In the early 1980s, artist Jim Scancarelli, inspired by several visits to our town over the preceding 20 years, built a model of an imaginary town called “Cliffside.” Drawing a little on his memory of the real Cliffside, and a lot on his fertile imagination, Jim spent a good portion of four years on the model. As he would think of new features to add, he built them in separate pieces, so it is not one massive model, but a series of unattached “dioramas,” as he calls them.
He created a fantasy place. Unable to recall the exact name of the corporation that owned the mill, he guessed it was “Cohen” (instead of Cone), and that's the name he used. The “Cliffside” of this model is much larger in scope than the real town ever was, with many more stores, streets and people. It's fun to imagine what might be behind this door, or around that corner.
The scenes depict the years of World War II, with vintage vehicles, clothing, and signs everywhere reminding us “there's a war on.” On other signs you'll see references to Cliffside, Rutherford County, WBT, and many consumer products of the time. The detail in these scenes is astonishing. (Check the junk yard carefully, you might find the remains of that old car you used to drive.)
Jim used HO, a scale popular with railroad modelers. (HO scale means “a lot smaller than real life.”) For many of the buildings, train components and terrain objects, he purchased hobby kits, modifying them to suit his needs; others he built from scratch. His human figures are an amalgam of body parts from tiny dolls and toy soldiers.
At some point, when he'd decided he had finished, Jim photographed the model on 35mm slides, which we've scanned for this presentation. Jim is now a nationally-known cartoonist; he draws the comic strip “Gasoline Alley” that may appear in your local newspaper. For more about Jim and this remarkable work, read Dot Jackson's column from The Charlotte Observer in our Memories section.
Models and photography by Jim Scancarelli
Copyright © 2010 The Cliffside Historical Society