It was summer of 1971 and a major diplomatic surprise had taken place as President Richard Nixon announced that he had accepted “with pleasure” an invitation to visit mainland China in 1972 and revealed that this invitation was arranged by Henry Kissinger on a secret trip to Beijing. It was understood that the visit would lead to diplomatic recognition.
In August of 1971, President Nixon had ordered a 90-day wage-price, rent freeze and announced imposition of a 10 percent surcharge on foreign imports. In September, the Plumbers burglarized the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. The $72 million Kennedy Center had opened and was highlighted by the premier of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” a theater piece commissioned for the event and required more than 200 performers. The Nixon crowd squirmed at the antiwar overtones of the work as well as the glittery appearance of the Kennedy clan.
This was the summer that the New York State Prison at Attica experienced a prisoners’ rebellion and 1,200 inmates controlled the institution for four days. It took 1,500 police and prison guards to retake control of the Attica prison where 31 prisoners and nine of their hostage were killed (Dickson, Paul “From Elvis to E-Mail,” Springfield, Mass. Federal Street Press: 1999, p.190).
Even though school students had finished the school year, news of events of it were continuing to make the news. When the county officials had visited the school in late spring, a team of young students has served as their guide. The students were Laura Castellanos, Cathy Barefoot, Kimry Gardner, Liza Fuquay, Shelia Pope, Robert Robinson, Cathy Williams, Alan Whittington, Derik Currin, Greg Weaver and Donna Barnes (Daily Record, June 2, 1971).
Linda Ann Moore, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Donald Moore of Coats, had graduated magna cum laude at Campbell College. She was one of the 332 members of the graduating class (Daily Record, June 3, 1971).
Coats educators Cecil Adair Fuquay and Michael Allen Smith,had received their Master of Arts in Education from East Carolina University on June 7, 1971. Jennifer Elaine Dixon was selected to receive a Campbell College Scholarship. However, all the news was not good because a beloved citizen in Coats was very ill at Good Hope Hospital. Does the name Mattie Bain sound familiar? (Daily Record, June 7, 1971)
Who remembers when there was a water tank on the old Coats High School campus? Do you know where the water came from to fill that tank and supply the school’s needs? I do know that a new well was planned for Coats to relieve the water shortage. In that same June 8, 1971, edition of The Daily Record it was printed that Edna Lockamy was hostess for the United Methodist Church Women. Peggie Clayton and Carolyn Denning gave the program. Shari Gardener was also featured in that edition where she was pictured learning by listening in Mary Cameron’s room.
The death angel visited Coats and took Lloyd D. Norris, 37, a service station operator, on Wednesday June 9. His wife, Merline, and one daughter, Jean Norris Williams, survived him. His mother was Nancy Norris of Route One, Benson (Daily Record, June 11, 1971).
The same edition of the paper recorded that James “Jimmy” Grimes Jr. was the recipient of the Americanism Award presented by Banner Post 109 American Legion during the awards ceremony at Coats High School. Qualifications for the recipients were to display outstanding courage, honor, leadership, patriotism, scholarship and services. Jimmy planned to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. James D. Grimes Sr.
Another outstanding Coats High graduate had continued to display his scholarship abilities as it was printed that Danny Hedgepeth had made the Dean’s List at Holding Tech (Daily Record, June 21, 1971).
Many Coats residents found themselves as patients in hospitals. Mrs. John Weaver and Dorothy Messer were in a local hospital on June 11. Mrs. James Langdon was in Good Hope on June 14. Mary Coats entered McPherson Hospital on June 16 and Sherry Louise Day and Mrs. Maylon Pollard were in Good Hope on June 17.
Effie Williams, 85, of Coats had died on June 16. A daughter, Alphia Avery, and sons, Council, Coy and Curtis Williams, survived her (Daily Record, June 31, 1971). Was this the grandmother of Stacy Avery, Judy Williams Ennis, Gene Williams and Glenda Ramer? Are there other living grandchildren who graduated from Coats High?
I do know that Pete Poole, 75, had died on June 21. Mr. Poole was a veteran of World War I and a retired saw mill worker. He was survived by his wife, Letha C. Poole. The couple had been married over 50 years. His daughters were Mrs. Albert Ragan, Holly Hudson, Mrs. Garland Avery and Zennie Poole Jr. was his son. Mrs. Ed Dixon and Mrs. Joe Stewart were his sisters. He was buried in the Williams Cemetery (Daily Record, June 22, 1971).
Another death touched people from Coats. Edward Jackson “Jack” Mabry, 56, of Route 2, Angier, had died on Wednesday. His wife was Mary Godwin Mabry and a daughter was Judy M. Parrish. His two sons were Edward R. and Jessie H. Mabry. Helen Silvers, Rebecca Turlington and Mrs. O.G. Cobb were sisters. Roger and Julian were brothers.
