News Stories & Columns
Cliffside remains in its people’s hearts
Cliffside remains in its people’s hearts
By Zane A. Saunders
The Daily Courier, May 9, 1988
Cliffside — More than 1,000 people flocked back here to remember their common roots at the first Cliffside reunion, a reunion that celebrated the spirit of a town that no longer exists.
“Heritage is what it boils down to,” Bob Hawkins said. “Even though the buildings aren’t here, the feelings and personalities are still here.”
People returned to remember, share and preserve their heritage, he said. “If you don’t have roots — heritage — you don’t have much of a feeling for yourself.
“That’s basically why we have a stronger, deeper feeling,” he continued. “In larger, metropolitan areas you meet people who have ties back to Cliffside. It gives you a good feeling.”
That spirit of closeness is what prompted a group of people to organize the first “Cliffside Homecoming” here this weekend.
“Cliffside is a family and this gathering is a family reunion,” said Cliffside School principal and historian Phillip White. “Even though the town’s no longer here, it’s alive because it’s in the people’s hearts.”
“Cliffside was better because these people were here and now they’re back to share a small part of what they were contributing,” he said. “There are no boundaries. Cliffside’s where the heart is.”
Remembering was the underlying theme of the two-day event that centered on the Snuffy Jenkins Music Park Saturday and around the clock tower on Sunday.
Like so many of its neighbors, Roy Harris worked in the mill before leaving to fight in World War II. He remembered Cliffside as a close-knit community.
“You could live on one side of town and know the name of a baby born on the other side of town. That’s straight. You’d know all the names,” Harris said. “Now you don’t even know the name of your neighbor two doors down.”
Nearly a century ago Raleigh Rutherford Haynes planned and constructed a self-contained village to provide workers for his mill, while satisfying their physical, cultural, educational and religious needs.
Demolition of Haynes’ ideal community began several decades ago, but the sense of family inspired by the former town continues.
Haynes provided everything his workers needed. There were doctors’ and dentists’ offices, a grocery store, funeral home, department store, drug store, laundry, photographer’s studio, and beauty and barber shops.
There was also a movie theater, bowling alley, gym, auditorium, library, and a town band. Cultural events were sponsored occasionally.
Haynes built a railroad with several spurs. He helped build four churches and contributed to others. His plan for a school was carried out by his son, Charlie Haynes, in 1922, at a cost of nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
Haynes also built a cotton gin and a roller mill to make flour.
“It was a beautiful little village at the time we were growing up,” said Mabel Cargill, who was born in 1908 and reared in the town before she left for college.
After marrying, she left Cliffside for several decades but returned in 1952 and ran a flower shop before leaving a final time in 1976. Now she lives in Greenville, S.C., and has published a book of her Cliffside memoirs.
She was sad to see the town town down, Cargill said Saturday. “Even now, to go down there and remember it like it was, it nearly brings tears to my eyes — to know what kind of a town we had and the beautiful relationships we had.”
“We were very close to each other,” Cargill said. “Everybody sort of knew each other’s business. If there was a bereavement everyone went.”
Although everything was nearby, it was very much a one-man town, she said. Haynes ran the town and didn’t allow dancing or dogs in his town.
“We didn’t know we were dictated to,” she said.
That paternalistic attitude fell out of favor when people began to want to move out of the village, White said. “He didn’t want them to have to leave here for any of their needs.”
But people began to want brick homes and upkeep on the turn-of-the-century wood frame homes became expensive, he said, factors which he said contributed to the town’s demise.
“It’s like anything else, the times changed,” White said.
“I think the main reason was that people wanted a piece of property on their own,” said Cone Mills’ Buddy Weathers. “As times changed, they got automobiles and became less dependent on company housing (and) as they moved away you had less need for the businesses.”
Cone acquired the Haynes mills after WWII and in the 1960s experimented with remodeling some of the mill homes, Weathers said, but the cost was prohibitive. Cone also looked at other mill communities and decided that, to avoid having the town look slum-like, the homes would be torn down or burned, Weathers said.
The environment Haynes created nurtured and inspired people, said Judge Hollis Owens at the memorial service Sunday afternoon. Many of them went out from the community to distinguish themselves in a wide range of fields, he said.
“This is and was a very special community,” said featured speaker Walter Dalton, one of Haynes’ great-grandsons.
The things that Haynes built were not necessarily placed there to improve the quality of life of its citizens, but to provide fertile ground so citizens might improve their lives through their own efforts, Dalton said.
In a letter written shortly before he died, Haynes said, “I hope the undeveloped plans I have laid may be complete and that my friends and loved ones will be benefited by them, and that they will be better men and women, and that they can and will serve their country and each other in a way that is right.”
That is the golden rule, Dalton said, “but it was practiced here better than any other place I know of.”
“We do not gather to glorify a town which has seen so much change in the name of progress, but we do gather here glorifying a town that showed love, respect and loyalty to one another,” Dalton said.
If you are from Cliffside, you never leave because you carry it in your heart forever, Dalton said. “Cliffside is not a place so much as it is a state of mind of those who lived in this special community.”
(Read Walter Dalton’s entire speech by clicking here.)
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright owned by The Daily Courier.