Years after Randal Weisz retired, he’s back at his former work site. He still half expects to be hit with the smell of tobacco when he walks through the door. It was once inescapable.
Today, even a whiff of cigarette smoke would be enough to get you kicked out of the Forsyth County Government Center. But back when Weisz was working here, the site was known as Reynolds Factory No. 12, part of the vast tobacco processing and manufacturing complex that once dominated downtown.
Weisz is now helping to provide a window into what was once there, as well as other places around Forsyth County. The retired RJR manager is now a volunteer for the Forsyth County Public Library, scanning in historical photos from its collections at the Government Center, the library’s temporary home until the new Central branch opens this September. He’s logged nearly 1,200 volunteer hours with the library since 2010.
In addition, Weisz volunteers with Crisis Control Ministry, which helps those with financial difficulties obtain housing, food, and medications; and The Shepherd’s Center, which provides services for the elderly. He spends most of his time unloading boxes and organizing books for those two groups, which, he says, is quite a changeup from the computing and scanning he does with the library (seen above).
“I always wanted to volunteer but was always busy, had family life, could never really find the time,” he says. “But Reynolds would provide opportunities to volunteer from time to time, and I always enjoyed those. I decided when I retired,
I would get into some of that more.”
Weisz was born in South Dakota and grew up in a military family, moving often. He has been in the Triad for about 40 years, and began working for Reynolds after graduating from High Point University. He retired seven years ago.
Molly Rawls, who oversees the photo collection at the library, was delivering a talk several years ago when Weisz approached her about volunteering. Over the past few years, she’s been working on building a searchable database of the collection’s images (DigitalForsyth.org). So far about 20,000 pictures have been scanned and uploaded. Weisz has scanned in a number of those photos, along with helping on indexing projects and filing the collection’s negatives.
“He’s incredibly dependable,” Rawls says. “I’ve had a variety of volunteers over the years, but he’s been the longest lasting.”
Weisz said he likes seeing how the city has transformed over the years via photos, noting how the skyline has risen over downtown and “the magnificent houses that got torn down to make room for progress.”
“But it’s enjoyable knowing that later on, when someone wants to research some aspect of Winston-Salem, they will have access to it online,” he says.