Death took Bethanie Lee of Benson. She was mother of Ethel Lee Ennis of Route One, Coats. Who remembers Mattie Bain? The beloved 87-year-old woman’s death had saddened many in Coats. She was the daughter of Angus and Margaret Taylor Bain and sister of the late Dr. C.D. Bain. Miss Bain was a former school teacher, legal secretary and former president of WMU Association (Daily Record, June 17, 1971). Who knows where Miss Mattie lived in Coats?
One of the people who would remember Miss Mattie would be Kenneth W. Ennis. Kenneth was recognized at Le Chateau Champlain, Montreal, Canada, for being an outstanding agent with Integon (Daily Record, June 23, 1971).
Another Coats High graduate was moving on up. Carolina Power and Light Company had promoted Delano F. Whittington to field systems analyst in Raleigh. He was formerly district accounting manager in Henderson. Whittington had joined CP&L Company in 1958 as a trainee in Dunn. He was promoted to service clerk in 1959 in Clinton and was named chief clerk in New Bern. He left the company in 1963 to complete his education and returned to the company in 1964 as an accountant in the Raleigh district office. He was promoted to local accountant in Spring Lake in 1968 and district accountant in Henderson in 1969. Whittington was a graduate of Campbell in 1964. He was married to the former June Baggett of Sampson County (Daily Record, June 26, 1971). Who knows when Delano graduated from Coats?
After we completed the Kress and Nell Penny Williams Exhibit Hall in 2012, it took many volunteers almost a year to collect, clean up, record and display the thousands of items loaned and donated from locals. The hours of hard work were often interrupted with visits from some of the original two-room museum folks. It was not uncommon for Carsie Denning Sr., H.A. Turlington Jr. and James Grimes Sr. to drop in to share wonderful stories from their awesome memories. We miss those men and their visits so much. We now have new folks to drop in to share stories.
One who pops into mind is Stacy Avery who brings in artifacts, donations and even doughnuts from Sherry’s Bakery. Ralph Denning, Stewart Akerman and Eddie Vaughan are others who make us feel appreciated. Several of those early museum folks so badly wanted their children to become involved in the museum. We are so excited that some of the hard workers from the 1990s will now have children on the board at the museum.
Kevin Pope, son of Gale Pope and Hilda Pope, has joined our board. Surely he has stories to share about Coats because he is a descendant of some of Coats’ earliest residents. Rhonda Denning Stephenson has also joined us. Her mom and dad, Lamas and Janie Denning, are remembered for their skill in woodworking, especially in making miniature tobacco barns and other farm buildings. The family’s generosity is seen on museum artifacts and on the square where their name is found on the hardscape.
Another new board member is Mayor Chris Coats whose DNA goes back to the town founder, Preacher Tom Coats. For several years, the two-room museum was missing a cover over the entry doors. Chris was a candidate for his Eagle rank in Boy Scouts and asked to build a porch as his project. The rest is history.
Brenda Rhiner also has Coats roots in the Turlington family and often visits us bringing vintage pictures and other family heirlooms to add to our exhibits. Her love of history is contagious to all the volunteers. We look forward to our visitors meeting these new board members when we have museum events.
Becky Adams has been a faithful community worker in Coats for years. Becky served as president of the Kiwanis Club of Coats, was a researcher and compositor for the “Heritage of Coats, N.C.” She serves as secretary on the Coats Museum Board of Directors and is a weekly volunteer at the museum where she gives tours, helps research records for visitors seeking family genealogy. Becky’s mother, Wynona Ennis, died a few days ago and the family specified the Coats Museum as a charity to which her mother could be remembered.
Becky and the museum volunteers wish to thank the following: Celia and Junior Barbour, Lynda and Robie Butler, Dana and Randy Byrd, Lorena and Ralph Denning, Jeanette Johnson, Betty and Charles Manning, Beulah Pope, Hilda Pope, Kathy and Walter Weeks and Jean S. Williams. Stacy and Patsy Avery and H.L. and I shared our love for Wynona, and Becky and Lenee Smith honored her dad, H.L. Sorrell, on Father’s Day by giving to the Coats Museum Endowment.
We hope you have marked several dates on your July calendar. Baxter Ennis, author of “When Leadership Mattered,” will be at the museum on July 15 from 3 to 5 p.m. to sign copies. The book is an awesome read and Baxter is a talented speaker who was president of the Coats High 1971 graduating class. It will be worth the two hours to attend the event and reconnect or meet Baxter who has made a great impact in his every pursuit.
Another date you will want to mark is July 21 at 1 p.m. Myrtle Bridges, author, artist and genealogist, will be at the museum for a Glass Road Show where the public is invited to bring a couple of pieces of depression glass or other antique glassware. Myrtle and her collection of glassware books will be used to help identify the pattern and possibly the book value.