O.Henry Ending

Sunday Lessons

In the loving hands of a remarkable grandmother

By Kathleen Causey

The black cat clock sat directly above the living room chair where my grandmother wove the rag rugs she sold all over the country. Its large eyes clicked back and forth in time with the swishing tail, mesmerizing my little sister with its quirkiness. I watched my grandmother’s hands, bent in strange ways from my own, twisting the multi-colored satin blanket binding with amazing speed and spinning tales in a soft voice without dropping a stitch.

Hattie Mae Cochran wasn’t my blood relative. I inherited her at age 7 when my mother married her son. This would be my mother’s third marriage and his as well. The union brought a boatload of half-brothers and stepsisters, and it was never comfortable explaining the relationships of our family. The best part of the deal was inheriting Grandma Cochran. She didn’t have her mother’s Cherokee dark looks, but was fair-haired, light skinned and small in stature, with the patience to explain why her strong-minded son demanded so much from his children.

After church on Sunday our extended family met at Grandma’s house. We would stop and pick up the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and she would have the veggies ready, covered and sitting in their bowls on the back of the stove. In the summers, we followed her down the garden rows helping to hold the basket as she picked ripened tomatoes and cukes for our lunch. In the winters when it was too chilly to play outside, I would squeeze in at her feet with my siblings and cousins in her tiny living room and hear the stories of her life — how they built their cabin too close to a rattlesnake den in Wilkes County and the snakes would try to crawl up through the cracks in the floor in the winter; how, come spring, they moved the cabin farther up the ridge; how they used newspaper to fill the cracks to stop the freezing wind from blowing through. Her fingers stopped only to hand us a needle to thread as she filled our imaginations.

My stepfather, with his Elvis Presley good looks, ran a strict house, demanding perfection and routine, and never spared the rod. Grandma was my savior. I spent weekends with her, bravely following her down into the cellar with my arms filled with Mason jars as she used a stick to clear the spider webs away from our path. She taught me how to make bread and butter pickles; how to put up beans; how to use my fingers to cut in the butter to make biscuits; how to make a flaky crust for her wonderful lemon meringue pie. Grandma made lacy, intricate doilies; crocheted afghans and quilted like a magician. On special weekends, she allowed me to hunt through her private quilt collection she kept in the closet of the guest room. One hangs on a ladder rung in my dining room. The circles of material were from colorful scraps of dresses and shirts. It took months to finish and she couldn’t bear to sell it, or give it away until it became mine.

I overheard my parents say that the year my Grandma gives up her garden will be her last. When that spring came and she said she wouldn’t be planting, my heart was heavy with the grief of what was to be. I am a grandmother now, and though this woman has long left this world, her voice is with me. She is there with each pie crust I make, with each tomato I pick, with each stitch I sew.  As summer comes and the earth starts to warm, I look at my own hands and how they are changing with time, and I hope one day my granddaughters will sit and ask why my fingers are crooked and bent; and perhaps they will listen patiently as the tail of the clock swishes and the eyes click back and forth.  OH

Kathleen Causey lives and golfs in Seven Lakes, North Carolina, volunteers at the Sandhills Woman’s Exchange, and knows way more about cyber security than your average grandmother.

The Accidental Astrologer

Double Vision

There’s never a dull moment when Gemini is in the house

By Astrid Stellanova

Donald Trump, Kanye West, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Prince, Joan Rivers, Johnny Depp, Anderson Cooper, Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman. What do these famous names have in common besides fame? First and foremost, their sun sign, Gemini. Star children, just try and imagine these Geminis in the same room. If the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor, then pray tell, what is at work here?—Ad Astra, Astrid

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

Warm to your gal pals, challenging to your male pals, heck — challenging period. That is what everyone knows runs deep inside your Gemini spirit. You have backbone, which is true. That back can get up, too, when someone gives you grief. You are many things, but never dull. This birthday may wind up being one of your favorites, because you have command of a stage and a chance to vent your anger. You’ve been as hopped up as a mule chewin’ on bumblebees over a friend’s actions. They want to make up. Let them. Show them your generosity can be as deep as your considerable wounded pride.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

You uncovered something you didn’t much like. Things went catawampus when someone you trusted was caught lyin’ like a no-legged dog! It will make you more cautious, which is a good thing. Now, watch how they prove themselves in the future. Translation: Time for them to actually prove themselves to you, and for you to insist upon it.

Leo (July 23–August 22)

You face a challenge and tend to rely upon an old ally. The problem is, your ally is so dumb, they could throw themselves on the ground and miss it. They just don’t understand the consequences of their lack of judgment. You, Child, do. Give them your guidance, and if they fail, show them how to hit the ground and roll.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

Well, Sugar, you sure put the right person in charge of handling the money. He squeezes a quarter so tight the eagle screams. Thanks to reforming your once thoughtless money sense, you can afford a splurge. Take the opportunity to let loose and be generous with yourself. Also, let loose in another way that’s completely free — smile!

Libra (September 23–October 22)

Someone in authority is making you half-crazy. Time is here, Sweet Thing, for you to draw a hard red line with this person and stop the crazy-making. Don’t let them pee on your leg and tell you it’s raining! By the end of June, you will discover something you dug up. This hard digging may lead you to a much bigger discovery.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

Needlepoint this onto a pillow: “Excuses are like behinds. Everybody’s got one and they all stink.” There was a time when you didn’t take time to offer up excuses. That is your truer self. When you own up to your role in a stinky situation, you can turn it around and find release. Truth works better than Odor-Eaters.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

You weren’t wrong. We just misunderstood what you figured out way ahead of the rest of us. Well, slap my head and call me silly! Now that you have all the information, calculate what it will take to buy yourself a pack of nabs and an orange soda, then call your broker. Your hunches are right on the money.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

Darling, there’s a Southern riddle that goes like this: Is a pig’s rump made of pork? Well, Honey Bunny, that’s rhetorical. There is no answer, because the answer is obvious. Now something just as obvious is staring you right in the face. Turn this moment into what you need to march forward and onward and make barbecue.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

She’s so pretty she could make a hound dog smile. He’s so pretty he could make it smile again. That’s said of you and your circle of good-lookin’ Aquarian friends. You’ve taken your kindnesses into your personality in such a big way that you wear it on your fine faces. You make every one of your circle glad to be in your orbit.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

There’s a very sweet someone who wants to hitch a ride on your happy train because he senses you have a good sense of direction. If leather were brains, he wouldn’t have enough to saddle a June bug. All that said, you may feel a sense of loyalty to him just because he is polite and says “please” and “thank you.”

Aries (March 21–April 19)

Lately, you have pretty much said “yes” to everything. Sugar Pie, if promises were persimmons, the possums could eat good at your place. This is a reality check for you. If you don’t face up to the music, you could wind up in the orchestra with a baton in your hand and no musicians. Stop all the mania and drop the baton long enough to direct your own life.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

Deep in the South, where sushi is still called bait, you have been doing some things nobody around you quite understands. You have been going a little overboard with your need to make a big impression. Like, for example, buying a mystery box at the auction when the rent was due. Take the auction paddle out of the air.  OH

For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.


In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.

– Aldo Leopold

The mockingbird sings 100 songs. Ballads of honeysuckle and wild rose. Lady’s slipper. Skipper and milkweed. Plump strawberries. Cottontail and mophead hydrangeas.

June is here, he whistles, prelude to a queue of tunes about cukes and pole beans, creaky tire swings, hives full of honey. His morning song, syrupy as the last spring breeze, is interrupted by a string of sharp rasps. The tune tells how to scold a crow.

As fox kits scuffle in a pine-fringed wood, the sweep of a tail sends a troupe of dandelion seeds swirling into the dreamy green yonder. Summer is near, the mockingbird calls. We can feel the truth of it.

