Memories of Cliffside
I was asked if I would write my memories of Cliffside. I have no skills in writing but I certainly do have many memories.
Living across the street from the post office was like living in the middle of town. If I sat on our front porch and looked straight across the street, I could see the mill where everyone worked (first shift – 7:00, second shift – 3:00, or third shift – 11:00). Below our house I could see the railroad track with the train that carried as its passengers each day the four pet chickens owned by Van Macopson. Behind our house was Broad River which wound around so many of our homes.
If I looked “up the hill” from our front porch, I could see the town. Through the years, I worked at the B & B Beauty Shop owned by Bernice Hawkins, Ballenger and Jackson’s Department Store, Cliffside Cafe, and Dr. Robertson and Clayton’s dentist office. My brothers, Tommy and Buddy, worked for Dr. Mills at the Drug Store and Mr. Goforth and Francis Fasolino at the garage (service station).
I don’t remember the exact year (some time in the early 1930’s), the Cliffside mill workers were threatened with strikers from nearby towns who didn’t like it because the Cliffside folks refused to strike. Word was passed on to us that the strikers were marching down the highway to Cliffside with sticks and stones to force Cliffside mill employees to strike also. Our people kept working but Mr. Haynes and Mr. Hendrick assured them that if the strikers did indeed show up that they would immediately close down in order to insure the safety of everyone in our town. An hour or so later, the strikers came and in my child’s mind, I thought they looked as rough and mean as any terrorists pictures we see in today’s newspapers. True to their word, our mill officials stopped all work instantly and I remember watching our workers marching silently out of the mill. As soon as everything was shut down, the strikers left and thus any harm was avoided.
Shortly before Pearl Harbor, many of us were excited to learn that we would have new people moving into the Duke Village a few miles from Cliffside. This meant new students in our school and by the time I entered the fifth grade, I remember several additional classmates had been added to our class rolls. Little did I realize when I walked into Miss Hilliard’s classroom that my future husband was among those “new kids.”
During the early World War II years, I also remember that soldiers with machine guns were placed around the entrances to the mill for protection. I don’t recall how long they stayed. Suddenly, after Pearl Harbor, Cliffside was no longer a quiet mill town. Everyone talked WAR and the young men and boys in our community immediately started “joining up” or were drafted. Most of the men in town were in service within months. Town wise, we had practice blackouts in case we should actually be bombed. At school on Fridays we bought U. S. Savings Stamps to help the war effort. The stamps were 10¢ each and when you purchased enough of the individual stamps, you could convert them into a savings bond.
The day the war ended in August, 1945, everyone ran out of their houses and ran up and down the sidewalks shouting “The war is over!” People hugged, laughed, cried, jumped up and down, and blew car horns.When the war finally ended, I remember how pleased we were to have some of the young men return to their old pre-war jobs as high school teachers and coaches. The day the war ended in August, 1945, everyone ran out of their houses and ran up and down the sidewalks shouting “The war is over!” People hugged, laughed, cried, jumped up and down, and blew car horns. In a short while, word was passed around that we should all meet at the Baptist Church. We had only two churches, Baptist and Methodist, and since the Baptist church was larger, the two ministers agreed that we should use the Baptist auditorium. People flocked into the church where the ministers led a prayer of thankfulness that the war had finally ended. Then the congregation stood and sang the hymn, “Oh Happy Day.” It truly was a happy, happy day.
As a young girl, I have vivid memories of spending time in the summer peeling peaches and breaking beans to take to the cannery. Mr. Beatty and some of his high school boys operated the cannery every summer and most of the people in town took advantage of this service offered for anyone in the community. I’m sure most of us have eaten beans, tomatoes, corn, soup, and peaches that were canned there just behind the Memorial Building.
Between the Hendrick’s house and the drug store were parking spaces for Cliffside Mill Office employees. I have scary memories of Health Department nurses and doctors setting up tables and equipment in those parking spots to give vaccinations to the public. I still remember NEEDLES lying in rows on those card tables just waiting to stick some of us.
