Numbers were in the news in 1977. It was recorded that British scientists had determined that smoking one cigarette shortened the habitual smoker’s life by five and a half minutes an hour. The trans-Alaska pipeline opened and had cost $7.7 billion. The number of adult Americans living alone had doubled since 1970. Professional basketball attendance in the U.S. had risen to over 10 million. The miniseries “Roots” had attracted 80 million viewers. The retail price of coffee had reached $5 in some areas, a rise blamed on a killing frost in South America.
On the political scene, Pakistan’s army, led by Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, had seized power from President Zulfikar Al Bhutto who was later executed in 1979. The Medal of Freedom was awarded posthumously to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Vietnam was admitted into the United Nations (Paul Dickson, “From Elvis to E-Mail.” Springfield MA.: Federal Street Press, 1999 pp 229-30).
On our local political scene, Mayor Ronald Coats had been elected to serve his third term as chairman of the Harnett County Democratic Executive Committee (Daily Record, June 20, 1977).
Several news items were of interest to Coats folks. Donnie Ray Pope, a 1972 Coats High graduate, had held a position as aid to Robert Morgan. Pope planned to enter law school in Concord, New Hampshire, at Franklin Pierce Law Center in the fall. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Milliard Pope. Elsewhere in the Grove Township, Mayor Coats had called a special town meeting to discuss a grant of $40,000 for water line expansion. The town would be able to extend water to an area on the Richard Hayes Road off N.C. Highway 27. Rep. Carson and Mrs. Gregory were in an automobile accident in Dunn with a tractor-trailer truck (Daily Record, June 21, 1977).
Cherie Byrd was a contestant in the Miss Fourth of July pageant (Daily Record, June 24, 1977).
Coleen R. Bacon of Coats, daughter of JoAnne Bacon, was appointed by Rep. Carson Gregory to serve as page. She was one of the youngest ever to be selected for this honor in the county (Daily Record, June 27, 1977).
Joan Fallon, 26, passed away on Thursday. She was a member of the Coats High faculty for about a year and a half. She was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Francis Fallon (Daily Record, July 8, 1977).
Serving on the board of the Harnett County Status of Women from Coats were Mary Dennis and Mack Hudson. Dr. Anne Moore served as chairman of the group (Daily Record, July 13, 1977).
The town of Coats had seen much attention in recent years. Expanding and improving of the local fire and police department, the organizing of a rescue squad, the renovating of a new city hall from a teacherage, and the building of a recreational park on 20 acres southeast of the town with a Farmers Administration loan of $125,000, a matching Bureau of Outdoor Recreation grant and some local funds were aggressive steps to improve the quality of life of the Coats area. The voters however had to approve to supply the necessary $20,000 needed as the town’s matching funds in the $250,000 Recreational Complex (Daily Record, July 20, 1977).
Ronald Coats was expected to seek another term as mayor. He indicated that he wanted to see the recreational situation through completion. Two officials, J.D Norris and John Wiggins, were up for re-election. A third seat had to be filled for the vacancy created by the death of Nassie Dorman (Daily Record, July 15, 1977).
The youngsters in Coats were enjoying the library. Reading contests, story hour for preschoolers and the Traveling Story Lady were creating great interest in visits to the library.
Lots of memorial books were given for O.K. Keene, Mamie Johnson, Charlie Williams, Sidney Turlington, Carl Turlington, Naomi Hudson, Gertie S. Howard and Hilda D. Blalock. Faye Parker, Coats town librarian, shared that Haig Rudd, Shannon and Nicole Lucas, Michelle Sears, Melinda Williams, Amy Parrish and Christy Lassiter were among the children who enjoyed the first story hour. Addie Ennis, the Woman’s Club and the Senior Citizens group donated World Book Encyclopedias and a Webster Unabridged Dictionary (Daily Record, July 21, 1977).
Exciting news was shared from a Dunn couple. Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Wellons announced the birth of a daughter, Leigh Anna, on July 24. The same July 26 edition of The Daily Record shared that Tommy Coats, Ann Johnson O’Neal and Larue Coats were members of a new graduate program at Campbell College.
Junius Elmon Barnes, 77, of Coats had died on Thursday. His services were conducted at Rose Funeral Home Chapel and burial was in the Barnes Family Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Lula Messer Barnes, and by sons, Harold, Phillip and Felton, and one daughter, Flora Weeks. His siblings were Carvis Barnes and Mable Langdon (Daily Record, July 29, 1977).
Lois A. Dew, 64, had died on Saturday. Her services were at the Overby-Johnson Funeral Home in Coats and the burial at Lakeside Memorial Park. Mrs. Johnnie Pope and Mrs. Rudolph Lancaster survived her (Daily Record, Aug. 1. 1977).
Martha Elaine Gregory, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James D. Gregory, was engaged to Connie Mack Tart, son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Mack Tart of Coats (Daily Record, Aug. 2, 1977).
