Town of Coats in today’s pandemic

By GAYLE SORRELL
Coats Museum News
Posted 10/30/20

Today’s column is a bit different in that it is more about preserving some current history rather than revisiting it.

Good things are happening in Coats despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) …

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Town of Coats in today’s pandemic

Posted

Today’s column is a bit different in that it is more about preserving some current history rather than revisiting it.

Good things are happening in Coats despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Some of our Coats church folks are traveling to points of need rebuilding what storms or tornadoes have leveled. Others spend hours at His Daily Bread mission and food banks offering food to the hungry while the Coats Area Chamber of Commerce and town officials work hard to promote the town.

Educators and parents are working under trying conditions to continue to educate our school kids while others find ways to keep our churches safe for services and other church events.

Our rescue, fire, police, postal, maintenance and medical people have not allowed a pandemic to hamper their mission of helping others. Our IGA, Coats Pharmacy, restaurants and other businesses have found safe ways to keep their businesses going to provide needed services for all the community.

Even a Farmers Day mural is being painted on a town building and a pergola has been built.

Visitors to the museum come in wearing masks and social distancing. A pandemic can bring out the best or worst in people — thank God it has brought out the most amazing goodness of the Coats folks and I proudly record it in the Coats Museum News for our descendants to read. We found no such Coats printed news from the 1918 pandemic.

As some people age, rather than making new memories, they are revisiting old ones. Last Thursday, after spending a busy day at the museum where Becky Adams, Peggy Robinson, Lynda Butler and I worked on a second edition of our military book “The Defenders of the Red, White and Blue,” giving tours, and accepting historical related items from Sion Harrington and Bennie Harmon, I returned home to respond to several messages on our landline.

One message was from Mrs. Stewart in Raleigh who is a descendant of Hilary Stewart, a prominent Coats area Black landowner after the Civil War.

Another call came from Wanda Andrews of Pennsylvania who spent a couple of years in Coats, where she and her sister, Sandy, lived with her grandmother when Wanda was a young girl, but remembered three classmates — Alice and Steve Faircloth and Clyde Ennis Jr. — as being her friends. Wanda is revisiting and recording her memories of her childhood after retiring from Penn State University. She found us through our coatsmuseum.com website.

A third call came from Linda Harmon Weeks from Raleigh, who graduated from Coats in 1961. She recently discovered the coatsmuseum.com website where past “Coats Museum News” columns from The Daily Record are posted. Linda spent about an hour going down memory lane with me and sharing answers to the many questions I asked in the news columns.

Ironically, her cousin, Bennie Harmon, had just visited the museum earlier that day, so we learned much Harmon family connections to their uncle, Norman and Millie Wiggins, and the Wilbourne and Stephenson families.

Another call was from the Executive Director of the Veterans Foundation, John Elskamp, who had recently researched for the Purple Hearts and medals presented to the Cathie Bingham and Marjorie Byrd McDuffie descendants of Emet Bingham and Elmon Byrd.

Mr. Elskamp stated that he had visited our museum website and felt that the Coats area has as many as eight other World War I veterans listed on our military section on the site who are candidates for the Purple Heart. Possibly retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Edward Anderson and Mr. Elskamp will visit Coats again at a future date to present some additional medals to the descendants of the brave who shed blood for our America.

It is amazing and rewarding how sometimes old memories indeed result in new memories. Who remembers when Coats Baptist Church celebrated its 75th anniversary at homecoming? As part of the special service, its choir sang “Draw Near O Nations,” written and directed by Dan Greider. Dan dedicated the song to Coats Baptist Church (The Daily Record, Oct. 29, 1985).

When I hear Dan’s name, I personally have vivid and fond memories of him as a fellow educator at Coats High School. Other readers may have memories of when four Coats citizens were seeking seats on the Coats Town Board. Those running for positions were Mayor Godfrey Beasley, Frances Avery, Curtis Guy and Margaret House (The Daily Record, Oct. 29, 1985).

Many of our readers may recall that a small group of Coats Museum Centennial volunteers spent about eight hours a day for three years seeking history on Coats.

Months were spent in The Daily Record library seeking any newspaper items about Coats Grove. No copies of The Daily Record were available for November and December of 1985, but we were able to publish two volumes containing 1,200 pages of Coats history.

However, there was much news for a new year — 1986. This was the year that the shuttle Challenger exploded as people around the world were watching it on television. The fire in Chernobyl nuclear reactor made international news. The centennial of the Statue of Liberty was the year’s prime source of glitz and glitter.

Calcium was added to everything from flour to laxatives. Drugs in sports received unprecedented attention and oil prices had dropped to below $15 a barrel for the first time in years and there was a new fascination with larger cars.

Diamond-shaped signs were seen everywhere in car rear windows. Walking shoes were marketed as opposed to running shoes. Crack cocaine proliferated, as did the discussion of its impact. Folding cardboard sunscreens for car windshields were used in hot, sunny weather (Dickson, Paul. “From Elvis to E-Mail” Massachusetts: Federal Street Press, 1999, pp. 283-289).

Aren’t there some people who you are proud to call your friend? Whether it is bringing over a complete breakfast when someone dies in your family or giving a generous donation as a memorial, it touches your core belief that there are true friends. Thank you, Linda Cobb, for being my friend since high school and being a friend of the Coats Museum by giving a memorial for Stacey Johnson Sr.

Then there are new friends such as Claudia and Mike Tocci from Sparks, Nevada, who came into the life of the Coats Museum in 2013 when they traveled cross country to visit his grandmother’s homeplace, his aunts, Margaret and Joanne, and cousin, Jane Barnes, of Benson.

He then placed on loan his mother’s wedding dress and nightgown (handmade from his dad’s reserve parachute) and his dad’s World War II uniform. These items get much attention from the visitors as do his gifts of the replica of Buck Cunningham’s fighter jet flown during the Vietnam War and a bronze replica of warriors of Vietnam from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

Mike and Claudia, despite living thousands of miles from Coats, have once again sent a generous early Christmas donation to help operate the Coats Museums.

Thank you, Mike and Claudia, we really missed your visits this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you goes to H.L. for giving museum memorials for Becky U. Pope and T.C. Miller, who will be missed by many.

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