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Sketches from My Life:

Memories of Washington, NC

Our generous donor: William A Sellers, Jr.

Written by: William A. Sellers, Jr.
Norfolk Southern Railway (Ret.)
955 Sunset Blvd., N.W.
Gainesville, Ga. 30501-2733

  If you never experienced it, you will never know what it was like.   Although I lived in Greenville, Wilson, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, during the Depression 30's it was my good fortune to spend several glorious summers visiting my grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Dave Arnold who lived at what at the time was 315 East Second St. in Washington.

  Those Camelot Summers would begin with a train ride on Norfolk Southern passenger train No. 2 from Wilson that arrived in Washington around the noon hour. After leaving the railroad town of Marsden (Chocowinity), the heart would beat faster as that little 5 car passenger train enroute to Norfolk would swing out onto what to this day remains a boyhood shrine, the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge over the Pamlico River. As the train slowed to the regulation 10 mph to cross the bridge, a quick glance out the left side of the train revealed a view of nearly the whole town of Washington situated on the North bank of the Pamlico River. The railroad station, located where Water street curved to the left to meet East Main street, was to be my favorite haunt among all of the interesting places that abounded for a young lad in Washington.

  Living in Washington during the 30's was a "state of mind", that unless you were a part of it, much is lost in just reading about it. What a beautiful and restful sight to live in one of those gingerbread houses along either side of an East Second street that was covered in a canopy of shade provided by beautiful old giant oak trees. The entire town of Washington was a delightful play- ground populated by down to earth people who went out of their way to entertain a visiting curiosity seeker such as myself.

  Each morning after a good breakfast, it was only a short distance for a fellow like me to skip down Second Street to the Christian Church, go up Academy St. past that lovely old home at 400 East Main St. which today houses "Pamlico House" Bed and Breakfast, over to Water Street to the Norfolk Southern Railroad Depot to spend at least the entire morning.

  As a permanent fixture around the place I got to know all of the station employees. The two colored gentlemen who were freight handlers, let me help unload merchandise from box cars, to be called for later by such places of Business as Harris Hardware, and W.H. Basnight & Sons. One of the freight handlers was named Will, and held down a second job as custodian at the Christian CHurch.

  Around 11:30 each morning, activity began to pick up around the station with the arrival of the U.S. Postal truck, and the truck from Railway Express Agency. A few passengers would begin showing up in the waiting rooms bound for such destinations as Plymouth, Edenton, Hertford, Elizabeth City or Norfolk. Around 11:45 AM a cloud of smoke was visible in the woods across the river as the dimunitive little passenger train would come out of the woods and start across the bridge. THE prevailing South breeze off the river meant that the sweet pungent smell of coal smoke would reach the station area well before the train had backed into the station. A little flurry of activity for a few minutes, and the train was off for Norfolk.

  Everything seemed to fall in place at 12 Noon as that wonderful old melodious whistle on the Roanoke Lumber Company sawmill just up Water Street announced to the whole town of Washington, "It's Dinnertime"! I would skip lightly back over to 315 East Second St. where for certain Grandmother Arnold would have a delicious home cooked dinner waiting for me on the table. And what lovely sounds at night in a time before air-conditioning. Sitting out on a porch watching fire-flies and perhaps listening to someone a couple of doors away practicing on a slightly out of tune piano. Or maybe those glorious voices of the choir in the Christian Church having choir practice just down the street. Lying in bed on a warm summer evening listening to a freight train slowly clumping through the draw span on the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge, and listening to that lonesome sound of the train whistle as he blew for the road crossing at Jack's Creek.

  Yes my friends, I have lived the sights, sounds, and yes, even the smells of a wonderful town that I never actually lived in, but had a court- ship with her long enough to develope a hopeless love affair with a great little town known as "Washington On The Pamlico".

  Thomas Wolfe said "You can't Go Home". He has it all wrong. Maybe he couldn't go home, but he never had the good fortune to sample the good life in Washington, N.C.

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