The ‘rest of the story’

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Driving into downtown Mount Olive last week, I took a little extra time to cross over the railroad track before I turned onto North Center Street.

I looked at the mural that depicts the town’s history.

I thought to myself, I want to know the rest of the story.

And not so much about the history, but how the mural came together.

I learned more a couple of days later while I covered the Handy Mart Tournament at Southern Wayne Country Club.

I needed a break, so I plopped into a chair and wrote a couple of notes on my cell phone. The person who recorded the scores on the big board joined me at the tent-covered table.

“And you are?” she asked.

I introduced myself.

“I’m Beth Hill,” she replied.

Oh man.

I immediately expressed how impressed I was with the mural.

My outburst started a short conversation chock full of details that left me even more fascinated.

I knew old black-and-white photos were used as starting points to determine what would make up the mural. As I wrote in a recent story, Hill and Heather Williams sketched and painted a work of art that displayed the cultural, agricultural and industrial heritage of this small southern town chartered in 1870.

Hill said she and Williams experienced contentious moments — not between themselves, but how to draw certain parts. Separated into 12 pieces, the work had to be on point and match perfectly at every corner.

The most difficult design was the town seal.

It took up the lower right, lower left, upper right and upper left of four panels.

Even the crew that hung the mural had a little trouble lining up each piece of the seal.

Hill said she wound up painting most of the agricultural and floral pieces of the mural. Williams handled the more meticulous areas, particularly the buildings.

You can’t see it with the naked eye, but there are shadows of people in the windows of the building.

The two artists mixed paint with other elements that will help protect the mural from Mother Nature, graffiti and other issues. She said they had cool whip bowls full of different-colored paints spread throughout the American Legion building.

The project took about six months.

Hopes were to have it hung before the annual N.C. Pickle Festival, which was virtual this year due to the pandemic.

It’s here now — an accurate, simplistic and beautiful rendering that is now part of the town’s appeal to residents and visitors.

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

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