Cicada skin clings to the grooved bark of an ancient willow. On the solstice, a little girl finds it. The mockingbird watches her carry it home. Summer is here, the bird sings. The girl places the empty vessel on her
windowsill, hums a tune as sunlight washes over the golden amulet.

Evening unfolds. Fireflies dance beneath the sugar maple and a resident toad joins the cricket symphony. Mockingbird sleeps, yet the music swells into the night.

Magic of Midsummer

The days grow longer. On Friday, June 9, a full Strawberry Moon illuminates the tidy spirals of golden hay dotting a nearby pasture. For Algonquin tribes, this moon announced ripe fruit to be gathered. Because the hives now hum heavy, the June moon is also called the Mead Moon. Honey, water and yeast. Patience. Sip slowly the magic of this golden season. 

Perhaps stemming from the ancient Druid belief that summer solstice symbolizes the “wedding of Heaven and Earth,” many consider June an auspicious month for marriage. This year, Solstice falls on Tuesday, June 20. Celebrate the longest day of the year with sacred fire and dance. Now until Dec. 21, the days are getting shorter. Sip slowly the magic of these golden hours.

When the sun sets on Friday, June 23 — a new moon — bonfires will crackle in the spirit of Saint John’s Eve. On this night, ancient Celts powdered their eyelids with fern spores in hopes of seeing the wee nature spirits who dance on the threshold between worlds. 

Lady’s Fingers

Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Whichever your preference, fresh okra is one of this month’s most delicious offerings. Also called lady’s fingers, okra is a member of the mallow family (think cotton, hollyhock and hibiscus). The edible seedpods of this flowering plant are rich in vitamins and minerals that promote healthy vision, skin and immune system. Because it’s an excellent source of fiber, okra also promotes healthy digestion.

Father’s Day falls on Sunday, June 18. Say “I love you” with a jar of pickled okra — local and, perhaps, with a kick.

Everlasting Love

When you send someone roses — the birth flower of June — the color of the petals tells all. Red reads romance. Pink for gratitude. White or yellow for friendship. Orange for passion.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.

– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Aphrodite’s Tears

The timeless appeal of summer roses

By Ross Howell Jr.

June mornings I walk my dog Sam on a route that takes us by the rose garden of a house facing Fisher Park.

There’s a white trellis laden with the pink blossoms of a climbing rose. Next to the trellis, just inches beyond the white picket fence at the sidewalk, is a tea rose garden.

Standing by the picket fence, I’m about face-to-face with the tea roses. Delicate, intricate petals of red, of white, of yellow, calmly observe me. If Sam and I are early enough, there are still drops of dew on their faces.

I try not to, but I’m ogling. They’re so beautiful. So serene. So voluptuous.

And the fragrance! I breathe in the scent, smiling.

Sam looks up at me, a little doubtful as to the meaning of all this. I stand very still, and savor the fragrance again.

Is it any wonder roses have fascinated us humans for ages?

Some sources say roses have been cultivated in China as far back as the 14th century B.C. For the ancient Greeks, the rose was the symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Legend holds that she created the rose from her tears, or in some accounts, from drops of her blood when she was pricked by thorns.

And there’s history. “Around the 12th or 13th century, knights returning from the Crusades brought the rose home to Europe,” writes Kayley Hollis. By the 15th century, the white rose had come to symbolize York, and the red rose Lancaster, two factions struggling for control of England. This is the conflict historians call the War of the Roses.

“The red rose is still the emblem of England, since Lancaster won the war,” Hollis writes. “Roses were in such high demand during the 17th century that royalty considered roses or rose water as legal tender.”

Then there’s popular culture. Roses figure in every schoolboy’s love poem to a sweetheart ever written. It’s elemental in theatrical productions, major motion pictures, novels. According to knot.com, the rose is the No. 1 flower of choice for bridal bouquets and arrangements. And our very own Replacements Ltd., tells me that “rose” is used in the description of an astonishing 25,963 china patterns, 2,913 crystal patterns, and 2,493 silver patterns!

How sweet’s the smell where I stand on the sidewalk. Jane Jackson, the neighbor who owns these beauties, tells me each of the tea varieties was chosen for its fragrance. As for the pink climbing rose on the trellis, “That’s ‘New Dawn,’” she says, “and honestly, it grows like kudzu.”

I notice irrigation lines in the tea rose bed, and I’m eager to ascribe that to my own lack of success with roses.

“Oh, that,” Jackson says. “I never use it. Plants thrive on neglect, if you ask me. They develop roots better.”

I ask the usual gardener’s question about cutting away spent blossoms.

“Oh, I know I’d get more roses if I dead headed more often,” Jackson says. “But people walking by enjoy the roses so much, I leave them longer than I should.”

For that Sam and I are grateful. At least I am. Sam has noticed a squirrel in the park.  OH

Ross Howell Jr. has assured his editors he’s not nearly as odd as this essay makes him sound.

Outta Sight

An extraordinary architectural gem stands apart from others in Lake Daniel

By Billy Ingram
Photographs by Amy Freeman

I was maybe 13 years old, piloting my well-worn Schwinn Sting-Ray Fastback around Lake Daniel Park for the first time, when I crushed handbrakes into handlebars so forcefully the rear tire left a schmear of rubber across the pavement. I dropped the bike where it stood to gaze up at an anomaly. Tucked into a shady bluff was an angular, avant-garde structure built entirely of natural timbers with glass accents and enormous decks encircling both floors. Newly rooted leatherleaf mahonia in the garden frontage accented a winding, gray slate pathway leading from the curb to an imposing wood-planked front door. Oh, how I wanted to steal up those steps and sneak a closer look! As luck would have it, I found myself climbing that very stone staircase more than 45 years later only to discover — that’s no longer the entrance.

That striking home on East Lake Drive still rises in defiant contrast to the provincial brick rancheros, colonials and gabled Tudors the Lake Daniel section of Westerwood is known for. There was no way I could have known at the time, but this rare excursion into Modernism closely resembled the sunbathed, redwood-and-glass framed bungalows Frank Lloyd Wright protégé W. Earl Wear was designing in the Organic architectural style alongside the one-lane dirt roads that were being carved into Topanga Canyon above Hollywood in the 1960s.

If the shortest distance between one point to another is a straight line, Ed and Chandra Young’s journey towards becoming owners of this buoyant abode in 2013 was decidedly more circuitous. He was studying graphic design and advertising and she, interior design at the famed Ringling College on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the mid-1970s when Chandra bought one of Ed’s artworks. “I didn’t pay him for it and the next year he came and collected the money,” she recalls. They married not long after, “So he got the girl, the painting and the money!”

After excursions into Nashville, Tennessee, then New Orleans to help a friend jumpstart an ad agency, they settled in the Buckhead area of Atlanta where Ed founded his own advertising firm, Young & Martin Design, and Chandra began her 30-year career as an interior designer.

More recently, the couple lived in Yadkinville for three years looking after a family member. (Chandra was born in North Carolina. Ed grew up in Florida.). Ed tells me, “When we went from Buckhead to Yadkinville, way out in the woods, it actually hurt my ears it was so quiet.” It was then they decided to sell the house in Atlanta. “We were like, ‘OK, where do we want to live?’”

Chandra spent two years trolling Zillow, scrolling through pictures of houses all across the Southeast. “We lived in ranch houses in Atlanta and they were cool,” she says. “We turned them into really fascinating environments, but that’s not what we were looking for. In the meantime I got a job in High Point and Ed was doing design work out of the home.”

Then that fateful call from a realtor, Mandy Kinney: “I work with her daughter. She called us and said, ‘I think I found you a house!’” They looked at it online and “knew as soon as we saw it that this was the one. I guess because I’ve known houses as an interior designer, and my parents were contractors, so I didn’t want just an ordinary place. We couldn’t have designed a home that was any more perfect.” Almost perfect. “It was funny, when we drove up in the driveway the first time we came to look at the house, Ed goes, ‘Nope. I don’t like brown.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Let’s just go in and look.’ So we came in, fell in love, and we go back to the car and he says, ‘Wow, what brown can do for you!’” (You see, one of Ed’s clients in Atlanta was UPS and their slogan for many years was . . . oh, never mind.) Ed’s solution? “Last year we painted the exterior in an espresso color.”

