Roy Everett Hill was a teenager when he moved to Cliffside with his parents, George Barney and Maggie Forbes Hill, and his siblings Bill, Annie, and Ada. He went to work at Cliffside Mills, left to join the Navy at age 18, and then returned to the mill four years later.
He met and married Nell Atkinson and they moved onto South Main Street. A year later, they adopted their son, Sam, who grew up in Cliffside, graduated from Cliffside School, went to college at Gardner Webb in Boiling Springs, and served in the Navy. When he married in 1947 and moved to Spindale, Roy and Nell continued to live on South Main and to work in the mill. They brought Nell’s father, Ed Atkinson, to live with them. When his health began to fail, Nell’s sister, Nora, came to help care for him.
They moved from Cliffside to a remodeled farmhouse on Old Highway 221A, and then into another house Roy built on the property. Both continued to work in Cliffside Mills, Roy still in the machine shop, and Nell still hemming towels.
Roy suffered a minor heart attack in 1961, and fell in the mill and injured his back the following year. His back injury did not respond to early treatment, and he was hospitalized for further treatment. While in the hospital, he suffered a heart attack, and a week later, on March 13, 1963, he suffered a massive one, which was fatal. He was buried in Cliffside Cemetery.
The Early Years
When the Hill family first moved to Cliffside, they lived in a house on Pine Street. This first house was near the river, just above the Ice Plant, behind where the memorial building was later built. Roy’s son, Sam, said the ice plant was operated at one time by the father of Delmas Bridges.The Hill family then moved from Pine Street to South Main Street, near the back entrance of the mill.
Roy went to work at Cliffside Mills as a learner. Out of the wages he received each week, he paid “room and board” to his mother.
Gaining Another Family
Roy met Nell Atkinson, who was from the Cherokee Creek Community across the state line in South Carolina, but was boarding with a family in Cliffside while she worked in the mill. He was immediately smitten with this petite young lady, who was more than a foot shorter than he was. They started dating, and were married in 1931. Nell admitted that he spoiled her throughout the years of their marriage. They adopted their son, Sam, in 1932. With grandparents and aunts living just across the street, Sam got lots of attention and was a well looked after and well loved little boy.
The House on South Main
The first house into which the couple moved was on the portion of South Main Street that ran behind the filter plant. They then moved down two houses to the first house on the right after the two forks of South Main Street rejoined. They would live in this house for almost 20 years.
It was originally a four-room house with a door opening from the front porch into each of the two front rooms. Each of these rooms had a fireplace with a grate where smoke exited up a single chimney in the center of the house. Behind these two rooms was a long, narrow room that served as the kitchen and dining area. Another tiny enclosed room at the lower end of that served as a sleeping area, but was only large enough to contain the bathroom fixtures that were installed in the 1940s when it eventually become their bathroom. A back door opened from the dining area onto the first of a set of steps leading down into their small back yard. The yard was bounded on the back by a metal pipe guardrail atop vertical pipes set in a cement wall. This wall separated the yard from the steep incline down to the river. A privy, used until the small room was converted into a bathroom, was located behind the kitchen area. In the 1940s Roy had another bedroom added to the house.
Roy was never able to nod off to sleep without everyone noticing. He suffered from what would eventually be given the name Sleep Apnea, and his snores were so loud and resounding that they could be heard by anyone standing outside in the yard, and perhaps, on a good clear day, in the roadway. However, since he worked the night shift and slept during the day, his snoring did not disturb his family’s sleep at night.
Roy’s car was a little different from those owned by most other people, and he was quite proud of it. It was a 1936 Hudson Terraplane that he kept for many years. It was housed in the car shed below his house on South Main Street. When a cousin came home on furlough from the Army in 1945, he borrowed Roy’s Terraplane to drive his bride-to-be to Gaffney, S. C., where they were married. A few years later, his son would also drive the car to be married.
