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Polson packs John’s Seafood

MURFREESBORO – More than 130 people attending the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Tuesday evening at John’s Seafood & Steaks saw four people honored and heard Gates County native Beth Polson speak of her experiences in movie and television production, and of her love for North Carolina.

Honored were former chamber executive director Jennifer Moore, Chowan University President Dr. Chris White, Murfreesboro Baptist Church pastor Rev. Lee Canipe, and Earl Telliga of Murfreesboro radio station WDLZ, who himself presented one of the awards.

Presenting the Chamber of Commerce Award to Moore, Debbie Edwards said, “Jennifer worked very hard for the chamber. You might not have seen her, but she was always there. She worked many hours when people did not even know she was working. She rarely ever missed a day. She broke her leg one time but she came to work anyway… We called her ‘the Eveready Employee.’ There were three words we used to describe Jennifer. Those were ‘Dependable,’ ‘Knowledgeable’ and ‘Cheerful.’

“Although Jennifer retired from the chamber, we know that she will not retire from the community work that she does. She is still involved and she always will be. You will always see her quietly working all over the community, just as she did before. So we decided that no one deserves this any more than Jennifer Moore.”

Accepting the award, Moore said, “I was with the chamber for about eight years. I told them I’d stay until they found somebody and they decided they’d found somebody. So I gave them a deadline and said, ‘Enough’s enough.’ But I have enjoyed it. I enjoy working with people and I hope I did what was expected of me.”

Presenting the Sammy Doughtie Community Service Award, given annually by WDLZ, Telliga said, “Tonight our recipient is a person who came here with vim, vigor and vitality. He’s a native North Carolinian. He has come here and gotten involved in the community. He came about five years ago. He does an excellent job. He’s a member of the Murfreesboro Rotary Club and heads up the 5K Walk and Run for the Watermelon Festival. He has a lovely wife, Hilary. He has three precious children… You have to work his schedule if you want to see him around the North Carolina Tarheels. He’s a big Tarheel fan. And of course he’s a former Wildcat from Davidson. He’s a doctor, he’s a master of all trades and our Sammy Doughtie Community Service Award tonight goes to Lee Canipe.” “I’m paid to talk and I’m really speechless,” Canipe said. “Thank you. Wow! This is quite an honor!”

David Sullens, publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald, presented the Front Page Award sponsored annually by the newspaper.

“The recipient,” Sullens said from the podium, “is a man who has shepherded one of Murfreesboro’s and the area’s crown jewels to new heights. He is a man of many and varied talents, truly a role model not only for students at the universities he has served and continues to serve, but to anyone else who is privileged to know him.

“Dr. Chris White, who, of course, is president of Chowan University,” Sullens continued, “is a concert pianist. He is a Biblical scholar and a minister of great renown. He is – as all here would quickly attest – a man of great community mindedness and involvement. He is a man who has left his mark on education – Christian Education – in ways that few have.”

Sullens outlined many of the things that have happened since Dr. White took the helm of the institution, including its restoration to financial stability, the setting of records in the amount of gifts to the university, the university’s restructured admissions program’s having resulted in record enrollment, a number of campus renovation projects, implementation of an academic honors program, the organization of a Ministerial Board of Associates, the initiation of the Chowan Christian Service Association to increase scholarship funding for ministerial students, study-abroad experiences in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Israel and Egypt organized and conducted by Dr. White, the university’s joining the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), and the university’s transition from NCAA III to NCAA II.

“I’m surprised,” Dr. White said. “Linda and I enjoy our life here. You are a very hospitable group of people and Chowan’s a great school so together we can do great things. So, together, let’s go! And you did surprise me. God bless.”

Ray Felton, who owns Metal Tech in Murfreesboro and who was the evening’s master of ceremonies, announced the creation of a new award, saying, “I have the pleasure of presenting a new award this year. We have a very great field of honorees already, but some of us felt we needed to add one to it… We’ve got a man who has served this town and this area as faithfully as a man can do. So we’re giving the Heart of Gold Award this year, because that describes this man’s service… This may be the only time we see this award given, but it has been more than earned. This recipient is always looking for ways to promote the entire region and is always on top of any fund raiser or other event of benefit to the people of this area to make sure that everyone knows all of the details… He is of the old school, where a handshake is the whole contract. He has always let us know what he could do and what it would cost, but has often promoted the chamber at no charge simply because he cares about us, all of us. He has been instrumental in the very successful chamber membership drive this year. Our area is truly blessed to have a person of such character promoting our efforts to make this a better place to live…

“Please share my pride in recognizing Earl Teliga and his heart of gold for all he does for Mufreesboro and the entire Roanoke-Chowan area.”

