This week in history we look back 10, 25 and 50 years to see what was going on in the eastern Wake County area.
In 2004, Knightdale High was dealing with a higher-than-usual poverty rating. In 1989, support for the Mudcats coming to Zebulon was building. And in 1964, the Zebulon Rotary Club was focusing on what it means to live in a small town.
School assignments are never good enough for most people. A combination of logistical nightmares and political maneuvering seems to keep them in a constant state of inadequacy. In 2004, Knightdale parents were upset as they discovered that the high school was giving out far more free and reduced-price lunches than any other in the county.
Along with its brand-new building and unique sharing arrangement with the town, Knightdale High School can now claim another distinction: It already has the largest share of poor students in the country.
According to Wake County Public School System data, 32.2 percent of the 695 students at the school accept free and reduced price lunches. That’s the highest percentage in the county, followed by Garner High School (28.9 percent) and East Wake High School (27.9 percent). The lunch price control program is a common indicator of poverty at schools.
The issue became a hot topic at Monday night’s Town Council meeting, with town leaders trying to formulate a plan to protest the school system’s reassignment. The council members voted unanimously to contact Wake schools officials with their concerns. “They have ham-stringed the school into a position where it can’t succeed,” Councilman Russell Killen said. “There’s no way we should have free and reduced price lunch (numbers) that high. We don’t need to have another year like this at Knightdale High School. The school system blew it. There should be no high school in Wake County with numbers that high. I think it’s wrong for us as a council to stand idly by.”
The Mudcats, now a staple of Zebulon sports and entertainment, was looking to come to town to stay in 1989, and Zebulon residents were eagerly awaiting the day when the minor league baseball team would come to rest in Five County Stadium.
The bandwagon hitched to a minor league baseball team proposed for relocation near Zebulon has picked up a few more riders.
The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors voted last Wednesday to back the move of the Class AA Mudcats from Columbus, Ga., to a site at the intersection of U.S. 64 Alternate and N.C. 39. Earlier this month the 520-member Raleigh Sports Club drafted a resolution of support as has the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.
The Raleigh chamber’s unanimous vote of approval came after an address from team owner Steve Bryant. The Smithfield native described to the group his plans to construct an 8,000-seat stadium on the 50-acre location and begin play there in the 1991 Carolina League season.
“That’s a very important endorsement,” said Doug Byrd, president of Triangle East of North Carolina Inc., which helped Bryant find the new location. “It shows the business community and the leadership of Wake County is behind this. ...I think this will also show the other counties in Triangle East that one of the major players is behind this project.”
There are some key differences about small towns and large ones. They’ve been the subject of verse and vocals for as long as there was such a thing as a “big” town. In 1964, Russel Brantley, Jr. of the Zebulon Rotary Club waxed poetic himself about what it means to live in a small town.
“Small towns play an unbelievably big role in every phase of our country’s life,” Russell H. Brantley, Jr., told those at the annual Zebulon Rotary Ladies-Teachers Night last Friday. “I think we can all agree that country towns have played an important part in America’s life if for no other reason than the pure and simple fact that there are so many of them.”
The Zebulon native, now Director of Publicity at Wake Forest College, captured the close attention of his audience as he described the great value of small towns.
He chided those who “are ashamed to say they come from a small town,” saying “instead of saying he’s from Wendell or Zebulon, a man will say he lives near Raleigh. Somehow this makes him feel a little more important.”
Facing up to disadvantages of small towns, the author observed: “At times they can be dull enough to make a man shriek, but there are times when the close-knit friendliness of small towns sends person after person running to any man who does shriek or call for help.
“Small towns lack many cultural advantages. There are no art galleries, no large libraries, no civic music centers. Perhaps this very lack of something to do is what has driven many a creative youngster to depend more and more on himself until he becomes the sort of individual who can contribute something significant to a world that believes it must be entertained 24 hours a day, if for no other reason than to hide the emptiness of so many individual lives.”