Elkin is an incredibly unique place.
When I first came back to the area to work for the Tribune in November, I wasn’t a total stranger to Elkin. I had memories of crossing the old bridge to get to my grandparents house on holidays and spending the first five years of my life growing up on Yorkfield Drive. I was born at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, attended C.B. Eller for kindergarten and played through the woods at my aunt’s house in State Road.
After my family moved away, I lost most of my ties to Elkin. We would still visit family on holidays but living in Oklahoma City made it difficult to frequent the area. When we finally moved back to North Carolina and settled in Yadkin County, the only ties I had left to the area were a few extended family members and many fond childhood memories.
I received my education at Appalachian State University and spent most of my years after college in Winston-Salem. Both of these places vary drastically from the small town of Elkin. While Boone isn’t necessarily a large city, the constant influx of change from visitors, students and varying professors makes stability in the town difficult. Winston, on the other hand, is a larger city with its own dynamic.
When I accepted the job in Elkin, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I spoke with my parents who had many incredible memories from the area. Both went to East Wilkes High School, watched movies (including Grease) at the Reeves Theatre and regularly dined at Speedy Chef and John Boys.
My first week on the job I spent time driving around, familiarizing myself with the roads and being amazed at how much has changed since I was a child. Walmart moved, the bridge is gone, and the intersection at CC Camp Road really messed me up.
Despite how many things have changed, so much is still the same. Many of the landmarks I remember looking out the car window and seeing when I was 5 years old remained unchanged. It was like constant deja vu, like I had walked onto a movie set that featured the childhood version of me as the main character.
I drove to our old house, the place where my mom stayed up all night painting stenciled teddy bears on the walls of my bedroom. It was also the place I learned to ride a bike. Next, I drove to my aunt’s house in State Road, my grandparents home in Ronda and then to their grave site at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church.
Through the months I’ve spent getting acclimated to Elkin and the kindness of the people in the small town, I’ve been constantly checking myself to see if this is, indeed, reality. How many other newspaper offices have a train that runs behind it several times a day? I’ll admit, I usually burst into a Johnny Cash song every time I hear that whistle blowing.
Over and over I feel like I’m on the set of a Hallmark Channel movie and at any moment someone will yell “cut!” It’s easy to be happy in this town. The main street is picturesque, the people are always willing to say hello, and no matter what the federal courts are saying about religion, the schools still take a moment for prayer.
While a lot has changed, and will continue to change, Elkin is a town that knows who it is and will never lose its individuality. Regardless of how much time I’ve spent away, Elkin is a place that feels like home, for me or anyone, whether you were born here or not.
Karen Holbrook is a staff reporter for The Tribune. She may be reached at [email protected], 336-258-4059 or on Twitter @KarenHolbrook00.