News Stories & Columns
Homecoming will unite members in mill ‘family’
Cliffside homecoming will unite members in mill ‘family’
By Joe DePriest
The Shelby Star, March 31, 1988
Cliffside Homecoming 1988 on May 7 and 8 will be the biggest and most unique event in the community’s 88-year history.
Essentially, it is a reunion for an entire Southern mill village.
Organizers hope more than 4,000 people will attend. The invitation goes out to former residents, workers, students, professionals and all persons associated with Cliffside and the nearby Duke (Power Co.) Village.
The two-day event is the brainchild of the Cliffside School Class of 1947 and is being supported by the Cone Mills Corp. and the Duke Power plant.
Visitors will have the chance to remember old times and four local plants, schools, churches and cemeteries. Movies made in Cliffside area during the 1930s will be shown.
There will be a barbecue dinner Saturday at the Snuffy Jenkins Music Park, and Sunday’s schedule begins with church services, and cemetery visiting. That afternoon, a memorial service will be held at the town clock, former home site of Raleigh Rutherford Haynes, Cliffside’s founder. The speaker will be Walter Dalton, Rutherford County attorney and great-grandson of R.R. Haynes.
The chief characteristic of Cliffside was its unique charisma, says Gerard Davidson, local native and a retired Duke Power executive come home from Charlotte. The founder wanted this to be a family – a typical family of 3,600 members. Their loyalty was unbelievable, and still is.
Raleigh Biggerstaff, a retired English teacher named for R. R. Haynes, says the reunion will prove you can come home again. I did. And I never regretted it. It’s a nice place. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have come back.
Cliffside residents were “so friendly and nice and kind,” he says. “They had a genuine interest in each other. It’s just like magic when Cliffside people get together. So many of them are gone.”
Visitors returning after an absence of many years will hardly recognize Cliffside, which has always been an unincorporated village.
At its peak, during the 1920s and 1930s, approximately 2,500 people lived there and worked in the Haynes Mill, later owned by the Haynes Corp.
After World War II, many employees sought new housing outside the village. The mill began demolishing the hundreds of old houses. Few are standing today.
The old village business district is also gone. The last major building to come down was Cliffside’s former pride and joy – the R. R. Haynes Memorial Building. After Haynes died in 1917, his family began planning a suitable memorial, and construction of the multipurpose memorial building was completed in 1919.
Inside were a cafe, beauty parlor, meeting rooms, a movie house, barbershop, gymnasium, rooms for overnight guests, sewing rooms and a library. A town clock was placed on top of the building.
In 1978, the building was demolished. The town clock and brick from the old structure were reassembled at the place where Haynes’ home had stood. Lewis S. Morris, chairman of the board of Cone Mills Corp., spoke at the dedication of the new memorial in December 1978.
Cone Mills built a waving plant near the original mill in 1975. Today, it remains a thriving operation that produces denim primarily for Levi’s 501 jeans. Some 1,100 employees come from Rutherford and Cleveland counties and from Spartanburg and Cherokee counties in neighboring South Carolina.
In addition to the mills, the present-day village has a post office, a First Citizens bank, McKinney-Landreth Funeral Home, Cliffside Elementary School, cafe, drug store and doctor’s office.
Now and then, former residents moved back to the community. Davidson and Biggerstaff are two examples. A more recent one is Hazel Bridges, granddaughter of R.R. Haynes.
Mrs. Bridges came home to Cliffside a few weeks ago from Winter Haven, FL, where she has lived the last two years.
“I hope I’m back to stay,” she says.
Mrs. Bridges looks forward to the homecoming and says the Haynes family will be well represented.
“I think it’s real nice,” she says. “It’s nice for people to get back together. It feels good to get back.”
Reprinted with permission from The Shelby Star. Copyright owned by The Shelby Star.