Just behind the parking spaces you could see the Girl Scout Cabin where we held weekly scout meetings with our leaders, Hazel Bridges and Osteen McMahan. In addition, the cabin served as our voting headquarters. I remember Jess and Eloise Honeycutt telling this story: Their son, Ben was just a baby and they left him in his baby buggy just long enough to run inside the cabin to vote. When they came back outside, Ben was no longer in his buggy, but on top of his carriage they saw Mr. Maurice Hendrick’s straw hat. They knew he had picked Ben up and in all probability had walked around to the front of the Hendrick house where he liked to sit on a bench in the yard. I think this illustrates so well the trust and closeness of people in Cliffside.
The R.R. Haynes Memorial Building was the center of all activity. The basement area housed Rob Sparks and Pick Biggerstaff’s barber shops, Ruth McCurry’s beauty parlor, and Henry Sorgee’s cafe. As you climbed the steps outside which led to the main floor, you passed the “shining rail” where every young man in town sat at one time or another to watch the girls walk by.
The main floor housed the town library. While you chose a book to read, you could watch boys and men (I never saw a girl or woman invade their territory) playing a game of checkers. You often saw men come from work in the mill, drop some change on the counter, pick up a rolled towel, and descend the stairs into the basement to take a hot shower. If you listened carefully you could hear voices from the movie being shown in the theater area on the far side of the building. Most all of us saw four movies a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday—Friday was usually reserved for basketball games at the school).
The third floor of the building served a variety of purposes. Parties and dinners were held in the kitchen and huge banquet room. In my high school days, the Junior-Senior Banquet was held there each year. During World War II we used one of the large rooms to roll bandages for the Red Cross. The ladies and young girls gathered one night a week and worked diligently under the supervision of Mrs. Lela Hendrick to do our part for the war effort. There were also several furnished bedrooms in the building for rent on a nightly basis or for a permanent residence for single men working in the community. Last, but not least, on top of the building was the beloved town clock which stood tall to tell all of us the time. You really didn’t have to look at it to know the time—just listen to the chiming to know if it was the quarter hour, half hour, etc. Of course, it still stands today, even though it now sits atop a tower at the site of the old Charlie Haynes’ home.
I have so many memories that I could never write about all of them. My mind races over so many people and happenings: Halloween Carnivals at the old cotton gin and the skating rink before the high school gym was built – Spud and Andy at the post office – the fish pond in front of the main mill office – Mutt and Shorty at the drug store – Buster Gaston who was as funny and clever and entertaining as Bill Cosby – the shuffle board painted on the Hendrick’s driveway that kept half of the Cliffside men entertained on summer nights – the movies that were made of local people and shown in our theater – the Cliffside Inn where single teachers lived – musical programs presented at the Town Hall – The Graveyard Grocery – nicknames given to the men in town – and on and on. If I spend fifteen more minutes thinking of olden days, I will think of fifteen more events.
Among all these happy memories, there is one sad thought. With all the buildings and houses torn down, the town of Cliffside as we once knew it is now gone. At one of our high school class reunions, a classmate walked in the door and asked, “Where is Cliffside?” My answer: It is in our hearts and will always remain there.
Both Peggy and Jim graduated from Cliffside High in 1948. They attended Appalachian State Teachers College, graduating in 1952. Peggy remained in Boone and taught at the Demonstration High School on the ASTC campus. Jim served two years in the army at Fort Lee, Virginia.They were married in 1953 and upon Jim’s discharge from service, he also taught in Boone for two years before moving to Knoxville, TN to do graduate work in Science Education. Peggy taught business courses at Farragut High School.
Their first daughter was born in 1961 and shortly after, they moved to Martin, TN where Jim taught at the University of Tennessee at Martin. A second daughter was born in 1963 and Peggy remained at home for 10 years in order to be with the girls. She then accepted a job teaching business and education courses at UTM and taught for 21 years before she and Jim retired.
Since their retirement 13 years ago, they have continued to live in Martin in order to be close to their children and two grandchildren who live in Memphis and Nashville.