Twice last week, my reporting duties took me to the vicinity of the venerable Henderson fire station and clocktower on North Garnett Street. I’d say that’s perfect timing for the inaugural edition of this column, which I have dubbed “Clockwork.”
Clockwork. Get it?
Traveling by foot on Saturday, I stepped onto Young Street by way of Court Street, and the sound of the bell tolling from the towering red brick landmark filled the morning air. Church bells from around the downtown district joined in to form a chorus.
It occurred to me then that despite spending much of my life around Henderson, there’s a lot I don’t know about this place and have not yet experienced. I’m eager to discover more; to learn what’s new, and what’s old.
Surely not much could have changed in the last seven years since I left. Right? Well, I know just by glancing at our sports section that isn’t true. No more Southern Vance powder blue, or Northern Vance golden helmets. No more Optimist Bowl. No more Runnin’ Raiders. No more Vikings. The unmistakable tone of Coach Baskett bellowing instruction from the sidelines of area gyms — gone.
That chapter has been laid to rest.
There’s one county high school again, and its black-and-green-clad Viper football team has a real chance this season of not only making the state playoffs, but winning its conference.
Three Tri-County charter schools — Vance Charter, Henderson Collegiate and Oxford Prep —now field high school varsity teams, some of which have had great success in recent years. When I arrived at The Dispatch out of college in 2009, I’m not sure I even knew what a charter school was.
Since I left the Henderson loop in 2014, the tennis courts have been refurbished at a Fox Pond Park that now features a nature trail and pleasant panoramic views of the water. When I was a kid, there was scant scenery to be found there — just a wooden playground that would give modern-day parents nightmares. Now, there’s a safer, more colorful jungle gym.
It’s not all rosy; Sirens yelped in the distance Friday as dusk fell on Chestnut Street when a retired Henderson police officer reminded me, “Henderson is a different city when the lights go down.”
Downtown Henderson has never been a true destination in my lifetime, although I have been regaled with more than a few stories of Main Street’s heyday. It seems like there’s a contingent of civic leaders that are serious about bringing downtown back.
Some things seem to be changing around here for the better, and that’s encouraging, if not downright exciting.
The old clocktower has seen a lot come and go in its century-plus watching over the city. It could use some company again.
• We published a story last week about traffic lights in Henderson, and I think anyone that has attempted to make that left turn onto Andrews Avenue from US 1 can see the need for a light there. The N.C. Department of Transportation is investigating the matter.
• On Saturday, I met Alice Sallins of the Vance County Arts Council. I didn’t make out her name at first and when she repeated it, she said, “Alice, like Alice in Wonderland.” I wish I had something like that to fall back on because people don’t always seem to get it when I tell them, “Kellen, like Kellen Winslow, the football player from the 1970s and 80s.”