G. C. Fisher
You don’t want to fight a left-handed man. It’s better to be on his team.
Perhaps this is the way to look at the two sides of G. C. Fisher. Although there are still those around who were on the wrong side of Fish, most who knew him now say that my father was a kind man you didn’t mess with.
G. C. Fisher was born at Cliffside in 1914, the son of Cleve and Katie Goode Fisher. When G. C. was four his father, Cleve, died of what Katie always called the consumption. But I have come to believe it was the Spanish flu, rampant in 1918, and, ironically, believed to have begun at an army base in Kansas, my present home.
Katie soon married again to Broadus Biggerstaff, a barber who also had a small farm on the outskirts of Cliffside. The Biggerstaff family began expanding and the kids were expected to help on the farm. Dad’s farm life, however, ended abruptly after he knocked out one of the family mules when it refused to plow.
G. C. was better at football, excelling in high school to the point he was “red-shirted” by the principal after the 11th grade to become the only member of his class to need twelve years to graduate. That extra year of football resulted in offers from Wake Forest and Garner Webb. He went to Gardner Webb, but his academic motivation didn’t match his quarterback skills and he left after the freshman year. He did establish a football record that can never be broken – a ninety-nine yard punt from his own end zone against Mars Hill.
After leaving college G. C. joined the Navy and soon was in trouble over his fighting. It turned out for the best when a sharp officer put Dad on the boxing team, and that’s where he remained for the duration of his tour.
Life stabilized somewhat for G. C. in the later 1930’s after he returned to Cliffside from the Navy. Dad took a third shift job in the mill boiler room and married Mildred Watkins, a young girl of sixteen whom he met at a county dance hall. They lived first in a two-room mill house on 3rd Avenue, and then in the converted old bandstand house on Pine Street. It was there that I and Denny, now called Diane, were born. But it was not until the next move in 1948 to a much bigger yard and house at #5 3rd Avenue that the connection really began for Dad and the community recreation.
Since Dad worked the third shift, he had the time to set up some recreation and play with the kids during the daytime. The first attraction was a set of horseshoe holes, which soon became the addiction of fifteen to twenty of the local adults. Next came a Tarzan swing hung from an old maple tree, attracting the youth of the neighborhood. This was followed by a ping pong table, daily peg games (now an unknown sport), a basketball goal on the old Haynes Bottling Company building, high jump and broad jump pits, a golf putting course, a shot put and discus area (which Buzzy Biggerstaff lengthened by throwing the discus through the back of the car shed), a combination barbecue, card-playing, and cavalry fort area in the adjoining bushes (a favorite haunt of Sam Davis), and assorted unorganized football, softball, and volleyball games. Postmaster Price donated a croquet set and some money. Even the house itself served as the focal point in ante-over contests.
There was hardly a kid or adventurous adult who didn’t drop by, including some of the fellows going up the tracks to White Line after work. One day there were fifty people counted around the house, none of them Fishers. Everyone, as usual, was having a good time, with the possible exception of the Jim Scruggs and Gotha Humphries families, who lived nearby and who had to endure the horseshoes clanging at all hours of the night.
Beginning in 1956 “Fish,” as Dad was being called then, organized a Pony League baseball team to compete in the Manly Runyan Pony League of Shelby. Our home games were played at the “new” Cliffside School park, with a string serving as the outfield fence. By the 1957 season, with the help of Dee Greene (a lumberman who lived past the Duke Village near the S.C. line) and his tractor and chainsaw, the team had cleared the “old” school and mill field on Highway 120 of decades of tree and brush growth to create our own field.
When I was too old for Pony League, Dad began coaching little league teams at the same park. “Winky” Pearson later expanded the program and facilities at what later became Honeysuckle Park.
Only after Dad died in 1979 did I realize the coincidence of his projects and my interests. I saw what he did for the neighbors and the community long before I was able to see what he did for me. Now I’d love for the townsfolk to know the “right” side of what “Fish” did for Cliffside.