Back To Hamlet; No More Beach Traffic Snags Here

Published 9:19 am Thursday, January 21, 2016

HAMLET — Beach traffic used to crawl through this two-lane town before they finished the bypass years ago. On hot summer weekends, traffic backed up for miles as the line of cars snaked slowly, slowly, slowly along, zigzagging through downtown and past the lake. For years, I eyed each house and business, each sign and yard art at 5 mph.

In those days, Hamlet could have been the dictionary definition of “bottleneck.”

On Sunday, slipping back from a wet and cold weekend at Myrtle Beach, we deliberately took the old road to downtown Hamlet, population 6,400, to see the town.

We almost had the town to ourselves. We waited behind one car at the stoplight at the center of town.

If beach traffic doesn’t miss Hamlet, the town likewise didn’t seem to be weeping for the traffic jams of old.

Hamlet always preferred its reputation as a railroad town. Several rail lines cross here. There’s a train museum, and this is a good place to watch trains go by.

In 1991, Hamlet made national news for a fire that destroyed the Imperial Foods chicken processing plant, killing 25 workers trapped inside because an exit door had been chained shut from the outside.

On a happier note, Hamlet claims five native sons who went on to play in the NFL. That may explain the football successes of nearby Richmond County High.

Further north, we also veered off the main drag again to drive through Ellerbe, which seemed unchanged except for the lack of cars which now race 70 mph on the interstate a half mile away.

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Quote of the week: From Bermuda Run councilwoman Shirley Cagle on the US 158 roundabout near the Yadkin River: “I had a person who lives in Bermuda Run who has children who play soccer and who came to tell me in person that the roundabout is the best thing we ever did. So that balances out all the people I had who said we were crazy.”

I encountered another curiously-placed roundabout under construction in South Carolina north of Bennettsville in the middle of acres and acres of cotton fields. Mine is not to reason why.

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I spotted several gas stations in South Carolina boasting of $1.59 per gallon. As usual, all of the posted prices were well below North Carolina rates. That may be coming to an end. The S.C. legislature is considering a 10 cent a gallon tax increase.

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hailey caught some heat from Donald Trump supporters nationwide when they perceived an insult in her State of the Union GOP response last week. In-state voters didn’t seem to mind, at least in the Myrtle Beach newspaper. They seemed to like their governor.

We saw plenty of GOP presidential ads on TV at night on South Carolina stations. Many of them were either praising or bashing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

In March, that kind of advertising will reach North Carolina in time for our primary. Wonder how many candidates will be left standing by then?

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Those newfangled credit cards with chips certainly have seemed to slow down transactions at the check-out counter. The new cards are also being blamed with slowing down traffic during Tanglewood Park’s annual Festival of Lights, making traffic congestion even worse at Christmas.

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I didn’t win the billion dollars either. But two Powerball lottery tickets were sold in Mocksville that are worth $50,000 each. The tickets were bought at Rushco and at Sheetz, both on Yadkinville Road. The tickets matched 4 white balls and the red Powerball. The winners have not yet named by NC Education Lottery. Might want to re-check your ticket stubs.

— Dwight Sparks