even the little kids’ games are exciting at London Gym! And it’s free until tournament time.

These kids are the future of our town, our county, our world. Watching them learn to play as a team, to be gracious in victory or loss, to compete with as much determination as Alan Iverson or Tim Duncan—this warms the heart, chasing away winter’s chill. And I doubt Iverson or Duncan goes running into Grandma’s arms after the game or high-fives Grandpa to be congratulated on the lay-up that finally went in! I’d rather be in London Gym during tournament week than at an NBA arena.

And it's not just boys. Girls play, too!

And it’s not just boys. Girls play, too!

I sat in that gym a lot this winter, often contemplating its rich history. I thought of the marvelous teams London High School must have had back in the day. Not discounting those incredible teams I have heard tell of, I was nonetheless encouraged now to see children of all races playing together on that floor. What a different world our children are growing up in—not perfect by any means, but coming along slowly but surely in the area of race relations.

Yes, I still get a chill when I hear the part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech that says, “I have a dream that one day. . .little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Perhaps I am privileged enough to be able to see the dawning of that day, even on basketball courts in crowded gyms.

Children of different races play together at London Gym—something that would have been unheard of even 50 years ago.

Children of different races play together at London Gym—something that would have been unheard of even 50 years ago.

So how are your winter blahs now? Mine are rapidly disappearing in the warmth of what I’ve experienced this winter. Next year, take my advice and experience community unity with me. Support the children who will one day be your doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, accountants, etc. Basketball may be almost over, but early season baseball is just around the bend. Put on your earmuffs and scarves, grab the blanket and get out of the house. You’ll soon find that the winter blahs are old news and that spring has sprung once more.

Tournament season in the Walnut Cove Youth Basketball League starts this coming Saturday, February 27, 2016. Come watch these kids play; I promise you won’t be disappointed. We had a nail-biter there just last night!

The Old Paths: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News in 2009. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish some of my best stories from my time as editor of that paper. Part I of this story can be accessed on another of my blog posts at this link: 

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/storing-up-stokes-memories-bob-carroll/

Me and Bob Carroll

Me with Bob Carroll at his 101st birthday party!

It has been nearly 80 years since the 1929 stock market crash that helped send this country reeling toward the pit of the Great Depression. Since then, we’ve heard talk of recessions and economic downturns, but the “D” word has been avoided. I’ve often wondered what would necessitate the use of it.

Some economists say a depression is a decline in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of more than 10 percent. For example, from 1929-1933, the GDP fell almost 33 percent. There was a bit of a recovery in the mid-‘30’s before another decline—this time only 18.2 percent—in the late ‘30’s. Since then, there has been nothing even close to that. Remember the big recession from 1973-75? The GDP only fell 4.9 percent during that period. Quite a difference from the Great Depression, huh?

The bad news is that the GDP fell 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 alone, after having already fallen lesser amounts in the earlier part of 2008. Many economists predict a further decline in the first half of 2009. It seems we are creeping closer to that dreaded “D” word.

Talking to Stokes County residents who lived through the Great Depression has been eye-opening for me. Most of them agree that the biggest difference between that generation and the present one is the fact that the majority of them knew how to be self-sufficient. As a whole, we have lost that capability.

I’ve heard old-timers talk about being forced to shoot songbirds for food. Rabbits and squirrels were diet staples. Bob Carroll, age 101, told me about eating “possum,” which he stills remembers as a rather distasteful, unpleasant experience. Truth is, if I were left alone without my male relatives who know how to hunt and fish, I would probably starve. I guess I could trap an opossum if need be–they sure show up on my porch often enough to try to eat my cat food–but shooting a bird might be a fiasco for me.

I’ve grown my own garden before, buying my seeds at local stores. What would I do if those seeds were not available? I so desire to learn how to save my own seeds. The predominance of hybrid seeds scares me. We have been lulled into a trap that convinces us to buy new seeds each year, since hybrid seeds don’t reproduce themselves.

Carroll told me of men in the ‘30’s who would hustle all day to sell apples for a nickel, just to put food on their families’ tables. Do we still have that same work ethic—we who have become inured to sitting at desks or working at lucrative factory jobs? Men of Carroll’s generation were willing to walk barefoot from King to Charlotte to be first in line for a rumored job.

That nickel they sold an apple for would buy enough beans to keep them alive for a day. Would that work for Americans who are used to eating sumptuous meals at restaurants nearly daily, or who, even if eating at home, have grown accustomed to marinated chicken breasts, broiled steaks or at least frozen pizza?

