It wasn’t very sophisticated, really, not much different from a century before. When Jackson’s Department Store scheduled a sale, they would print up about 500 handbills and hire a teenaged boy to walk the streets of Cliffside and deliver one to every single home. Mr. Ray Jackson, the store’s owner, would rely on the honor of the boy not to stuff the handbills in a drain pipe somewhere and dishonestly pocket the dollar or whatever the meager payment was. Most often the boy was honest.
And just about every week the Cliffside Theater would print it’s coming attractions on showcards. These were two-color creations, generally in some garish shade of red with black lettering, on stiff paper, about a foot high. They would be stapled to electric poles all over the southern end of the county.
Aside from theCourier, about the only other affordable advertising opportunity was to run primitive ads in school publications, like the year book or monthly “newspaper,” or on the mimeographed programs for civic presentations, such as a woman-less wedding or a minstrel show. These little ads would inevitably feature simple hand-drawn logos and graphics, and state the name of the business, its slogan and phone number.
A curiosity, sure enough
Some of you older folks may not have believed your eyes. There went an automobile buzzing down the railroad tracks! Here it comes again, this time backwards! Myles Haynes, Jr. tells the tale:
“During the war years beginning in 1941, automobile tires were hard to get. We lived in Avondale at that time and the railroad track for the Cliffside RR ran behind our house on it’s way from Cliffside junction (where the Seaboard RR met the Cliffside RR in front of our house about a block away) to the Avondale mill. My father, Myles Haynes, Sr., bought a 1934 Chevrolet two-door sedan from Tubby Hawkins in order to get four almost-new tires off it. He then had four flanged wheels from an extra railroad flat car put on the Chevrolet, had the front steering locked, and put the car on the track.
“He parked the car on the track at night behind our house and drove forward in the morning to work in Cliffside at the office where he served as cashier for the Mill, parking the car on a side track before the train made its daily run to meet the Seaboard and to Avondale. After the train returned each day and he finished work, he would back the car to its position behind the house and park it for the next day’s trip.
“Occasionally, he would let me drive it and that was real fun. Since it did not have to be steered, you could get it started, pull out the hand throttle and it would go clickity-click down the track, at 15 to 20 miles an hour, gently rolling from side to side. Naturally, I had a lot of friends who wanted to go along. Gasoline soon became in short supply, so my driving days ended.
“My father got the idea for the car from his uncle, Raleigh Haynes, who had a four-flanged-wheel bicycle that he would ride from Cliffside to Avondale, have it turned around, and ride it back, about three and half miles each way. I have no idea how often he rode it.”
You may have walked near it a thousand times, or saw it from a distance, and never gave it a second thought. It was a small building across the street from Miller Furniture Co., at the west end of the row of executive parking sheds. Actually it’s still there, although everything that once surrounded it has been razed: the store building, the office building, the general manager’s house.
It was used for a number of things. Mack Hendrick says caskets were once stored there (presumably when Cliffside Furniture conducted funerals). R. G. Watkins remembers that it was used as a polling place on election days. Jim Ruppe helps out with this info: “It was also a tax listing site, an immunization site and a meeting site for some ladies organization. The lower portion, as I remember, was a garage that housed the Company’s pick-up trucks (1946-48 Fords). A green one was driven by Maurice Hendrick and a black one was driven by Ike Biggerstaff and later by Roy Hamrick. Apparently Mr. Hendrick purchased the truck he drove and after his death the truck, which was almost in pristine condition, was eventually inherited by his son Dr. Harry Hendrick, who continued his father’s habit of keeping the truck immaculate. I’m not sure of its disposition after Dr. Hendrick’s death, but I’m sure it is probably in the caring hands of the Hendrick family.”
Update- From Zan Fisher: “The little house across from Miller Furniture was also used as a Personnel Office for the Cliffside Plant somewhere around 1970. I was Personnel Manager during that time and we renovated it for that purpose. John Scoville was the plant engineer.”
Remember the wonderful grandstand shows at the Cleveland County Fair? On various afternoons during Fair week you could see auto races with little Indy-type cars; harness racing (an activity about as familiar to us as ice hockey); and auto thrill shows, where daring drivers in white, striped coveralls would speed up wooden ramps and jump over a dozen old cars, or through flaming hoops. In the late ’30s, it was Lucky Teeter’s Hell Drivers. Lucky was killed in 1942, and, after World War II, his place on the state and county fair circuit was taken by Jack Kochman’s Hell Drivers.
Best of all were the night-time shows on the grandstand stage. Maybe it was the lighting, but the dancing girls were absolutely gorgeous—miles ahead of the bored, gum-chewing specimens of the girly shows on the midway, shows with phony, over-reaching names like “From Broadway to Hollywood.” Those poor women were already as close to Broadway or Hollywood as they’d ever get. (I doubt that we made these distinctions at the time.)
The most fantastic stage act was The Banana Man. He’s was best described on Rhett Bryson’s web site (no longer extant):
Dressed in clown attire and pushing his trunk on wheels, [he] enters singing his shrill, absurd melody. He then proceeds to produce from his pockets whole bunches of bananas, pineapples, watermelons, banjos, violins, about everything under the sun—he changes wardrobe and character three times, right before your eyes—he fills three trunks with his hundreds of props, converts the trunks into a train, and as the engineer, drives the whole string of cars offstage.
The finale was a stunning fireworks display, so close and loud you were sure your ears would bleed. And on the long, dark, sleepy ride home, as you scroonched up in the back seat of the family car, those magical sights and sounds would whirl around in your head like a kaleidoscope.
Whatever happened to squirrel tails on radio “aerials?” When is the last time you saw a spotlight mounted by the driver’s window, and what exactly did we use them for? Don’t you miss those fancy steering knobs? They were so essential before power steering. Where can I buy a new pair of mud flaps? (My old ones are wearing out, as are my zebra seat covers.) The most useful thing of all, of course, were fender skirts. They always came in handy, almost as handy as a set of Venetian blinds mounted in the rear window. And don’t forget those high-tech curb feelers, spring-like devices mounted on your fenders that warned you away from the curb, lest you scar up your fat whitewalls and fail to impress the girls.
Unfortunately, some years back, Continental Baking, a division of the huge world-wide conglomerate called ITT, decided it couldn’t exist another day without owning the Bost’s brand. Naturally, the first thing Continental did was change the recipe—from the one that made Bost’s such an outstanding product, to one that turned out something bland and tasteless, decidedly inferior to the original. Corporations always know best, you see. After a time, Continental sold the brand to Waldensian (in Valdese, NC), who moved it out of Shelby and eventually discontinued it. In turn, Waldensian was soon bought out by Interstate Bakeries, another big corporation.
Sadly, if you search for “Bost’s Bread” on the internet, about all you’ll find are Star obituaries of people who once worked at Bost, who helped make it the pride of the region. Eh law.
I often vowed that I’d never live anywhere I couldn’t buy Duke’s Mayonnaise and Bost Bread. Well, I guess my end has come, because now, although Duke’s is still on the shelves, I can’t buy Bost Bread anywhere. It was simply the best loaf bread you could find. (Not white, not light, but loaf bread!) It was baked in Shelby, and the familiar red and yellow Bost trucks would make their deliveries to our stores and markets like gentle bumblebees nosing around a flowering shrub.
At our house, on the wall near the water bucket, or, after we had running water, near the kitchen sink, there hung a shallow metal cup with a long handle. It was called “the dipper,” for there was only one. Everyone drank from it. It never occurred to us to use a glass; glasses had to be washed and dippers didn’t. Occasionally, if we saw a fly or a bug light on the dipper, we’d “rinch” it out, but rarely did it get immersed in a sink full of dishwater.
Remember Kits, the little candy squares? For about 3 cents you could buy a block of ten squares wrapped in cellophane. Each square was individually wrapped in waxy paper. There were chocolate, strawberry and banana flavors. We’d buy them at Barney’s store and eat them at recess (or before recess, if we could get away with it).
Tempting the wrath of Mrs. Mills, we’d stand around the magazine rack at the drug store thumbing through all the latest “detective” magazines, True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, etc. The photos, having little or nothing to do with the stories, were invariably of women bound to a chair or a bed, and were always “posed by professional models.”
It came in dark brown bottles, which were kept in a store’s old fashioned ice-filled drink box. Orange Crush was one of the most delicious and refreshing of all the soft drinks. But eventually they began putting it in clear bottles, and the taste was never quite the same.
Let’s see, there was Charles Starrett (the ‘Durango Kid’); Johnny Mack Brown and his sidekick ‘Sandy Hopkins’ (played by Raymond Hatton); Tim Holt; Buster Crabbe and his comic foil, bicycle-riding Al ‘Fuzzy’ St. John (did you know he was one of the Keystone Kops in the silent era?); Sunset Carson; Bob Steele; Buck Jones, Bill Elliott as Red Ryder; Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Tex Ritter, The Three Mesquiteers (one of whom was a ventriloquist!), and on and on. Of course there was Gene and Roy, but they had CARS in their movies, which was totally out of context (although Gene and Roy themselves never rode in the cars, always staying 50 years behind the bad guy, who did). And they sang! Yuck!
