EDITOR'S NOTE: In honor of the Mount Olive Tribune's final edition, we take a look back at the many moments in history this periodical covered in its 118 years of existence.
We were there...
In 1904: When Theodore Roosevelt won the presidential election for a full term after rising to the rank of chief of staff upon the assassination of William McKinley in 1901.
In 1907: When the Tribune’s “Industrial and Historical Issue” proclaimed Wayne County was “Alive to the call of Commerce and Growing in Wealth and Industries.—Unprecedented Opportunities Offered to the Home-Seeker and Prospective Investor.” The issue enticed “manufacturing entities” with reports of “cheap” real estate and “plentiful” labor.
In 1909: When William Howard Taft became president.
In 1913: When Woodrow Wilson became president.
In January 1914: When a fire would have gutted an entire business block in Mount Olive if not for the “almost heroic work of the city’s matchless Volunteer Fire Department.” “The fire originated in the store occupied by the Sutton Grocery Company, from some unknown cause. The alarm was sounded, and in a few minutes the fire company was on the scene, and soon had the big blaze under control,” the Tribune reported in “Mount Olive Visited By Serious Fire” Jan. 7, 1914. The Mount Olive Tribune cost 5 cents a copy and subscriptions were sold for $1 a year.
In September 1915: When the Tribune reported “To the People of the Town of Mount Olive” that “No child from a home which is or has been infected with the disease diphtheria may be admitted to the public schools unless bearing a certificate from the attending physician that two weeks shall have elapsed since the diagnosis upon any case has been made in that house” (Sept. 30, 1915).
In February 1916: When the Tribune proclaimed it was to be a “Fine Year For Irish Potatoes” (Feb. 10, 1916). Strawberries, cotton, tobacco and potatoes were all listed as important crops in the area.
In April 1917: When the U.S. entered World War I as reported in multiple headlines in the April 12, 1917 edition: “German Ships Are Taken Over By U.S.,” “House Declares War; Vote 373-50” and “War Resolution Is Passed By Senate: Declares that state of war exists between Germany and U.S.” The Tribune wasn’t referring to it as World War I, yet. An ad, in the same issue, touted war was also “declared on high prices” in a bankrupt sale of the Ward Dry Goods Company.
In May 1917: When a poem titled “Now,” on the front page of the Tribune, encouraged readers to not wait, but live life “NOW” (May 24, 1917) in case tomorrow doesn’t come. The Mt. Olive Grocery & Hardware Co. also advised readers under a “WAR! WAR! WAR!” headline to “Can fruit. Save all the fruit you can. You will need it.”
In January 1918: When “All manufacturing plants” were “ordered to close down for five days” to conserve fuel (“Desperate Remedy To Conserve Fuel,” Jan. 24, 1918).
In October 1918: When an outbreak of the flu was claiming lives throughout the world. “Uncle Sam’s Advice On Flu: U.S. Public Health Service issues official health bulletin on influenza. Latest word on subject: Epidemic probably not Spanish in origin — germ still unknown — people should guard against ‘Droplet Infection’” (Oct. 17, 1918). This edition warned “Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases: As Dangerous as Poison Gas Shells.” By 1920, the flu pandemic killed nearly 20 million people across the globe and about 500,000 in the U.S.
In 1921: When Warren G. Harding became president.
In 1923: When Calvin Coolidge became president.
In 1926: When the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. organized on Jan. 2 and formally incorporated a few weeks later. “In the early 1920s, several large produce markets in town served a wide agricultural region. While cucumbers grew well in the area, there wasn’t much of a market for them. Faced with bumper crops of cucumbers rotting in the fields, the group (of forward-thinking business leaders) established a pickle company, reasoning that a new market for area farmers would benefit the local economy. They named the company for their hometown” (“Mount Olive Pickle celebrates 95th birthday,” Feb. 3, 2021).
In October 1928: When an “Awful Plague Of Mosquitoes” was “affecting most of the surrounding county districts” (Oct. 5, 1928). “The swarm of frogs, lice, flies and locusts that plagued Egypt in the time of Pharaoh must not have been much more numerous than the mosquitoes that now afflict many of the surrounding rural districts at this time,” the Tribune reported. “If you have had no occasion to drive along the country roads, in wooded sections, or stroll through the swamps, you have no idea how terrible they are.”
