‘Tar Heel Traveler’ to sign books at Parker’s Barbecue

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This is the cover of Scott Mason's latest book, "Tar Heel Traveler: New Journeys Across North Carolina."
This is the cover of Scott Mason's latest book, "Tar Heel Traveler: New Journeys Across North Carolina."
Contributed photo

Scott Mason, who has been WRAL-TV’s roving Tar Heel Traveler since 2007, will return to Wilson to promote his new book “Tar Heel Traveler: New Journeys Across North Carolina” on Wednesday.

Mason will be at Parker’s Barbecue from noon to 2 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m. to meet Wilsonians and sign copies of his new book.

The book, Mason’s fourth, is being released Wednesday.

“We have probably covered more stories in the Wilson area than in any other area in the state,” Mason said recently.

The list of Wilson restaurants on which Mason has reported is long.

“We’ve done stories on Parker’s, Flo’s Kitchen, the Wilson Doughnut Shop, The Beefmastor Inn, Bill’s Barbecue back when it was operating, Worrell’s Seafood back when it was operating, Dick’s Hot Dogs and the Whole Truth Lunchroom,” Mason said. “I probably have missed a few.”

It’s not surprising considering that Mason has produced nearly 2,000 stories and 50 half-hour or hour-long programs.

“And then just general stories, we have done dozens, several on the Whirligig Park and the whirligig restoration process. I did one on Vollis Simpson himself when he was alive. We did photographer Guy Cox who was quite well known,” Mason said.

He has featured the Railroad Rosie statue down at the Wilson railroad depot.

“We did a woman who collects teapots. a man who died recently, Jack Saylor, who at 90-plus years old was teaching exercise classes at the senior center there in Wilson,” Mason said. “We have done a couple of things of the Eyes on Main Street project. One of my favorite stories is the Elliott sisters, the identical twins. I devote a chapter to them in my new book. There is a whole backstory on how I met them. Mary and Mildred Elliott. I just met them by chance at random and they were identical sisters who actually married brothers. They were just a delight. We have re-aired that story several times and it always gets a great reaction.”

Mason believes he has “the best job in all of television.”

“There are very few full-time feature reporters left in TV anymore, so I am very grateful to have this opportunity,” Mason said.

He and a photographer essentially roam the entire state going through a list of about 10,000 stories that viewers have suggested.

The 57-year-old is a Raleigh native but grew up in Massachusetts.

“I kind of always knew what I wanted to do even as a little boy. I loved to write,” Mason said. “I used to throw the tennis ball against the garage door and pretend I was the play-by-play man. I kind of always knew I wanted to go into broadcasting. I just really felt like it was my calling.”
After graduation from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, Mason went into television as a general assignment reporter covering the daily news, which included murders, fires and car wrecks.

He did stints at stations in Chattanooga, Winston-Salem, Dayton and Richmond before landing his WRAL position in Raleigh.

“I feel like the Tar Heel Traveler is really my calling. I love it,” Mason said. “The thing is, it never gets easy, either. It’s always a challenge. Every story is a challenge, but every story is so much fun, and there are so many great people. And the thing about North Carolina is the great diversity. The coast and the mountains and the north and the south. It never ceases to amaze me the stories that are out there, the hidden landmarks or the historical trivia or the great characters. There is an endless supply of stories.”