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'Robeson Remembers' Provides Seeds for Memories

By Scott Bigelow

The Four o’clocks that brighten my yard are a cause for reflection. The seeds of these flowers were pinched from a back door neighbor.

When I moved in, Mrs. Bowman was elderly, and I met her only once. She was very gracious and complimented the work I had done in my back yard.

As time went by, I named them Mrs. Bowman’s four-o’clocks. With a profusion of magenta flowers, four o’clocks earn their name because they open in late afternoon as the heat of the day is dying.

Mrs. Bowman had a beautiful house and a yard full of camellias, azaleas, dogwoods, daylillies and much more. Her husband, who died long before, was a doctor.

For 45 years, I did not know Mrs. Bowman’s first name. I did not know that her husband was much more than a country doctor.

Leafing through “Robeson Remembers; Vol. 1,” I found an article on Dr. Bowman among many articles about noteworthy Robesonians.

“Robeson Remembers” was the invention of Helen Sharpe, founder of the Robeson County History Museum. With help from editors Jackie Utz and Karen Van Zandt and many writers, articles about people, places and things appeared regularly in The Robesonian and were compiled into two volumes.

“Robeson Remembers” was a labor of love for Mrs. Sharpe. For a small museum with volunteer staff to leave such a large imprint on local historical research is no small feat.

“Robeson Remembers” fills in many of the blanks for inquisitive locals, myself included. I learned that Mrs. Bowman’s first name was Bernice, and that she was from McDonald, where she met her future husband, E.L., who had a medical practice there.

Of humble origins in North Carolina’s mountains, Dr. Bowman was a visionary whose ideas advanced many causes and benefitted this community.

A supporter of local sports, Dr. Bowman helped bring a minor league baseball team to the city. Famed New York Times journalist Tom Wicker reported on the Lumberton Auctioneer’s games as a young Robesonian reporter.

Dr. Bowman’s vision reached into other areas. With a partner, he built the Carolina Theatre (now Civic Center) in 1928. He wanted it to become a venue for the new “talkie” motion pictures, which had debuted in 1927. His medical office was also on the building.

In 1946 when radio was in its infancy, he brought WTSB to Lumberton with partner Jack Pait. I remember WTSB for football Friday nights with Nicky McKeithan, news with Harvey Burgess, teen nights with the Key Club and the voice of WTSB, Ron Pait.

Dr. Bowman served on the Lumberton School Board, Recreation Commission and was chief of staff at the Robeson County Memorial Hospital, which merged later with Baker Sanitarium to become Southeastern General Hospital. Dr. Bowman died in 1953 and Mrs. Bowman in 1986.

The article on Dr. Bowman by Ann Smith set off a multitude of personal connections for me. The Bowman’s daughter, Martha, was Henry McKinnon’s wife. Judge McKinnon authored several features for “Robeson Remembers.”

Anyone who wishes to obtain some of Mrs. Bowman’s four o’clock seeds may come by the History Museum from 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays or 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

The seeds are free, but the volumes of “Robeson Remembers” are only $10 each. Perhaps they will plant a few seeds in your memory, courtesy of the Robeson County History Museum.


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