Ad­ven­tures in El­iz­a­beth City

The Covington News - - OPINION - T. PAT CAVANAUGH PUB­LISHER T. Pat Cavanaugh is the pub­lisher of The News. He can be reached at pca­vanaugh@rock­dale­

One of the ad­van­tages of be­ing an older baby boomer is that your mind can eas­ily wan­der back to days of your youth and ev­ery de­tail of those ex­pe­ri­ences can be seen as clearly as if you were still that age.

I spent seven years of my life in El­iz­a­beth City, North Carolina.

El­iz­a­beth City is a great place; it sort of is like the myth­i­cal “Bri­gadoon,” The city that only ap­pears ev­ery 20 years and only for 24 hours.

Noth­ing ev­ery changes in Bri­gadoon, and noth­ing changes in El­iz­a­beth City.

The seven years I spent there was al­most like a life­time.

I was hon­ored to be named man of the year; I ran for po­lit­i­cal of­fice and lost be­cause I in­sisted that the lo­cal pool be opened again. The pool had been closed be­cause African Amer­i­cans wanted to use it to. I bought my first house and I be­longed to the great­est vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion of its day, the Jaycees.

El­iz­a­beth City is lo­cated on the coast of North Carolina, about forty miles from Nor­folk, Vir­ginia and about 40 miles from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is sit­u­ated on the beau­ti­ful Albe­marle Sound, whose wa­ter the color of cola as re­sult of the cedar trees grow­ing on its banks.

About eight years ago I vis­ited El­iz­a­beth City for the first time in over 30 years. As I walked down the street people stopped and talked to me as if I had never been gone; like I said, noth­ing changes in El­iz­a­beth City.

I had a lot of in­ter­est­ing ad­ven­tures in El­iz­a­beth City; one of them in­volved my friend Ed, a fel­low Jaycee.

Ed was the type of guy whom could pick up a hand­ful of sand, and in a lit­tle while he could con­vince you that he was hold­ing a hand­ful of gold.

It seems to me to have a talent like that would help make you be­come one of the most suc­cess­ful people in the world.

But people such as Ed, who have this mag­nif­i­cent power of per­sua­sion, never can seem to chan­nel that talent into an hon­est liv­ing.

I was the circulation man­ager of the Daily Ad­vance in El­iz­a­beth City at the time I knew Ed, and I knew he had gone through a se­ries of jobs, but I al­ways thought he would be a great sales­per­son.

So I con­vinced the griz­zled old ad­ver­tis­ing man­ager of the paper at that time to take Ed on.

He spent hours telling me that people like Ed would never be a suc­cess, but I pre­vailed by go­ing over his head to the pub­lisher.

I think Ed lasted about a month, and dur­ing that time we lost a few loyal ad­ver­tis­ers, and I think some col­lec­tions came up short.

Ed was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped, and my al­ready shaky re­la­tions with the ad­ver­tis­ing di­rec­tor be­came even shakier.

Ed didn’t care. He just caught on with the next per­son who thought that they could har­ness that mag­nif­i­cent talent.

One par­tic­u­lar fall Mon­day morn­ing, I was look­ing through the As­so­ci­ated Press wire sto­ries when I read that a lo­cal man was ar­rested for rob­bing a gas sta­tion in Raleigh over that weekend. Raleigh is the cap­i­tal of North Carolina and is a three-hour drive from El­iz­a­beth City.

As I read far­ther, I saw Ed’s name. I was in to­tal shock.

I raced a cou­ple blocks over to tell the boys at the Colo­nial Restau­rant cof­fee klatch what I had read. Ev­ery day a group of us met re­li­giously for cof­fee and solved all of the world prob­lems.

Ev­ery­one was in shock. Why would he do that?

As the chat­ter got louder, in walked Ed; the same cocky Ed as al­ways. He as­sured us that he was not guilty. It was all a big mis­take, a case of mis­taken iden­tity.

So of course we all be­lieved him. Af­ter all, he was one of us.

Ed told us he had a court case in two weeks and he needed some great char­ac­ter wit­nesses to tes­tify for him, so sure, we would do this for our friend.

We were pumped. We be­lieved our friend had been wronged, and more im­por­tantly, we were go­ing to go on a road trip.

Dur­ing the next two weeks, Ed acted as if he had no wor­ries as we did our usual Jaycee stuff, such as sell­ing jelly and candy and run­ning a Hal­loween car­ni­val, and of course spend­ing ev­ery night at the lo­cal Hol­i­day Inn bar talk­ing about our daily ac­com­plish­ments.

So the af­ter­noon be­fore Ed’s big day in court, eight of us loaded in to our friend Brant­ley’s big van. As we headed up the road, we stopped at the lo­cal gro­cery store and loaded up on beer and ice.

Af­ter all, it was a long drive. And off we went to save Ed.

That night, we toured Raleigh nightspots and prac­ticed our disco steps.

By the next morn­ing, no­body was ready to go help Ed.

In fact, some of us didn’t even care if he was guilty or not, but we ral­lied, and soon were swarm­ing all over the court­house in Raleigh.

We had a mis­sion. We were there to save our friend.

By the time Ed’s turn came up, it was 4 in the af­ter­noon and the judge post­poned his trial un­til 8 a.m. the next morn­ing. So we waved to Ed, who was stay­ing with his fam­ily, and off we went to an­other night of see­ing the his­toric spots in Raleigh.

The next morn­ing came soon enough and we were at the court­house bright and early at 8 a.m. sharp wait­ing for Ed to get his day in court.

The prose­cu­tion started, and by noon, when the judge took a lunch break, we all thought Ed was guilty.

But Ed was our friend, and we were be­hind him.

The prob­lem was no one wanted to per­jure them­selves by prais­ing Ed’s char­ac­ter, so we started flip­ping coins to find out who was go­ing to take the stand when we came back from lunch.

In those days there was noth­ing to do in Raleigh at lunch time, so we hung around the court­house. It was so bor­ing, some of us even went into the law li­brary and read. Our friend Froggy was read­ing, and lo and be­hold he hops up and shouts that he had found some­thing and took off look­ing for Ed’s lawyer.

When we en­tered the court­room, Ed’s lawyer was hold­ing the law book that Froggy had been read­ing.

Soon he asked to speak to the judge. The judge read the book, called the prose­cu­tion lawyer up, and soon Ed’s lawyer was smil­ing and the prose­cu­tion lawyer looked gloomy.

The judge then an­nounced that the case against Ed was dis­missed.

We all were in shock again, but soon we were so ex­cited we hugged Froggy, we hugged Ed, we hugged his fam­ily, we hugged his lawyer, and we would have hugged the judge, but he was gone.

I can’t re­mem­ber what it was that Froggy found, but he was our new hero, at least for the next week or so.

The truth of the mat­ter was that we all thought Ed was guilty as sin and we spent the next cou­ple of years try­ing to fig­ure out what he did with the money.

Ed, well, he still stayed a good Jaycee, al­ways look­ing for his next job.

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