• 57°

An unforgettable character

Standing in front of the fountain drink machine at Tayloe Pharmacy (now O’Neal’s) last week, I ran into two old friends, Gary McGowan and Zeno Edwards. They too were inside getting their morning drink and nabs. Both men were, at one time, good athletes and now have outgrown their athletic ability. Gary brought up the topic of paperboys and the friends we shared that were also paper boys. Zeno and I started talking about one of Washington’s unforgettable characters, his dad, Dr. Zeno Edwards.

Dr. Zeno, as he was affectionately called, was a dentist and had his office on the corner of Main and Market streets in the old Guarantee Bank building (now Wells Fargo Bank). At that time, I can only remember two other dentists in town and those were Dr. Fred Howdy and Dr. Bill Kidd.

Many of us can remember our first dental appointments and walking up those long wooden stairs to Dr. Zeno’s office. I thought we would never get there and many times was hoping we would not. His office had the smell of a dentist office, but had so many magazines for you to look at while waiting. Boy, the sound of your name being called to come in to see Dr. Zeno was feared, especially for a 6-year-old, and I hoped the magazine would take my mind off my reason for the visit. All I could think about was that needle, but the view of downtown Washington was relaxing enough to avoid the pain (not really). Dr. Zeno was always careful to try to not hurt, but the drilling would scare my Mom as she sat anxiously beside me. Afterward, I hoped that I did not have to return, but the sweets were too good and every year I walked those long wooden steps back to his office. Little Zeno said he got only a silver dime after his appointments, but I remember getting a silver quarter after each visit. They were shined in mercury and were a gift we always got.

Dr. Zeno was more than our dentist, he was also our baseball coach in the summer. If he praised your play, it was because he was a gifted athlete growing up, and his sons followed in his footsteps. He would hit ground balls with his cigar in the side of his mouth and a baseball hat tilted a little sideways. He loved baseball and watching kids play and compete and always encouraged you to play a little harder.

Dr. Zeno loved his family but also loved his Duke University Blue Devils! Like Dr. Dave, who loved UNC, Dr. Zeno did not miss many games because his blood was Duke blue. My dad told me about the time he and Dr. Zeno climbed a tree to watch the Blue Devils play UNC at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. He was in school at Duke with a friend of mine from Williamston, Mr. Fred Hardison, who was an original Iron Duke. I did not know this, but after my initial interview at Williamston High School for a coaching position, Mr. Fred had already called and spoke to Dr. Zeno about my character because Mr. Fred was on the interview committee. They were good friends at Duke!

Dr. Zeno later represented our district in the House of Representatives and was a respected General Assembly member in Raleigh. My dad always told me that he was not afraid to speak his mind and to some politicians that was frightening. Still, with his beautiful wife (Rosemarie) by his side, he did what he thought was right.

His love for Washington and Beaufort County and the young people who grew up here was unmatched, and we all loved Dr. Zeno in return. Thanks, Zeno, for talking with Gary and me, and we are sorry your dad only gave you a dime! Bet he gave Wilson and Seth a quarter?

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.