This hillside homestead, in the 1970s — so readily dismissed by the hoi polloi as “the ugliest house in Greensboro” — was and is a forward-thinking masterpiece. The entire home was engineered from the beginning to be ecologically friendly, a very progressive and unconventional ideal when it was constructed in 1969 for Mary and Norman Jarrard and their son Porter. This was at a time, after all, when power companies ran TV ads touting the joys associated with consuming as much electricity as possible, while the typical automobile guzzled a gallon of gas (costing 30 cents) to motor a mere 8 miles.

An N.C. A&T and Greensboro College English professor, Norman Jarrard designed this home to have an open feel. It has one enormous communal space on the upper floor that leads out to spacious raised decks on all sides, with two large bedrooms occupying the west wing. Just about every surface came out of the earth as Chandra points out, “At one point they ran out of fir [timber]. It took them quite a while just to get this many fir beams for the house in the late ’60s.” Even the light fixtures are unconventional: “The switches are all low voltage so we have push button lights. I still don’t know where all of these buttons connect to . . .”

A membrane roof, more commonly found in industrial buildings, is situated over another membrane. “When the nuts fall and they roll down the roof, you can hear every roll.” Chandra laughs. “We love it! When it rains you can really hear it.” Other advantages to a membrane roof: Leaks are unlikely and, even with two-story high ceilings dotted with numerous skylights of varying proportions, it’s incredibly energy efficient.

Allison and Roger Hunt purchased the place in 2006 and undertook a massive overhaul, from shag carpeting to pitched ceiling, retaining the charm and instinctual flow to the home while enhancing it greatly. Walls gave way to picture windows and sliding glass doors that flood the second floor with natural light. They installed hardwood floors as smooth as butter and just a few shades darker. “These wood beams are from Mrs. Hunt’s grandfather’s tobacco barn,” Chandra says. “You’ll see a lot of wood in the house that originated from there.” Urinals were ripped out of the bathrooms (water conservation, don’t you know) and the master bath was tiled, walls and floor, in vividly colored slate.

The Hunts also relocated the entrance to what was the rear of the home, hence the confusion on Ed and Chandra Young’s part when, upon my arrival, I rang a doorbell they weren’t familiar with.

Chandra was born in Winston-Salem, and her connections to that city reverberate to this day: “My parents were building contractors,” she says. “They started in the early ’60s.” Her mother was only the second woman in North Carolina to earn a building contractor’s license, and she and her husband developed a lot of Sherwood Forest, the neighborhood that abuts the Twin City’s older, more stately Buena Vista. “I even named some of the streets when I was a kid,” Chandra remembers. “They’d start developing a street and say, ‘We need to name it,’ so we would do our homework and look up the Robin Hood stories to come up with names.” Those of you reading this who live on Friar Tuck Road, now know why. “My parents developed the last properties in their 80s,” Chandra says. “She is 90 this year and my dad is 97, a World War II veteran.”

Nowadays, as showroom manager for the Antiques & Design Center of High Point, Chandra helps produce their twice-yearly events for the furniture market. “I knew I didn’t want to pursue an interior design career here. It takes a long time to get established. This is the next best thing.”

On “full-time retirement,” Ed is employed as lead artist for Trader Joe’s. “I hand letter all their signs so I get to draw all day,” he explains. “The younger artists I work with ask, ‘How do you know all those fonts?’”

Chandra tells me, “Ed studied calligraphy before the computer. This was a whole process with his business, having to change from hand lettering to the computer and now he’s back to hand lettering. There aren’t many who have that skill.” No surprise they are both fans of functionality and practicality. “We like things that are handmade, I’m not crazy about manufactured things. We use everything. Most everything you see are things that mean something to us.”

The kitchen is laid out like a country store. An old shop cabinet with deep drawers from the late-1800s serves as a cupboard, the perfect complement for a vintage Niedermaier buffet hutch from Germany on the opposite side of the room. Shelving fashioned from tobacco barn slabs imbue the room with a homey feel. French railroad signs adorn one corner, arrows pointing every which way, just as the living space extends outward in every direction. A glass door and windows open up to the pool outside, while a pair of sliding wooden panels are positioned at the top of a stairway leading down to the lower level where, lo and behold, there is another fully-appointed three-bedroom, two-bath suite where clients occasionally stay during Market.

Design touches reflect Romanian and Korean culture, where two of the Young’s adopted children were born. (Their third was born in the United States.) A dining room table purchased from an old farmhouse serves as a coffee table. Chandra confides, “We just sawed the legs off.” Elsewhere, the house is animated with Ed’s bold Pop art paintings, photo montages, mid-century elementary school art tables and odd antiquities that have caught the couple’s eye over the years. A not-very-English muffin with so many cozy nooks and crannies, such a multitude of private spaces both indoors and out, a couple could still live happily ever after here — without ever catching sight of one another. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

As for curb appeal, their habitat is barely visible from the street. Joggers and passers-by along the Greenway below can be glimpsed momentarily through the leafy confines, yet no one looks up or seems to notice this aerie atoll. “We smell the grass but don’t have to mow it,” is only one of the perks to living near a park that Ed appreciates. “We like the privacy but we’re still connected to the neighborhood and the Greenway. When they have the ball games, you can see fireworks above the trees.” The house is easily within striking distance of downtown and one of the city’s busiest corridors, but, even during a day lounging on one of several decks or poolside, the oceanic shush of passing cars is the only suggestion of a world outside.

Nearing a half-century moored into the cultural identity of this splendid historic neighborhood, where generations have taken root and continue to prosper, the Jarrad House blends comfortably into the landscape, no longer a futuristic anomaly but a lush Más a Tierra for two Crusoes. “We looked at little communities in Atlanta, the new ones that they’re building now where all the houses are different, and they’re just like Westerwood except they’re brand new but not very interesting or diverse. We love everything about this neighborhood,” Chandra says, pausing. “This is like heaven.”  OH

The DVD of Billy Ingram’s weirdo TV series, The Nathan Stringer Summer Music Show, will
be inducted into the Library of Congress this month. It’s available at Amazon.com. (Cheapskates
can watch it free on YouTube.)

A Beacon of Light

Saint James Presbyterian Church has been serving God and the Gate City for 150 years

By Grant Britt     Photographs by Lynn Donovan

“God is so great that anything we would come against, even if you have to silence us, the very blood, our very life would still preach after that. — Rev. Diane Givens Moffett, Ph.D.

It’s a beacon of hope, a monument to overcoming oppression, celebrating a century and a half of black pride and African-American accomplishment. Founded by slaves in 1867, Greensboro’s Saint James Presbyterian Church is much more than just a house of worship. From its inception, it’s given strength, purpose, education, awareness, and healing to its members and the community. 

“When the church was founded 150 years ago, there were people who had just recently been freed,” says Lolita Watkins, chair of the church’s 150th Anniversary Activity Book and Historic Kick-Off event. “They were worshiping up in the balcony at a local church, First Presbyterian,” Watkins says of the church’s founders, who moved to a new church with little fanfare. “At some point, they decided to move on and didn’t tell the folks at First Presbyterian they were going. The pastor and the elders looked up and they weren’t there anymore. The folks said, ‘It’s time for us to get outta here,’ and they did.”

Watkins’ research reveals that the newly formed church’s first pastor was a Lexington-based minister named Crestfield.  “His name was James,” Watkins says. “The thing is, we don’t know if they thought they were naming it relating to the Bible, or the name of their first pastor.”

