June 28, 2018, Salisbury, NC-
I first encountered W, in 2002, when he arrived in Phoenix, from his native Liberia. At that time, he was recovering from a severe injury and was one of thousands of refugees from his then-war torn homeland. He had been a journalist, writing for Monrovia’s daily newspaper, when his injuries occurred.
Like more than a few Africans living in Phoenix, he became a trusted friend and we have maintained a correspondence, ever since. He has left Arizona and is now comfortably settled in a simple home, in this pleasant city of the Piedmont. Salisbury is about an hour northeast of Charlotte, and seems to not have, as yet, become saddled with major urban sprawl.
I woke to a calm morning, in Timmonsville, about two hours further southeast of here. As I suspected, there is an unnamed breakfast and lunch counter, inside the Mobil Station. I walked across the street and discovered The Hot Plate- more than the microwave stand I had suspected would be there. Instead, an effusive man of about 35 and a shy girl, who seemed to be about 15, were behind a full-service breakfast & lunch counter. The man took my order and both set to work, he on the sausage and the girl on the eggs and pancakes. She brought a fabulous breakfast plate to my small table, in eight minutes’ time. Several other people- mostly customers, plus two women who seemed to have some role in running the show, came in and out during my leisurely breakfast. After paying my bill, and giving the bemused girl a healthy tip, I reflected that places like The Hot Plate are what keep small-town America connected with the open road. I would go in there again, were I to find myself in Timmonsville-or, as this sign would have it, in
I headed, in earnest, towards Salisbury, and arrived at W’s place in a couple of hours. There, a comfortable bed for the night, and a steaming pot of Liberian pork stew, with heaping portions of rice, awaited. African hospitality is second to none-even in the simplest of homes.
On the way there, I picked up a few more gift items, as a few families in the small town of Mc Bee, SC were holding a fund-raiser and the bake sale was too good to pass up. Mc Bee is also notable for this:
Salisbury has several solid Federal period and Beaux Arts era architectural gems. I stopped to note a few of these, whilst driving towards W’s apartment.
Perhaps most prominent, from the east, is the Bell Tower of First Presbyterian Church.
Driving westward, St. John’s Lutheran Church becomes equally impressive.
In Salisbury’s Veteran’s Cemetery, this memorial to World War II dead is at the western gate to the grounds.
This is the old Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, west of the cemetery.
I found a most happy W, waiting outside his apartment complex. It’s been a while since he had any visitors from out of town.
Here is a view of the park, down the street from his complex.
After my hearty lunch of stew and rice, W and I walked to a Walgreen’s where I could get a spare dental care kit, as mine was possibly lost. I also got a spare razor and blades, while W talked of his joyful walks along Salisbury’s main commercial street. He keeps away from the Confederate Memorial that greets the traveler coming in from the East. Otherwise, he has walked all over the town, making friends as he goes.
I found, however, that there was little evidence of racial tension here, as W’s White cross street neighbours were quite cordial, and there was plenty of friendly interaction during my own downtown visit.
Rowan County Courthouse is an impressive Federal Era structure. This block celebrates George Washington’s visit here, following the American Revolution.
The same detail has kept the County Administration Building in good repair, for over 150 years.
Away from downtown, the west and south sides feature several older gems. Below, is Chambers House, from the Revolutionary Period.
Here is another view of the Bell Tower, as it is near Chambers House.
This tiny salt box house was the Henderson Law Office, built in 1796.
I spent a few moments checking out a south side block, from whence there is another fine view of the Bell Tower.
Here is a three-part look at the south side’s finest mural, entitled “Crossroads-Past Into Present”. It shows Salisbury life, circa 1900 and was completed in 2001. The artists are Cynvia Rankin, Earle Kluttz and Raines Thompson. Ms. Rankin was the primary artist on this project, commissioned by Rowan Art Guild.
W and I spent a great deal of time just talking of life in Arizona, as compared to North Carolina. The latter is certainly a less frenetic and cheaper place to live, by and large. He also told me much about Liberia, and his journalistic experience during the country’s Civil War. We watched a lengthy Baha’i video, as well. Our conversation tended to be more far ranging than those we’ve had over the phone. W speaks at a fast clip, so line of sight works better for me, in understanding him.
It has been another relaxing day, though, knowing I am in a place of friendship.
NEXT: Across the Great Smokies, to Crossville