Long boards were placed side by side across the rafters of the car shed where Roy’s Terraplane was kept. The boards formed a wide shelf or “attic” space that was used for storage. During many winters, bushel baskets or boxes containing newspaper wrapped pears sat on these shelves. Nell’s brothers, Earnest and Fred Atkinson, both had pear trees on their property, and were generous in sharing their bounty. Perfect, green, still-hard pears were wrapped in newspaper in the early fall, and placed in the garage to ripen to gold over the fall and early winter. I was often guilty of climbing up and eating a few, even if they had not fully ripened. The pears were always delicious, even those that were still green and gave me a tummy ache.
Roy kept up with all the news, listening to the radio and avidly reading everything in the Charlotte newspapers and in Life magazine. His service aboard a Naval ship that traveled to China, Japan, etc. in the 1920s made him especially interested in any news item concerning the Orient. In late 1940 and early 1941, scrap metal dealers were offering to buy used scrap metal for so much a pound, and many people began accumulating it to sell. Ernest Prewitt, who was one of those collecting it, asked Roy where he could get the best price for it. This was the early spring of 1941, and through his reading, Roy had learned that the used scrap metal was being sold to Japan. He advised Ernest that he would not sell it at all, since he believed that a war with Japan was coming, and the Japanese would turn around and use our own scrap metal on the United States. His prediction was exactly right.
Roy and Nell, Homeowners
As almost everyone does, Roy and Nell aspired to have their own home. About 1950 or 1951, they bought a farm a few miles from Cliffside on what would become Old Highway 221A South when the new highway was built. There was a large barn and an old five room frame farmhouse on the property. The farmhouse had large rooms, high ceilings, and hardwood floors. They remodeled and modernized the house and refinished the hardwood floors. They then moved to the country, but continued to drive to work at the mill.brAbout 1952 or 1953 they decided to build a smaller house down near the highway and Roy hired his brother-in-law, Fred Atkinson, to help him. When Roy got off work each morning, he drove his pickup truck to the Bostic Brickyard and brought back a truckload of bricks. He worked on the house until about 3:00 PM and then slept until time to go to work. He did the wiring, Fred did the carpentry, he mixed the mortar and helped Fred with the bricklaying, and he hired individuals to do the work they could not do themselves. When it was finished, he had a snug brick house that had cost him little more than half what it would have cost had he hired a contractor to have it built.
Roy was a staunch Republican, and could argue politics with the best of them. Daddy was a staunch Democrat, so naturally that’s what I claimed to be. I knew little of politics, but could repeat what I had heard at home, and would argue with Uncle Roy on the merits of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I would point out how he helped get the country out of the depression, and he would point out that he endangered the world by giving so much to Russia at Yalta. Neither of us ever shifted our positions on Roosevelt, but he did make one shift in his politics. He was a registered Republican and had never voted for a Democrat until Damon Huskey ran for the office of Sheriff of Rutherford County. He switched tickets so he could vote for Damon in the primary, and I believe he was the only Democrat for whom Roy ever voted.
Roy smoked all his life, and non-filtered Lucky Strike Cigarettes was the only brand he would smoke. He was almost as dedicated to his Lucky Strikes as he was to the Republican Party.
The Later Years
Roy had a minor heart attack about 1961. In the spring of 1962, he slipped on a grease spot in the machine shop and hurt his back. He was treated in Rutherford Hospital, and at his release was prescribed medication and bed rest, with no bending, lifting, etc. He was on temporary disability for six months, but was required to return to work in the fall of 1962. The doctor put restrictions on what he could do, but to do his job, he often had to violate the restrictions. Roy was a big man, several inches over 6 feet tall and carrying a good bit of extra weight, so even the things he was allowed to do left him in constant pain. He became worse, and in February of 1963 he was in such agony that he knew something had to be done. He was admitted to the Orthopedic Hospital in Gastonia and placed in traction. While in the hospital, he suffered one heart attack, and about a week later, on March 13, 1963, he suffered a massive one, which was fatal. He was buried in Cliffside Cemetery.