Carol Ann Ross
If It Wasn't For Ed Medlin
When I was a little kid I was in for some trouble if my rear end wasn’t in the house before it got dark. My mom and dad did not want me to be wandering around during the night even if we did live in the sleepy little town of Surf City where there was little to no crime. You see, back in the early 1960s Surf City had no street lights. I guess you could say it really was the “dark ages.” (ha ha). But then Ed Medlin became mayor, and things changed. Yep, Mr. Dwight Everette Medlin, called Ed by friends and everybody else, was the one who got street lights for Surf City. Thank you, Ed.
There are a lot of things that Ed Medlin did for our little community during his two terms as mayor. He even accomplished some things when he wasn’t, but I’ll get into that in a bit. First I want to tell you a little about the man. I remember him well.
I don’t think I ever heard a bad word about him from either my father or mother and if anybody shot straight, it was my father, he told it like it was, whether you liked it or not. Ed was forthright, and if you don’t know what that means, well, it means honest and outspoken. He didn’t BS you about the facts, like some politicians do. He also had integrity. Few people have that anymore and so they may need to look up the word’s meaning.
The Medlin Family was from Bailey, NC. Ed’s father, Isaac, owned a tobacco warehouse there and he and his family often came to Topsail to fish. Back then Topsail was called the fisherman’s paradise. Well, Mr. Isaac bought a bit of land, (it was really cheap back then) and so began building a small vacation house for the family. In 1952, Isaac’s son, Ed, his wife Libbie, and two of his children, Ty and Teresa came to make Surf City their permanent home and in a few years their other children, Mike, Ray and Denise were born.
Theirs was a close knit family, they worked together to make their toils a success at Coastal Ice, where bait, tackle and ice were sold. The business was growing and soon the Medlin’s expanded their store to include Medlin’s IGA. The whole family worked there including the youngest, Denise, who could often be seen standing on a stool to reach the cash register. Gas pumps were added to sell Esso gasoline; the business also sold propane.
If that wasn’t enough to keep the family busy, Medlin’s Friendly Tavern was added. What a great place to play in a little pool and have a cool one. Ed Medlin was loved by his friends who came to socialize with the family and came to know just what kind of man he was. He was gregarious and self-effacing.
Ed’s wife, Libbie Medlin was an integral part of that family, taking care of her children, her husband, and making sure that their endeavors were a success. The business was the Medlin life and they worked together as a unit to make it so. Many thanks to Miss Libbie for her steadfastness and for making me feel welcome when I came to their store. I don’t think I’ve ever met a less judgemental family.
If you weren’t here in the “old days,” you might not know much about Ed. But I would like for y’all to know how important a figure he was for the development of the town of Surf City. Few people know that Ed Medlin was a self taught man whose appetite for knowledge was voracious. He read three newspapers every morning, he made it a point to get to know his customers and know them well.
Long before he became mayor in 1964 he cultivated a relationship with those in Raleigh and was on a first name basis with many from the capital of our fair state. Just to drop one of the names, Governor Terry Sandford, was a good friend, whom he socialized with regularly. Teresa remembers meeting him one year when Ed took her to meet and interview our then governor for a high school term paper. Now that’s a big deal. Governor Bob Scott and his uncle Senator Ralph Scott were also family friends.
In 1973 Ed became mayor once again, proving that he was an important part of our community, sharing and giving when the occasion arose. Like the time he helped the three Navy Medics (who frequented the tavern) by feeding them when money was low. They in turn sewed up Ed’s daughter, Denise’s foot when she cut it. Little niceties between neighbors and Ed’s customers happened all the time back then.
His caring didn’t stop with people either, Ed was also a county commissioner and was one of the first people to serve on the advisory committee for Coastal Conservation-the program was called Sea Grant. It’s mission then and now was to find solutions through integrated research and outreach. The North Carolina Sea Grant enhances the sustainable use of ocean, coastal and watershed resources, benefiting communities, economics and ecosystems. Yes, Ed Medlin’s contribution is far reaching. He cared about our community and the planning of it. My guess is that he’s rolling in his grave now to see just how that has progressed.
Ed was mayor for two terms. Within that time he not only implemented street lights, but he was responsible for our water system and for Surf City’s street signs.
There were no signs before Ed Medlin’s tenure as mayor and so back then I learned (as did many of you, I assume) where what was and how to get there. Signs sure do make it easier.
If you grew up on Topsail or visited regularly, you know that it has never been a perfect place. We have our share of bad guys and idiots, but I think the count is fewer than most places. We have our share of joys and sorrows, and so they last, or stay in our hearts to help form us as we grow. One such incident was the loss of Mrs. Libbie Medlin. I remember this well too, and I spoke to the family about their mother, not so much to rehash an incident, but to lovingly recall someone our community thought highly of. I will tell you that on June 19, 1976, Miss Libbie lost her life when a painted propane tank blew up as she filled it with gas.
Our little community was shocked with disbelief to lose someone so dear and near. It’s that way in small towns, we are family, joined by familiarity and common goals. The Surf City community is thankful to Ed for all he accomplished, I know I am. And too, I’m happy to say I knew the man and his family. To this kid, Ed Medlin was genuinely one of the good guys.
So now you have the scoop about Ed Medlin, one of our mayors and a man who truly got things done when needed, who looked to the future and tried to preserve a precious way of life.
Part of Issue 3: