Looking back with Marilou Gunn
Marilou Gunn helped register guests at the Pinehurst Labor Day picnic Monday and may have bragging rights that others don’t have. She grew up in Pinehurst before it was even a city.
She describes herself as 82 1/2 years old and grew up on West Park Avenue (Old Highway 90) at the Pachar Dairy, owned by her parents, Angus and and Mamie Pachar. Though she was born in Leesville, La., the family moved to the Orange area when she was 5 and she’s stayed ever since.
Her years have included going to the original Anderson Elementary School building, marching with the famous Bengal Guards drum and bugle corps across the country and graduating from the old Orange High School.
She remembers riding with her father in the truck to deliver milk around Orange. “Me, my Buster Brown haircut and overalls,” said said, describing the way she looked as a little girl.
The dairy milked the cows early in the morning, before she got up. The dairy was in the area where her older brother, Dr. Max Pachar, long had a veterinarian clinic.
“I was the baby for eight years,” she said. She had the older brother and an older sister for a while. Then, the family had another boy and girl, so she ended up right in the middle.
Even though Bancroft School wasn’t far from the dairy, it was only a one-room school when she was a girl, she said. Her parents drove her to Anderson Elementary further east on Park into Orange.
When she was 13, she became a member of the Bengal Guards girls drum and bugle corps, sponsored by the late Lutcher Stark. She played the snare drums during the “cream of the crop” years when Stark hired private trains and buses to take the girls around the country.
Her trips included the New Year’s Sugar Bowl performance in New Orleans and two trips to Chicago to perform in front of more than 100,000 people at Soldiers Field.
“We were so lucky,” she said about the girls in the group. “We had never been anywhere and (Stark) hired special trains and buses.”
She and her friends from the Bengal Guards still have a yearly reunion to reminisce about their special years and their performance accomplishments.
Back when she was growing up, everyone in the Orange area went to downtown. “On Saturday night, we all went to town. All the stores would stay open and we would meet friends,” she said.
She recalls movies costing 10 cents at The Strand movie theater on Front Street. She liked the Saturday features with Flash Gordon. “To think what we see today, ray guns and flying in the sky, was all in Flash Gordon,” she said.
When she was in high school, she got her first job, which was at the old Perry Brothers five and dime store on Fifth Street. After graduating, she worked at the old First National Bank for three years.
The war years changed Orange drastically as the population shot up to more than 60,000 people. She can still remember listening to the loudspeaker in the old three-story brick Orange High School to the broadcast of President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech declaring war on Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack.
“When he declared war, I looked around. The boys, they would all be going (to war). Some you would never see again.”
She married Donald Gunn, who was a plumber by trade. His parents built a house in the Pinehurst area and gave the name Gunn Drive to the street off of Park.
Though they lived in West Orange for years and raised their family there, he decided to build another house in Pinehurst and they moved back to Park Avenue, only a few blocks from where she grew up. She and Donald were married for 56 years before his death in 2003.
They raised three children, Tommy Gunn, a local lawyer who is also Pinehurst city attorney, and daughters Donna Mitchell and Diane Dotson. She likes that her children talk to her often and Tommy calls every day, even when he’s out of town.
She has six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
“We get together and have a big family,” she said.
And that’s one of the rewards of a good life. Plus, getting to see longtime friends often, like at the picnic.