April 25, 2019

Memories of Holt Lake, Part 3

Brannan Court, portrayed in this "colorized" postcard from the 1950s, was a motel and restaurant beside Highway 301 on the south side of the lake across from the bath house. Nathan Lassiter managed Brannan Court as well as the bath house and dance hall in the mid-1950s.

Lorine Lassiter Davis remembers growing up
at Holt Lake in 1956-65 --- and "The Goat Man"

Gary Ridout has been compiling personal memories for a number of years for a newsletter he produces for present-day Holt Lake residents. We're sharing selected samples each month with readers of the Sun. Here are excerpts from Gary's interview with Lorine Lassiter Davis, conducted in December 2017:


The family moved to Holt Lake in June 1955. I was born in May 1956. My dad, Nathan Lassiter, had his brother, Walt, a general contractor, build his house. The house looked much like a 1960s mobile home.

My mother and father raised German Shepherds. There is a concrete slab in the backyard of the house where the dog pen was located. There was a blind man, Roderick, who ran a newsstand on Market Street in Smithfield. His German Shepherd seeing-eye dog was one that my parents raised at Holt Lake. As a child, I remember going to Roderick’s newsstand where he took time to explain to me how to tell quarters, nickels, pennies, and dimes apart just by the way they feel.

My dad went to the Louis Hotel School in Baltimore to study hotel management. After World War II, he first ran a restaurant, Lassiter’s Fine Foods, on Highway 301 in Smithfield where the AIM Dance studio is now located. He ran the restaurant from around 1947 to around 1951.

My dad ran for sheriff of Johnston County in 1958 but was unsuccessful. He also was a justice of the peace, he owned a paint store, and he worked in radio at WMPM in Smithfield and WCKB in Dunn. When we first lived at Holt Lake, he managed Brannan Court and oversaw the bath house and dance hall on the north side of the lake. In the 1950s, people from miles around would swim, dance, fish, and ride and in motor boats. Many of the Smithfield children learned to swim in the lake in front of the Holt Lake bath house.

In the days when I was growing up at Holt Lake, we would see a man everyone called “The Goat Man.” His hair was red and bushy. He went from New York to Florida on Highway 301. He had many goats that were tethered, and he herded them along the road. Some of them were in a trailer pulled by goats but most of them walked along the road with him. Everyone knew about The Goat Man. My dad was so enamored with him that he made some home movies of the man and his goats.

Previous installments in this series are in the Sun of 2-28-19 and 3-28-19>