02/22/09 — Nahunta: 'It is a keeper'

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Nahunta: 'It is a keeper'

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 22, 2009 2:00 AM

NAHUNTA -- It didn't take New York City native Regina Coley long to learn what generations of people living in this rural northwestern part of Wayne County have known for years -- it is a friendly, close-knit place.

Mrs. Coley, her husband and five of her six children moved to Nahunta about a year and a half ago.

"My husband has family in Fremont," she said. "We moved down here to get a house because we were living in an apartment. We found what we were looking for here in Nahunta.

"It has been a bit of a culture shock. Basically, we moved down here due to my son. He was born with a skin disease that causes blistering of the skin and the air in New York, the environment up there wasn't good for him at all because it was causing trauma to his skin. It caused him to be in hospital more than at home."

She added, "But since we have made the adjustment to live down here he has not been to the hospital not one time. My kids love it. I love it. It is peaceful and quiet and it is different than New York."

One child remains in New York City and lives with Mrs. Coley's mother.

"I miss New York a little because of the transportation," she said. "But I like living here because the environment that my kids were living in New York, the air we lived in, it was not a good area. My kids were not doing good in school. But since we have made the adjustment from New York to down here, where my daughter was failing in school in New York, when she came down here to Charles B. Aycock (High school at Pikeville) she is making 80s and 90s on her report card.

"People down here are very friendly. The teachers down here, I love them. What I like about the schools down here is that they are so concerned. They feel free to call me and let know how my kids are doing. They are really concerned about the kids down here and that is what I like."

Mrs. Coley said she will continue to visit New York but plans to stay in the area.

"Down here they are nice, very nice," she said. "They say, 'hey.' Cars go past and people wave 'hey.' In New York you don't talk to them and they don't talk to you."

Her neighbors who ride horses have stopped by to let her and her children pet the animals. Before that the only horses they had seen were in a zoo. People walking their dogs also stop by to chat and let the children pet them.

"It is a keeper," she said. "It is quiet and peaceful and I know where my kids are at. It's good."

Mrs. Coley said she would encourage others to move to the area.

People already are doing that, but probably not in the numbers being seen in other sections of the county.

People here, said lifelong resident Roger Pittman, want to keep land that has been in their families for generations. There is a strong sense of family and of owning land, he said.

"We don't have them (subdivisions) in right in the immediate Nahunta or Pinkney area, but we got them around," he said. "Goldsboro is coming fast it seems like -- Goldsboro one way and Smithfield-Selma the other way. I reckon we will be one or the other one day, but they are coming.

"That is the only good thing about the economy right now as far as I am concerned, it has slowed the housing down. I know that is a problem for some. I have always farmed and we have land. I just hate to see houses going up, doing away with the farmland, and it is happening fast."

Pittman, 54, said he expects that to change as the older generation passes away and their children sell the land.

"Land nowadays is not much more than a 401-K savings plan," he said. "You got three or four (family members) involved ready to cash in."

That is not for him, he said.

Pittman, 54, said he has never had an interest in moving on.

"My family is right here, my immediate family and I just have no desire to move," he said. "I mean don't mind going visiting, but I want to be here to stay.

"If you have a death in the community or some type of tragedy everybody is there in a hurry to do whatever they need to do or have to do," he said. "A lot will tell you they like the quietness, and you don't have the traffic like you have in town by no means."

However, traffic has increased over the years, he admitted.

"There is a right smart more,' he said. "You've got the (Nahunta) Pork Center up here that draws a lot of traffic and there are so many more houses. Probably 15 years I could probably drive for miles in an direction from that crossroads (at the mill) and I could tell you who stayed in every house and now you don't even hardly know who stays three houses down they are moving in so fast."

Despite the traffic and population increase Nahunta is still a great place to live, he said.

"It's a pretty rural area for my part and I wish it would stay that way forever, but things change and you have to change with them.

"Everybody is just so neighborly -- old and new alike. It's just a good place. I know there are a lot of good places, but I don't any that I would like to switch with."

Gary Radford, 51, agreed.

"It is a close-knit community that in time of need people help each other out," he said. "A lot of people here were born and raised here and have family connections. Of course, we have a lot of people who have moved in from outside the area that have come in and made it home. I think it is the friendliness and hospitality of the community. That is the driving force for the community as well as our churches, fire departments and organizations."

A graduate of Aycock High, Radford has done some traveling, but he has always returned home. He has worked at the Nahunta Pork Center since he was 16. After graduating from high school he farmed for three years, while still working part time at the Pork Center.

"I've been here 34 years," he said. "I have had a few job offers even as far as South Carolina, but just didn't want to leave home. I live right beside where I was born and I was born at home. I moved one mile away, stayed about 15 years and moved back. When you talk about moving a distance then I don't think I could handle that.

"I've had the opportunity, but I have not seen that I have been dissatisfied for passing them up."

Many of his classmates are still in the area.

Radford, who attended elementary school in Nahunta, said, "I would not be scared to say that half who went to the school are still in the area. Some have married and moved out. A lot of the older generations who went to school there still live here in area."

Shelby Jean Walston, 72, was sitting in her front yard swing and waving to people driving by her house. She moved here from Pitt County after marrying Edward Lee Walston nearly 30 years ago.

"I like it," she said. "I stay out here in my swing. Everybody who comes by waves at me. It's a nice community to live in and I know my neighbors. It's just quiet and that is what I like about. They all told me I wouldn't stay here, but I have been here since 1981."