Take a ride down memory lane

Published 6:53 pm Monday, May 6, 2019

After taking my mother-in-law, Mrs. Reba Smith, to an appointment one day, I asked her if she would be kind enough to give me a tour of her old neighborhood where she grew up. You see, my Dad and Mrs. Reba were raised across the street from one another on Fifth Street just off of John Small Avenue. She carefully pointed out to me that she lived beside my Dad’s Aunt Mamie and Cousin Hilda Ray Pinkham.

There have been many changes to this area since the 1930s. Gone are the old John Small School and the Health Department. The street leading to John Small Avenue has been curved and many of the homes in that area have been demolished.

Mrs. Reba pointed out to me that MacNair and Telfair streets extended to Third Street. I can remember this, and it was a dirt street lined with houses on either side. It is now closed for widening of the town ditch and forms the backside of our Veterans Park. The town ditch was widened to help prevent flooding in case of heavy rains or hurricanes.

Mrs. Reba showed me the corner my Dad was raised in, and the house is still standing. Across the street was where his buddies Leroy Canady and Charles Sadler lived. Leroy was a barber, and Mr. Sadler was a plumber after high school. Mr. Leroy would give me my haircut, and Dad would come by to pay for it when he got his. He worked alongside of Mr. Toler (Steve Toler’s dad), located beside Paul Leggett’s supermarket (the late Suzanne and Paul Jr.’s. dad)

She also shared with me that Mr. Pinkham’s family had the only phone on the block. The Pinkhams would allow everyone to use their phone if needed. Later, Mr. Pinkham would build a brick home on John Small Avenue, where he moved his family. He had two sons, Jimmy and Denny (Denny was a classmate and his brother Jimmy was older). Any house on Fifth Street could be the scene of a taffy pull each Saturday night for entertainment and fun, including the Pinkhams.

The old Washington High School on Eighth Street use to be a swampy area. This was where the boys placed their rabbit boxes and trapped muskrats. Turtles were caught in the town ditch for soup or to be sold to Tony Tankard for a delicious stew. Tony made the best turtle soup in Washington at that time. He later gave my dad his first job as a car hop.

It was an enjoyable trip down memory lane with my mother-in-law! I had heard so much about this neighborhood during the Depression from my Dad, but Mrs. Reba seemed to bring it back to life. I would urge everyone to take a ride through Washington with someone who was raised in our town and do not be afraid to ask them questions about different neighborhoods. My experience was certainly worth it, and I just enjoyed riding with Mrs. Reba. Thank you for sharing your time, Mrs. Reba! We all love you!

Let me wish you, Mrs. Reba and many other mothers the happiest of Mother’s Day this weekend.

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.