The first view five-year-old Fred Rochelle Atkinson had of his new home in Cliffside would have been from his perch atop a furniture laden wagon being pulled by the family mule. His assigned task was to insure that the family’s belongings stayed in place and none of them toppled off the wagon during the family’s move to Cliffside in late 1905.
Fred, the son of James Edward “Ed” and Louise Arms Atkinson, lived in Cliffside from about 1905 until about 1911 when, at age 11, he moved back across the state line to Cherokee County with his family. He married Emma Huskey and they raised their three children, Huntley, Bonnie, and Sue, in the Cherokee Creek Community, where he lived until his death in 1975. However, his Cliffside connections remained intact, since he worked at Duke Power’s Cliffside Steam Plant for many years. He and Emma also were frequent visitors to Cliffside up until its demise, since many members of Fred’s family lived there. Emma also had a Cliffside connection, since her sister Mattie was married to Spur Campbell, at one time one of the official Cliffside Taxi Drivers.
Fred was an inveterate jokester, and always tried to find the humorous side of a situation. His penchant for practical jokes and teasing lasted his whole lifetime. Perhaps this was his way of getting through the times in his life when it was hard to see any humor.
Starting School With a Bang
When the family moved from Cliffside to the Cherokee Creek Community in 1911, Fred attended Ashworth School. We are not sure if this was then the original school down on Buck Shoals Road or the old wooden structure on what is present day Champion Ferry Road. In any case, it was a small country school where various grades shared the classroom, and where two students shared each of the wide seats.
Just a few years ago, Bob Peeler passed on a story concerning Fred and the school as told to him by his father, Clarence Peeler. The story shows that Fred was already well on the road to earning his reputation as an accomplished practical jokester.
When the winter session of school started that year, Clarence was just starting first grade. He and Fred were sharing a seat, with Clarence nearest the pot-bellied stove that heated the schoolroom. Fred apparently decided to start the session off with a bang, and in doing so involved Clarence as an unsuspecting co-conspirator.
Fred handed Clarence a wadded ball of paper and asked him to throw it into the stove, which would have seemed a perfectly reasonable request to the innocent first grader. However, Fred failed to mention the fact that in the center of the balled-up paper was a couple of 22-caliber cartridges.
Mr. Peeler could not provide us with “The rest of the Story,” since he did not know if the bullets exploded, or if the prank landed Fred or his father in trouble.