Cliffside Pride — Class of 1950
At a reunion of her class in 2000, Betty Houser Cromer delivered these remarks to those present. She is the daughter of the late Elon and Amy Beason Houser, and the sister of Billy Joe, Buddy and her only surviving brother, Terry. Betty attended Gardner-Webb College and worked for many years in the Haynes Bank. She and husband James (“Snook”) Cromer live on McCombs Road east of Cliffside and usually spend several months of the year traveling in their RV.
I would like to welcome the Cliffside High School Class of 1950 as we gather here tonight—probably for the last time—to reminisce about our time together 50 years ago, and to catch up on what we all have been doing, during all those years. I come with a humble and grateful heart that 24 of us are still here, although we may be a little gray on top—or no hair at all—and maybe our step is not as spry as it once was: some of us may have false teeth and hearing aids—I’ve been told I need two!—and some may need a cane to walk. But even if we have all of the above, that’s O.K., we’ve survived. Sadly, that’s more than 10 of our classmates have done.
It is said that there are three ages: youth, middle age and “You haven’t changed a bit,” but change is inevitable. Consider the changes we’ve seen these past 50 years: our class was before VCR’s, Frisbees, tape recorders, answering machines, computers, frozen food, software, credit cards, clothes dryers, dishwashers, instant food, contact lens, jet planes. We knew nothing about drip-dry clothes (we had to iron everything. We didn’t have plastics. ice-makers, microwave ovens or charcoal- or gas-grills.
But we all knew as much as we needed to know about feeding the chickens, picking cotton, slopping the hogs, churning butter, gathering eggs, milking cows, bringing in wood or coal for heating and cooking, picking blackberries and getting poison ivy and chiggers.
We lived in a time when bunnies were rabbits, Coke was to drink down at Mills Drug Store, and grass was to mow and bale, not to smoke. If we had heard of fast food, we would have thought of someone who just cooks fast. Pot was something you cooked in, time-sharing was togetherness, a chip was a small piece of wood, and hardware was down at Hawkins’ Hardware—not in the office, and crack was the space between two boards—which most of had in those old mill houses.
We improvised for most of our entertainment and sports, we made basketball goals with a rim from a peach basket, and did we practice! And it paid off—we had some championship ball teams and players. We played tag, kick the can, hide & seek, pitched horseshoes, and played in the creek.
We carried water and took a bath in a galvanized wash tub in the kitchen—none of us had bathroom; most of us got them later. We washed our faces in a wash pan and before we got a refrigerator we made Jello in the wintertime on the porch (with bananas in it). We wore black & white saddle-oxfords, penny loafers, ballet shoes, and the girls couldn’t wear pants—we had to wear skirts and sweaters (we’ve come a long way, girls, we finally got liberated!).
We were before FM radios, Gator-Aid, air-conditioning, escalators, and electric typewriters. (Remember those Underwoods in Mrs. Richards’ typing class that you had to hit so hard. If you were one of the lucky ones, you might get to use the Royals we had.)
We didn’t have word processors, day care, computer dating, “Good Morning, America” –no TV’s. We did have Five and Dime Stores where you could actually get something for a nickel, or a dime. Remember when you ran downtown and got 10 Hersey kisses or 10 Kits for a penny. For a dime, you could go to the Bowling Alley and Maude Robinson would make you a hot dog, and, for an extra nickel, you could have a deviled egg put on it. You could go the show for nine cents until you were 13, you could mail two letters or a post card and buy a piece of bubble gum for 10 cents.
We ate in the lunch room or carried our lunch–we didn’t have Burger King, Hardee’s or Pizza Hut, but we could go to Barney Davidson’s and get a large cinnamon bun and a big RC dope for a dime (that is if Mr. Beatty didn’t catch you). We were before “the pill” and men with ponytails and ear rings. We are the last generation to think we needed a husband to have a baby—we got married first and then lived together, not the other way around.
One of our favorite things was going to the “show” –we didn’t say “movies” back then. We would get to see world wars, the “news” twice a week, and Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger, Gene Autry and The three Stooges. As we got older, we might even get to sit with our girlfriends or boyfriends and get a big bag of popcorn for a nickel. We could go to the bowling alley and meet our friends there to catch up on the gossip.
I could go on and on about what we have now that we didn’t have then, but who cares, because it must have been a wonderful time for all of us. Or we would not have such fond memories.
We all grew up to have respect for “God and Country,” respect for our parents, and, yes, even respect for our teachers! We didn’t know what stress or depression was. We are blessed we have all this new technology that most of us can use—only I can’t program my VCR half the time. We could make do with a lot less if we had to. Life has taken us all on different paths these last fifty years and we have all met with many changes in our lives. Most of us have had a wonderful life, many happy times, and also unhappy times, some have had tragedies to touch their lives, or have lost a spouse, but we have survived, even though nine, who we remember so well, did not. Our class was small, but it made us a lot closer.
Growing up in a small mill town like Cliffside was a wonderful learning experience, and we all have some lasting memories that we hold dear to our hearts.
As I said at the beginning, this will most likely be the last time all of us will ever be together, but hasn’t it been a wonderful journey? I will always have a “special” place in my heart for each of you. May God bless all of you.
See all of Betty’s classmates in the 1950 Cliffdweller, part of our collection of Cliffside High yearbooks.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of The Cliffside Chimes.