Carroll says Depression-era families went back to the farms—“not to make a living but to live.” Where are we going back to? The family farm is, as a rule, a thing of the past. My daddy has my grandpa’s farm. Since I live next door, I suppose Daddy would let me help him grow enough food for my large family, if need be. But most people don’t have land to go back to.

Unemployment for us has come to mean checks from the government to help us along, as we put in a couple of applications per week. The unemployed father of seven in the Great Depression era had no such checks. If you were unemployed, you had to scramble to eat. This made for a tougher people, in my opinion.

“I’m very pessimistic about the future,” Carroll commented on the state of the nation, adding that the high prices of commodities and growing unemployment worry him. He says that the difference between now and then is that a dollar went farther in the ‘30’s.

Carroll still remembers the hope that came when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought in the “New Deal” in 1932. He credits FDR’s ideas with being the key to the economic turnaround. Crop control measures allotted only so much tobacco, cotton and peanuts to growers. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) brought community work; Carroll cites the example of WPA workers adding to the courthouse in Danbury. He remembers the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) building the bathhouse at Hanging Rock State Park.

Today’s situation is somewhat similar in the sense that we have a new President with new ideas—reminiscent of FDR and his New Deal. “Obama’s touched on it,” Carroll speaks optimistically of the new President’s plans. He believes that already our Commander-in-Chief has made progress by limiting the sumptuous incomes of some: “He’s kinda on the right track. I’m extremely interested in the political situation in this country.”

As to the common perception that people tend to fall back on religion when times get hard, Carroll believes that is true “to some extent but not so much as you might think.” He philosophizes: “I’ve thought so much about it. When you are hungry, would you rather someone say they’ll pray for you or give you a bowl of beans?”

Going even further back in memory, Carroll remembers how Americans united during World War I. Although there weren’t the widespread rations as in World War II, still the country rallied to conserve. The government suggested that people observe three types of days each week—wheatless, meatless and sweetless.

By law, if a family wanted to buy 100 pounds of flour, they had to buy 100 pounds of cornmeal—an equal ratio of both, for conservation purposes. Carroll admits, “I never have liked cornbread much since I had to eat it so much back then,” yet he still did his part to support his country’s efforts to get back on the right track.

If we are entering similar days again, we may be called upon to do our part, whatever that may be. I hope you’ll join me, even if it means sacrifice. Just as great events bind us in unity, so do hard times often knit us together.

I read an email this week that said, “Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas and oil, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.” Although it was meant to be humorous, it was based on what many perceive to be true. Don’t fall for it; there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your head up until you get there, and I’ll try to do the same. Give me your hand, and let’s walk it out together.

**Robert “Bob” Carroll, passed from this life on Tuesday afternoon, Mar. 6, 2012, just a little over a month after he celebrated his 104th birthday. The cause of death is listed as complications of pneumonia.

Storing Up Stokes Memories: Bob Carroll

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News in 2009. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish some of my best stories from my time as editor of that paper.**

CarrollIf he wanted to, Robert “Bob” Carroll of King could just sit back and take it easy after having achieved centenarian status plus one—a milestone most people never reach. Instead he still gets up every day and focuses on what has been his chief interest and hobby for many years—history/genealogy. “I’m almost a fanatic,” he admits. “It kinda gives me incentive to live.”

That interest began when Carroll was still a very young man and studied about some Boyles relatives who fought in the Civil War. The genealogy/history bug bit him, and he has never regretted it. “If I were younger,” Carroll shakes his head ruefully, “there’s so much research I’d like to do.” He leans forward and confides conspiratorially, “I’ve got a sneaking suspicion we’re in royalty.”

Carroll spent many an hour in the local libraries, register of deeds offices, and what he calls “the gold mine”—Raleigh. He often rode to the state capital with Stokes County’s local legislator, Worth Gentry. While Gentry attended government meetings, Carroll researched all day long. “I was in seventh heaven,” he recalls.

Although he hasn’t been out for such research since he moved to Arbor Acres United Methodist Retirement Village in Winston-Salem when his wife passed away in 2000, Carroll has drawers full of folders which are stuffed with historical information. His desk is littered with worn census records he has pored over for decades. Those records were the source of Carroll’s book, Old, Odd and Other Stuff, which is a treasury of Stokes County history. The book and the multitudes of articles he wrote while working for The Danbury Reporter for 27 years as a weekly columnist detail many family histories.

This love of study goes back to the early 1900’s. Carroll, born on February 1, 1908, attended Mt. Olive School in King—a two-teacher school—through seventh grade. Since that was as far as he could go, he stayed in seventh grade for four years. Then King High School was established to provide further education, and Carroll went there for another four years, graduating at the age of 21. Of the 20 members of the King High School Class of 1929, only Carroll is left.

“I loved to go to school,” he still sounds enthused as he recalls his boyhood. “I’d walk a mile to borrow a newspaper to read.”

Finding time to study and read was quite a challenge for young Carroll. His life was not an easy one and was full of heartaches and disappointment. Although his family roots are in Stokes County, he was born in Winston (no Salem at that time), about three miles from where he lives now. His father was a revenue officer for the Fifth District. When Howard Taft was defeated in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson elected to the Presidency, the elder Carroll lost his job in the changing political climate.

In 1915, the Carrolls moved to King for work. In December of that year, the father of four young children—young Bob was the oldest at seven years old—developed appendicitis and then pneumonia and died suddenly. Carroll remembers the event vividly, “I was lost. I didn’t know what to do.”

His mother moved her young brood into a one-room log cabin on Carroll’s grandpa’s farm. The family hired themselves out to work for other farmers in the area. “I got so tired of picking peas,” Carroll recalls. They lived in poverty throughout his childhood.

Carroll states firmly, “One thing I learned—how important good neighbors are.” He has never forgotten the good people—none of them well-to-do either—who told them to come pick the extra apples or to glean the roasting ear patch. Some donated hand-me-down clothes for the young Carrolls. The family was given wood chips for heating and would sometimes have to carry them a mile or more.

Still, Carroll says he saw no long-term damage. His mother lived to be 104, one sister died at 97, and his youngest brother is still alive at 93.

Amidst those hard years of growing up, somehow Carroll found time for his schooling. He even got a student loan of $400 to attend Guilford College but still had to labor to pay his way—working as a janitor for the auditorium and men’s restrooms. Carroll’s goal? To become a newspaper reporter. He worked on the staff of the campus newspaper, The Guilfordian, but after two years at the college, was forced to leave. The Great Depression had struck.

“There was nothing to do,” Carroll assesses the job situation in that era. “I was so disappointed and so disgusted. I couldn’t find anything to do. I’d have taken a job digging ditches for 10 cents an hour.” He heard that Ford Motor Company would give jobs to the first 100 men who would walk to Charlotte, and figured if he could go barefoot, he could run and get there quickly. The rumor of jobs proved to be untrue.

For a while, Carroll hired out to work in tobacco. Finally, in 1934, he got a job in crop control, measuring tobacco land.

For the next 11 years, Carroll worked that job as well as three others, in a seasonal fashion. He raised tobacco himself, worked the tobacco market (a total of 30 years) and did income tax preparation. In 1955, he became a tax collector for Stokes County but was fired when “the political picture changed,” in a situation reminiscent of his father’s firing. Carroll then worked in the tax office of Forsyth County before coming back to King after 2½ years.

As a citizen and public servant of Stokes County, Carroll was a visionary. When he served on the board of education for four years and the county wanted to expand South Stokes High School, he voted against it. Carroll wanted a school in the Yadkin Township since 40 percent of the county’s population lived there. “I regret I didn’t push it,” he admits.

And Carroll is still a visionary. His passion for history—“I just feel like local history’s important”—keeps him writing articles to this day, some of which will be published in future editions of The Stokes News. “We can improve the present if we know the past,” he philosophizes. Future generations of Stokes County residents will owe debts to Bob Carroll that they can never repay. Family memories and Stokes County history have been preserved for posterity, thanks to this visionary who looked backward to see forward and who never let hardship keep him down.

**Note: Bob Carroll’s memories were so extensive that they cannot possibly be adequately presented in this brief article. More of his memories are highlighted in another blog post called “The Old Paths: The Light at the End of the Tunnel,” specifically his memories of the two World Wars and the Depression, as well as his thoughts on the future of this nation. This is the link: 

https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-old-paths-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel/

**Robert “Bob” Carroll, passed from this life on Tuesday afternoon, Mar. 6, 2012, just a little over a month after he celebrated his 104th birthday. The cause of death is listed as complications of pneumonia.

