As new members of our Chatham County community, Chatham Park is powering our Go See This series this year because art is an integral part of Chatham County’s identity. They join us in inviting you to Go See This . . .
“You don’t know how many times that I’m ready to go on stage with a recorder in my pocket so I can record my performance, you know? ” Cindy continues, “And the thing is on standby, and I go on and start, thinking I’ve pushed the right button only to realize later, when it’s over, that I didn’t record it after all!”
I smile and tinker away. Cindy reaches out for some bottled water. “Care for some?” she asks. She wants to make sure both of us are comfortable before formally starting our conversation.
Inside the Bynum General Store
Cindy and I are in Bynum, inside the Bynum General Store. For those unfamiliar with the landmark, the general store is a one-story building. A single low-ceiling, rectangular room, with “For Sale” items perched on wooden shelves, and inside a display-case located on the right-hand side by the entrance. At the back end of the room is the stage, along with a small lending library beside it. The store’s wooden floors squeak sounds of a long-gone era.
The general store is not just a building, however. It is the creative center of a strong and engaged community and home to a non-profit organization called the Bynum Front Porch. The general store is Bynum’s cultural heart. We’ll hear below Cindy recounting some of the building’s history.
The Opening Lines of a Storytelling Event
I visited Cindy on a cloudy, cold and, at times, a rainy day. I’d practically dragged Cindy out of her house where she’d been recovering from a sleepless night, brought by a chronic illness she’s been fighting for a good while. I didn’t know this. I apologized. “Not a problem she said.” She was ready to talk about her Bynum storytelling event.
In the early 2000’s, Cindy became a professional storyteller. Cindy credits her friend Louise Kessell with encouraging her to take her class. “You have to take it!” Louise told her. Early on there were 5 or 6 storytelling events, then in November 2015 monthly shows started occurring regularly on the second Saturday evening of each month from September to May.
Cindy believes the Fall to Spring schedule works well for her program. It offers a nice option for the dreary winter days. It’s good and affordable entertainment for everyone in the family. Cindy starts organizing the upcoming year’s events in May, as soon as the current season ends. “Putting together the events for the Bynum Front Porch Storytelling Program is easy,” says Cindy. A group of volunteers helps her run the event’s logistics, which are, in Cindy’s words, “lots of little things.”
I saw the wonderful work of Cindy and her “lots of little things” crew first-hand, when I was there to watch a show recently. To host the event, the organizers had transformed the store, which can be cold and dark when empty, into a welcoming and festive storytelling venue. Everyone in the full-house crowd laughed, and we marveled at the skill of the event’s guest performers and emcee. The night was memorable!
A Place for Telling Stories and Building Community
The Old General Store is the perfect fit for Cindy’s storytelling program. “This was the Post Office and General Store [a long time ago]. Harris & Farrel Dry Goods and Shoes. Frank and Louise Harris ran it. Louise was the postmaster,” recounts Cindy.
“The old guys sat around by the wood stove every day to tell stories. If you needed advice on how to fish or how to fix your hot water heater — and if you had 20 minutes to spare — you’d come down to the store and hear two or three stories and get some needed advice.”
When the General Store closed its doors, the place remained empty for a while, until the neighbors envisioned the perfect use for it. Then they approached the building’s owners and gained their trust.
The building is now managed by The Bynum Front Porch, a nonprofit board which is also in charge of Bynum’s general arts programming. Bynum has quality programs that are well recognized and appreciated in Chatham County and beyond. “Bynum is a very close-knit community,” said Cindy. The neighbors share a well-defined set of values.
According to Cindy, “We want to take care of our children, and our elders, and our people in need.” The community is concerned too, with their children’s education. The Bynum Girl Scouts are in charge of maintaining the library located inside the General Store.
Go See This
Two things before you leave us on this page.
First, the invitation: You have to Go See This. You won’t be disappointed! To whet your appetite, here is a 2018 YouTube video. There remains one opportunity to attend the Bynum General Store Storytelling event this season. It’s this weekend on Saturday, May 11. Make sure to bring some spare cash! A hat gets passed at the end of each event. All donations are divided between the organizers and the performers because someone must pay the rent, after all. The performers and the emcee get the lion’s share of the night’s donations.
And second, the challenge: Would you want to work your way into becoming a performing storyteller? You can do this in Bynum! For more information call or write Cindy at 919-444-9535 or email Cynthia Raxter.
Go See This
What: Bynum General Store Storytelling.
When: Saturday, May 11, 2019
Where: Old General Store -950 Bynum Rd, Pittsboro NC, 27312
What will it cost me: Entrance is free.
Parking: Free and plentiful
For more information: 919-444-9535
The next season starts September 14, 2019, 6:30pm at the Bynum General Store.