In 1929: When Herbert Hoover became president (in January), the stock market crashed (in October) and there was a total eclipse of the moon (in November). On Oct. 29, 1929, the Tribune reported “A further collapse in stock prices, exceeding in intensity last Thursday’s demoralizing session took place today as Wall Street continued to weed out its weakened speculative accounts and place its house in order after the wild orgy of speculation for the advance which has taken place in the last five years.”
In 1933: When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president.
In 1941: When Pearl Harbor was attacked (Dec. 7) and America entered World War II.
In 1945: When Harry S. Truman became president in January, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan in August and World War II officially ended in September.
In January 1951: When a “Local Soldier Writes Family About Terrible Hardships Encountered On March From North Korea To Hamhung” (Jan. 5, 1951). The Korean War started in 1950 and lasted until 1953. The Vietnam War also started in 1950, but didn’t end until 1975.
In May 1951: When White Hall residents petitioned the secretary of state to change their community’s name to Seven Springs. “Residents contend that making the town’s name Seven Springs would eliminate the confusion of living in a place of one name (White Hall), but receiving their mail at a place of another name (Seven Springs),” the Tribune reported in “Want Name To Be Seven Springs,” May 4, 1951. Mount Olive College was also chartered this year.
In 1952: When Mount Olive held its very first Pickle Festival. Billy Troutman won the pie-eating contest and Peggy Roberts was crowned Festival Queen. Mary Dell Sutton was Miss Sweet Pickle (“From blueberries to flowers to sweet pickles” in the Tribune’s Pickle Festival 2022 special edition published in April).
In 1953: When Dwight D. Eisenhower became president.
In 1959: When Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, respectively, of the U.S.
In 1961: When John F. Kennedy became president.
In 1963: When Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson became president.
In 1969: When Richard Nixon became president and Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as the first person to set foot on the moon.
In 1974: When Gerald Ford became president and pardoned Nixon who resigned on the heels of the Watergate scandal.
In 1975: When Mount Olive was placed under a moratorium that prohibited the addition of any new sewer taps for new customers until the town brought its wastewater treatment plant into compliance. The moratorium came after several sewer spills into the Northeast Cape Fear River.
In 1977: When Jimmy Carter became president.
In 1981: When Ronald Regan became president.
In 1989: When George H. W. Bush became president and later signed legislation to bail out nearly 800 insolvent banks.
In 1991: When the Persian Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, began.
In 1993: When Bill Clinton became president.
In 2001: When George W. Bush became president in January and terrorists crashed jet planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people on Sept. 11. Ardele Martinez, of Dudley, was driving north on U.S. Highway 117 that day when she heard news of the attacks (reported in the Tribune Sept. 14, 2001). Her sister, Gloria Caceres, worked in one of the towers. Martinez couldn’t get through to her, but was relieved to hear from her later in the day.
In 2003: When the United States of America declared war on Iraq.
In 2008: When a housing bubble burst and the U.S. entered the “Great Recession.”
In 2009: When Barack Obama became the first African American president.
In 2015: When Mount Olive was placed under a new moratorium banning any additional sewer taps until improvements are made to the town’s ailing wastewater treatment plant. The moratorium is still in place.
In 2017: When Donald Trump became president.
In 2020: When the town of Mount Olive turned 150 years old. The COVID-19 pandemic crashed the party and postponed most of the town’s plans to commemorate its sesquicentennial. The virus spread like wildfire. Vaccines were made available to healthcare workers by the end of the year after COVID killed nearly 385,000 people.
In 2021: When Joe Biden became president and COVID vaccines were offered to more people.
In 2022: When inflation soared to its highest level since 1981 and fuel prices broke record highs. The COVID-19 virus and its many mutations have killed more than a million people in the United States as of press time.
On June 29, 2022: When the Mount Olive Tribune — Mount Olive’s oldest business and one of Wayne County’s oldest newspapers, published its final edition.
— Compiled by Emily Weaver and Rudy Coggins