Within a year of their first assemblage, the tiny congregation of a little more than 30 souls had bought a small house on Forbis Street (now Church Street). By 1872, the church had outgrown its original home, dismantling the house and building a larger, wood-framed church on the site with an additional parsonage next door.

Even in those early days, the church was already providing more than just worship services. Around 1870, Saint James had established the Percy Street School, the first black school in Greensboro. It was a one-room setting accommodating 150 men, women and children. Realizing that the decided space was too cramped, church elders asked the state board of education for support in in building a larger school. “The Percy School was called the first graded school,” adds Lynette Hawkins, publicity chair for the 150th anniversary committee. “There were no other schools for African Americans.”

Watkins says there was some private tutoring done at another African-American church, but this was a public school facility. “The founding principles of the church were education, naturally; civil rights, and social justice.”

Ever since then, Saint James members have been actively involved in civil rights and social justice issues on a local and national level. In December 1955, George Simkins, a local dentist and head of the local NAACP chapter, was arrested when he challenged the city-owned Greensboro’s Gillespie Golf Course’s contention that it was a private course and therefore could refuse membership or entry to anyone. Convicted of simple trespass and fined $15, plus court costs, Simkins, along with five golfing buddies branded the Greensboro Six, took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and had their sentences commuted by Gov. Luther Hodges. The city closed the facility until 1962, when it reopened as an integrated course. Simkins also took on Cone Hospital and Wachovia Bank’s segregation policies and won.

Watkins cites other church members involved in civil rights actions including James McMillan, an art instructor at Bennett College who advised students during the time of integration at Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins. He also co-founded the African-American Atelier in the Greensboro Cultural Center, with church member Eva Hammond Miller, Congresswoman Alma Adams and others.

Another church stalwart, attorney J. Kenneth Lee, was nicknamed the Thurgood Marshall of North Carolina because of his involvement in more than 100 court cases having to do with civil rights. “He was the founder of American Federal Savings and Loan, one of the first lending institutions in the state of N.C. designed to help African-American families who were routinely denied loans to buy houses or cars here in Greensboro,” Watkins says. “One of the first African Americans to finish law school at UNC-Chapel Hill, he had to use the courts in order to be admitted.”

Watkins also mentions Dr. George Evans, a local doctor who was one of the first blacks to be appointed to Greensboro Housing Authority, very active locally in civil rights, as well as John Brown Erwin, another church member who was vice president of the NAACP for 42 years. “The church still supports NAACP in terms of their banquet and monetary contributions, “ Watkins says.

Among the roster of noteworthy congregants was Robert Tyrone “Pat” Patterson, who took part in the 1960 Woolworth’s sit-in. Patterson and a group of fellow N.C. A&T students, Joe McNeill, David Richmond, Ezell Blair and Franklin McCain, were studying for a chemistry exam when a boycott of Pepsi-Cola taking place in Wilmington came up in conversation, inspring the students to come up with the idea of a similar boycott in Greensboro. “I thought that it was a kind of half-hearted kind of decision and didn’t think any more about it until the next day,” Patterson told interviewer Eugene E. Pfaff  in a 1989 Greensboro Public Library Oral History Program interview: “I was on my way to an electrical engineering class when they passed me going to class, indicated they were going downtown to sit-in. I said, ‘Fellows, I really don’t have time to just go downtown to drive around if you are not going to do it.’ Obviously I didn’t believe they would do it. So they went down and they did, they sat-in at Woolworth. And I guess the next day was when I got involved directly. We started demonstrating at that time, and did a lot of demonstrating.” Patterson was vice chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality chapter in Greensboro in 1963.

Church members and college professors Ernest and wife Adnee Bradford also played a prominent role in the civil rights movement. While serving as a Presbyterian minister in Selma, Alabama, in ’62, the Bradfords participated in the anti-segregation activities of that era. “My husband graduated from Morehouse College,” Adnee Bradford says in a recent phone interview. “He came under the influence of Benjamin E. Mays, then president of Morehouse, who would influence my husband, Martin Luther King, and almost everybody else who went to Morehouse.” She continues the thread: “When my husband and I were dating, he was saying Dr. Mays encouraged Morehouse men not to participate in any system that dehumanized them. So my husband would not take me to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta for any reason, because it was segregated, and black people had to climb these high stairs to go into what Ernest called ‘the buzzard roost.’” It was an epiphany for Bradford, who says, “from that time on, I realized my husband was very aware of racism. He believed there were things we could do in order to help get rid of it or certainly not participate in our own dehumanization.”

“He was an activist,” Bradford says. Her husband joined with Dr. King, attending meetings when the Selma NAACP was planning the march to Montgomery. “But we were also tying to desegregate the system in Selma so that black people could vote. And my husband actually went to jail. He participated in the march that Sunday that’s become known as Bloody Sunday. I remember that Sunday when Ernest left, and when he came back home, he was just distraught because of what had happened on that bridge,” she says, her voice trembling with emotion as she recalls the pain and degradation inflicted on the marchers that day. “And he named people who were knocked down, Mrs. Amelia Boynton, for example.” Boynton, who was the first African-American to run for a seat in congress from Alabama, was beaten unconscious on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. The nationally distributed picture of her lying bloodied and senseless on the bridge over the Alabama River in Selma that Sunday was a critical factor in pressuring President Lyndon Johnson to enact the Voting Rights Act in August of that same year, with Boynton as the guest of honor at the signing ceremony.

Although her husband was on the front lines, Bradford was behind the scenes at first. “I taught at the all-black high school, Hudson High School in Selma,” she says. “Our students were participating in the marches, they were attending the mass meetings and they saw Dr. King when he came to town, and they were telling it to us when they’d come to class. And I can hear myself saying to the students that what they were doing made a difference, but they were not to neglect their education. All of us as teachers, we’re in the schools teaching, and the kids are out there in the streets.”

The head of the local NAACP at the time, Rev. Frederick D. Reece, was a math teacher whose classroom was just across the hall from her classroom. “The day came when the question was, ‘What are the teachers doing?’” Bradford says. “We weren’t out there because we knew any one of us going out could have easily been fired. But Rev. Reece wasn’t afraid to be out there.”

Reece called a meeting of the segregated Selma Teachers Association, appealing to the teachers to take a stand by marching to the Dallas County Courthouse. “His emphasis was ‘in numbers there is strength,’” Bradford says. “And so we agreed. We marched after the school day had ended. And I remember all day long as faculty, as we passed each other we would say, ‘Do you have your bag ready?’ Meaning, do you have your toothbrush and do you have a change of clothes, ’cause we thought we might just go to jail,” she chuckles nervously. “And so we marched. And we did not go to jail. And that became kind of a historic moment in Selma for the teachers.”

The Bradfords came to Greensboro and Saint James in ’76, when Adnee was hired to teach at Winston-Salem State University. Her husband continued his activism. “My husband became involved with Nelson Johnson and the Beloved Community and the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project,” she says. The 2004 GTRC consisted of an independent panel of seven, nominated by the community, to investigate the November 3, 1979, Klan/Nazi and Communist Workers Party confrontation that left five dead and 10 injured in the Morningside Homes community during a “Death to the Klan” demonstration. “At the time of his death in 2009, he was still involved in the struggle with human and civil rights,”Bradford says.

In April, as part of the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, Dr. Bradford led a discussion that accompanied the 2015 documentary Selma: Bridge to the Ballot, about the part students and teachers played in Selma striving for voting rights. It brings back vivid memories of the indignities she and others suffered in Selma in those days.

“I went back to Selma in 2014 for the commemoration of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, for that Bloody Sunday. All I remember about Selma is that it was a segregated town, blacks really had no rights. We lived in a segregated community, could not vote. I remember the treatment of black people, the segregated stores, the way we were treated when we went to the stores downtown, the way white folks looked at us,” she recalls.

