Sleepy town, rich history


During my formative years, I couldn’t get enough of the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia set that graced my parent’s bookcase.

I’d pick a letter and dive into that book for hours.

Soon, I became an avid history fan.

One summer, dad took us — mom, me and my brother — to Wilmington. This time, our trip not only included the beach, but a tour of the battleship USS North Carolina.

My brother and I took the tour.

We marveled about how so many men could live on one ship. We played “make-believe” war and manned the gun turrets on deck.

That day hardly quenched my history thirst.

Throughout the years, I searched for books on the Civil War, World Wars I and II and the Korean War. According to family research, several relatives — immediate and distant — served in those events that helped shape our nation.

But a walking tour, right here in Mount Olive, opened my eyes a little more last week.

The small contingent gathered downtown and listened to a fascinating history of this 151-year-old community nestled in southern Wayne County.

Three items caught my interest.

An old opera house turned into Center Street Theater in 1947, showed an X-rated movie.

It’s not what you think.

The movie documented a woman in live childbirth. Men were not allowed to watch at the same time as women. Three different time slots were available.

I won’t go into further detail, but I can tell you there was a cot in the lobby available for men who felt a little squeamish.

Interesting, huh?

The second item is a marker on the wall outside Brewer’s Insurance.

Permanently placed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1932. It says that Mount Olive is 32 feet above sea level.

The third item is “The Oaks” on East James Street.

Built in 1860, the house served as a hospital for Union troops after the Battle of Bentonville. The home is currently owned by Bobby Herring.

I could go into more detail about these engaging historical landmarks that exist in town.

Instead, I’ll encourage you to take the walking tour. Booklets are available at the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce and a video can be found on the Steele Memorial Library website.

Happy touring!

Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. He can be reached at


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