Your community matters

This Week in History: Johnson captures Miss Wake Forest crown; Skunk attacks police officer; Stick of dynamite found in yard

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


The Wake Weekly is bringing back a modified version of an old recurring feature. Instead of highlighting stories that happened this week throughout the years, we will re-explore events that took place during a particular year. This week, we turn the clock back 40 years to the week of July 5, 1979 ...


Pattie Johnson was crowned the first Miss Wake Forest during a much-anticipated local pageant.

Johnson, a 24-year-old dance instructor, was crowned by the previous year’s Miss Fourth of July, Donna Rogers.

“I feel quite honored, and I look forward to representing Wake Forest over the next few years,” Johnson told The Wake Weekly.

She wore a black quiana evening gown with a side slit. Johnson, in addition to a crown and trophy, was awarded a $500 scholarship and she would go on to represent Wake Forest in the 1980 Miss North Carolina Pageant. Johnson is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Johnson.

Amy Garner, daughter of Rachel Garner, was first runner-up in the pageant and received a $250 scholarship and a trophy.

The pageant required the women to perform in a talent show, interspersed with specialty acts, and to appear in a bathing suit competition. Johnson’s talent was classical ballet, and she danced to “Hungarian Ballet” by Tchaikovsky.

Officer BITTEN in skunk attack

Franklinton police officer Steven Cole was attacked in his home by his pet skunk, forcing him to rush to the hospital to receive four stitches, according to a Wake Weekly report.

Cole, who was bitten on the lower lip by his male skunk, told reporters, “The male bit me. He’s a lady’s man and he can’t stand men.”

Cole, a known skunk expert in town, owned two Eastern Silverback skunks, one male and one female. He said he was not upset at the skunk — rather, he was embarrassed at the circumstances that led to the media attention.

“I knew how it would look,” he said. “I told my wife, ‘Hey, shoot me, just don’t take me to the hospital.’”

Cole said he ordered the skunks from Minnesota, and that the female was friendlier than her male counterpart that put him in the hospital.

“I plan to write a book about skunks some day to set all the others straight,” he said.

Stick of dynamite found in yard

A Wake Forest home was nearly treated to an early fireworks show after children found a stick of dynamite in the back yard of Richard Pickett’s house on North Taylor Street.

Police officer Frank Battista told The Wake Weekly the explosive device, which was about 8 inches long and 2 inches wide, was seeping through its wrapping.

“When the nitro is seeping through the wrapping, then she will blow,” Battista said.

Police took the dynamite back to the station to figure out ways to keep it stable. Battista first put the stick in a bucket of water. Later, a deputy recommended replacing the water with kerosene.

A bomb squad arrived the next day to take the stick back to Raleigh to dispose of it.

“In my opinion, it came from one of those work sites. Some juvenile picked it up,” Battista said. “The question is, is there more of it around?”