People and Places with Pierce: A look back at 2016


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) –  2016 marked the beginning of People and Places with Pierce, a new series set to discover the East’s little known treasures. And what better way to kick things off than in a small town like Swan Quarter. The story of Pat’s sign captured the hearts of many but to the people who live there, it’s a whole different story.

“It’s actually kind of like home,” said Jocelyn Cahoon, a Swan Quarter resident. “It represents your home because it’s always been here.”

Every morning for the past 20 years, letter-by-letter, Spencer paints the news of the day: birthdays, anniversaries and town events, all while adding his own flair along the way.

“You never know what Pat is gonna say,” added Kris Cahoon Noble, a life-long Swan Quarter resident. “He’s a comedian in and of himself. He’s always saying something funny so it translates on the sign.”

“It’s kind of a chore but when the people ride by and speak and like it that makes it worth it,” said Pat Spencer, owner of Pat’s Service Station and its sign. “And that’s why I’ll keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.”

Next, another small town, Williamston, where an old urban legend may give you a bit of a scare.

“There used to be a mill here and it was operated by a Mr. Yarrell and his wife,” said Wilford Griffin, a lifelong Willimaston resident who has lived on Yarrell Creek Road his whole life. “It got to the point where he decided he would eliminate her, and he tied a mill stone around her neck and threw her in the creek here. The story that I have grown up with says that at midnight, you’ll be able to hear Mrs. Yarrell screaming at this bridge.”

“Yes you could hear screams,” added Barney Conway, Martin County tourism director.

“I’m not sure that I believe the screaming part,” said Griffin. “I have never heard the screaming, and I really don’t come down here at midnight to check it out.”

And really, can you blame him? Next, we stop in to one of the East’s iconic restaurants; a humble hot dog shop that offers more than meets the eye.

Ask around and many will tell you the one place you need to stop when you’re in Washington is Bill’s Hot Dogs.

“It’s an institution, plus the taste,” exclaimed Linda Clark. “You can’t get this taste anywhere else.”

“I think it’s known for the chili,” added Jay Boyd, owner of Bill’s Hot Dogs. “Everybody calls it white chili. On an average day, we sell a couple dozen. Somewhere around there.”

And finally,who could forget the trio of triplet brothers in Windsor, spreading holiday cheer to thousands as a way to cope with the loss of one of their own.

“Most people call us by the Christmas light men,” said Therman Hoggard, one of the brothers who runs the Hoggard Christmas Light Display. “When everything is lit completely up, it’s over a half a million lights. It really got started in 1991. My oldest daughter, Carolyn, was involved in an accident. She skipped school one day and never came home. In 2000, I built the angel, and that’s how we got started. It gives me something to do. It keeps your mind off a lot of it even though it’s been quite a few years since my daughter passed away. It’s a therapy.”

The East has many more stories to tell; so, People and Places with Pierce marches on to 2017.

Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.

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