The Old Paths: Walnut Cove’s Communist Training Camp

(First published in 2007 as “Walnut Cove past leads through shady territory” in The Stokes News under the name of “Leslie Bray Evans”)

Me with a small portion of Mrs. Binkley's daffodils which still bloom on the property.

Me with a small portion of Mrs. Binkley’s daffodils which still bloom on the property.

One of the “old paths” in the Cove leads through some pretty shady territory. I never promised you all sunshiny paths, did I?! Did you know there was a Communist training school in Walnut Cove in the 1940’s and ’50’s?

In the late ’30’s, William and Eleanore Hoagland Binkley purchased around 50 acres of land off Pine Hall Road. Mr. Binkley, affectionately known as “Bink” to his wife, was a lawyer from Lewisville who occasionally substituted at Pine Hall School. Mrs. Binkley, a very proper lady educated at Strasbourg University in Russia,* hailed from the Chicago area. It was speculated that this childless couple came to Walnut Cove because its rural location was an excellent hiding place for their agenda–to promote Russian-style Communism in the U.S., in hopes of a complete takeover.

The Binkleys lived for approximately four years in first a tent and later a slab building while improving their property. When J.D. Bray (my grandfather) moved his family next door in ’44, the Binkleys were well-established, living in a cozy log cabin and later in a comfortable modern home. Mrs. Binkley worked at Pellcare Nursing Home in Walkertown and would honk the horn of her vehicle–in later years, a yellow ’57 Chevy–as she neared her property each afternoon. Neighbors whispered that this was a signal to let her husband know it was she and not a stranger.

According to a decades-old article from a Greensboro newspaper, which detailed an FBI investigation of the alleged Communist complex, the Binkleys were conducting Communist training seminars at their farm, with perhaps 10-20 people in attendance at each session. My uncle Sam Bray vows to this day that Mrs. Binkley once introduced him to a young man who later became a much admired leader in the national spotlight. “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” as the training school was called, included singing, as heard by the Bray family as they worked in the fields nearby.

According to Mrs. Binkley’s father, who occasionally visited, the training agenda even included how to kill someone with a simple lead pencil. After he leaked information to neighbors about the the Binkleys’ Communist ties, Mr. Hoagland was never again seen, thus leading to unfounded gossip that he was “conveniently disposed of.” Bink himself was often gone to Tennessee for months at a time; locals speculated that he was a Union organizer, working for the AFL-CIO.

My husband in the bamboo forest planted by the Binkleys.

My husband in the bamboo forest planted by the Binkleys.

People of different races visited the Binkleys, and supposedly Bink held meetings at a Walnut Cove church in a failed attempt to organize area minorities. It was a common Communist practice in the mid-1900’s to reach out to oppressed minorities in an effort to recruit new members.

My daddy, Tom Bray, remembers a book that stood on the Binkley bookshelf–Why Russia Won’t Attack This Year. A picture of the Russian Revolution emblem–the hammer and the sickle–hung nearby. Once Bink was helping dig a grave in the Forest Chapel United Methodist Church graveyard when an area funeral home director drove up and loudly asked, “Where’s that ole Communist who lives around here?” Neighborhood men pointed down into the grave where Bink stood, shoveling dirt.

Grandpa Bray was eventually enlisted by the FBI as an informant, logging license plate numbers of visitors to the Binkley farm. It was usually after dark when FBI agents would quietly arrive at the Bray farm, parking at a nearby tobacco barn. Grandpa Bray would walk up to meet them and sit inside their car to give them information he had collected. A family friend who worked as a secretary for the FBI’s Washington, DC office, confided that she once stumbled across the file of an FBI operative with the name “J.D. Bray” on it!

I would love to know when and why the Binkleys planted bamboo in the mid-1900's.

I would love to know when and why the Binkleys planted bamboo in the mid-1900’s.

The Binkleys were ahead of their time in many ways. They advertised their shrub farm in The Progressive Farmer magazine. The exact name has been forgotten, but it was reminiscent of “Tulip Poplar Farm.” The Binkleys recycled, reusing everything they could–long before “going green” was hip. Mrs. Binkley warned people that white bread was a carcinogen–long before health enthusiasts popularized that claim.

The Binkleys were always kind to the Brays. Mrs. Binkley once cared for my daddy when he had a backset of the measles. When Bink saw Daddy shooting down at the creek one day, he called him “a regular Nimrod.” My cousin Tana and I would play dress-up and walk down to visit Mrs. Binkley, who would welcome us as if we were the grandest of ladies and suggest we all have a tea party!

