03/01/09 — Saulston: It is home, and there's no place like it

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Saulston: It is home, and there's no place like it

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 1, 2009 2:00 AM

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"I'm like a martin, I come back home," said Gerald Lancaster, 72, as he worked on the birdhouses he was preparing for spring.

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The Saulston Fire Station is a centerpiece of the community. Firefighter Mike Perkins, left, and Fire Chief David Walston were at the station while a technician serviced one of the trucks. "Everybody who comes out here enjoys what they see," Perkins said.

SAULSTON -- The face of Wayne County is changing. Perhaps that is nowhere more evident than in the county's traditionally small rural communities.

Even with those changes, it is still home for the families that have lived for generations in communities like Saulston. What haven't changed are the churches and fire stations that continue to be centers of life in the communities.

"It is home and there ain't no place like home and that it is where I want to stay," said Fire Chief David Walston as he watched technicians tune up one of the department's fire trucks.

Walston, 52, has lived in the community all of his life and works at the Maury Correctional Institution in nearby Greene County.

He has belonged to the 38-member department for 38 years, serving the past four as chief.

Like others here, he has turned down opportunities to go elsewhere.

"Well, I don't know any different for one thing," he said for his reasons for not moving away. "It is all that I have ever known. I'm just a homebody and don't want to get away from home.

"This is home and where I want to stay. Everybody who comes here wants to stay here."

Saulston is one of the fastest-growing parts of the county right now as far as residential development and people, he said, have discovered the "secret."

"They stated developing and people from the base and different places have moved out and they like it and tend to stay when they get here," he said. "When they are here a while, they don't want to leave.

"Most of the ones I grew up with are still here and we still hang together. A lot of them are still on the fire department with me."

The fire station is a center for the community where many people hang out on their days off and enjoy themselves, he said.

The only store, the old Saulston Community Store, located just down the road, was closed about six months ago. A new one is in the process of being built in the same location

People who need to go shopping just go into Goldsboro or Pikeville, Walston said.

Mike Perkins, a 1998 graduate of Eastern Wayne High School, turned down offers to play college football in West Virginia and North Carolina.

"I rather stay home," he said. "I enjoy it around here.

"I have everything I need out here. I hunt, fish and play softball during the summer out here at the church. We have the lake and my granddaddy (Joe Perkins) lives near it and I spend all summer out there."

The older people in the community are like second parents and grandparents to the younger people, Perkins, 29, said.

His father, Marvin Perkins, owns Perkins House of Time in Goldsboro, and like his father, Mike Perkins is a member of the fire department. He has been a fire fighter with the Goldsboro Fire Department for the past year and a half.

His brother, Joe Perkins, who played baseball at Mount Olive College, lives nearby as well.

"I have been to a lot of places," Mike Perkins said. "I have grandparents live in other places, but this is home. I love waking up here every morning. There are things to do all the time. I get off work in morning and stay home I don't even want to go back into Goldsboro."

"You know everybody just like right now," he said as he returned the wave of a motorist passing the fire station. "Everybody knows who you are. You can go to the store and talk to everybody and you don't have to worry about strangers. It has changed whole lot in last 15 years, but this is all I know."

Perkins said he was in the transition period when local students were moved from Eastern Wayne High School to Charles B. Aycock High School at Pikeville when the district lines were changed.

"I was an exception since I was in high school and had been going to Eastern Wayne so I finished out my school years there," he said. "The ones I went to school with, even the ones who went to Aycock, are still here in Saulston. They all have families or jobs in Goldsboro, or Wilson or Kinston and they all come back here.

"There are new folks. A lot of Air Force people come out here. I don't know if they just enjoy the solitude, it is real quiet out here, and the crime rate is low. We don't have loud noises late at night. We have a good church. People join the lake or fire department. Everybody who comes out here enjoys what they see."

"I'm like a martin, I come back home," said Gerald Lancaster, 72, as he pointed to birdhouses he was preparing for spring.

"It's just the area," he said. "It is a good place to live."

Saulston has been his family's home for three generations, four now that his son lives nearby.

Now, a lot of the "old people" are gone, he said.

"I am just one of the few my age still running around," he said.

Lancaster farmed until l974 when he went to work for Hevi-Duty Electric Co. at Mar-Mac. He left after eight years to work at Firestone at Wilson where he stayed for just over for 24 years.

"When I went to Firestone the first thing they asked me was would I move to Wilson to get the job," he said. "I told them no, I would not move there.

"I own this farm and if it had got bad I would have went back farming. I worked at Firestone two week and said I would never farm again."

Lancaster said he had stopped farming because of problems finding help to harvest his crops. The big farms, he said, were "easing in and the little farmers was going out, so I rent to the big farmer."

Since he owns the land surrounding his home, Lancaster isn't worried about being crowded out by the encroaching subdivisions. He has turned down offers to sell his land.

"That's what gets me, all these subdivisions, all these smaller farmers are being squeezed," he said. "It is hurting people my age. When I came out here, I knew everybody around. That is no longer the case.

Lancaster said he and his wife enjoy the peace and quiet.

"The only time it ain't quiet is when they start barning tobacco then it gets noisy then it goes back quiet," he said.

He also is bothered by the increase in traffic.

"It is horrible," he said. "But they can't move up under me."

Lancaster, who retired, likes to fish at the coast where we has a place. He said he also enjoys "piddling around" in his garden.

"I a member of the wildlife pond," he said. "A fellow my age this area will hold them because there is enough to do for me."

Like Lancaster, Randy Smith's family has lived here for generation. The farm has been in his family since the 1800's.

"This is where I have always lived and I enjoy what I do here, farming," said Smith, 53. "I also have farms in the Faro and Eureka communities.

A graduate of Eastern Wayne High School, Smith said the farming community has changed.

"The land has changed, houses have grown up, but it is the same old thing as far as the farm here," he said. "Cars and traffic have changed making it difficult to move the larger equipment on the road. It is bad getting on the road (Wayne Memorial Drive) with equipment."

During peak traffic times, 'we don't even try to get down this road," he said.

Smith said traffic has increased dramatically over the past 15 years. Since the road runs parallel to U.S. 13, a lot traffic comes form Greenville.

"Traffic is the main thing that I have seen," he said. "The houses and people don't make a lot of difference to me. They are here. They have to have somewhere to live. It's close to Goldsboro. You run into Goldsboro and can be there in about 10 minutes.

"I just don't know them like I know the older people. I used to know everybody down here. A lot of the little community stores where, when farmers got caught up, they'd drive to the stores and sit and talk, are gone. There is no gathering spot now and there are not as many farmers as there used to be."

Smith said his three adult sons still live in the community.

"I don't plan on moving anywhere," he said. "Older people's children grew up and moved away but they still own the property."

Faye Thorne was swinging her young granddaughter, Caroline Finch, in the front yard of the home she shares wit her twin sister, Kaye Mewborn.

The sisters retired after working for 32 years at Wayne Community College.

"I have lived here all my life," Ms. Thorne said. "I left for about three years, but I came back. I have lived here all my life on this corner (Wayne Memorial Drive and Saulston Road).

"It is a close-knit family community. I know a lot of people. We are all family and we come together during a crisis. We are close to good schools and the church is nearby. It's nice place to live."

The twins' parents are deceased.

"My parents' best friends live down road and they are like our parents," she said.

"It's home to me," Ms. Mewborn said. "It is a special place and everybody is real close."

She said she had been concerned about the heavy traffic.

"But now that we have got a stoplight it helps," she said.

"I have had opportunities go elsewhere, but I had rather be here," she said. "It is just home."