Dr. Linda Robinson who was a second year resident at Missions Hospital in Asheville addressed the Harnett County Medical Society at Chicora Country Club (Daily Record, Aug. 4, 1977).
Does anyone remember Viola Dupree? She had died at the age of 81 on Sunday. Burial was in the Bethel Primitive Baptist Church following services in the Overby-Johnson Funeral Chapel.
The same Aug. 9 edition of The Daily Record printed that Carl Cooke had celebrated his birthday with a cookout. Those attending were Mr. and Mrs. Stacy Godwin, Mr. and Mrs. Baxton Pollard and Mr. and Mrs. Julian Danenburg (Daily Record, Aug. 9, 1977).
When I became serious about learning the history of our area, I was told by many that a great deal of the land between Bailey’s Crossroads and Buies Creek was once owned by the Stewart families. I thought, really? This I do know: There is much truth to that. Many white and black property owners in the area in the 1800 and 1900s were Stewarts. As you have read this column about the Coats area, the name Stewart has been printed about as many times as any other family. Even when you read about the Barnes, Denning, Williams, Turlington, Ennis and other prominent Coats names around the Black River section of Grove, you will find the Stewart name often mentioned in the genealogies.
I also know that Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Stewart had something to celebrate. They had been married for 50 years. The 50th wedding anniversary was hosted by their children — Kenneth Stewart, Larry Stewart, Mrs. Aaron (Rachel) Price, and Mrs. Earl (Louise) Jackson (Daily Record, Aug. 12, 1977).
Lots of exciting news was coming out of Coats. Mr. and Mrs. Terry Abney of Coats had announced the birth of Phillip Fitzgerald at Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital in Dunn. Kimm Faircloth, the Coats Miss Junior Order, had won the North Carolina Junior Order crown at Wilmington. She was a 1976 graduate of Coats High School and was a student at Johnston Technical Institute (Daily Record, Aug. 16, 1977).
Matilda Johnson Langdon, 67, a retired teacher, had died on a Monday. Services were held at Rose Funeral Home Chapel with burial in Roselawn Cemetery (Daily Record, Aug. 23, 1977).
Here are some names that you will recognize and, interestingly, they live on some of the original Stewart land on Ebenezer Church Road. Pamela Joy Smith, daughter of Mrs. Elton Mackie White of Raleigh and Ervin Edwin Smith, was married to Samuel A. Brown, son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Alan Brown of Warsaw (Daily Record, Sept. 1, 1977).
Marcie Young Matthews, 31, of Route One, Coats, had died on Tuesday. Her mother, Nelia B. Young of the same route, survived her. She was buried in the Bethel Cemetery after her funeral in the church.
Something about that obituary made me sad — no father, brothers or sisters were mentioned, only her mother. I bet the boys and girls in Coats were not sad when they read that school had been delayed a few days because of harvesting tobacco. That did not prevent the football season from starting on time. Coats ran to a victory over Parkton 20-0. Cleo Jackson and Dee Langdon plunged for touchdowns and Kevin White returned an intercepted pass 10 yards for another touchdown (Daily Record, Sept. 6, 1977).
Coats Museum notes
Patsy and Stacy Avery faithfully volunteered at the museum on May 26 and enjoyed a visit from Butch and Deborah Turner from Benson. Butch came with an antique survey tool. The metal links enabled the surveyor to measure the land in chains. If you have ever read some land deeds, the mention of so many chains are recorded as points of measurement of the land being surveyed. Thank you, Butch and Deborah for the wonderful visit and for playing the piano for Patsy and Stacy while there.
By the way, many of you might have recognized that Butch is the son of the late Joyce Turner who was a devoted museum board member, a strong Kiwanian and faithful member of the Gift Primitive Baptist Church that her ancestor, Preacher James Thomas Coats, had built and donated to the community.
Lynda Butler and I enjoyed a visit from Anita Grimes last week. She serves as treasurer of the Coats Lions Club following Tommy Ennis who has honorably held that title for years. Have you ever thought what it would be like if there were not people who are willing to give hundreds of hours without pay to make the communities in which we live a better place?
The Lions Club is filled with members who have been doing just that since 1971. There were 51 charter members making it one of the largest ever in their district and in the state. Since that 1971 chartering, the face of the Lions Club can be found prominently in the area. They built the Lions Club Ball Park at the town park, renovated the bathrooms in the Coats Community Building, constructed the gazebo on the Coats Heritage Square, helped establish a Coats Museum Endowment and generously made a 10-year pledge toward the Kress and Nell Penny Williams Exhibit Hall.
The club members work tirelessly to support the blind, to sponsor a cabin at the Children’s Home at Lake Waccamaw and to assist people who are in need of glasses. The list could go one, so when you meet a Lions Club member, thank them for all they do for our town and community.