News Stories & Columns
It Was a little Mayberry
“It Was a little Mayberry”
By Beth Tatum
The Forest City Courier, July 17, 1996
Cliffside — It is early morning in Cliffside, and Sam Dedmond is already in place at the Country Plaza Cafe.
Seated at a table with several of his cronies, Dedmond talks amid the coffee cups and used cream containers. “We all meet here, shoot the bull and tell lies,” he said with a grin. They are friends, even though Dedmond can’t always recall everyone’s full name.
But never fear. He always remembers a face.
Dedmond is one of the many who has lived in Cliffside more days than not. There is something about this town that holds people, they say.
Cliffside, so named because it was built on three hills, is home to a school, a post office, several small restaurants and convenience stores, three churches, a park and a denim-producing mill.
In its heyday, the downtown area hummed with business and recreation with a drug store, hardware store, movie theater, skating rink, bowling, furniture store and grocery story, just to name a few.
Though those days are gone, residence are quick to say it’s the people and the pride of the community that makes its mark on the residents.
Dedmond is one of those residents who recall the town in its busy days and his past within its boundaries. “It’s been a good little town, a good life,” he said.
Throughout his 73 years, he has worked a number of jobs. He delivered ice, dug coal in Kentucky, drove a bus during the war, worked 18 years in the finishing room at the Cliffside plant and then spent another 22 years in the service department at Coca-Cola. “I’ve done a little bit of everything,” he said.
During his tenure in the community, he has watched the shift in values so evident across the nation. In the early years “it was more like a big family,” he said. “More like the Amish.” If someone died and their family did not have the money to give them a proper burial, townsfolk would make up the differences.
“They looked after each other,” he said. “Now it’s a different story.” That was a time when people could leave their doors unlocked.
Interspersed with Dedmond’s recollections of the town and the way it used to be, he draws forth other memories of a more personal nature.
There is the story about the car. His first car. Back in 1934, Dedmond told J.K. Moore he wanted one. “I had a bunch of girlfriends.”
In 1935, Moore wrote to Demond’s father saying he had found a car on sale for $125. It was typically $250 new, so his father wrote back and told him to send it.
The only drawback was that the car had only one seat. “My girlfriend had to ride on the hood,” Dedmond said.
That and one other small problem, he was only 12 years old.
A car played another featured role in his life a few years later. Demond had a girlfriend visiting from Georgia. When the time came to take her home, his mother refused. She locked the car up and said he wasn’t going.
Later, his father told him he could go and gave him $25. When he went in to tell his mother he was leaving, she gave him another $25.
“When I came back I was married,” he was smiling.
Dedmond is thankful for the role his father played in getting him permission to leave for Georgia. He is also proud of the role his father played in building the school which still stand on U.S. 221-A.
In some places the walls are 16-inches thick, and he is quick to point out that all the lifting had to be done by hand. No forklifts. Not in the early ’20s.
The school, which Cliffside residents still look on with pride, came into existence mostly due to the donation of land by the Haynes family.
“Everything is connected to the Hayneses,” Dedmond said.
Raleigh Rutherford Haynes is a name that comes up consistently in conversation about the history of the town. He was the founder of the town and of the mill that first made gingham and then towels before it was finally converted to denim manufacturing.
“The company owned just about everything,” he said and went on telling stories of what used to be where, who is related to the Haynes, and what life was like after the mill was sold and businesses were gone.
He concluded, “There’s no town. It’s gone. We buried it several years ago.”
But even with that observation, Dedmond later left room for a ray of hope. “It’s like a continued movie. I wonder what the next chapter will be like.”
Myrtle Mashburn sits on the enclosed porch of her house as she tells stories of her memories of a life lived in or near Cliffside.
At 81, she teaches piano, a job she has held for 50 years. “My fiends think I’m crazy for that. I love to work with the youth and see their progress. It’s like therapy.”
In 1978, her husband Frank, who was in charge of the carding department at the mill, died. “(Working) gives you an incentive to keep going. It make you think of someone else. You need that.”
Tracking through the phases of her life, Mashburn remembers the way the community used to be and the motivation that propelled it.
“(Haynes) had a vision of a lovely place to live, make an honest living and be happy,” she said.
As a result, he recruited the very best people to live here, she said. Those people were expected to live right and follow certain rules.
“He had two strange rules: no alcohol in the community and no dogs. Evidently he hated dogs, thought they must be trouble.”
Also, people had to pay their debts. Her father, a dairyman, was told [by Haynes] to let him know if anyone did not pay. “Other merchants liked coming to the town because they knew they would get their money, she said.
“He was trying to get a first-rate community.”
In the early days, Haynes wanted the yards to be kept pretty, so prizes were offered for the most beautiful yard each year.
“You should have seen this place — it was flower garden. People tried to outdo each other. It was a beautiful place.”
When his son, Charles, took over, he maintained the same principles. “He did so much for the people. You didn’t have to go outside. It was here.”
The story of Cliffside took a turn after the Cone Mills decided to tear down most of the mill houses. For a while, Cone left the town alone and it remained a thriving village. But when the decision came to destroy and burn the homes, part of the town died.
Mashburn can see a shift in things again now that Terry Hines, a local man, is in charge of the mill.
“He has tried hard to make the mill and the community part of each other,” she said.
For example, a group from the mill goes to the school every week to spend time with children who need a little bit of extra attention. It’s way beyond the call of duty,” Mashburn said.
While the impact of the mill figures heavily in the community, the community itself holds something special.
“There’s still something about it that you don’t find everywhere you go, a feeling that’s not always visible in other places.” Mashburn said. “The people are pretty well united. It’s carried on a lot through the churches.”
If anyone is sick, others are there to ask what they can do to help. People are thinking of one another. “You know someone cares,” she said.
