COS BARNES: Friends Group Celebrates 30th Year
I have had a 39-year love affair with Weymouth.
When I moved to Southern Pines in 1970, there was little happening in the arts; however, when I would see in The Pilot that a writer was coming to speak or read at Weymouth, I headed there. I heard such authors as Lee Smith and Clyde Edgerton when they were just on the cusp of greatness.
I heard Fred Chappell, Linda and Shelby Stephenson and the white-suited Tom Wolfe, who graciously shared time with an audience when he visited his mother at Penick Village. I heard Lady Bird Johnson praise all the wonderful wordsmiths who have visited Weymouth, and I dutifully read "Drums" and "Look Homeward Angel."
Of all the weddings I have attended at Weymouth, two stand out in my mind. At one, the vocalist so inspired a mockingbird that eventually the soloist acquiesced, and they sang a beautiful duet.
A friend and I were to direct another wedding on a cold autumn day. It had rained for three days, but the mother of the bride wanted the ceremony to be conducted outside. As the bride shivered, I asked her preference. When she said she wanted to go inside, we directed the entire wedding party into the great room, and all the attendees followed, standing for the entire ceremony. It was as if the "the great crowd of witnesses" the Bible speaks of were there to show their support. The audience could watch the exchange of vows in the large mirror that formerly hung where Mrs. Boyd's portrait is now displayed.
Another special feature of that wedding was that the minister was a woman, a first for those times.
I remember the early years when local women painted the walls of the upstairs and Stanley Furniture Co. generously donated bedroom furniture for the writers-in-residence program, a brainchild of the late Sam Ragan.
As a member of the Weymouth board, that program is now my responsibility. I take the writers out into our community to talk to school and college students, retirement home residents, writing groups and senior citizens organizations. They leave copies of their published works in the Weymouth library.
This summer we plan another first: a children's writers camp in which third-to fifth-graders will be exposed to song composition and the writing of short stories, poetry and memoirs.
Fred Garrett, who developed the horticulture program at Sandhills Community College, tells this wonderful story:
"In the spring of 1971 Mrs. Boyd and I were walking around Weymouth. She was very supportive of the college's landscaping program and let us use her grounds when we were first getting started.
"As we were walking around, she let her cane fall and grabbed a cherry seedling which had no branches and just one leader. We wrapped it in a wet tissue, and I promptly took it to the college and planted it right where it is today -- on the left side just outside the Sir Walter Raleigh Garden. Who would've guessed it would be part of that garden today?"
Speaking of yesteryear, in the '80s when the Sunrise Theater was renovated, I have never seen a bigger community effort to get it accomplished. A party of celebration was held at Weymouth at the conclusion, and I remember writing a newspaper article in which I described Weymouth as "the grande dame on the hill nodding her assent."
As the Friends of Weymouth celebrate 30 years, it seems the time to say, "Well done."
Cos Barnes is a Southern Pines writer.
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