Elliott Returns To 509 Pollock
Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again" but in the past two days I
have proved to myself that he was wrong.
In July 1944 I arrived in New Bern with a new diploma from Chapel Hill,
a job with the North Carolina State Board of Health and driving the
1940 Chevrolet I had been able to buy for $750 from a hometown boy who
was leaving for overseas.
I was replacing a friend who was leaving her job with N.C. Health to go
home to South Carolina for her wedding. Her name was Margaret McDaniel
and while working in New Bern Margaret had lived in a tiny apartment at
509 Pollock St in the home of Miss Mary Ward – Miss Ward had found
Margaret a considerate and congenial tenant – this was especially
important as Margaret and Miss Ward shared the bathroom and
refrigerator. Margaret had told Mary that when she left she would be
replaced at the Health Department by someone she'd been in college with
– Ann Elliot from Fayetteville. This must have been enough screening
for Mary for my bosses in Raleigh told me that Margaret had told them
that I would be able to move into the little apartment.
Now, here I am again, 51 years later spending time at 509. I am
spending two nights here, but this time it is at the Aerie, an elegant
bed and breakfast – a modern utilization of the Victorian Ward home.
Miss Ward was a caseworker in the Welfare Department – now Dept. of
Social Services. During the early Roosevelt days she had been a social
worker with regional responsibilities in one of the agencies that
administration had devised to solve problems the country was
experiencing due to the Great Depression.
Her parents dead, her brother William and sister Alice married with
homes of their own Mary was living alone in a very large house – I
don't know what year she remodeled it into a number of apartments or
rental rooms with baths – neither do I know who planned the structural
changes necessary. I do know that her friend Miss Jane Stewart, an
interior decorator advised her on paint, wallpaper, draperies,
furniture arrangement and in making the reduced space Mary had left for
herself into a very attractive apartment.
Miss Jane Stewart and her sister Miss Sarah Stewart lived in the
enormous Victorian house at the corner of Pollock and Craven Streets –
there is a picture of it in the book on New Bern houses – it was torn
down since I lived here and is now a parking lot.
In 1944 when I came to New Bern the downstairs of the house was as
Mary's apartment at front of house – living room on the left, dining
room on the right, a tiny kitchen to the right of the dining room to
replace the house's original kitchen, Mary's bedroom behind the dining
room, a bathroom beside her bedroom in a small hall space behind stairs
and opening off the living room a tiny bedroom and kitchenette created
when the outside stairs were placed on the front of the house to
provide private entrance to the upstairs front rooms.
• A rental bedroom behind the dining room with outside entrance from
driveway and with its own bathroom.
• An apartment at back of house – probably 3 rooms – living room,
bedroom and kitchen (and bath). At the time I lived here it was
occupied by a marine officer and his wife. They were a childless couple
from the Los Angeles area – Gilman Rankin and his wife Orvetta – she
was a dancer. I mention this because she gave fitness &
exercise lessons several times a week in her living room and there was
room enough for 4, 5, or 6 of us to lie on the floor and exercise – She
also taught us several hula dances – very graceful ones – not the
In the upstairs was a very large apartment entered only by the outside
stairs. It had a living room, dining room, kitchen, bath and two
bedrooms. (Since I was never in any rooms but the living and dining
rooms, I may be wrong about two bedrooms – maybe it had one bedroom and
a large kitchen). The living room was on the right and the dining room
was behind it. Their windows looked down on the very old Roberts house
on the corner of Pollock and Metcalf. The elderly members of the
Roberts family who lived there had let the very large yard grow up and
in late summer the entire yard was covered with masses of pink spider
lilies – I seem to remember having been told that a Roberts brought
some back from China many years ago and by 1944 they had multiplied
till there were probably at least a thousand blooms in the yard.
In 1944-5 a Navy Doctor, Dr. Orville Wright from Dayton, and his wife
lived there. He was quick to remind one that he was born before Orville
& Wilbur flew in 1903 and that Orville was a family name. He
was some kind of cousin to the inventors.
Before I married in 1946 and moved to Queen Ann Lane, another couple
moved in when Dr. Wright was transferred. I can't remember their names.
They were an older couple. The husband was a civilian employee of a
"big" construction company that had contacts at Cherry Point. They were
almost retirement age; I'd guess about sixty years old.
Behind the big upstairs apartment, reached by outdoor stairs was
another rental bedroom and bath.
Before I end this lengthy account I'd like to say more about Mary's
apartment. Miss Jane Stewart and Mary had excellent taste. Mary had
kept very beautiful antique furniture for her three rooms. They had
chosen handsome brass cornices to go over the windows, wallpaper with
big floral designs, which were appropriate for the large rooms, high
ceilings and beautiful woodwork. The colors were sort of like William
Morris design but in a lighter manner with cream or white in the
background. Everything was chosen to fit in with the many Chinese
objects Mary had brought home from her stay in China (with friends of
her family) during World War I after she finished college. I remember a
fine screen – black with much inlaid colored stone carving, a large
Chinese tray used on a folding base as a coffee table and (several)
very large paintings of a Mandarin man (and another of his wife – I'm
vague about this) There were also many small beautiful Chinese pieces.
Ann Elliott Dowdy
Thanksgiving Day, 1995