My Turn, William Chestnut: A portrait of Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2023

I have the fondest memories of Salisbury. I lived there for three years from 1967 to 1970. What wonderful memories I have of living there. It was like Mayberry. A small town with a lot to offer. The schools were absolutely fabulous. I was a member of the YMCA as my father was an employee there. I was also a boy scout.  I used to live at the Y, and I basically knew almost everyone in town. Neighbors back then helped neighbors. I safely rode my 3-speed bicycle anywhere I needed to go. I delivered The Salisbury Evening Post with my peers. The Christmas parades held at night were spectacular and beautiful. When school was out it was easy to find a softball game to get into.

 I have absolutely the fondest memories of Salisbury. Obviously, a childhood utopia. Salisbury was a beautiful town, with nice people, and could have very well been painted by Norman Rockwell.

What a difference 50 years will make.

Yesterday, March 21, I was alerted my 91-year-old father had fallen and broke his hip, and had to undergo surgery. He was admitted to Novant Hospital in Salisbury. We had also heard his other health conditions were declining and may require Hospice care very soon. My wife and I drove from Hillsborough to Salisbury to visit with him.

When we arrived at the entrance to the hospital, we noticed the front entrance had been blocked off by an army of policemen. There were police cars at the entrance, and the area had been taped off by a yellow crime scene tape. One officer was taking pictures of a car that seemed abandoned at the entrance. We asked if we could go through the entrance, and explained that my father was a patient there, and his situation was dire. We were denied access. We were told that the hospital was on lockdown. That it may be a while before we would be allowed to enter.

We waited for access at a picnic table that was staged near the entrance. We met another visitor, a mature woman who had told us she grew up in Salisbury. She was a very nice person. She asked if we knew what was going on inside of the hospital. We told her that the police did not give us any explanation other than you cannot enter until we give the “all clear”. In conversation I told her I had lived in Salisbury 50 years ago, and shared with her my fondness of the town and its people.

She retorted: I remember those times. Yes, Salisbury was the greatest town, and had the nicest people, but it ain’t like that anymore. Salisbury is a small town with big city problems. She added there were frequent and rampant shootings, murders, drug problems, robberies, and theft. She added that there was huge gang problems in Salisbury.

I remembered what my sister in Kannapolis said. She said that Salisbury was infested by criminal gang activity. At the time she said it I took it with a grain of salt.

I asked the visitor why the police didn’t buckle down on Salisbury’s crime epidemic, and she replied, because some of them are involved in the crimes as well. I was totally flabbergasted and dismayed at what I was hearing.

A moment later a group of five or six young men quickly marched by us and headed straight toward the front entrance. The young man who was with our visitor guest says, “They are a gang. They are gang members.”

They approached the officers face to face and appeared determined to pass through them. Then I heard someone say, “He’s got a gun.”

I collected my wife and we quickly headed to the parking garage. I told her that was it for me, and I wasn’t waiting for the shooting to begin. I have seen enough. We quickly got into our car and got out of Dodge.

I was totally appalled, and totally disgusted by what I had just witnessed. Actually, I’m sick to my stomach. I never got a chance to see my father, and the security is so paranoid at Novant that they will not update me on his status over the phone. Nor did I learn as to why the hospital was locked down to begin with. Obviously, crime related.

So now for my opinion. What happened to Salisbury? This once sweet haven of the nicest place you would want to live and raise your children has died an unjust death. Salisbury had everything going for it. But now has submitted to the dominance of its uncontrolled gangs and crime. Once famous and steeped in colonial history, is now proudly wearing the adjective infamous. Sickening. After my experience last night, I would have to be a fool to ever want to return.

So what has happened? Time has happened. Let’s face it, the youth are brought up in today’s society without learning moral values. They amuse themselves with video games of violence. This is teaching our youth that if you are angry, your conflict is solved with murder, or if you had a bad day, maybe mass murder might make you feel better.

They are being taught that God is a fictitious boring story. The fact is without God they could not function or exist. The warm feeling that you have for someone that is dear to you, what is that thing? Try to describe it. Love right? That feeling is God. Yes, God is in many forms. But that awesome warm feeling is God.

Today’s youth have not been taught about spirituality. They aren’t even aware they are a ghost in a machine. Their spirits are jaded and dead. They do not recognize or realize that they exist only because we have a co pilot. They make decisions based on what can be gained at any cost, even at others expense or death. They don’t have a moral compass to direct them through life. They need to realize that you can gain everything in the world, but you can’t take it with you.

It is not just Salisbury. It is the entire world. Compared to 50 years ago, we are living in hell. I think Salisbury and the rest of the world needs to reset their moral compasses.

William Chestnut lives in Hillsborough.