She finishes her visit with a trip to her beloved piano, her fingers stroking the white and ebony keys in an uplifting, jaunty tune.
Walking inside the Hair Palace, the first thing visible is a partition — one side his, the other side hers.
On her side, Maxine Hembree has decorated with several wind chimes which stir with the breeze as she combs and then snips the ends of Frances Hewitt’s long, blond wavy hair.
Hembree is originally from Shelby but moved to Chase Highway after she married Bill, her partner in the hair cutting business.
“He’s good,” she said while continuing to cut. “He taught me a lot of things.”
Bill, a transplant from Atlanta, has a ready story for people who ask how he got here. “I tell everybody I had a crash landing and got lost.”
In truth, he made the decision to open the Hair Palace in Cliffside after accompanying his brother to Ruth which had a church affiliated with his brother’s.
One night he was dining with a family in Cliffside and ran up to the Country Plaza to get ice. One of the areas in another portion of the building was empty. His friends encouraged him to open his business there.
“It had pretty good neighborhoods,” he said. “I thought I’d try it. It’s been 15 years now.”
During those 15 years, the business moved to the former drugstore. “We came in here and worked all day and night for three months (to get it in shape),” Maxine said. “We worked hard.”
In the 15 years they’ve been in business in Cliffside, they have built up a clientele that keeps a steady stream of people coming in.
“Honey, I’ve got people who come from Spartanburg and Shelby,” Maxine said. “I tell you, my husband’s good.”
Over on Bill’s side of the partition 4-year old Jonathan sits perfectly still as Bill performs the necessary cuts to make warm weather bearable. When it comes time to blow off some of the little pieces of hair, Jonathan giggles as the air hose makes a slurping sound on his arm.
His grandmother, Betty Ledbetter watches in amusement. She once moved away from Cliffside but she came back. “It’s always been home to me. My children have tried to get me to move to Spartanburg, but this is my home. A place where my grandchildren can come up,” she said, looking over at her newly-shorn grandson.
As the day grows brighter and warmer, the crowd at the baseball park steadily grows. It is the day Tri-Community All Stars face off against Cherryville.
Walt Cole of Ellenboro is among the grouping of parents and friends who have selected their seats as the players get in some practice throws or swing bats to warm up.
“I love it,” he said. “I help coach too.”
His son, a left fielder, stands behind him as he proudly states that all four of his children are all-stars. “These kids have been down here since T-ball,” he said.
Returning to the game uppermost in his mind, he looked out on the field. “I believe we’ve got a good team this year,” he said.
Turns out, his premonition was right. Tri-Community won the game 5-3.
The flu wasn’t enough to keep Carmel and Mildred Honeycutt indoors on a mild day.
They sat on their back deck overlooking the yard where they were married two short months ago. They hadn’t expected a large crowd since it was a second marriage for both, but a good number of people turned out to witness their wedding day.
Mildred had been so pleased. While walking in the yard, she pointed to the place the arch stood where they had taken their vows and noted other special touches to the area.
They honeymooned in Georgia and recently finished a cruise to the Bahamas. She has time to travel now that her 26-year tenure with the bank in Cliffside ended when it closed just a few years ago.
“I miss the people,” she said. “There are so many wonderful people in Cliffside.” Of course, she now sees people she knows or those who know her at the bank in Henrietta.
Marshall Burgess, with a PPG baseball cap on his head, was also outside enjoying the weather from his front porch. He was propped back in a rocking chair with one foot resting against a pole, watching the traffic go by.
His wife has a collection worth seeing, he said. He leads the way inside.
Glassy eyes belonging to the still figures of at least 700 dolls stare at guests as they file into one of the four rooms they inhabit.
Hazel Burgess points to several special ones and gives the story of how they came to be in her possession. Some came from family members on their travels. Others she had sought out on her own. And some she has made from scratch.
Hazel started her hobby in 1971 when she began making ceramic dolls. The collection blossomed in the years since, although she says she has been collecting for 10 to 15 years.
As she wanders through the rooms, she notes various types such as a grouping of Cabbage Patch dolls or Barbies. She has a collection of the California raisins, a Kewpie doll, a Howdie-Doodie, a myriad of individual baby dolls.
“Their personalities are all different,” she said. As a result, each doll has been lovingly “redone” by Burgess.
She goes to yard sales and to Wal-Mart to hunt for preemie clothes for her small charges.
“I’m doing this all the time,” she said. “This is my hobby.”
Over at McKinney-Landreth Funeral Home, Dee Webb takes a break from his summer employment helping his father-in-law to exult in the place he has always called home.
“It’s just a neat place,” he said. “it’s one of Rutherfordton County’s best kept secrets.
“The best thing is the people. I think the way we are had to do with R.R. Haynes.”
One of Hayne’s focuses was to take pride in what you do. “That pride has carried over generation to generation.”
Webb has memories of a doctor who made house calls. If you went to his office sick, he would call your home at 2 a.m. to check on you.
That man, Dr. Radford, told Webb one time he looked out his window to see the children playing at the house next door. The doctor realized he had delivered every one of those children.
“It was a little Mayberry,” Webb said. “When I watch Mayberry I can honestly see characters we’ve got or had. That’s what sets us apart.”
That, and the vision that made the community what it once was.
“As times changes, companies realized what he (Haynes) had going here,” he said. “It has come full circle.”
The land that once held the mill homes that were destroyed has been sold by the mill. Webb cherishes a hope that part of Cliffside can be resurrected.
“I find Cliffside history fascinating,” he said. “If I had a wish …I wish I had been part of that era when things were hopping.”
Reprinted with permission from The Forest City Courier. Copyright owned by The Forest City Courier.