Francis Clemmer Thompson lived on N. Main Street in Cliffside. In 1929 his name appears on the staff of The Purple Cloud, the weekly CHS column that appeared in the Rutherford County Sun. In the fall he became editor of the column, succeeding Zon Robinson.
In the spring of 1930, Francis (called “Skipper” by his many friends) graduated from Cliffside High in a class of 24 that included Kenneth McMahan, Claude McCurry, Clyde Kendrick, Ruby Ferree and Glen David Matheney.
Skipper’s father was Sidney Locke Thompson, known as Locke, who, before his death in 1935, was supervisor of the Finishing Department at Cliffside Mill. According to the 1930 Federal Census Locke and his family lived a few houses up the street from the Baptist Church. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson had three sons living at home: George, 22; Francis, 18; and Samuel, 16. There were two older sons, Bela and Dewitt; and four older daughters, Virlie, Reine, Louise and Lottie not living in the household.
Upon Locke’s death, Annie, the mother, moved the family into a large house directly in front of the church. (It was torn down in the late 1940’s to make way for the new Haynes Bank building.) George worked in the post office; Skipper worked in the Finishing Department as an accounting clerk; Samuel worked at the filtering plant.
While Skipper worked in the mill he simultaneously kept up his interest in journalism that he had whetted in high school. For several years in the 1930s, he wrote his own weekly column for the Forest City Courier, more than eighty of which are to be included in this section. According to his sister-in-law, Shirley Crawford Thompson, Skipper’s writing was an act of love, for he never got paid for it.
Initially his column was called “Flashes of This and That.” Later it was titled “Skipper Says,” and even later it changed names again to “Flashes of This and That.” He wrote about events and personalities in and around Cliffside, and passed on gossipy items about movie and radio stars. Skipper’s style was somewhat like Walter Winchell’s, a popular columnist and radio star in those days. He obviously loved music, and would go great distances to hear the artists of the day.
Skipper Thompson left Cliffside a short time before World War II began. He went to Charlotte, took a job with Standard Oil in accounting, served a term in service, and married Isabelle Hornbuckle or Albemarle, N. C. Over his career he worked in other cities, such as Cincinnatti and Atlanta. As of this writing (November 2004), Skipper is 93 years old and lives in a nursing home in Albemarle.
His brother Samuel became manager of the waterworks in Spartanburg, S. C., where his widow Shirley still resides. Shirley is the daughter of Gus Crawford and a cousin to Spud Crawford. Sometime in the 1990s, Shirley sent the clippings of all these columns to Judson and Jeri Crow, whose plan was to publish them in book form. They laboriously transcribed them to computer files, but then got involved in other things and never finished the project. Fortunately for all of us, Shirley and the Crows are sharing their work with the readers of Remember Cliffside.