Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Hometown...

Included in all of the crap I subscribe to on the internet are two sites from my hometown, Wadesboro, NC.  One informs of all upcoming events in town and the other is the newspaper, The Anson Record.  In one of them I learned that they were removing the facade from the old Belk's Department Store.  Belk's was one of the nicer department stores in many parts of the south and our little town was proud of have one.

This facade had, in my opinion, been an eyesore as it was totally incongruous with the rest of the town, but it had been there so long  (1955) that I couldn't even remember what was behind it.  So, when my mother and I were in North Carolina, I made a point to go up to see what was happening....and this is what we found.

What a beautiful, old building with character and charm!  I loved it!  As I was taking this photo, a couple approached and we began talking......they were there for the same reason!  He had gone to school at Wadesboro High School and now lives in the Raleigh area. She was the wife of Luther Morris, a (deceased) distant cousin whom I really did not know.  He mentioned that the movie theater had recently been renovated (which I also knew via the internet) and that it is now used for various programs.....and that if anyone was in the office next door, they would let us go inside and take a look.  So the day turned into a tour of my hometown!

The whole town centered around one major intersection.  This green space beside Belk's goes to that intersection and when I was a kid it was filled with a family owned jewelry store and Fox and Lyon's Drug Store, complete with a long soda fountain.  Unfortunately, it burned down many years ago and the spot stood empty and poorly tended.  The little bandstand is used for town functions and is an improvement over a vacant lot.

Below Belk's (going away from the main square) was a furniture store...and I can't remember what the other two shops were.  The white building at the bottom of the street was the mortuary.  Like many of the other businesses that once occupied these buildings, the mortuary has moved along the major highway.

One of the buildings is now being used as a consignment shop......and the Belk building is part of the county government buildings.

Consignment Shop
Directly across the street from the Belk building is the court house, which is very typical of small Southern towns.
It had recently been cleaned and looked very good. Unfortunately, the requisite Confederate soldier statue doesn't show up against the tree, but it's there! The building that you can see just beyond the magnolia tree is the Post Office.  I believe that some part of the court house was used in the filming of The Color Purple but I don't know the details.  Shortly after we were there, they did this in honor of those who died on 9/11.
A flag for each person who died on 9/11.
This pleasant  little rest area, a DAR Memorial, takes us from the court house to the main square.

From the square, we look straight down the street in the opposite direction.

The corner store on the right is the same drugstore that has been there as long as I can remember (directly across the square from Fox and Lyon's).  The buildings beyond the drug store now hold a bank and law offices.  The light, boxy building before the trees is the local library.  The corner building on the left was another fashionable department store but has now been converted to local government offices.  Immediately beyond that is H.W Little Hardware, another longtime business.

I was pleased to nab this photo off a web site because my father worked at Little's for many years before opening a small general store of his own about 5 miles out of town.  I went in recently and it really is much like it was years ago. Those old hardware stores are treasures and wonderful to browse in, if you can find one. In the old days, there was a dress shop and a florist below Little's.  You can see that along the two intersecting streets you could find everything you wanted and was simple!

If you walked past Belk's and Fox and Lyon's to the square and turned right, you would be walking down this street.  In my youth, there were two "dime stores" - Rose's and Eagles - along this street.  The store at the end of the street was a men's shop and the one next to it was Lillian's, a "high end" ladies shop.  Now I think there is a video shop and florist, along with some that are just empty.  Every time I see a street like this I always think how nice it would be if the upstairs were turned into apartments.....and somehow businesses could be attracted to the street level.  City management has probably thought of the same thing, so it must not be easy to do.

Along the "lower street" was the Ansonia, our local movie theater that closed many years ago, with the nearest one now being about 30+ miles away.  It was good to hear that it had been renovated and was actually used.  Unfortunately, the office was closed and we didn't get to go inside, but we will try again another day. 

It was along this street (near where I am standing when this photo is taken) that my mother's friend Ada had her beauty shop (and lived in an apartment behind it).  There was also a barber shop right beside it, along with a tea room.  And at the corner was one of  my favorite places.....Mack's Record Rack.
Mack's was downstairs and one of the unusual things about it was that it was owned and operated, lo those many years ago, by a black man, which may also account for the good music that appealed to young people.  Most of the records were 45s and he would let us listen to them before buying. This really did bring back memories.

While this whole little tour was unplanned, it brought back childhood memories and a bit of sadness.   It's sad to see those buildings languish...and good to see some effort being put into restoring and bringing some of them back.  Wadesboro is probably typical of many small towns where businesses have moved to hideous, flimsy strip malls along the major thoroughfare, leaving the older, distinguished  buildings standing empty and neglected.  While there is much to be done, it's nice to see that there is some interest in reviving the city center and I hope it continues.

That ends the tour.  Next time I'll give an update on the home front but thought you might like something different.  Anyone else from a small town like Wadesboro??

Official Wadesboro web site

Uptown Wadesboro

Wadesboro in Wikipedia