Robbins May Restore Astronaut Mural
Acting on an idea from former mayor Mickey Brown, Robbins’ current mayor is taking steps toward restoring a downtown mural that celebrates a town hero.
Mayor Theron Bell is supporting Brown’s proposal to get a professional to restore the work. On the side of one of the main downtown buildings, a prominent painting pays tribute to the late astronaut Dr. Charles E. Brady Jr.
Brown’s application for a FACADE improvement grant to pay the costs is in the works, and he has permission to apply from Frank Thigpen, trustee of the Harold B. Williams trust that owns the brick building across from Town Hall. Estimated cost is $11,000, with $5,500 sought from the grant.
Brady’s hometown folks called him “Charles E,” while his NASA pals knew him as “Chuck” — but Brady was more than a doctor, more than flight surgeon to the famed Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy and more than a spaceman who flew aboard the shuttle Columbia.
He was also an ecological pioneer whose early effort to clean up the Haw River is recalled every March by a “Brady Paddle” — a canoe and kayak trip down streams from source to sea with a jug of clean water ceremonially emptied into the Atlantic.
In Robbins, his memory lives on in efforts by Foothills Outdoors and others. The mission of Foothills Outdoors (www.foothillsoutdoors.org) is to develop and promote opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Robbins area through development and maintenance of hiking, biking, and paddling trails — promoting outdoor recreation in the area around Robbins — and helping provide free and low-cost recreational opportunities for Robbins youth.
The organization is one outgrowth of the town’s participation in the N.C. Rural Center’s Small Town Economic Prosperity program, known as STEP. Robbins applied for STEP after former commissioner Mark Garner found a notice about the program tossed away on a Carthage street. Brown, mayor at the time, asked Bell to head up the effort, and Robbins became one of the first towns accepted.
He also led the effort to change the town’s charter to a manager/council form of government. Its current manager, George Hayfield, by coincidence previously served a Virginia town that — as Robbins hopes to do — restored an old structure to give itself a performing arts center. Some of the last of the $200,000 STEP grant went to a new nonprofit to enable purchase of Robbins’ own Village Theatre.
Exploiting the Outdoors
In another happy coincidence, one of Hayfield’s personal interests for years has been paddling. He arrived in town with kayak racked, ready for the waters of the Bear and the Deep, and has been a happy hiker on the growing paths of the Bear Creek Trails first blazed by Foothills Outdoors.
The great outdoors, from navigable waters to starlit skies above, has been seen as a potential windfall attraction for the former mill town. Last weekend saw the returning fun of the yearly Recycled Regatta. Instead of throwing garbage away, contestants used trash to build boats they could ride in and race on Bear Creek.
Lynne and William McDuffie, their daughter, River, and others transformed what would be a sleepy Saturday morning in Robbins into a memorable day for all. The diverse rural community came out to participate in and observe the second annual Recycle Regatta that was held at the 705 Canoe Access point on Bear Creek.
“Recycled” vessels arrived made from milk jugs, duct tape, cardboard and dilapidated kiddie pools. Some designs even seemed worthy of a patent, such as the SS Dalton and Lady Liberty, while others were surely worthy of the not-so-coveted “Titanic Award” — the prize given every year for the most sinkable boat.
At the other end of Robbins, the San Juan Diego Catholic Mission held a fundraising celebration.
“We were trying to raise money so that we don’t have to be a mission,” said Jamie Garcia. “We want to be a full-time church.”
Bell stopped by to enjoy a visit and some of the traditional Mexican food. She spoke with Garcia and others there.
“He said that he and the congregation wanted to work with the town in any way needed,” Bell said afterward. “Of course, I was pleased to know a name that we could call on for help with activities in Robbins. He said he has lived here for 15 years and likes Robbins very much.”
The mayor had been invited to the event by the mission priest, Father Bill John Acosta.
“There were many booths of traditional Mexican food,” she said. “Lee (Dr. Lee Bell) and I enjoyed the pollo (chicken) with rice, beans and tortillas. We also liked the large jars of homemade fruit drinks. There was watermelon, rice water, lime, pineapple, cantaloupe and something similar to cranberry.
“There were ladies dressed in traditional dress, bands, horse rides for children, and blown-up castles for the children to jump in. Everyone was very warm and the event was a great fun. We hope that more people will learn of the event next year and come out and support the new church.”
Alvaro Coronell grilled the chicken, which the mayor found so delicious that she dubbed Coronell “the Grillmaster.”
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