After 42 years at Cliffside, Mr. Beatty retires
By Jock Lauterer
Courier Staff Writer
May 14, 1969
I’ve taught all kinds… boys to become doctors to help me when I’m sick; lawyers to help me when I’m in trouble… and undertakers, for when the end comes.” H. C. Beatty has probably taught people who became every other profession except perhaps Indian Chief, for after 42 years at Cliffside, the big man has seen three generations pass before his blackboard.
This June, he retires.
And to honor this man, the Cliffside PTA put on a bit of an extravaganza Friday night. “I didn’t expect them to explode like they did,” admitted Mr. Beatty with his hint of a grin. “I came in that auditorium… I didn’t have any idea of what was going on. They put on a sort of ‘This Is Your Life‘ show for me. I had to guess who it was talking behind the drawn curtain. Brought back many of my former teachers through the years.”
The most impressive parade of the night was when alumni from almost every year starting in 1929 through 1959 passed in review.
G. H. Davidson of Charlotte, a past graduate of Cliffside, acted as the MC for the night’s ceremonies. Mr. Beatty’s brothers and sisters were secretly brought into town. They came from Macon, Ga., Stanley, Mt. Holly and Denver. His two daughters from Charlotte were also present.
All told, there might have been 400 people there Friday night to pay their tribute to the retiring principal who has served 34 years straight in that job.
A tea and reception followed the main program. Mrs. June Davis, president of the Cliffside PTA organized the affair. “I’ve never seen such goings on,” remarked Mr. Beatty. “It was the best kept secret, people wouldn’t say a thing about it, and that’s pretty impressive for a small town.”
During the “This Is Your Life” type program held at Cliffside School last Friday in honor of retiring principal H. C. Beatty, many of his former teachers trooped onstage to bring back a few memories. Shown here are some of them, along with Beatty (seated, center), his wife and two daughters (seated to his left). (Roy Harris photo)
Mr. Beatty came to Cliffside in 1927 after graduating from UNC with his AB and MA degrees. He came to this area because it was one of the few places where a nine-month school year was maintained. Mr. Beatty credited Charles H. Haynes of Cliffside Mills who maintained the extra school months and even supplemented the teachers’ salaries for some time. [See below.] “That was the main reason for my staying here. They were mighty good to me. They gave us whatever we needed.”
Indeed, Cliffside Mills built the solid school building in 1920 and 21. “It still is one of the best-built buildings in the county. It has concrete beams and [is] almost completely fireproof,” Mr. Beatty pointed out.
His first years at Cliffside, Mr. Beatty was an athletic coach and science teacher. In 1930 he was made district high school principal and shortly thereafter relegated back to assistant principal when the system underwent a change. From 1934-1935 he was at the Avondale school until spring of 1935 when Cliffside principal R. L. Leary was killed in an auto wreck.
Mr. Beatty was asked back to Cliffside and that’s where he had been ever since, taking he monolithic school through the war years, right on through to the late fifties, when Cliffside High was absorbed by Chase. For these last 10 years, Mr. Beatty has ruled the roost at Cliffside Elementary, where just 300 students now attend.
“It’s been a wonderful way to retire,” said Mr Beatty whose appearance belies his 65 years. “My health is good… oh, I’ve been patched up a time or two.” Ask a principal to list his hairiest experience in his 40-some years and you’ll get stories like these:
“I’ve had a gauntlet of small events in my time. I was sitting here one afternoon after school. The phone rang and it was some man saying that a little boy had been run over getting off a school bus.”
“Well, I ran and jumped in my car and broke every record getting down there. I almost had a fit… scared me to death… but when I got there I found that a lady had just been creeping along and had bumped one little boy.”
“They were sitting on a neighbor’s porch with the child. He was fine… didn’t even have to take him to the doctor.”
“But they ’bout had to take ME to the doctor.”
“The thing that scares me is children getting injured. I must have lost three week’s sleep when G. H. Davidson’s boy got hit in the teeth with a bat when he was catching in a softball game. Knocked his front teeth back into his gums. It like to killed me… but he was alright and those teeth grew back just fine.” Mr. Beatty looked relieved just in the telling of the story.
Cliffside school has been threatened by just one fire. It occurred one afternoon after school when, “a little boy who had been kept after school threw a match into our paper chutes that go from the top floor to the basement. I just happened to be there that late. Smoke was pouring out of that chute. The teachers and I were pouring water in like everything. I crawled all the way up on top of the building to pour water down that chute from the roof.”
Looking at the stately solid building, one cannot help but draw a parallel between the structure and the man who has been responsible for its functioning for so long. Inside his office stands a massive pendulum clock that used to be used for the bell ringing. It’s ringing mechanisms don’t work just right, but as Mr. Beatty says, “The clock part works just fine. We replaced the ringing mechanism with a new system,” he said, pointing to a shiny gray box, “but I like to keep the big clock around, it was put in when the building was made in ’21.”
The clock, the school and Harley C. Beatty all have one thing in common – they’re all permanent fixtures.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright The Daily Courier. Clipping courtesy Ann Cargill.
In March 1929 the Company paid Cliffside School teachers a supplement. We found a batch of checks like this one in a file folder salvaged from the old mill office in the 1970s. H. C. Beatty and Corene Bookout each got $133.00. C. A. Denson received the highest amount, $200. B. E. Simmons got the least, $95.00. Letha Bame received $100.00 and Ocie Biggerstaff got $104.50. Three teachers got $105.00: Ruby Wilson, Evver Bame and Nevelyn Martin. Four of them were paid $110.00: Sara Lou Jenkins, Helen Thompson, Flora Morris and Annabella Logan. Nelle Moore, Johnnie Player and Emily Hilliard each received a check for $120.00, and Sara Workman was paid $121.00. We have no idea how these supplement amounts were calculated, It is assumed this was payment for one or more months taught beyond the county’s official school year.
Cliffside Mills check from the Phillip White/Wayne Smith Cliffside Archive.