So Long, Mount Olive: We won't forget you

This poem titled ‘Courage’ by Edgar A. Guest appeared on the front page of the Mount Olive Tribune on June 7, 1917, during the throes of World War I.
This poem titled ‘Courage’ by Edgar A. Guest appeared on the front page of the Mount Olive Tribune on June 7, 1917, during the throes of World War I.
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It’s defeating to see a newspaper you tried to save die on your watch.

But as I look back at the many issues of this periodical, I don’t see defeat. I see unwavering community coverage that started nearly 118 years ago and continued to the very end.

When the world was at war in 1917 and again in 1941 — we were there — covering the conflicts that sent our readers overseas and news of the strawberry crop that kept their families fed at home. 

Before pickles, Mount Olive was revered for its strawberries. When a breed of one of those special berries was named in memory of a local Calypso farmer — the Tribune covered that, too (“New Variety Of Strawberry Is Named for Jim Albritton,” Dec. 18, 1951).

We covered the comings and goings of 21 presidents and at least 12 other wars that drew us from home between 1905 and 2022.

The Tribune wrote of a global pandemic that changed the way our ancestors lived in 1918. And we covered another one again in 2020, telling readers how to stay safe, where to get tested and when vaccines were available.

Even in times of national crisis and worldwide strife, the Tribune kept it local, chronicling how those moments would and did affect southern Wayne County. 

The Tribune was all about Wayne County and the Mount Olive area: its successes, its failures, its struggles and triumphs. We covered its growth and rise to prominence through crops and faith that sprouted the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Southern Bank and the University of Mount Olive. And we reported when the state refused to let the town grow any more until it fixed its sewer infiltration problems with a moratorium on new customers in the 1970s. Those issues were eventually fixed — somewhat — but surfaced again when we were placed under a new moratorium in 2015 that still stands. The ebb and flow of that long murky sewer battle is featured on many pages past and present of the Mount Olive Tribune. 

This newspaper covered the history and evolution of these southern communities like when the residents of White Hall petitioned to rename their town Seven Springs (covered in “Want Name To Be Seven Springs,” May 4, 1951). We know it as Seven Springs today.

We reported when the old Centre Street Theater and the former Kraft Studio buildings were doomed for demolition and how a local businessman and entrepreneur bought the historic structures to save them. The renovations continue.

Over the last century, the Tribune reported where to get the best local deals, the rise and fall of tax rates, the ins and outs of elections, the openings and closings of shops and countless school graduations. When your son scored that winning touchdown or your daughter made that incredible layup — we were there. When they started a new business or opened a food pantry to feed thousands of their neighbors — we reported it. And when we got it wrong, you let us know because we couldn’t hide from you. We shopped for the same groceries at the same stores. We worshiped the same God in the same pews.

We were there for you and you were there for us. 

There’s something special about community journalism — something its counterparts can’t quite touch. You can learn things on social media, but there’s no one fact-checking the “person” who hides behind a screen name and cartoon avatar. Local governments are good at starting their own newsletters, but when have you ever read a post or email from a public relations employee that painted their bosses in a bad light or gave voice to the others who showed up to debate?

Be careful who you trust.

The bigger media outlets don’t have the staff or resources to cover the little things that mean so much to a community’s identity. They might mention when you were born and when you died, but how about all of those important steps in between? Life is defined by those moments in the dash between date of birth and date of death. A community is known by those moments in history.

Thank you for letting us share your stories for more than a century. I’m sorry we couldn’t stay longer.

If you want to preserve your right to know and an unbiased truth, support community journalism through ads and subscriptions. Emily Weaver can be reached at eweaver@mydailyrecord.com or at
910-230-2028.  

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