It’s all in the name — Wanoca

Published 6:36 pm Monday, April 15, 2019

Nestled on the east side of Washington is one of the oldest and most populated neighborhoods in our town. Most newcomers will not know the name or location of this neighborhood but those that were raised in this area are proud to be from Wanoca. Most would love to know what Wanoca stands for and where this neighborhood is located.

Wanoca stands for WAshington, NOrth CArolina and it extends north from East Third Street up Charlotte Street to U.S. Highway 264 (Guy Whitaker’s store, now Petals and Produce ) and east from Charlotte Street back to Runyon Creek. It is the home of Kugler Field, J.S. Hill Construction, Cargill Grain Bends and Wanoca Presbyterian Church. It is the new home of Eastern Elementary School and a widened Hudnell Street that connects U.S. 264 to East Third Street.

Family names like Davis, Hill, Rose, Jolley, Apple, Jones, Schmitt, Gerard, Perry, Lurvey and Moore are common names that had their origins in Wanoca. Many of my classmates such as Barbara Jolley, Chris Rose, Reid Moore, Carol Spruill and Terry Gerringer were raised in this community, along with others — Gil Davis, Paige Davis, Larry Schmitt, Roddy Schmitt, Connie Gerringer and John and Billy Hill, to name only a few.

Growing up, you could always find a game on the corner of Willow Street and, if lucky, sneak into Kugler Field for a game of tag football. Willow Street was the home of any good baseball game, which was followed by a trip to Mrs. Andrews’ store for a Pepsi or Coca Cola and peanuts or nabs. Mrs. Andrews always would allow a kid to use her phone if a ride was needed, and that phone was used many times after practice. The store is no longer there but was across from Walker’s Cleaners on Charlotte Street. It was also the home of Jerry and Frankie Briley.

I always wondered what it was like to live in that neighborhood not having to get a ride to the game or having to park a car if you drove. The noise and the lighting had to be a distraction on any given Friday night that the Pam Pack played. Reid and Thomas Earl lived right next to the stadium and could see the opponents’ buses pulling into the stadium. The spring and summer had plenty of activity with junior and senior league baseball games and church softball games being played on different nights.

One summer, I spent three weeks at Reid’s home taking chemistry from his mother. Every day from eight until four we had class, and I can truthfully say that I learned more from Mrs. Moore in three weeks than I did all year in school. It was taught in the heart of Wanoca, and Reid and I had lunch break free to go to Carver’s, which made it better.

There are not many neighborhoods remaining like Wanoca anymore, and anyone that was raised there will proudly confess that it was their home and neighborhood. After church, I overheard Gil and John talking about their times in Wanoca and the life lessons they learned from the adults in Wanoca. Yes, it was only one of many neighborhoods, but I think it only fair to give credit where it is due and the people of Wanoca deserve this credit.

So now newcomers know what the name stands for and its location and you have probably passed through it many times.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.