How Pumpkin Center Got Its Name
Note from Webmaster: This article was written by Lincoln Times-News staff writer Chris Goodson before the Pumpkin Center Schools were built. At that time an old store building sat at the corner of King Wilkinson Road and NC 150. This article has been reprinted with the permission of its author.
Ballards Have Seen Big Changes
by Chris Goodson
LTN Staff Writer
Burgin and Hazel Ballard have seen a lot of changes in Pumpkin Center since the small community first got its name in 1920.
"Pumpkin Center is a big area now," said Hazel. "It was all woods then."
Burgin and Hazel live in what could be called downtown Pumpkin Center. Their house sits beside the old store building at the intersection of
King Wilkinson Roadand NC 150. Burgin Ballard's father moved his family into the house in 1920, when Burgin was only three years old.
"I've just about been here ev'er since," Burgin said.
In 1920, the tiny crossroads was booming. There was a store, a corn and flour mill and more. The crossroads served as a community center for people in the area. It was a place where locals could get the goods and services they needed without traveling far from home. Burgin said that his mother and grandmother were sitting around listening to an old phonograph, commonly known as a "talking machine," when they hit on a name for the new community. Burgin said that the two were listening to an Uncle Josh song about a place called Pumpkin Center and decided that the name was perfect.
"One of them said’ We’re going to have to name this place and we ought to just name it Pumkin Center,”‘ he said.
That name stuck.
Burgin said he has many fond memories of growing up in Pumkin Center. He said that one of the first jobs he tried to get was working to build N.C. 150 when it came through the community in 1933. But the officials told Ballard that at 16, he was too young to drive a mule team. He explained that in the 1930s, road crews relied on mule teams pulling large dredges to do the most of the work that bulldozers do today.
"That's what that highway was built with," he said.
But Burgin said that as the years went by, Pumpkin Center started to decline. As more people got cars, it became easier to drive into town to shop. Small crossroad communities like Pumpkin Centerstarted to lose their significance. Hazel said that as folks who remembered the old days started to pass away, new residents moved in.
“A lot of the older people are gone. “she said.
In recent years, the couple said they have seen even more newcomers. A parcel of nearby farmland has become a large subdivision. andtraffic is so heavy that it s sometimes hard to pull out of the driveway onto King Wilkinson Road. The couple said that many of the people who move in don’t know much about the history of the area, or here the name came from.
But now, the name Pumpkin Center is getting a boost. A combination elementary and middle school is planned for a vacant field just down the road from Burgin and Hazel’s home. Burgin said that a controversy over what to name the school stirred up community spirit and got over 1,500 residents to sign their names to a petition calling for the school to be named Pumpkin Center.
“That’s the only name for it,” Burgin said.
The Ballards said that the school may also bring another first to the small community, a traffic light.
“They’ll have to have one,” Burgin said.
The couple said that traffic on NC 150 is so heavy that it already makes turning onto King Wilkinson Road dangerous. They say that without a turn signal and lane, the school traffic will bring even more wrecks. But whether the new school brings a traffic signal or not, Hazel and Burgin Ballard are glad that the name Pumpkin Center will carry on in one more place.Hazel said that any name for the school other than Pumpkin Center would just have confused people.
“People wouldn’t know where they were talking about if it was called anything else,’ she said.