Cliffside of Yesteryear
I moved to Cliffside on February 1, 1963. We had lived in Greensboro since 1958 and I was offered the opportunity to come to the Cliffside Plant as Administrative Assistant to H. Paul Bridges. Paul was General Manager of the Cliffside Terry and Towel Plants which Cone bought from the Haynes family in the late 40’s or early 50’s.
My first day at Cliffside was very uneventful. We had left Greensboro early in the morning amid a fairly serious snow storm. The Tatum-Dalton moving van was supposed to follow close behind, with our furniture, meager as it was. We spent the late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and the early evening in the Cliffside Drugstore. The druggist was Larry Harris, son and Jerome and Odessa Harris, and brother of Dr. Reginald Harris, of Shelby. Jack Hamrick was soda jerk at the drugstore. Larry welcomed us and allowed us to wait for the furniture van, in front of his store, so we could see the truck when it came into town. We had directed the truck to come through Boiling Springs and this meant it would enter Main Street at the Methodist Church and come up by Hawkins Hardware, via Main, which, at that time, wound between the hardware and what was the Cliffside Café and Garage. Hoyle Hawkins ran the café in the top of the building and the garage was on the ground floor. The food was good and we ate there almost every Sunday after church. The only thing we didn’t like was, we always knew what we would have for lunch that Sunday and next Sunday. The menu never changed: fried chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes.
At about 6PM the truck finally arrived, just as it grew dark. The street lights, owned by the Cliffside Mills, had been on for an hour or so at that time. As you can imagine it was pitch dark at # 5 Stinson St. (across the Cliffside community cemetery), where we were going to move. The two guys with the truck were nice Black guys and remarked when they got to the house, “We’ll unload the furniture in five minutes and head back to Greensboro.” I knew they couldn’t do the job in that short a time and convinced them to wait until morning. “You can sleep on a pallet in the living room and we will be back from our hotel by 7AM.” (The hotel was on US29 in Gaffney, SC, the closest one we knew about. There was no Interstate 85 then.) This suited them and next morning we were there when we said. The first thing I heard was, “Mr. Miller, you couldn’t have paid us enough money to spend the night if we had known about the cemetery across the street.“
I had been coming to Cliffside out of [Cone’s] cost department for several years, therefore I knew what to expect. The house selected for us to move into was #5 Stimson. Norma had seen Cliffside only very briefly, yet enough to know that she wasn’t going to move into a house with large holes worn through the kitchen linoleum. She also knew she wasn’t going to move into a house with only one closet, about the size of a small dog house. After mustering up my courage, I telephoned Mr. Bridges and asked if the company could spring for new linoleum and maybe a larger closet. In about a week, I received a hand-written note from Paul outlining the cost of both replacing the flooring and building a closet in one if the bedrooms from grade “A” interior plywood.
We lived next to Maude and Hickey Wortman on the one side and Dr. & Mrs. (Doc & Reva) Radford on the other. Cliffside was a fun town. We soon came to know our other neighbors and spent many months there on Stimson Street. Doc Radford still made house calls; some you didn’t have any choice on! Like the night he awoke at about 2AM: “I saw the light on and wanted to make sure Andrea (then about two years old and needing a night light) was OK”. Those were the good old days. Joe and Ann Swing, Buddy and Elsie Weathers, Bill and Sara Rollins, etc. still lived on Stinson. Maude and Hickey were wonderful neighbors. We made many Friday afternoon trips to Bailey’s cafeteria in Spartanburg. Andrea felt like they were grandmother and granddaddy. She took all her problems to Hickey, who had a way with kids. Some of his favorite sayings were “Bafer” meaning anyone that you don’t care much for. “Huldy” their old Dodge automobile; “Arsifilous,” meaning it doesn’t matter to me, it’s whatever you want to do.
Cliffside was a towel mill from about 1935 to 1975-1976. Gordon Williams was named VP-Consumer Products Manufacturing and I became general manager. Soon, the decision was made that Cone would go out of Consumer Products and into denim, which had been Cone’s mainstay [at other plants] for many years. In getting this project underway, a lot of people were going to be laid off. Many people in the finishing-sewing area would simply not be needed in the denim operation. You don’t “sew” denim before shipping it. We tried to make this transition as smooth and painless as we possibly could. At best, this was not an easy task. It left many scars that would be years in healing. One of first big decisions that had to be made was locating air-conditioning mechanical buildings. The only logical place was alongside the then weaving and spinning building. The big problem, we found out later, was that people had a strong attachment to the three or four huge magnolia trees in this area. We had to remove them for the construction, and we caught a lot of flack over this. For months and even years afterwards people thought we were foolish and would come to our senses and get back in the towel business. Obviously, this never happened.
In the downtown were the following businesses:
The Raleigh Rutherford Haynes Memorial Building, which included a movie theatre where Earl Owensby got his start in the movie business, selling popcorn. His father was a filling hauler in the weave room at Cliffside. An Inn was available too in the RRHMB. P.D. and Mrs. Causby ran the inn. There were maybe five or six rooms available to the travelers, most of which were from Cone’s Greensboro and New York Offices. Yours truly spent a few nights there in late 50’s and early 60’s. I remember when it was the middle of winter and I had to open the windows wide to keep cool. The RRHMB was heated by underground steam pipes from the plant. There were two thermostat settings: hot and cold! I’m told that at times the town clock [in its tower above the inn], which rang every fifteen minutes, would cause the bed springs to vibrate and hum causing a lot of sleeping problems. The Haynes Library was also housed here. Many of the civic clubs held their meetings in the library. There were two barber shops in the RRHMB.
Memorial Building, operated by Mr. & Mrs. P.D. Causby
Jobie Biggerstaff ran the Cliffside Dry Cleaners, a few doors above the RRHMB
Buck Hawkins operated the Cliffside Feed Store, behind the Memorial building
Jackson’s Department Store, with Mr.[Ray] Jackson and Francis Fowler
Hamrick’s Grocery Store
Miller’s Furniture Store, operated by Hal Miller. This was a favorite meeting for the coffee drinking crowd from the plant office and other businesses.
Cliffside Drug Store, operated by Larry Harris, a character to say the least.
Upstairs was a dentist office, operated by Dr. Jack Hunt, who raised most of his and Ruby’s family of five daughters at # 5 Stinson St. He told me many times that he took the job for Dr. Robertson only for a few weeks until he could get his own start. As late as 1986 (?), Dr. Hunt was doing dentist work between trips to the North Carolina Legislature.
Cliffside Café, operated by Bernice and Hoyle A. Hawkins, was once in the service station building. Later it moved to the building directly across from the RRHMB.
The Cliffside Clinic was just below the Cliffside Elementary School, on N. Main Street.
The Cliffside Garage was operated by Francis Fasolino.
The Cliffside Mill started the conversion to denim in about 1974 and all sixty of the X-3s [looms were] on denim and [we] began to design the new denim weaving plant. Plant was finished in late 1975 or early 1976.
Some management personnel:
|Office Manager||Bill McNabb|
|Cost Manager||John Tinkler|
|Cotton Buyer||Gene Packard|
|Head Designer||Jimmy Padgett|
|Shipping Dept||Marchel Bailey|
|Water Plant||Jesse Honeycutt|
This story originally appeared in abbreviated form in the book Faces & Places of Old Cliffside, edited by Reno Bailey