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High society: Triangle group with strong Salisbury-Rowan connections pays a visit

SALISBURY — This is the best kind of organization. No dues. No secret initiations. No meetings. No projects. No fundraising.

Just social events.

And it made sense — given its name — that the Salisbury-Rowan Society of the Triangle would make one of those events a richly filled day trip to Salisbury, which for many is their old stomping ground.

A group of 25 people rode the southbound morning Amtrak train from Raleigh or Cary stations, arrived in Salisbury exactly on time at 8:52 a.m. and spent the day on tours or hearing presentations that would easily qualify as a Leadership Rowan class.

The Triangle troopers ate a spread from College Barbecue for lunch and had a reception dinner at Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery before walking back to Salisbury Station and leaving at 7:41 p.m. on the northbound train.

But before they left, they toured the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, Salisbury High School and Waterworks Visual Arts Center.

They also mixed and mingled with local movers and shakers.

They heard about “renewal” from Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Lynn Moody. They visited John Wear at the Catawba College Center for the Environment.

They learned from F&M Bank Chairman Emeritus Paul Fisher and Robertson Family Foundation Executive Director Jason Walser about the miracles behind what will be Bell Tower Green in downtown Salisbury.

Former Mayor Margaret Kluttz also had lunch with them.

“I used to baby-sit these people, or they baby-sat for me,” Kluttz said.

Others giving presentations to the group were Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; Elaine Spalding, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce; Tara Furr, chief marketing and communications officer for the Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau; Rod Crider, president and chief executive officer of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission; and Larissa Harper, executive director of Downtown Salisbury Inc.

Whenever they had to move from place to place, they hopped on a trolley, whose fee was paid by F&M Bank. The Robertson foundation sprang for lunch.

The chief force behind the Salisbury-Rowan Society of the Triangle is Phil Kirk, whose Salisbury roots run deep. He went to school here, taught here, was elected a young state senator from here — and then he really started to work.

He became chief of staff for Gov. Jim Holshouser, Gov. Jim Martin and U.S. Rep. Jim Broyhill. He served as chairman of the N.C. Board of Education and headed the N.C. Council for Business and Industry, not to mention the N.C. Department of Human Resources.

That’s not the entire resume, but suffice it to say a man of Kirk’s connections and planning skills can put Wednesday’s kind of itinerary together.

Kirk said the Triangle Society started when he and four or five others — most of them former students of his — were eating breakfast at Pam’s restaurant in Raleigh.

The breakfast gatherings of former Salisbury-Rowan County folks gradually grew to 10 or 12, before they started talking about all the other Rowan people they knew in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.

Leave it to Kirk to think about forming a society, much like one Broyhill inspired in Washington, where in 1984 Kirk served as president of the N.C. Society of Washington.

Kirk said the number in the Salisbury-Rowan Society of the Triangle has grown to 215 today, if you include spouses. He likes to say their average age is “retired or nearly retired.”

Their first big event as a society was a lake gathering in the Triangle area that drew 74 people.

Wednesday’s train excursion to Salisbury was the second social activity, and Kirk promises others are sure to come.

People signing up for Wednesday’s trip included Kirk, Bayard and Sally Alcorn, Moffett Swaim Churn, Susan and David Coulter, Kelly Davis, Jaye Day-Trotter, Ralph and Jerrie Dearborn, Justus Everett, Linda Folger, Mary Susan Fulghum, Joyce Stegall Futral, Ron and Herta Kirk, Jim and Carla Mallinson, Steve Mattox, Lou Detty O’Shea, K.C. and Ann Ramsay, Jon Rufty, Blanche Williamson, Tony Withers and Steve Zaytoun.

They all wore name tags.

A couple of folks had to drop out at the last minute, so a 28-passenger trolley proved to be enough.

The Mallinsons might be the freshest transplants to the Triangle area. They moved from Salisbury 18 months ago to be closer to grandchildren.

They were excited to return Wednesday, especially since Jim could serve as the group’s guide at the N.C. Transportation Museum.

Thanks to his previous years as a volunteer guide at the museum, Mallinson described for fellow society members the various steam, electric and diesel engines, the luxury rail cars such as the Doris and Loretto, and the Wright Brothers’ adventures in early flight.

In the short time the Mallinsons have been in Raleigh, Jim already has become a tour guide at the State Capitol.

Day-Trotter had always heard about Salisbury from her late husband, James, an attorney who once served as Gov. Martin’s general counsel.

Trotter grew up in Salisbury, and Jaye Day-Trotter said she she felt as though she did, too, from all the times she heard James talk about the town.

“My husband always referred to it as the chosen city,” she said.

James’ sister, Martha Trotter, was a well-known Salisbury teacher, and Jaye said two of her students also made the trip from the Triangle.

Many of the out-of-town visitors to the museum, the former home for railroad repair facility Spencer Shops, said they had close relatives who used to work at the Shops or for Southern Railroad.

Justus Everett, the son of the late Wachovia banker R.O. Everett, said his father loved the site and served as the museum foundation’s treasurer for 10 years after he retired.

Justus Everett and Withers have been friends since the first grade and went to N.C. State together, where Everett earned an engineering degree and played center for coach Lou Holtz’s football team.

“I touched the ball on every play and never scored a point,” Everett said, heading toward the big Back Shop, which is three football fields long.

“Spencer looks really different,” Davis said, referring especially to the mostly vacant shopping center across from the museum.

She and others in the society also remarked about how their childhood Salisbury downtown had changed, having long said goodbye to stores such as Belk-Harry, JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, Woolworth’s, Grant’s, Zimmerman’s and Oestreicher’s.

O’Shea remembered buying Beatles records at Grant’s.

Many in the society, such as O’Shea, were Boyden High (Salisbury High) graduates and looked forward to visiting their old school. Their tour included the technology-driven media center — what they used to call the library — and the refurbished auditorium.

Overall, it proved to be a hot, tiring, but enjoyable day for society members reacquainting themselves with their “chosen city.”

“Not many things would get me up at quarter till 5,” Churn said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.

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