Cliffside in 1922
Warren Harding was U. S. President; Furnifold M. Simmons and Lee S. Overman were still North Carolina’s U. S. Senators (as in 1910). In the governor’s chair sat Cameron Morrison, the “good roads” governor. (Not until the early 1920s did major politicians jump on the good roads bandwagon, heeding the complaints of a growing number of motorists about the lack of paved highways.)
Lots happened in Cliffside that year, principally the dedication of two important icons of our town, the “new” school and the Memorial Building. Those events helped make these structures—and the town—known and envied throughout the area.
Early in the month, it was announced that the Cliffside Railroad Co. had recently installed a new six driver engine (old No. 26, which was in use until 1938).
On Friday night, Jan. 20, the management entertained the employees of the different stores at a banquet in the Memorial Building. (The building, or parts of it, was in use months before its dedication in June.) The young people of Cliffside, meanwhile were “very anxious” for the new theatre to be completed. The seats were being installed, and it was only a month away from opening.
Also in January, the auditorium of the new school building was used for the first time. Miss Della Carden’s music class gave a recital.
(As with the Memorial Building, the school was being used months before its dedication. From all indications, students moved into the school in the fall of 1921. Opening day was the first day of school for little Myrtle Greene [later Mashburn]. Lula Goode [later Humphries] remembers holding Myrtle’s hand as the students walked from the old school house up the hill to the new building.)
Toward the end of February, a long article appeared in the Courier describing the new school building in great detail.
Cliffside’s dentist was Dr. T. L. White. His office was over the Cliffside Store. Every week he ran a little thumbnail ad in the Courier that listed his office hours: 8-12 and 1:30-5:30.
On Feb. 5th the first edition of Reader’s Digest was published.
March was a busy month. On the 1st, B. P. Caldwell became the new postmaster. On March 2nd, the new 417-seat theater was opened to the public for the first time. It was reported to be “pretty well filled,” but there’s no word on what they came to see.
The school auditorium was pressed into service again on the 11th, when Cliffside’s Haynes Band and the Avondale Band shared the stage for a combined concert and debate (!). D. C. Cole, who played a cornet solo, was director of both bands. The big crowd was treated to a number of overtures and waltzes. The topic of the debate between the bands was Resolved: That Bill S506, now pending in Congress, providing for three fold compensation for ex-service men, should be passed. On the affirmative side was Cliffside’s Livingston Freeman (2nd clarinet) and Palmer Harrill (2nd trombone). One wonders if the clarinet and trombone were instrumental in their winning the debate.
Meanwhile the equipment for the gymnasium in the Memorial Building was being installed, and the floor surfacing machine was continually busy on the floors of the other departments of the building.
On the 8th, the new milliner of the Cliffside Mills Department Store, Miss Evelyn Pusey, of Philadelphia, arrived in town. (Lula Goode, 14 years old that year, remembers the store’s milliners wearing their big hand-crafted hats to demonstrate their product as they attended to customers.)
From as far back as 1903, Cliffside always got good coverage in the local press. Nearly every issue of one paper or another had a news item or at least a community column, more often than not on the front page. One can imagine how readers in other communities in the county might get sick of hearing about Cliffside. It became even worse for them in late March of ’22 when The Courier announced a special section—of two or three pages—called “The Cliffside News” that would appear in every edition. Here’s how they announced it. This arrangement continued for several years.
Early in April, Grover Haynes and Broadus Roach went to High Point to purchase and special-order furniture and fixtures for the Memorial Building.
Operations began on April 6 on the road just beyond the home of Prof. Erwin (Highway 120?) to construct a nice ball park with a large grandstand. “This will prove a great treat to the boys, and we are expecting a good team here this season.” It was to be named “Haynes Park.” Later in the summer The Cliffside News said you could get a good idea of its size by the fact that, in a recent game, all three home runs were in-the-park homers.
On the afternoon of Thursday, the 13th, the theater was crowded with children when Buster Brown and his dog Tige appeared in person. They presented a “splendid” program, and Buster gave the audience some interesting facts about Buster Brown shoes. (Why are we not surprised?)
