Eddie Barnes Boykin and Audrey Watson Boykin
May 1916-November 1974 and July 1915 - present
Eddie Barnes Boykin was born in Kenly on May 4, 1916 and was the youngest of five children born to Charlie and Lucretia Boykin. Eddie attended Kenly School until he completed the eighth grade. He was then forced to drop out of school to help support his family. Among other odd jobs, he sold newspapers on the Kenly streets. As a young man, he began to work at the local filling station, which was on the corner of 301 highway and Main Street. He later rented this station from Mrs. Ina White and it operated as a Texaco station. Eddie later became the owner of this business and was a very good businessman, despite his incomplete education.
Audrey Watson Boykin was also born in Kenly on July 14, 1915, the middle child of five, to John Hardy Watson and Bessie Boswell Watson. Audrey's mother died at a
young age and her father never remarried. Mr. Watson was a skilled tobacco farmer and, in 1927, he packed up a Model T Ford and took his five children to Samson, Alabama. The local cotton crop had suffered devastating loss due to the boll weevil, and Mr. Watson was recruited to go there to teach the local farmers how to grow "bright leaf' tobacco. After a few years, the family moved back to the Kenly area and resumed farming.
Audrey completed Kenly High School and went to Norfolk, Virginia to obtain training as a cosmetologist. She gave many of the ladies in Kenly their first permanent waves and worked in a beauty shop with her friend Doris Jones.
Eddie and Audrey were married in 1938 at the Free Will Baptist Church in Pine Level. They honeymooned at Natural Bridge, Virginia. They then settled down in Kenlywhere Eddie continued to work at Whiteway Texaco filling station and Audrey worked in the beauty shop.
When World War II began, Eddie was drafted into service in the Army Air Corps. Because of a heart murmur, he was not required to go overseas and serve in direct combat. He served in Biloxi, Mississippi and El Paso, Texas and Audrey was able to join him in both settings. While they were in Texas, Audrey experienced a life-threatening health problem. Eddie and another airman both gave her blood, which was directly transfused from them to her. Because they were in the military, Audrey was also able to be given penicillin, which was a new medical treatment at the time. Because of these two new treatments, Audrey survived the illness. While in the Army Air Corps, Eddie worked as an airplane mechanic, working mainly on B24 bombers.
After the War ended, Eddie and Audrey moved back to Kenly to the house they had built on West Second Street. In 1946, they had a daughter, Eddie Jannette and in 1951, a son named Ronald Aubrey.
Eddie resumed his job at Whiteway and Audrey stayed home to raise the children. Eddie was involved with the early days of the volunteer fire department, driving an early fire engine. He later became involved in local politics and was elected to the town council for two terms. He was also a member of the Kenly Free Will Baptist Church, a member of the American Legion, and a 32nd degree Mason.
Eddie's involvement in the tobacco heritage of the area included the fact that he smoked unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes all of his life. He also sold cigarettes from the service station. In the days when 301 Highway was a major north-south thoroughfare, Eddie met many celebrities who stopped at the station to gas up and to buy cigarettes. He could be heard to say, "Fill 'er up, sir?" before a customer's car even came to a complete stop. Eddie really enjoyed smoking and often said that he would smoke until he died.
This prediction came true, as he smoked a cigarette shortly before becoming comatose and dying at the age of 58, of lung cancer.
During their years together, Audrey was an accomplished homemaker. She was an excellent cook and seamstress. She did many crafts such as knitting, embroidering, quilting, and flower-arranging. She participated in the Garden Club and was a Girl Scout leader. As a member of the Kenly Free Will Baptist Church, she participated in the Women's Auxiliary group and on the Benevolence committee. She was also active in Jan and Ronnie's school activities and served as a grade mother several years. Eddie, Audrey, and Ronnie accompanied Jan's class to Washington and New York for their senior trip.
After Eddie's death, Audrey continued to manage the rental property they had built and to live in the same house. As of this writing in 2002, Audrey continues to live alone and to do her housework as well as keep up her large yard. She has always loved flowers and is proud of the azaleas in her yard, which make for a very colorful spring bloom. Even after cardiac by-pass surgery in 1999 and poor vision caused by macular degeneration, Audrey remains active by continuing her favorite activity of working in the yard. She is currently one of the oldest members of the Kenly Free Will Baptist Church. She has many memories of growing up on a tobacco farm and going to Alabama with her family, but she has often said that she is thankful that she did not have to farm to make a living. Audrey's daughter Jan and her husband Ray Pope live in Knightdale, NC and have two children, Shelley and Matthew. Shelley married Stephen Averette and they have a son, Seth Andrew. Audrey's son Ronnie lives in Alexandria, VA.