Working in Zebulon


Back in the 1970s, jobs were difficult to find. The federal government would offer employers who applied and could prove they didn’t have the assets to hire new employees themselves, $12,000 a year to hire someone. However, the jobs would only be for two years.
I had been laid off, with two children to feed and clothe, so when I heard there was an opening in the commissioner’s office in Pike County, I applied. It took me 40 minutes back then to drive to Zebulon.
What an interesting two years. Zebulon in the 1970s was probably like Fayetteville in the 1930s.
I really liked the folks in the courthouse, except for one of the commissioners. More about him later.
The jail was across the square from the courthouse and some of the prisoners were free to wander around. Sound familiar? They mowed the lawn and cleaned the floors and ran any other errands you needed.
Charlie was the prisoner we liked the most. He was shy and pretty much spoke only when spoken to. One day, for whatever reason, I had taken my son, then a teenager, to work with me. He told me that as he wandered around town, Charlie had stopped and given him some advise. He told my son to obey the rules and never get into any trouble or he would end up like Charlie.
There was a prison camp not too far from Zebulon. I was a basic EMT back then, and the camp doctor authorized me to give shots to any of the prisoners who were stung while mowing along Pike County’s highways. One prisoner was brought in to me one day, and refused the shot. He explained he was finally drug free, and he was afraid the shot would have encouraged him to want drugs again. It wouldn’t have, but I understood his thinking so, and let the matter go.
Somehow I ended up ordering the food for the prison camp on Thursdays. Since I had to go out there to do so, I always made sure I wore slacks that day and looked as plain as I could.
One of the prisoners looked and acted like a Teddy Bear and you really liked him. There was just one thing you needed to know, though. He had killed 4 men.
One time he had someone in the immediate family die and the Pike County sheriff took him to the funeral. It was no problem. He was a docile prisoner but evidently that couldn’t be said if he was living out there among us.
More next week about a possible knife fight by one of the county commissioners.