Packed house greets ‘Voices of New Bern’ premier

June 24, 2011 6:38 PM

Jimmy Fulcher Jr., director of a Craven Community College documentary “Voices of New Bern,” admits he and the other student film-makers weren’t sure what to expect at Thursday night’s premier. 

Jimmy Fulcher Jr. is the director of the Craven Community College documentary 'Voices of New Bern.'

After nearly a year of filming, interviewing local people about New Bern history and editing, he said the crew contemplated possibilities — a good turn-out or just a few family members and faculty. 

The answer came when the film started late — a full house audience at Orringer Auditorium was still filing in.

By the end of the evening, the film — concentrating on a period from the Civil War’s Battle of New Bern to the Great Fire of 1922 — received grand reviews.

Carole Graham, a Rhode Island native and a New Bernien of four years, is always eager to learn more about her new hometown.

“It was amazing. It was impressive,” she said. “They covered a lot of information in a short period of time. I am sure we all learned something new here tonight.”

The film was a project of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, led by advisor Kate Amerson, and members of the Humanities 160 class. It was inspired, Fulcher said, by a visit to the college by then 300th Anniversary Chairman Nelson McDaniel. He was looking for participation by the college in the city’s year-long celebration. The students did research and produced a “historical minutes” series for Public Radio East. From there, the documentary evolved.

The short film was the product of more than 12 hours of taped footage.

People in the community assisted, including McDaniel, Duffyfield historian Mary Randolph, Great Fire historian Mary Peterkin and New Bern Battlefield guide Steve Shaffer.

Fulcher said the gem of the interviews was with the late Blanche Rivers, who was born in 1905 and was a teenager at the time of the devastating 1922 blaze that leveled much of the city. The film was dedicated in memory of Rivers, who died in 2010.

Maria Fraser-Molina is another newcomer, moving to New Bern from Durham last August to become the college’s vice president of academic affairs. Most of her time has been dedicated to her job, so the film provided her with new insights.

“Especially the role of African-Americans and the Jewish community, and how dynamic they have been,” she said. “I learned a lot tonight.”

Aside from the final film product, she was impressed with the accomplishment by the student film-makers.

“It is the core of what we (college) are all about,” she added. 

A full house watched the Craven Community College documentary 'Voices of New Bern.'

Elista Sumner, an RN at CarolinaEast Medical Center, grew up in Fort Barnwell, and has been soaking up New Bern history since she moved to town 14 years ago.

“I love history. I go to the ‘Lunch and Learn’ programs and this is another great opportunity to learn history,” she said. She has some experience of her own in recording history. Sumner gave her aunt, Ida  Brown, a tape recorder to document 100-plus years of memories.

As the film ended, Sumner was glad she came.  

“I loved it. I was touched,” she said. “I had heard of the Great Fire and I had heard of Pepsi being invented here, but now I know more.”

She and others in the audience were eager to buy a copy of the film, but it is not yet available for distribution.

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or


Historical documentary premieres Thursday at Orringer


 New Bern Sun Journal, June 18, 2011 11:30 PM 

Students in Craven Community College’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society and members of the Humanities 160 class are inviting the public to the premiere of their documentary film titled “Voices of New Bern.”

The screening is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Orringer Auditorium on the New Bern campus. The event will include the screening of a short film on the Battle of New Bern, as well as a question-and-answer session with the students.

The students spent nearly a year conducting interviews for “Voices of New Bern,” which has a running time of approximately 40 minutes.

The student-produced documentary film ‘Voices of New Bern' will be shown Thursday at 7 p.m. at Orringer Auditorium on Craven Community College's New Bern campus.

The film focuses on an often-overlooked period in the city’s history: the time between the Battle of New Bern in March 1862 to the Great Fire of 1922.

“People who attend the premiere are going to get to see how exciting New Bern’s history was,” said Phi Theta Kappa chapter President Jimmy Fulcher Jr., who directed the documentary. “That was an extremely fascinating time in New Bern’s existence.”

Highlights of the documentary include:

n The story of two Civil War era spies from New Bern – Confederate spy Emeline Piggott and former slave Abraham Galloway, who spied for the Union.

n The push for Women’s Suffrage by New Bern residents.

n The important role that religious institutions and groups, including the AME Zion Church and New Bern’s Jewish community, played in the city’s past.

n The Great Fire of 1922 and the forces that shaped the city as it exists today.