She says a recent PBS broadcast talked about the Montgomery bus boycotts and why they were successful made her think about what might have been possible in Selma. “Black people really have supported through the years segregation, have supported a racist system just by being alive. And those folks in Montgomery were successful in that boycott, so in Selma, we needed to have done the same kind of thing.”

But she still carries the memories and the principles earned so dearly in those early days. “I know how we would fold hands and sing ‘We shall overcome, always, always.’ And somebody was talking about not being able to be nonviolent, and I said, ‘Well, Dr. King never had people go into the streets willy-nilly.’ There was always some preparation in going out, in terms of being nonviolent, and the songs and the sermons and the messages that were heard, all a part of the strategy to carry marches, to go and to take the abuse leveled against them, even as they protest — a peaceful revolution.”

But in spite of its activism and drive, in early 2000 the church felt that it needed some new blood to help it continue to grow. The older movers and shakers needed some young energy to reach out to young adults, to rejuvenate and reactivate the principles on which the church was founded. Reverend Diane Givens Moffett, Ph.D. got the call in 2005, and answered.

Moffett, a 20-year pastoring vet from California, heard about the opening from Saint James member Margie Ward. “I felt God calling me to come here almost 11 years ago in June of 2005,”she says. “My specialty was evangelism and discipleship. I had grown churches, I was the type of person who would come in and do renewal or transformative ministry, see what the possibilities were and try to realize them.”

But there was one major question that needed answering. “I wanted to make sure they were open to the challenge to call a woman because my dossier stood out, but they would always come back with ‘but she’s a woman, should we do this?’” she laughs. “It was a bold stand to call the first woman, because I’ve been first in every place I’ve been. It was a good match. God has done a lot of wonderful things here,” she says.

Moffett says she knew the church had a history of civil rights involvement and cultivating strong ties with the community, but wasn’t aware of just how deeply the church’s roots were entwined in the movement. “Did I know particular people like George Simkins and Dr. George Evans and all these people we have featured in our Achievers and Believers Book? No, but I knew that the church was a beacon of light in terms of mandating social change.”

The pastor says when she started thinking seriously about coming to town, she started researching Saint James. “I learned it was formed by freed slaves that left First Presbyterian Church Greensboro in 1867 and I thought ‘Oh, these are bold, these are edgy people.’”

She was impressed as well as with that first congregation’s decision to start a school. “The church from its very inception understands the wholeness of our humanity, not just spiritually, but economically and socially,” Moffett says. “Not only did they have the church, they developed a school for the freed slaves who needed to know how to negotiate this new territory. That’s in our spiritual DNA,” she asserts. “Activism, impact on community. We’re not a church that sits and turns inward. We’re a church that understands that the church was formed to make a positive impact on the community.”

To that end, Moffett and church leaders have been consulting with community leaders to implement programs to help. Their vision is three-pronged. The first part addresses renovations to the church to give easier access for the elderly and disabled. The second phase is to establish a community center, the third, a child development center.

Saint James partners with Cone Hospital to achieve some of those goals (Moffett is on the board of the Cone Foundation) and has engaged a congregational psychiatric nurse who works with those needing help with mental-health issues. The church also feeds their bodies as well as their souls. “We call them our guests, our neighbors, those who are homeless, economically disadvantaged,” Moffett says. “Every Sunday we have a hot healthy meal, don’t fill ’em up with carbs and things that are not healthy for them. Make sure that people who need access to care have it.”

In Saint James’s fellowship hall, others in need can also sit down to a hot meal. “We have our bus, we’ll go pick them up. Sometimes they’re down at the Urban Ministry, Interactive Resource Center; we go get some, some bring themselves, some are coming on bicycles, some walking from Martin Luther King Street, some driving themselves, some coming with children,” Lynette Hawkins says. “We’re really just connecting with people who need to be fed. What I have learned is that there are a lot of people out here hungry. Greensboro is a major area when it comes to providing those kinds of resources, so once they have hooked up with it, they are friends for life, really feel connected in some way.”

Education is also a key issue. The church is publishing a book, Achievers and Believers, and coordinating a book tour with Waldo C. Falkener Sr. Elementary and George Simkins Elementary schools, among other Greensboro primary schools. The book tour includes trips to the homes of those who contributed to the city’s history, as well as a trip to Vance Chavis Library, named after another church member.

“We are in partnership with Falkener Elementary School when they have any kind of special needs,” Lynette Hawkins says. “They were recently doing some kind of testing, so we had volunteers go and help them” There’s also a box at entrance to the church where people donate school supplies for teachers who work at Falkener. “We are very sensitive to the needs of the community, and we really try to look at where we’re gonna donate so we can help move it further.”

In addition, the church partners with Cone for the MedAssist plan, giving over $1000,000 worth of medication to more than 1,080 people who came to the church last year to get over-the-counter medicines. Moffett says that economically disadvantaged and/or homeless often don’t have the money to buy the over-the -counter medicines that could help cure a cold or deter it so it doesn’t go into something worse. “Basically this organization has the resources to be able to get things that might have been at one of the pharmacies. They’re not expired but maybe the box is a little torn. Those thing were given away and people filled the sanctuary multiple times to line up in our fellowship hall and get free supplies,” says Lynette Hawkins. “Our theme is ‘Touching lives through Jesus Christ. We’re aware there are so many needs, medical needs, educational needs, our focus is to try and identify those things.”

And once the physical needs are met, Moffett has to lead her flock through the current political climate as well, promoting a sense of hope and encouragement against what may seem at times to be insurmountable odds. 

“We’re celebrating our 150th anniversary. We’ve always had to deal with insurmountable odds so let’s not get it twisted here,” Moffett says heatedly. “We came over here in crisis. We came over here not because we emigrated, or migrated as some books want to say, believe it or not, people are saying we migrated, forced migration, right? We came over in crisis, and we come from a history of very strong people who overcame with a lot less than we have today, so my issue is, I tell my congregation we’ve got to work like everything depends on us, pray like everything depends on God, but we’ve got to be active in our community.”

And in the spirit of activism the church is known for, Moffett speaks out against would-be oppressors. “Time to make our voices known, to stand with those who are hurt by some of policies that have been implemented. It’s a time for the church to be the church.”

  “There’s always hope,” the pastor says. “ When it’s dark, the light shines even brighter. We’ve got to be able to move forward, help people to register to vote. I served as vice president of pulpit forum and also co-chair of Greensboro Interfaith Leadership Council. We really are working on standing with immigrants and refugees who are as scared as I don’t know what right now. We’re standing with people. The LGBTQ community, we have to stand with people. My understanding is that God is concerned about EVERYONE. And NOBODY’s humanity, I don’t care who they are, is up for disposal. Or to be disregarded. This is not what we do. We create a healing environment for everyone. That’s what I preach and hope.”

The message comes from above, but what goes on down below can help spread some of that light around. “Eternal life is not just for the sweet bye and bye,” Moffett asserts, “but for the nasty here and now, it’s about a quality of life right here. So I encourage our church by my own example as embodying it, to touch people’s lives.”

She continues: “But let us understand that everyone who ever did anything, including  these people: George Simkins, Martin Luther King, when  they were going through it, it was tough. Now, years later, you apologize and it’s celebrated, but while you’re going through it, it’s no fun. We’ve seen God do amazing things,” Saint James’ fiery pastor says. “I’m always hopeful.”  OH

Grant Britt writes about churchy as well as secular matters, his hilltop perch across from a graveyard keeping him humble.

Boys to Men

Coming of age in Troop 48

By David Claude Bailey     Illustration by Romey Petite

“Don’t pat the pancakes!”

The voice comes to my 11-year-old ears as if through gauze, muffled but clearly insistent.

I’m hunkering in front of a campfire, dodging the smoke that seems to chase me no matter where I drag the massive cast-iron frying pan in which half-a-dozen pancakes sizzle and pop. 

