Looking at 1978 — year of ‘Dallas,’ Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog

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The page of time had flipped and it then displayed 1978 — the year in which there was a mass suicide in Guyana. This was the year that Sweden had become the first nation to curb use of aerosol cans. China and Japan had signed a $20 billion trade pact. Karl Wallenda, patriarch of the Great Wallendas hire-wire act, fell to his death.

The TV show “Dallas” premiered and the nighttime soap opera was born. “Space Invaders” brought America into the age of video games. Hot tubs became popular. It was the year of the Muppets — Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog were everywhere.

“The Deer Hunter” and “Coming Home” demonstrated that war movies in the wake of the Vietnam War were vastly different from those of previous wars. The life expectancy of an American born in 1978 was 73.5 years — 69.6 for men and 77.2 for women. The cost of mailing a stamp increased to 15 cents for a first class letter.

The population of the world was now 4.4 billion and was growing by 200,000 a day. There is no wonder that a favorite bumper sticker read — “Protect farmland: You can’t eat townhouses.”

IBM produced a 64,000 bit memory chip and there 204 nuclear power plants in the world. President Carter signed a bill that gave most Americans the option of retiring at 70 rather than 65. Proposition 13, a constitutional amendment reducing property taxes 57 percent, was approved by a 65 percent majority by the Californians. This was the first sure sign of a revolt against high taxes.

One of the most shocking headlines of 1978 occurred due to the death of 914 people in Jonestown, Guyana, when they drank cyanide-laced purple Kool-Aid after James Jones gave the order for the “White Night” (Dickson, Paul. “From Elvis to E-Mail.” Springfield, Massachusetts: Springfield Press, pp.233-237).

The favorite hangouts for the Coats young people were the photography room, Benson, Pizza Hut and McDonalds’s. The students enjoyed music from groups such as the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind and Fire, Barry Manilow, Andy Gibb, and the Commodores. The Freak, New York Hustle, Tango Hustle, The Spank and Freestyle were the dance fads.

Levis, banded collars, Farrah Fawcett hair styles, curly perms and the disco look marked the styles. “Shadow Dancing,” “Night Fever,” “You Light Up My Life” and “Staying Alive” were favorite songs. “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease,” “Animal House” and “Superman” were the movies to see (1979 Coats High School yearbook, “Echoing Memories”).

Donald R. Page, son of Mr. and Mrs. M.E. Page of Coats, had participated in joint training exercise BOLD EAGLE at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Pvt. Page was regularly assigned as an assistant gunner with the 5th Infantry Division at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Another Coats graduate, Marc A. Powell, son of Mr. and Mrs. Graymon Powell, had been selected for technical training at Keesler AFB in Mississippi. Airman Powell was a 1973 graduate of Coats and had received his associate degree in police science in 1975 from Wake Technical Institute. His wife, Jean Johnson Powell, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Craig K. Johnson (Daily Record, Jan. 2, 1978). Donald, Marc and Jean are names you have read so many times in the column because they are so supportive in loaning and donating display items to the Coats Museum.

Barbara Faye Lee of Carolina Beach was engaged to Joseph Baxton Pollard, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Baxton Pollard. Parents of the bride, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Lee, announced the plans for the Jan. 20 wedding to be held at the Pleasant Memory Baptist Church (Daily Record, Jan. 3, 1978.

Dr. Jose (Peppe) Castellanos, a native of Cuba, had served in partnership with Dr. Donald Moore for 13 1/2 years in Coats. He had spent one year in Erwin before coming to Coats. He was ending his partnership in Coats and was opening a practice on Computer Drive in Raleigh (Daily Record, Jan. 5, 1978).

Lucille J. Parrish, 68, formerly of Newport News, Virginia, had died on Saturday. Funeral services were held at Coats Baptist Church with burial in the Coats City Cemetery. Her widower, Reggie Parrish, survived her. Glenda Parrish Moore and Emma Lou P. Warren were daughters (Daily Record, Jan. 9, 1978).

Dr. Ann Moore and a group of supporters joined her as she filed for the 14th District NC Senate seat (Daily Record, Jan. 10, 1978).

Larry Turlington, a Harnett County Realtor, was a candidate for the seat held by Congressman Charlie Whitley. Turlington said he would call for the resignation of Joseph Califano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare due to Califano’s plan to “use millions of taxpayers’ dollars to advertise a program (anti-smoking) that would destroy the economy of the entire state” (Daily Record, Jan. 16, 1978).