Accepting the award, Telliga said, “This is one time I’m lost for words! I really do appreciate this. It’s a real pleasure to know all you people in Murfreesboro. I know I live in Roanoke Rapids, but I consider this home, too… Thank you so very much.”

Introducing Polson, Felton said, “Beth and I went to school together. I know she doesn’t look like it, but we did…

“There are few times,” he continued, “in a man’s life that he can be truly proud to tell the world he knows a certain person. Tonight’s that time for me.

“Every person I talked to about Beth,” he said, “remembered her dedication to her parents first, her character and work ethic second and left the success story somewhere behind. What a great way to be remembered when your devotion to parents and friends is much more remembered than all the books, movies and Hollywood awards even the most driven person can ever dream of. I’m proud to present to you the person whose work has been a reflection of her life: Beth Polson.”

“Most of you are probably wondering what a nice girl from Gates County is doing in the land of fruits and nuts. I gotta tell you I don’t know, either. Beats the heck out of me,” Polson began. “I was the kid who didn’t even want to go to church camp because I didn’t want to be away from home overnight. And I end up 3,000 miles away from home? How does that work?”

“If you listen to Earl tell my resume and then a little bit from Ray, it sounds like I can’t keep a job: I’m a newspaper reporter, then a television reporter, then a documentary maker, then I’m a movie producer…”

“When I was in college, interestingly enough on Saturday night I would never go on a date because that was when Mary Tyler Moore was on and I had to see Mary Tyler Moore. That was the be all end all because she had a cute apartment, she had darling clothes, she was an independent woman. Mary Tyler Moore had to be the epitome of what everybody wanted to be when I was in college.”

She said she left newspapers to go into television, her first boss was “a duplicate of Lou Grant.” On her first day at her new television job in Los Angeles, she said, he “walked over to me and said, not ‘Hello,’ not “Welcome to Los Angeles,’ it was, ‘Newspaper people make terrible television people.’ Well, you know what, it was the nicest thing he ever did to me because it was like a white glove in the face. I thought, ‘Oh, yeah? Watch this!’”

“So I went into what I call my first motto,” she said. “That is, ‘The only difference between success and failure is the amount of effort you are willing to put into it.”

She said she was determined to be able to “do any job in that newsroom.”

Polson told the group that show business does not differ from “what you do.”

“You want to know what a producer does? A producer does anything that nobody else is willing to do. One of my favorite examples is trying to talk Farah Fawcett out of a PortaPotty for two hours when it’s 102 degrees and we’re trying to finish a shoot. Now you’re wondering what she was doing in the PortaPotty and we all were, too. Now, that was not too glamorous for me. But if you wonder what a producer does, it’s anything that nobody else is willing to do, including encouraging people out of the PortaPotty.

“When I first went to work for Barbara Walters,” Polson said, “one of the first interviews we did was with Walter Cronkite on his impending retirement from CBS. When we go in, we set up a four-camera shoot and you think it’s a simple little interview, but they take about four or five hours to set up lights and do everything we need to do. So we’re at Walter Cronkite’s house and it’s kind of like Mary Tyler Moore. It’s a pretty big icon if you’re a journalist, to be interviewing Walter Cronkite. So we’re all set to go and I go get in the truck, put on the headphones and look at the monitor. Barbara’s about to open her mouth to ask her first question and I see this large, white, hairy leg right in front of the camera and I go running back into the house and say, “Mr. Cronkite, would you mind terribly if I pulled up your socks?”

After that interview was over, she said, she noticed that the crew had not done a good job of cleaning up after themselves, so she got a broom and was sweeping the floor when Cronkite walked in. She recalled him saying, “You really do do everything, don’t you?”

She said that brought to mind her second motto: “Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.”

“What your employees see in you,” she elaborated, “the work ethic, the honesty, the integrity, is what they will expect from themselves.”

“Whatever success I’ve had,” she told her audience in closing, “North Carolina is a large part of that. I’ve stood on the shoulders of many of you in this room to build whatever I’ve been lucky enough to build. It’s because there’s a front porch swing in Corapeake that has my name on it and as long as that swing is there and as long as I have family and friends to depend on … I’m happy with my North Carolina baggage.”