The Sunday Funnies
Usually we’d read the funnies in the Charlotte Observer or the Spartanburg Herald, but sometimes we’d get, of all things, theBaltimore American. How that paper found it’s way to Cliffside is one of life’s big mysteries. Some of my favorite strips were: The Teenie Weenies, tiny people (policemen, cowboys, ballerinas, etc.) who lived inside the walls of human’s houses; Dick Tracy and his amazing 2-way wrist radio (Remember Gravel Gertie and B. O. Plenty?); Smilin’ Jack, the flying ace; Smokey Stover, the nutty fireman; Bringing Up Father (Jiggs & Maggie); Major Hoople; Ally Oop; and Prince Valient. On weekdays, in the Shelby Star, we’d laugh at Dagwood and Blondie’s misadventures, and follow the exciting adventures of Mandrake the Magician and Secret Agent X-9.
Can you imagine spending hours in your car, in weather either too hot or too cold, watching a cheesy third- or fourth-run movie through a dirty windshield, hearing the sound through a single squawky speaker? Well, we did it on a regular basis, and loved it. There were several drive-in theaters that Cliffside people usually attended: the Sunset at Swainsville, the Midway at Sandy Mush, the Tri-City in Forest City, and the Sky View in Shelby. If the theater charged by the person, you could count on some cars having several boys hiding in the trunk until they’d passed through the entrance. On our way to the concession stand, to get a foot-long hotdog or a large popcorn with extra butter, we’d often notice the windows of one or more cars would be completely fogged up. Why they’d pay good money to watch a movie, thennot watch it, we never figured out.
The dairy truck would come by before dawn. It’s driver, sometimes dressed in white, with a white uniform cap, would carry your order to the doorstep. The milk came in quart bottles, each capped with a circle of pasteboard, which, in freezing weather, would be pushed up off the top of the bottle by the frozen cream. The milkman would pick up the empty bottles your mom had carefully washed and placed on the porch.
In case the neighborhood boys needed to form a posse, all us little cowpokes would fashion “horses” out of tree limbs. Taking a sturdy but limber 4- to 5-foot limb, we’d cut off the branches, attach “reins” of rawhide or cord to the fat end, and, for that impressive “pinto” effect, would strip the bark off several places along the length of the limb. (If a solid white horse—like Silver — was desired, we’d strip off ALL the bark.) When the time came for action, as it often did, we’d straddle our cayuses and tear out at full speed down the cinder-strewn streets of Cliffside.
On the Radio
Saturday mornings at 11, we’d be enthralled byLet’s Pretend, followed by those giant locomotives roaring intoGrand Central Station.And we wouldn’t missThe Lone Rangerevery weekday at 5:00. When we were a little older, we’d grow to love these nighttime dramas, comedies and mysteries:Mr. Keene, Tracer of Lost Persons(theme song: “Some Day I’ll Find You”);Lux Radio Theater,Dr. Christian,Jack Benny,Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen & Charley McCarthy,Fibber McGee & Molly,Burns & Allen, The Great Gildersleeve, Baby Snooks, Henry Aldrich, Inner Sanctum,Suspense, The Lucky Strike Hit Parade,My Friend Erma,Gangbusters!, The FBI in Peace and War, Easy Aces,The Adventures of Sam Spade, and many more. Our parents and grandparents tuned in every night to hear the news from Edward R. Murrow, Gabriel Heatter, Elmer Davis and William L. Shirer. How the world has changed.
There used to be only a few brands of cars on our roads, all made in the U.S.A. There were Ford products (Ford, Lincoln, Mercury), GM products (Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Olds, Pontiac, LaSalle), Chrysler products (Chrysler, Plymouth, DeSoto), plus Willys, Packard, Hudson, Kaiser-Fraser, Studebaker, Nash, and one or two others. We had no Volkswagens, Saabs, Porsches, Land Rovers, Humm-Vees, Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, Acuras, Infinitis, Lexus’, Saturns, BMWs, Mitsubishis, Daiwoos, Mazdas, Hyundais, Volvos, Diahatsus, Suzukis, Kias, etc. Back then, some people could identify the make of any car that came along, by sight or even by sound. Now you can’t easily identify the continent a car was made on, much less its manufacturer.
A long time ago, along about Thanksgiving of every year, Mr. Ray Jackson would open up the basement of his department store for the Christmas season. Our parents would hold our hands as we slowly descended the creaking stairs. What appeared below was a wonder to behold. The dank, musty room was stocked with row after row of tables holding bright, shiny toys of every kind. There were pedal cars, wagons, tricycles, dolls, doll houses, tea sets, pop guns, cowboy suits, Erector sets .everything a boy or girl could imagine. Our little hearts would pound and our eyes would nearly pop out. Amazingly, one or more things we’d see in that room would be under our tree on Christmas morning. Funny how things work out.