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


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