I’m delirious from having spent the night doing what Boy Scouts do on camping trips, swilling soft drinks, telling stories, and feeding our faces and the fire until 2 or 3 in the morning. Once I hit the sack, I’m dealing with a caffeine buzz only achievable in the 1950s before they took the good stuff out of soft drinks, not to mention the two quarts of Double Cola pooling in my bladder. And am I the only one who hears a raccoon raiding the unwashed pots and pans? I get up as soon as I see the slightest glimmer of dawn because I never really did go to sleep and because I’m cold and hungry and someone’s making a fire.

“Bailey. Don’t pat the pancakes.”

It’s our scoutmaster, John Samuels. I could spend a few lines describing his long rangy gait and his penetrating blue eyes below his beetling, sandy eyebrows or his infectious smile that we all want to trigger. But it’s easier just to conjure up John Wayne, whom, to my impressionable eyes, he resembled in every possible way.

I shift yet again away from the smoke, huffing and puffing as I drag the black mass of smoking cast-iron behind me. “Patting them makes them fall so that they’re flat,” Mr. Samuels says, a twinkle in his eye to blunt the bite of his criticism. I stop the spatula a quarter inch from a flapjack, obedient to his command, as yet another finger of smoke finds its way into my stinging nostrils and bleary eyeballs.

Troop 48 was the best thing that ever happened to me, except maybe getting a bike for Christmas when I was 8. The bike freed me from the half-a-mile range of my mother’s booming voice to wander the back alleys of Reidsville with a gang of three, scrounging stuff like an old washing-machine motor that we lugged home and played with until smoke and flames summoned a neighbor.

But it was Boy Scouts that truly liberated me from my Pennsylvania Dutch mother, who was loving, to be sure, but who had a maddening way of insisting there was a right and wrong way to do everything — and there was never any doubt which hers was. She never resisted watching as I tied my shoes — and letting me know that I was still doing it the wrong way.

Nothing beat spending a weekend with boys my age, semi-supervised by a former Merchant Marine turned repo man who, on occasion, packed what looked to me like a huge, black pistol. (I later learned it was a .22-caliber Colt Woodsman.) Like most good teachers, Mr. Samuels liked to fix things. In his case, boys who needed just a bit of guidance and attention at a crucial point in their lives — and at an age, I might add, that didn’t make them particularly appealing to their fathers or anyone else.

I’ll speak for myself. My dad did his best considering that his role model was a father who had nine children and acres of corn and tobacco that had to be tended so that the aforementioned children and wife wouldn’t starve. Plus, during the ’50s, children in my neck of the woods mostly raised themselves without the benefit of Dr. Spock or any helicoptering. Dads, at the prompting of mothers who read magazine articles on that new phenomenon called parenting, occasionally tossed a baseball with their sons or played golf with them (mine never did) or took them fishing and hunting (on rare occasions when other men weren’t available). But most kids were turned loose, along with the dogs, in the morning, and were only noticed if they didn’t come home for supper at night.

Mr. Samuels, who had no children of his own (but a stunning wife who sometimes accompanied him on camping trips), took an interest in whether you knew how to handle a knife or an axe and would show you how to retain your fingers and toes doing so. He’d watch you try to put up a tent and coach you on how to do it in less than an hour. He taught us gun safety, knowing that the subject was, in fact, as serious as death — and your reading this might very well be a tribute to his tutelage.

At 11 and 12, boys are between boyhood and manhood, some still believing in Santa Claus while noticing that they’re growing hair where there didn’t used to be any. On the way to becoming men, boys need mentors. Mr. Samuels took an interest in each and every one of us, even a geeky, one-eyed clumsy mother’s son like myself. I realize now that he liked seeing us grow into men and wanted us to share the values he held dear, which is what Scouting is all about, despite recent revelations and its detractors.

But Troop 48 was not your run-of-the-mill Scout troop. We were a resourceful and mischievous lot who had a reputation throughout the council (and Reidsville) for being wild and crazy. Guilty as charged. Troop 48 viewed jamborees in the same way that some aboriginal tribes regard others occupying open range, a good excuse for a raiding party. Initiations, I’m ashamed to report, could sometimes be described as medieval in their ingenuity. And consider that my best friend taught First Aid to Fritz Klenner, the protagonist in Bitter Blood.

The Chinese invented gunpowder. Troop 48 re-invented the gun. Since South Carolina and Myrtle Beach were only several hours away, any boy who’d recently paid a visit to either one brought fireworks on camping trips. Mr. Samuels never blinked an eye as long as we didn’t disturb his sleep or lose a digit. Armed with hundreds of firecrackers, some clever troop member figured out how to take a firecracker and an acorn and turn a harmless tent pole into a weapon of minimal destruction. 

Doubtless thinking that any one of us could throw an acorn a lot harder than the improvised gun could shoot it, Mr. Samuels just shook his head and warned us not to put out anyone’s eye, especially mine. I found the protective glasses my mother insisted that I wear at all times — and actually put them on — and soon we were facing off in Dodge City–style showdowns with shooters, each with his own personal fuse lighter. In the end, someone came up with the idea of replacing the acorn with something a little higher caliber, explosively speaking. This, in turn, required a series of precision actions on the part of fuse lighters that remains highly classified, Troop 48-eyes (or eye)-only information to this day. When the required calculations were just right, the projectile would explode as it flew through the air. When the fuse-lighter’s timing was even slightly off, the tent pole ended up looking like a peeled banana, which Mr. Samuels noticed, thus putting an end to our gunplay.

And here I was in charge of pancakes after telling Mr. Samuels that my mom let me cook breakfast now and again, and his having eaten one of them and saying it was pretty good, if a little flat from my patting it . . . when I saw stars and smoke and flames all at the same time as John Samuels planted his size 12 boot against my backside, kicking me head-first into the fire as I patted, surely, my 20th pancake of the day. In good time, he hove me up like a puppy out of a well, holding and shaking me by the front of my untucked shirt and twisting his head slightly and smiling like a jackdaw. “Didn’t I tell you not to pat the pancakes,” he asked quite reasonably.

I allowed as how he did and how I wouldn’t do it again. He deposited me back in front of the fire after kicking it back into shape and putting the pan back in front of me again, buffing the dirt off the spatula on his pants.

I have never, ever patted a pancake again — or idolized anyone as
much since. 

David Claude Bailey, who went on to attain the rank of Eagle, is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave and clean but rarely reverent.


High Point’s Brad Flater grew up dreaming of designing boats. With a pedigree that includes 

Hatteras Yachts, his OBX Boatworks has set its own brilliant course

By Ross Howell Jr.     Photographs by Sam Froelich

Since I’m a relative newcomer to Greensboro, the location for this story didn’t make sense to me. Wouldn’t a custom builder of sea-going yachts be situated near the ocean, on an estuary, or at least a river?

Yet here I am in High Point, turning off East Martin Luther King Jr. Drive onto Pendleton Street. I see clean white letters against the black background of a sign, “OBX Boatworks.” I pull into a parking space by the entrance. Before me rises a massive, metal-sided manufacturing structure.

I walk through glass doors into a warmly lit office with a big wooden table, modern chairs and attractive wall hangings. As the door closes behind me, a trim, youthful, bespectacled man stands up from a desk in the corner and approaches.

“Brad?” I ask.

“Yes,” Brad Flater — founder and owner of OBX Boatworks — says, smiling and shaking my hand. He has dark hair and a beard. He’s wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt and black denims. His eyes are bright and alert. His voice and manner are confident, genial, and immediately I feel at ease.

We sit at the table. I ask him about his business’s unlikely location.

“Yep,” he says. “High Point’s about as high and dry as it gets. But the facility we’re in, the whole structure, was built years ago by Hatteras Yachts to manufacture boats.” And the location was by no means accidental. “If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense,” he says. “The hulls were fiberglass, but the cabin and deck finishes are wood. With all the furniture makers nearby, with highly skilled cabinet makers and carpenters, Hatteras Yachts could sell boats finished with woodwork by some of the best craftsmen in the world.”

High Point native Willis Slane Jr. founded Hatteras Yachts in 1959, and his company remains a leader in the boat-building industry today. Slane had grown up in his family’s textile business, Slane Hosiery Mills, but became fascinated with the idea of developing a fiberglass boat that could cut through the prodigious winter waves off the coast of Hatteras when other boats had to stay in port.

In 1960 Hatteras Yachts introduced a 41-foot fiberglass boat, at the time, the largest ever manufactured. The company’s successful product launch was followed a year later by a legendary photograph taken of the devastation left in hurricane Carla’s wake in Corpus Christi, Texas. In the photo a lone boat floated at moor in port, while all the wooden boats tied alongside had been smashed to kindling. That boat had a fiberglass hull, and a manufacturing revolution was born.

“When I joined Hatteras in 1988, there were two manufacturing locations — one in this building, and one at the company’s current location, New Bern,” Flater says. “In High Point there were six production lines. My business now takes up just one of them. I’d say there were 600 to 800 employees in this building when I started working here. It was quite an operation.”

For Flater, building boats has been a lifelong dream.

“When I was a kid I was always drawing. My mom still claims the first thing she can remember me drawing is a boat,” he says.

“I grew up in Redlands, California, but I had family in the Midwest. My relatives ran a boat business in the Quad Cities on the Mississippi River, in Moline, Illinois. Just about every summer I’d be there, learning to rebuild an engine, or just tinkering around with boats.”

It was in high school that he decided he definitely wanted to become a boat builder: “My school guidance counselor couldn’t offer much advice on that subject. So I wrote letters to naval architects, asking how I might get started in the business.”

To his surprise, many of them wrote back. “They were candid. They told me it was a very tough business to get into. So I decided to do something more traditional. I enrolled to study architecture at Santa Monica College. It’s a good program, and it really improved my drafting skills.” After two years, he decided to change his tack: “I just couldn’t give up my passion for boats. I transferred to the Maine Maritime Academy. It’s a small school in the town of Castine on the coast of Maine. Geographically, that’s about as far from Santa Monica as you can go.” With about 950 students, Maine Maritime Academy is renowned for its hands-on learning programs and a remarkable employment rate for graduates.

“Members of my family had their doubts about such a radical change,” Flater says, “but I hopped in my Volkswagen — my family’s always had Volkswagens — and drove across country. In Castine I was able to concentrate on naval architecture, which is really interesting to me, because you’re building something that moves. So the discipline combines architecture with engineering.”

Flater muses for a moment.

“I guess you could say I was still a dreamer when I finished school,” he says. “I saw myself working in some fancy town like Annapolis, Maryland, on the water with boats everywhere. Instead I did an internship with Hatteras Yachts, and when the company offered me a job, honestly, for someone interested in boat-building in that time, it was like being offered a job by IBM.”

Alton Herndon, who served as president of Hatteras Yachts from 1985 to 1996 — and is still a nationally recognized leader in the marine industry — hired him. “He’s a real businessman’s businessman,” Flater says.

Herndon put Flater in charge of designing high-end, custom yachts. “The company’s custom yachts were boats 92 feet and longer, and they were all built in New Bern, so I commuted from High Point. One of our customers was Felix Sabates.”

Best-known for fielding NASCAR Sprint Car Racing teams, Sabates is also active in the boat business. He purchased a Stuart, Florida, Hatteras Yacht dealership and expanded it into one of the largest in the world.

“I built a few boats for Felix,” Flater says. “He’d sell them just as soon as he took delivery. He’s an unbelievable salesman. But I also built the boat he kept for his family.”

Flater smiles and pauses.

“Would you like to look around?” he asks.

He holds the door for me as we step into the area where the boats are built. Parked in front of us in a vintage Volkswagen pickup. I shake my head and grin.

“I told you about the Volkswagens,” he says.

“Haven’t seen one of those in a while,” I say. “Air-cooled, right?”

Flater nods.

“A ’59. I finally talked my grandfather into giving it up. He’s 92.”

In the big space the pickup is an anomaly, of course. The production building is a gigantic, neatly organized shoebox, about five times as long as it is wide. Down the line are overhead booms, catwalks and stepladders. Boat hulls and cabins of similar sizes stand about in varying conditions of completion. About halfway up the line, just to the side, are the halves of a big, splayed-out mold. It looks like a giant mollusk.

“That’s the mold we use to infuse the fiberglass for the Carolina hull,” Flater says. “We had to find a way to distinguish our boats from the competition. So we concentrate on building 32-foot, 36-foot, and 40-foot boats.” One of Flater’s beautifully designed, hand-crafted boats, with all the bells and whistles technology can offer, is for the serious owner — one can cost from $250,000 to as much as $3 million to purchase.

“Our boats are primarily for sport fishing. The Carolina hull is very efficient in the waters around here. It has excellent stability in what’s called ‘short chop,’ it handles heavy seas well, and with a shallow tumblehome and outboard motors, the boat gets outstanding speed and distance from a tank of fuel.” The boat, with its highly effective Carolina hull, is understandably popular with charter fishing operations.” “It’s very distinctive. It draws attention. Here,” Flater says. “Stand here, against the side.” He steps next to me and looks up.

“See?” he asks. “We say it’s not truly a Carolina hull unless you can get out of the rain under it.” He’s right. The flare provides shelter as wide as the eaves of a house.

The design was popularized by wooden boat builders long ago on the Outer Banks, in places like Wanchese and Harkers Island.

“I used to go to those places all the time,” Flater says. “The boat builders are amazing. In fact, Billy Dupree of Harkers Island built my ‘plug.’ That’s the original boat that’s used to form a mold.

“I had to invest a lot of money before I got anywhere near having a finished fiberglass boat I could market,” Flater continues. “I paid Billy to build a traditional plank-on-frame Carolina hull boat that we could use to cast the mold. Once the mold is made, that’s step one.” The succeeding steps before they had a finished fiberglass hull required a huge investment of time and money. “Since Billy’s boats are so beautiful, I was able to sell the plug and get back some of the original investment,” he recalls.

“Step two was making our first hull. We layer the fiberglass materials into the mold. Every one of our hulls has eleven layers. Then we infuse it.” The entire process can take a good two weeks, and the temperature must be carefully controlled so the fiberglass cures at the proper rate. “There are about $40,000 in materials for a hull, so we have to be sure to get it right.” 

The result combines what’s worked in the past with materials and design that are cutting-edge. “I tell people in our boats we build ‘tradition with technology,’” Flater says. Taking advantage of advances made by the textile industry, Slater has turned to nanofibers. “It took some trial-and-error, but we now make our hulls using nanofibers in the resins. If you picture a strand of hair as a thick rope, a nanofiber beside it would be the thickness of a thread.” The material produces strength in numbers: “These tiny fibers not only make our hulls incredibly strong — they’re literally bullet-proof — but the fibers also reduce the noise level in the hulls, which is always an issue with fiberglass boats.”

We stop in front of a boat that looks finished. The hull is light blue and the helm and deck are white. The boat looks like it’s cutting effortlessly through waves, even though it’s static.

I follow Flater up a stepladder and stand on the deck. The helm gleams with polished metal and varnished teak. Screens for underwater sonar and navigation, and dials and switches I can only guess at crowd the instrument panel.

“This is our ‘express’ design, which means there’s more indoor space,” Flater says. “A customer sent the boat down for some upgrades. He’s a New York bond trader who lives on Long Island.” A dedicated fisherman, along with his sons, the owner is thinking about selling the boat. Why? “So we can build him a bigger one,” Slater says, “but he wanted us to change a few things before he decides whether he’ll put it on the market. Let’s take a look below.”

Slater opens the hatch and steps down into the cabin. There are two sleeping berths, a galley, and a built-in flat screen TV. He turns on the reading lights in the berths. He opens and closes a couple of cabinet doors. They’re teak, with geometric designs in the wood. Everything is exquisitely finished. When the cabinet doors are closed, it’s hard to see the seams.

“See why I like being near cabinet makers?” Flater asks.

I nod, my head cocked to the side because of the overhead.

“This customer is about my height,” Flater says. He’s around 5-foot-10, so he’s comfortably standing upright. “For someone your size, we’d build in more headspace,” he says. “Each of our boats is custom-made for the individual who’s buying it. That’s one of the things I like best about the business — the chance to work directly with customers.”

We exit the cabin. I take one more look around the deck, and we descend the ladder.

As we’re walking down the production line, I spot a hull that reminds me of the cigar boats — big and long powerful speedboats — I remember seeing in Miami.

“That’s a catamaran hull we’ve been developing,” Flater says. “Very efficient. It’ll do 72 mph with a 65 hp engine.”

Farther down the line, I follow Slater up a shorter ladder and take a long step over the top of the hull to the deck. Many of the appointments are sanded, showing the bare fiberglass. All the wooden fittings have been removed.

“This configuration is called a ‘center console’ design, which means there’s more outdoor space,” Flater says. “We’re changing around the deck for a guy who runs a charter operation.” The layout provides lots of room for anglers to fish from different locations. “Those are covers for fish-keeper wells under the deck, all custom-made to the customer’s specifications.”

Flater pats the side of an empty fiberglass cabinet.

“This is the special console we built to add a ‘Seakeeper,’” he says. “That’s a gyro device that turns 10,000 rpm and reduces roll motion.” It’s a big help if anybody on board has a problem with seasickness.

“We get our Seakeepers from Marine Tooling Technology,” Flater says. “They’re also in this building. The company is best-known for manufacturing fiberglass molds. They also do fiberglass repair, make custom parts, and supply marine technology.”

From the deck of the boat Flater looks down the production line, watching as a workman spray-paints a custom fiberglass panel.

“Unfortunately, this property is for sale,” he says. “But fortunately for us, since the building was constructed specifically for boat-building, it’s hard to re-configure for other uses. That’s made potential buyers cautious.

“It would be hard for us to find another facility so well suited to boat-building,” he continues. “So we’re looking into getting some development help to acquire the property and turn the whole building into a marine center, with different suppliers and manufacturers located here. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get the old Hatteras Yacht manufacturing site fully involved in boat-building, like back in the company’s heyday?”

Given the tenacity and vision Brad Flater has shown realizing his boyhood dream, I’d bet money he’ll realize this one, too.  OH

A mountain boy, Ross Howell Jr. is not a sailor, though he loves the sea.

Poem June 2017

Reclamation Project

Sunken shapes of claw, paw, toe

betray those who trespass on the beach

when tide is out.

Shells, their chambered lives

destroyed by roiling waves,

spread detritus like chad.

Stones that shine with wet color,

bronze, gold, orange, onyx,

dull to grey as sea breezes

dry them out.

Evening tide awakens, reaches,

erases evidence of interlopers,

leaves the shore like a bedsheet,

taut, smooth, tucked in.

— Sarah Edwards

Wandering Billy

McIver Street Makeover

A happy alternative to the wrecking ball

By Billy Eye

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”  Ursula K. Le Guin

The 100-200 block of McIver Street is a charming avenue with a difficult history as it extends from busy West Market smack into the belly of UNC-BORG. A new parking structure and the School of Music take up the entire western side now but, across the street, there remains a pleasant mix of private homes, largely from the 1920s, that the university has repurposed for a history lab, day care and the like. But four of the most impressive dwellings on this block have been condemned and left to fallow.

On the corner, facing West Market, is one of those large homes from the turn of the 20th century that the street is famous for, until recently enjoying life as Tuba House, the city’s underground (musical) railroad. For years, Cheston Harris has been hosting ragtag bands with minuscule followings needing a place to gig and crash to help spirit them from one city to the next. Seems some new neighbors believed that living on the edge of a campus teeming with tens of thousands of methamphetamine-laced teenagers would result in the peace and tranquility they’ve longed for. So they had this beloved institution shut down.

The first McIver facing property is a late-model apartment complex followed by three boarded-up houses. The first two were built in the 1940s, one, a simple but charming brick Tudor-inspired cottage that sits next to an enormous two-story white clapboard bungalow with a stone chimney fronted by a bold gambrel roofline accented with both flared and gabled dormers.Next door is a spectacular four-bedroom New Orlean–flavored weatherboarded home with a brick base that will celebrate its centennial next year. In the 1960s, after enrollment to UNCG was extended to male students, the upstairs was converted into two rental units with exterior staircases bolted on front and back. So many hippies crashed here, if the place caught fire half the city would have gotten stoned.

Reflecting the prevailing Colonial-Revival architectural style on McIver, the other condemned property is at the far end of the thoroughfare, a sturdy brick two-story, five-bedroom home from 1927 with vintage metal awnings, apparently shuttered not long after it was purchased in 2008 for a whopping $3 million — if you believe what’s listed on the internet. (I don’t.) Finishing off the block, facing the Sullivan Science Building on Carr Street, are the venerable Lee Barber Apartments, a sleek duo of matching five-plex apartments from 1958.

My worst fears were realized when I discovered UNCG’s master plan for expansion, published in 2014, calling for the removal of every home on McIver, including the two Barbara Lees, to be replaced with a sprawling Visual and Performing Arts District. Still smarting over the lost standalone residences in the heart of campus demolished for parking lots two decades ago, I was ready to fire off my indignant narrative: Am I seriously going to have to chain myself to some houses?!? Let’s keep these antiquities, and build upward not outward, UNCG. These kids need some exercise anyway!

Fortunately, before this boot heel became permanently lodged in my oral cavity, I had a chance meeting with one of the university’s architect/planners. Turns out that 2014 blueprint is no longer in play. UNCG now recognizes how important a neighborhood feel is to the campus. So much so, they plan to rehabilitate these homes by next summer. Around that same time the former Victory Theater (so named because it opened at the height of WWII) on Tate Street and a pool hall next door will have been converted into rehearsal and studio space for the Theatre Department [or School of Theatre]. Extending the university’s footprint further down Tate is expected to be a boon to businesses along the strip. Bravo!

That reminds me of another road thankfully not taken. Fifty years ago our city leaders drafted a plan to make downtown as attractive to shoppers as Friendly Shopping Center or the brand new Four Seasons Mall that was under construction. The blueprint called for the demolition of all those old-fashioned buildings from the turn of the century on South Elm, to be replaced with ultramodern glass and concrete storefronts with offices above.

The first phase was implemented, and it involved widening the sidewalks downtown, then planting trees every few feet, augmented with more greenery growing out of large pebble-encrusted shrubbery planters. To balance out the massive number of parking spaces this displaced, the city built a multilevel parking deck behind Ellis-Stone department store (now Elm Street Center) that quickly became a magnet for crime, hastening downtown’s demise. The city center was surrendered to die-harders and derelicts in the 1970s, resulting in South Elm’s architectural treasures being preserved by default. Wider sidewalks, the parking garage, trees, some of which are nearly half a century old now, greatly enhance our present day downtown. Can you imagine the cultural hangover we’d be experiencing now if South Elm resembled the Governmental Center or any of the other ugly structures erected in the 1970s? Here’s what could have been . . .  OH

Every Thursday afternoon this month from 3 p.m. until 6, Billy Eye will be at Parts Unknown: the Comic Book Store at 906 Spring Garden, near the corner of Mendenhall, to talk with you about Old Greensboro, classic comics, TV history, my books, or whatever else you can think of. Stop by and say hello!