Teresa Ann Tart, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Maylon Tart, was married to Charles Victor McLeod, son of Mr. and Mrs. Vic McLeod. The marriage was followed by a trip to South of the Border in SC (Daily Record, Jan. 17, 1978).

Phyllis Buckner, a teacher in Coats School since 1942, retired from the teaching position (Daily Record, Jan. 18, 1978).

Cherie Byrd gave up her crown as homecoming queen at Cape Fear Christian Academy to the new queen, Robin Pleasant (Daily Record, Jan. 27, 1978).

The first fatality of 1978 was that of a young man from Coats. Charles Thomas Cooper was killed in an automobile accident near the Stewart’s Greenhouse on N.C. Highway 27. He was the husband of Bonnie Williams Cooper and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Cooper. His services were held at Red Hill Free Will Baptist Church (Daily Record, Jan. 30, 1978). Mr. and Mrs. Kimry Gardner of Coats announced the birth of a son, Christopher Lee, on Jan. 30. The paternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. Norfleet Gardner. The mom was the former Rita Jean Young (Daily Record, Feb. 1, 1978).

Mr. and Mrs. Vance Vinson of rural Coats were parents of a son at Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital. Mrs. Vinson was the former Antoinette Salomoni (Daily Record, Feb. 7, 1978).

It appears that death and birth were the bulk of the early 1978 news. The death angel had come and taken a popular senior citizen from the rural area of Coats. Eula Stephenson Harmon of rural Coats had died at 96 years of age. The Rev. Ralph Byrd conducted the funeral services at Drew Funeral Home Chapel. She was buried in the Buies Creek Cemetery. Millie (Norman) Wiggins and Mary (Clyde) Ennis were daughters and her two sons were George H. and H.B. Harmon. Gertrude Teague and Mary and Myrlie Stephenson were sisters (Daily Record, Feb. 17, 1978). Do you recall that her daughter, Millie Wiggins of Buies Creek just died at the age of 98?

Another popular Coats citizen had died on Thursday at the age of 70. Theddy Golden Ryals (T.G. Ryals) was a longtime merchant on Main Street Coats where he had operated a meat and fish market. Two sons, Charles and Larry Ryals and three daughters, Darlene, Ann and Carolyn Ryals survived him. Vada Glover and Lydia Byrd were his sisters (Daily Record, Feb. 21, 1978).

After years of research, Claude Medlin compiled a comprehensive book on the “Avera, Avery and Connected Families.” Claude donated a copy to the Coats Museum and if you are interested to discover if your family is connected to early Averasboro, you might want to visit the museum and to see if your family name is in the index which is pages long.

While visiting, check out the dozens of other white and black family genealogies in the museum’s research library. “The Harnett County Centennial Book, The Heritage of Coats, NC” and the “Johnston County Heritage Book” have hundreds of family genealogies connected to the Grove area.

Come by the museum on any Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.

Myrtle Bridges is a talented lady and the museum is fortunate to have her on its board. Last week, Myrtle added a new exhibit, cobalt blue glass collection interspersed with unique crystal pieces such as a crystal cow and crystal candy kiss. If you love beautiful glass, you will absolutely love this new exhibit.

The volunteers love working at the museum — it is cool, pretty and full of exciting pieces of history for all ages to enjoy and learn. Items such as our portable birthing table, the beautiful collections of Depression glass, turquoise jewelry collection, Native American artifacts, the Black River Tigers’ fife, the Neighbors-Beasley family spinning wheel, mantel clock and plantation blanket, plows and planters from the 1860s, mourning hair, many antique survey devices, benches made from the wood in the Barclay’s Inn and a dated chimney cornerstone boulder from it.

Isn’t just that list enough to make you want to drive to Coats to see the museum and while in town you may want to enjoy some Smith’s Farm homemade ice cream or food from our local restaurants?

The Pope family name has a long history in the Coats area. The family is known for being extraordinarily athletic and brilliant. Recently, Alene Pope Lewis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Pope, died. Barbara, Sammy, Sherwood, Kay and Rickey have been friends or students of ours for years and hence, H.L. and I have given a Coats Museum Memorial as testimony of our love and friendship.

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