The documentary mixes the recollections of longtime New Bern residents such as Nelson McDaniel, Mary Peterkin, Steve Shaffer and others with the scholarly research of Dr. David Cecelski and Dr. Glenda Gilmore.

It also features an extended interview with the late Blanche Sparrow Rivers, who died in 2010 at age 105. The film is dedicated to her memory.

The idea for a documentary developed after members of Phi Theta Kappa researched and wrote a series of well-received historical “minutes” to help commemorate New Bern’s 300th anniversary in 2010.

The informative minutes were broadcast on Public Radio East, and the material in them was used to develop posters and placards that highlighted significant figures and events in the city’s history.

Assisting the students with the documentary were faculty members and staffers from the college, as well as a number of area residents, said Kate Amerson, who serves as advisor to Craven’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter.

All of the music in the documentary was written by Helen Sims Smaw of New Bern.

The project received funding from the Richard Chapman Cleve Fund of the N.C. Community Foundation, as well as a Walmart Community Grant.

Admission to the June 23 premiere is free. For more information, please contact Amerson at or 252-638-7306.

Sandy Wall is the public information officer at Craven Community College. He can be reached at

Voices of New Bern Premieres on June 23


Voices of New Bern, a documentary by members of Phi Theta Kappa and students in Humanities 160, will première on Thursday June 23, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.    The event will take place in Orringer Auditorium on the campus of Craven Community College.    This film is supported by the Richard Chapman Cleve Fund, a component fund of the North Carolina Community Foundation, and the Walmart Community Grant.   

Voices of New Bern captures some of the city’s history from the Reconstruction period following the American Civil War to the Great Fire of New Bern in 1922.  Prominent figures such as Abraham Galloway, Emeline Pigott, Sarah Dudley Pettey, Oscar Marks, Bayard Wooten, Caleb Bradham, and Blanche Rivers are discussed.  Interviews with Dr. David Cecelski, Dr. Glenda Gilmore, Mr. Nelson McDaniel, Mrs. Mary Peterkin, Mrs. Mary Randolph, and Mrs. Blanche Rivers were conducted to reveal voices from New Bern’s history.  Music for the piece was composed and performed by Helen Sims Smaw.

The première is open to the public.   A question and answer session will follow.


Snug Harbor on Nelson Bay ranks tops in NC with 5 stars in “U.S. News” best nursing homes rating


During my visit to Snug Harbor on Nelson Bay, a retirement oasis nestled in the serenity of the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, I saw what life in a retirement center should be. Upon entering the facility, I was immediately struck by the non-institutional design.  I expected to see a nursing home.  Instead, I found a sea captain’s retreat. 

Formerly a retirement home for Merchant Marines, the decor of Snug Harbor remains nautical.  A well stocked library, complete with classical leather armchairs, is situated behind the receptionist’s alcove.  A large fireplace invited me into the living room area.  I was surprised to find a true Southern style Happy Hour taking place with several folks participating in a Broadway show tunes sing-a-long.  To the delight of the residents, a visiting concert pianist was tickling the ivory of the grand piano.   I walked the halls and saw residents enjoying fine dining with friends in a beautifully appointed dining room.  Next door was an option for mealtime for those who preferred fast food in a diner styled atmosphere.   Further down the hall, flowers adorned a quiet chapel in respect for a fallen resident. 

What I didn’t see was what I have normally seen in assisted living facilities.  There were no embarrassing half-tied hospital gowns or medicine carts blocking the hallways.  No one sat strapped into a gurney chair trying to break free.  No one was sitting alone in a room staring into space.  Residents were dressed as if they were expecting company.  They were navigating the very wide halls without impediments.  In a hobby shop, painting, creative writing, gardening, and wood-working were being encouraged.  

When Jennifer Gildard, Marketing/Community Liason, invited me to hold a reading of The Caregivers, I was pleased to visit again with the residents of Snug Harbor.  It is no surprise that this facility has now been awarded 5 stars in the U.S News best of nursing homes ratings.

For more information, visit Snug Harbor’s website: