The morning of October 11, 1908, I first saw the world at 10 Reservoir Street in the little town of Cliffside, North Carolina, a small textile village located in the southern section of Rutherford County. I was named Mabel Anne Bridges. My parents were Mr. and Mrs. Boyce Bridges. Two children older than I had been born into this family. The oldest child, a brother, had died. A little sister, Ruby Mae, lived eight months after I was born and she, too, died at the age of three years and three months. That left me being the oldest of five children. Howard Paul, Minnie Inez, Lillium Wytle and D. S. B. Bridges, Jr., were the names of the other four.
Cliffside was a most unusual town. I would like to tell about the early beginnings of this little town. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Samuel Daves, was an itinerant cabinet-maker, and he has told about the area where Cliffside was built before the land was bought. He told that there was a family of Haneys who lived in one section. He walked and went from one home to another in his work building cabinets, bottoming chairs, and would spend the night with different families. He had spent many nights in the Haney Home. He said it was an area surrounded with the little, wild “blue bottles.” We now call them grape hyacinths.
There is an interesting story about the Haney family and how the land was purchased. One of the Haney sons was put in jail for freeing a slave. The jail was at Rutherfordton, which was the county seat. This young man Haney broke out of jail and fled to Kentucky and assumed another name. He married and had a family. On his deathbed, he made a confession that his real name was Haney and that there was property back in Rutherford County in North Carolina that belonged to his family. A daughter made a trip back to the Cliffside area, and Dr. T. B. Lovelace, one of the associates of Mr. Raleigh Rutherford Haynes who founded Cliffside, purchased a good part of the land from this daughter. The other part of the land, over on the bluff across the Second Broad River where the mill was built, was purchased from a colored man by the name of Logan. (All this information I received from Dr. T. B. Lovelace when he was in his nineties.)
Mr. Raleigh Rutherford Haynes founded the town of Cliffside. He was one of the pioneers in textiles. He had helped to build the Henrietta Mill, the Caroleen Mill and the Florence Mill in Forest City. And he had then decided to build a town all his own. It was in the year 1899 that the land was purchased for building this town. In 1902, the mill was started and the first material manufactured was gingham. Getting the machinery to the area to install in this mill was a very difficult thing. The Seaboard Air Line (SAL) Railroad had built within three miles of the town so the machinery had to be unloaded at this point and then carried to Cliffside by mule-drawn wagons.
Mr. Haynes provided well for his employees. He built nice homes (in those days they were considered very nice homes). He provided for the people in practically every way for a good living. He built churches: a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Methodist and one for the Blacks, named for him, Haynes Grove. The first school was held in a part of the mill. Before long, it became very inadequate and he had built a store building, which contained a department store, a drug store, and upstairs a town hall and offices for the doctors and a dentist. The school was moved to the town hall and before too long, a schoolhouse was built up next to the Baptist church, the first Baptist church that was built there.
He was interested in the cultural advantages for the people. He had programs scheduled from the Lyceum Company, from the Chautauqua. The programs were given in the town hall. The school programs were given there. In the summertime, ice cream suppers were held; in the wintertime, oyster suppers were held—all in the town hall. There was also a large room built back of the town hall for the Masonic Lodge.
I have mentioned that there were doctors there. He had two doctors most of the time, from the time the town began. One of the doctors, I remember, was Dr. Haynes, another, Dr. J. Rush Shull, who was a son-in-law of Mr. Raleigh Haynes. Dr. Allhands, Dr. Bobo Scruggs and Dr. G.0. Moss were some of the early doctors. Dr. J.S. Rudisill is the first druggist I remember being there.
In the department store, materials, ready-made clothes, shoes, all kinds of groceries, hardware, there was a meat market downstairs-in fact, everything that the people needed, could be bought in this store. When we were children and would go to the store for candy, we had some favorite clerks who always gave us good quantity for the pennies or nickels we had to spend. I can remember how we would stand back and wait for those particular clerks to say, “Can I help you?”
There was a laundry for the people. There was an ice plant. There was a cannery. At first a corn mill, then later there was a roller mill built that made flour.
Another cultural advantage was the Cliffside Renown Band. One area was built into a park and right in the center of this park was a big bandstand. On Sunday afternoons, this band would go to the bandstand and play and the people would gather there to listen to the music. Sometimes, there would be lemonade, sometimes, homemade ice cream and our Sunday afternoons were just filled with delightful music and enjoyment and fellowship with each other.
One of the things, Mr. Haynes screened his residents very carefully. He did not allow any dancing. If a family moved in and he found they were having dances in their home, they were asked to leave. Another thing, he did not allow dogs in the little town.
The people on Saturday nights would gather in different homes. At that time, most of the instruments were the old pump organs. And they would gather for singings; you could sit out on your front porch and listen to the songs coming over the night air. Most of them would be religious songs, or, as we now call them, the old love songs, like “Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow.” Some of the religious songs of that day were “Amazing Grace,” “0, Why Not Tonight,” and another song, which goes something like this, “Oh, come, angel band. Come, and around me stand…” I cannot think of the name of it. “My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast” is the name of it because that was one of my mother’s favorites, and we had it sung at her funeral. That and many of the other old religious songs just thrills your heart! I remember as a child sitting on the front porch and listening to those singings on Saturday night.
Another thing, they would have string bands and those men would get together and make music. Two of the people that I remember who were quite interested in this type of music were Dewey McDaniel and Gene Wilson. Some of the other entertainments—the physical things that the people would enjoy—were the two baseball grounds. Every Saturday afternoon in the summertime they would play baseball. As a child, I can remember seeing B. B. Goode, who still lives in Cliffside, and Baxter Splawn come up our street with their baseball uniform and their best girlfriends.
Let me go back and say just a little bit more about the Lyceum programs that we used to have. I remember once one of the programs was a very noted singer of her day. She was Gladys Rice. And it was things of that type that Mr. Haynes brought to Cliffside to expose his residents to the cultural things of life.