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Barringer collection put on display

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Lisa Meadows sits with old photographs Wednesday from the Barringer Collection at TBC West at the Rocky Mount Mills.

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BY JOHN H. WALKER
Staff Writer

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The well-known and much-appreciated Barringer Rocky Mount Photo Collection is currently on display at TBC West: Tacos & Taproom at 1121 Falls Road in Rocky Mount.

Collection owner Lisa Meadows of Rocky Mount hung about 20 photos on Wednesday and said the showing was her first since she began making prints from the collection she estimates totals 100,000 negatives.

"’Bugs’ Barringer came to Rocky Mount in 1939 to work at the (Evening) Telegram. He was born in 1911, so he was 28 at the time," Meadows explained. "He wanted to be a newspaperman, but to survive, he had to be a jack of all trades ... so he became a photographer."

Meadows said Barringer remained at the Telegram until about 1944, then started shooting photographs on his own, eventually opening his own studio, which he maintained until selling it to employee James Reid in 1977. Reid operated the studio until selling it to David Chicelli. All along, the negatives remained with the studio.

"I knew David," Meadows said. "He had big hopes for the negatives, but I think it was just a massive task."

Meadows continued: "Around 2000, David was moving to the (Washington) D.C. area. My husband — we were not married at the time — contacted David about the negatives and purchased them from him. He just wanted them to stay here and not get away."

Meadows knew she wanted to do something special with the negatives but also knew she didn't know anything about how to print photos from them.

"I went and spent a day at the Wilson Library (at UNC-Chapel Hill), learning how (to process the negatives)," she said.

Along the way, Meadows and her husband had moved to Raleigh.

"But we wanted to come home and two years ago, we moved back and I decided it (the Barringer Collection) was a full-time job."

Meadows said she started working on the collection last August and about 75 percent of them are well-tagged.

"It's usually enough that I can go to the newspaper archives and find out more detail about the photo," she said.

Meadows said she feels like she is handling history as she works her way through the collection.

"It's certainly special," she said.

As she's moved through the collection, Meadows said she has been able to reconnect family members with subjects shown in the photographs.

One such photo, part of the showing, was of a family gathering of relatives of TBC West owner Inez Rubistello, including her grandmother, known affectionately as Nana and the namesake of the first beer marketed by TBC.

Other photos hanging at TBC West include a Jaycees Victory War Bond Parade from Oct. 29, 1945, that featured a line of at least nine elephants as part of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus and streets full of people, a couple of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Station, one of the opening of the new Sears store on Church Street and one of a pickup full of huge watermelons, among others.

"I was so excited when Lisa contacted me and asked me about hanging (the photos) here," Rubistello said. "To me, they just fit and seem like they belong."

Meadows said she has no timeline for the showing, only that she was looking forward to it and hopes the community enjoys it."

TBC West: Tacos & Taproom is open  from 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, from 12-10 p.m. Saturday and from 12-6 p.m. Sunday.

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