It was reported on April 20 that 43 more looms were being installed in the mill, upping the total to 1,543 looms. It was the largest gingham mill under one roof in the south.
Cliffsiders were busily planting spring gardens. The Company as usual had had the land plowed and prepared, which was appreciated by the people.
And on the 22nd, the first big event—the school dedication—occurred. All stores and offices in town were closed for the occasion. A temporary cafe was opened in the basement of the Memorial Building (where the Christmas Store was the previous fall) for the benefit of the many out-of-town people who arrived for the formal opening. “It is not likely that the hotel and boarding houses will be able to to take care of all the people who may come. So if you are hungry, go to the Cafe…where everything will be sanitary and under competent management.”
The cornerstone was laid at about 3:00pm; the actual dedication began at 7:30. It was reported that “the evening program was perhaps the best treat ever accorded the people of the town.” Dignitaries came from far and wide to praise the extraordinary school. Read the full coverage here.
The [porch] pavement in front of the Memorial Building was being covered with two colors of tile to make the front of the building more attractive. One of the two barber shops had been occupied for several months, operated by the Messrs. Proctor. Then early in May Broadus Biggerstaff opened up the other shop.
A big stage production occurred in the school auditorium on May 5. It was “The Old Fireside,” a comedy (“in three acts”) directed by Prof. Charles C. Erwin.
On the vacant lot on Main Street, a great 3-week-long tent revival took place in May. About 115 joined the Baptist Church, others joined the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. On a Sunday afternoon, baptismal services were held in the swimming pool on Church Street. Before a large crowd, the Rev. W. K. Collins baptized 74 people in 23 minutes. (The town’s colored people requested that they be given a service before the tent was taken down, and Rev. Collins complied—for one night only. He requested that white people stay away, saying he wanted the service to help the colored folks and “the presence of white people might detract from the service and not get the best results.”)
On May 27, a Mr. Willis, commercial photographer of Spartanburg, was in town making pictures of the interior of the Community Building (as they often called the MB) and other views of the town. (It’s almost certain these are the pictures later used to produce the postcards with which we’re all familiar.) He also made a picture of the large dyeing machine at Avondale, which “is said to be largest of its kind in the world.”
Meanwhile, way up north, the $3 million Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D. C.
An architect came to town to submit plans for the new Baptist church to be built soon. It’s site would be the one used for the big tent in which the recent meeting was held. “It is one block from the Square on the east side of Main Street, and is a central location. The present site [way up N. Main near the school] is not very convenient to the majority of the people, hence the change of location.”
Sunday, June 11, was Memorial Day. Rev Collins preached a great sermon, after which the people went to the cemetery and placed flowers on the graves. It was the custom for the Baptist Junior Baracas to place flowers on graves that had none. This year there were 50 graves without flowers—graves of those whose people and friends lived elsewhere.
June 14: President Harding made a speech on the radio—a first.
Just two days before the big MB dedication, there was a wedding of two very prominent Cliffsiders, Jessie Jenkins and Hollis Owens.
Then came the big day, Saturday the 24th, when Cliffside was awash with people. Our correspondent to The Courier reported: “There were so many out of town people here that it is impossible to mention them all. Cliffside was glad to have them here to join in the exercises. Quite a large delegation came from Avondale on the train and in cars. There were many here from Henrietta, Caroleen, Forest City, Rutherfordton, Spindale, Alexander, Shelby and numerous other places.” Here’s the official program and the dedication coverage.
Mr. B. E. Roach, who had been the presiding officer of the dedication ceremonies, and was the manager of the Memorial Building, had a very serious auto accident on July 4th. This was just a day or two after the building’s Board of Directors decided that its lobby and library would heretofore be kept open each Sunday afternoon, and that the members of the board would take their turn in keeping the building [open] and relieve the Community Secretary [Mr. Roach] of Sunday duty. It would “afford the people a nice place to spend a few hours on Sunday afternoon where they can read and talk to [their] hearts’ content.”
Near the end of July, the first house ever built in Cliffside was moved from Main Street to a site on Park Avenue (?) to make room for the new Baptist church. Construction on the new church would start in a matter of weeks.
