Memories were made when the bands played

Published 11:48 am Monday, August 20, 2018

The National Guard Armory on East Main Street is now a condominium complex, but at one time, it was home to our local National Guard unit. It seemed to always be the anchor of Main Street and was one of the most used buildings in our city. The Armory served our community in different ways and was used almost daily. The two memories I have were basketball games and dances in our beloved building.

As a youngster, we always had basketball practice in the Armory for our youth teams and had some of our games there. It had a full court and baskets at each end. Bartley Bay held our practices there, and we had to be careful not to shoot too high because it might hit a beam running across the top. We played games every Saturday morning, and afterward, we would ride over to Tony’s for a soft drink. Most of us rode bikes there on Saturday and would leave them outside the big building.

At one time, it was the home court for our high school basketball team, and they played all their home games there. It is said that Dick Cherry, who was a local star athlete, use to shoot so high that he did hit the beams many times. The Beaufort-Hyde tournament was held in the Armory until our high school was built on Ninth Street with a tile floored gym. There are numerous stories told about games played in our Armory.

My favorite memories are nights that Bragg Dawson and Four Par Production would book bands to play there. It was the biggest indoor facility in town. The all-time favorite among my age group was Bob Marshall and the Crystals. Bob Marshall’s band had trumpets and saxophones that were always in motion with the music. He would start out by playing “Gold Finger,” and I can hear those trumpets even as I write. They were always well-dressed, and people would come from miles around to hear his music wherever he played. My good friend Bill Nolley and I have reminisced many times about Bob Marshall and together with our dates we have traveled as far as Williamston, Windsor and even Nags Head to hear him play. Bill even encouraged Bragg to bring him back to play as many times as possible, and Bragg did so. Bill still loves beach music, and we talk about our times at the Armory and the trips we took each time we meet. My date during high school no longer lives in Washington, but Beth Talley and I, along with Bill and his date, danced to the sounds of Bob Marshall on numerous occasions.

Another group that was popular at our Armory was Joe Pope and the Atlanta Tams. These were national recording artists that we all loved. Wearing their Tams and patent leather shoes with a tuxedo to match, they were in perfect unison on every song. Even in the Armory, they never broke a sweat and were classy gentlemen as they went from song to song without stopping until the set was over.

Yes, our Armory has provided many fond memories for us, and I am sure the walls of this beautiful building have stories we would all love to hear. Thanks for the memories! And thanks to my friend Bill Nolley, “Nolley Bocker,” we still relive those wonderful songs.

The best of times, with the best of friends, in the best of places — Washington, NC!

— Harold, Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.