Whichever family got the mail first from the top of the long driveway would put the other’s mail in a notch in a huge oak tree still standing in the Bray yard. How the Bray beagles would growl when Bink walked up to check for mail! Even after years of seeing him daily, those dogs never befriended Bink, so he carried a stick to fend them off.

This old tree--under which my family still holds cookouts and covered dish dinners--is the very one the Binkleys and Brays used to put their mail in the mid-1900's.

This old tree–under which my family still holds cookouts and covered dish dinners–is the very one the Binkleys and Brays used for their mail delivery in the mid-1900’s. The notch has now closed up and is very high on the tree trunk.

The Binkleys were, however, very fond of animals. They had trick goats, rabbits, red hogs, tame squirrels, geese, etc. Their dozens of cats ate out of the owners’ plates and were free to come and go into the house via cat holes that would slam loudly as the Bray dogs chased them! The Binkleys did not allow hunting on their property but did occasionally kill a goat to eat. The graves of two particular pet goats, Billy and Nancy, are still visible on their property. Neighbors called Bink “The Rabbit Man.” It was rumored that he put secret messages into the ears of his rabbits then shipped them all over the country.

More plantings from the Binkleys in the mid-20th century.

More plantings from the Binkleys in the mid-20th century.

When Duke Power began buying land in the ’60’s, they bought out the Binkleys. Before they moved out of the county, the Binkleys told Daddy to feel free to take whatever they left behind, including papers that detailed their beliefs. Duke Power used the Binkley home to house workers while building their steam station, but in the early ’80’s, the Binkley complex was bulldozed to the ground–destroying all evidence of a Communist training school that once existed down a shadowy old path in the Cove….**

*Strasbourg University is located in France, so perhaps the family’s memories of Mrs. Binkley’s education are faulty. I assume she attended the University in France and perhaps did some traveling in Russia during that time.

DSCN4715

Mrs. Binkley’s periwinkle now covers acres of ground on her old property.

**Editor’s Note: Today the Binkley property still adjoins the Bray farm, which is now owned by my parents. It still belongs to Duke Energy but is leased by my daddy for recreational purposes. The property is especially beautiful in springtime when Mrs. Binkley’s daffodils still bloom–the old-timey ones that give off such a fragrant perfume. Some even have double blooms. The periwinkle she planted perhaps more than 70 years ago has spread to cover the woodland ground with its delicate bluish-purple flowers. My family takes walks down there to see the beauty of the blooms each spring.

My children especially love the bamboo forest. Yes, it’s true–a small forest of bamboo, towering high into the sky, grows there where the Binkleys planted it long, long ago. Magnolia trees still flourish, along with the pampas grass the couple planted in the mid-1900s. The old animal graveyard is invisible to my eyes, but my daddy can still locate it. The beautiful cabins and outbuildings are gone, but both Daddy and Mama can take you to where the steps to them were located.

Who knows what plots to take over the United States were hatched on this very property?

Who knows what plots to take over the United States were hatched on this very property?

I am haunted to this day by the tragic loss of the painstakingly-built structures on the Binkley property. Duke Power made the heartless decision to raze it all to ground level for no reason that I can see, except to clear themselves from any liability. When they first bulldozed it, I assumed they were going to use the land for something. Yet 40 years later, it lies unused by that company–just as uninhabited as it was when the Binkleys took their last look at their little haven deep in the woods–a waste of what was once beautiful.

I long to find someone who can tell me more about this mysterious couple who were tried in a court of law for their Communist sympathies and activity. Google will take you to the documents from the court proceedings. (Type in “Junius Scales,” “Communist” and “Binkley,” and the records should show up.) But not much else exists to verify that William and Eleanore Binkley ever existed. My family and I, however, can assure you that they did.

***Here is an article detailing Mrs. Binkley’s death in Florida in 1991. This makes her sound like a hero. I figure that I would’ve liked her ideals a lot—aside from the Communist stuff.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1755&dat=19910417&id=TTgeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6688%2C1474107&hl=en

***Here is a short article about the Communist training camp held on the Binkley farm. It is in the bottom lefthand corner and is about a Mr. Scales.

http://fultonhistory.com/Newspapers%2023/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal%201955/Jamestown%20NY%20Post%20Journal%201955%20-%201206.pdf

Daffodils spread for acres on the old Binkley property.

Daffodils spread for acres on the old Binkley property.

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