Some of the areas farmers were quite anxious about their cotton on account of the boll weevil. Mr. J. C. Carpenter, long-time superintendent of the Company’s farms, said that in his rounds he had seen no sign of the pest. The new ginnery was almost completed, with three more gins having been added. It was thought this year the gins would not have to run at night to keep up with the work like last year.
Joseph Beason, the man on the horse in the old photo, who lived on a farm just outside Cliffside, kept a journal from 1886 to 1929. Every day he wrote a short statement of what he did, where he went, and what the weather was like. He was a mule trader, builder, farmer, hauler and was always on the go. During this month, for example, in a nine-day period, he visited Shelby, Forest City, Gastonia, Shelby again, “Bostick” Station, Henrietta Station, Gaffney and Chesnee. Between plowing, planting and harvesting his own crops with the help of his boys, Joe helped his friends and neighbors build houses, barns, fences, hog pens and chimneys.
School opened on the 4th. A smoke stack was being built above the furnace and 10 teams of mules were being used to grade the grounds. After grading was completed the play grounds would be laid out and equipped. Something new this year at Cliffside High was the Department of Home Economics, Miss Muriel Hames in charge.
In the early hours of Sep. 21, the store belonging to M. T. Green and M. Scruggs was robbed and burned. Mr. Green’s nearby house was spared; Mr. Scruggs’ house did catch fire but it was soon extinguished. Someone from a road building camp near Broad River was suspected, so Squire R. B. Watkins issued a search warrant, and… Perhaps you’d better read the full account.
On Saturday night, the 14th, “Friendly Enemies,” a comedy staged by New York artists, opened in Cliffside. It was part of something called the Redpath Lyceum Course. The advance billing promised it “will make you laugh one minute while the next it will grip you with pathos.”
Quite a lot of cotton came in to the ginnery in October. It had to run at night some to keep up, and ginned twice as much this year as any other plant in the county.
The Haynes Band played at Shelby on the 31st at the laying of the cornerstone of the new hospital. They hurried back to Cliffside to play that night for a speaking engagement by Hon. O. Max Gardner.
Armistice Day was Saturday, the 11th. The mill “stood still” that day and many of the people went to Forest City to celebrate. Members of the Haynes Band, which played at the festivities, said that they had never been better treated anywhere than at Forest City. Meanwhile, the Cliffside Mills Store had one of its biggest sales days since the previous Christmas holidays, notwithstanding the fact that so many people were out of town.
The town was all aflurry this month. Quite a number of housewives and dress makers were busy making dresses for the men who would appear in the “Womanless Wedding” on the 25th in the school auditorium. Wigs were being secured, hats made, etc. Fifty or more of the town’s men were about to make fools of themselves in front of a predicted audience of one thousand.
Nov. 25: Sure enough, the Womanless Wedding was a great success, even all available standing room was taken. Perhaps you’d like to read the fascinating details. The very next day another important event occurred—probably having nothing to do with the Womanless Wedding held the night before: Two British archeologists discovered King Tut’s tomb in far-off Egypt.
In the month of November, these Cliffsiders bought new Fords from Forest City’s B. B. Doggett Motor Company: W. H. Haynes, B. D. Wilson, Summey Bland and Reuben McBrayer. We know this because Doggett listed all its new car customers in a monthly newspaper ad.
Archie Collins, son of Rev. and Mrs. W. K. Collins, arrived home after serving his term in the navy. He saw quite a bit of the world during his service, having been stationed in the “South Sea Islands and other foreign lands.”
Charles H. Haynes donated another 24 books and a number of papers to the Memorial Building’s library. Earlier he had placed in the library a set of six volumes of North Carolina History from the Colonial and Revolutionary periods to the present, and two nice volumes of the recent world war.
Although it didn’t make the news, on Dec. 24, a little girl was born in a farm house near Smithfield (in Johnston County, near Goldsboro). Not until 1939 when she went off to Hollywood would we learn the little girl’s name: Ava Gardner.
And something else went unreported. Late that night, after the streetlights were turned off and a stillness settled over the town, Santa Claus came to Cliffside.