Local History and Memories

It has been my intension for the longest time to begin making some notes of events that I remember while growing up…mostly personal memories, and including a few photos, if possible.  I began my quest after lunch (pictured below) on Easter Sunday, 2019, taking a drive out into the county, and thinking about a few events I wanted to write about…with a few photos.    

However, as of January 2023, I wanted to expand this post, going beyond just personal memories, including “newfound” local history, hence the title “Local History and Memories.” 

My hope is that I can remember or discover more new “historical events” in this new year, worthy to put into writing….

Roger Ivester

 

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Major Thomas D. Howie:   A true American Hero with ties to Shelby…

Memorials to Major Howie are located at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina; in Shelby, North Carolina, and in St. Lo, France.  There are many other memorials dedicated to Howie in various world locations.  

The famous Howie Bell Tower on campus at the Citadel.  (Wikipedia photo) 

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The following memorial was presented and placed near the Shelby City Park (Shelby, North Carolina) by Howie’s sister, Mrs. Hubert S. Plaster and Dr. Plaster.  This family relationship is what brought Shelby into the story, and is the link to Major Howie.   

I wanted to include this information into my “History and Memories” category of my “mostly astronomy” blog site. 

Also note:  My oldest grandson is now a first year student at the Citadel…so another factor that inspired me to document the story. 

Major Howie is known worldwide as the “The Major of St Lo” and was the inspiration of many movies, and characters, including and allegedly “Saving Private Ryan.” 

To learn more about the life of Major Howie, the following “World War II Deadline” and wikipedia links as following are excellent.  

I hope like me….you will choose to learn more about this incredibly brave and courageous man, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country.  

https://ww2ondeadline.com/2020/07/17/thomas-d-howie-major-of-saint-lo/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_D._Howie

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  Howie Drive in Shelby, NC  

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A local story concerning the 1918 Spanish Flu:     

With the current pandemic of the coronavirus, which seems to continue to linger within the country and the world at the moment.  The following photo seemed to be worthy of consideration and contemplation at this time.    

We visited Elizabeth Baptist Church yesterday (March 30, 2020) to see a grave marker that told a story.  A tragic story of a family who lost six members, all within a few days, due to the 1918 Spanish Flu.  

Four of the children died on the same day!   Could you even imagine losing four children?  Much less in one day!   Note the grave marker, and the date:  “October 21st 1918”  

The death toll for the 1918 Spanish Flu was estimated between 17 million to 100 million!  A wide span or difference for sure, but apparently there are no definitive numbers. 

America has endured and suffered through many dangerous epidemics over the years:  Smallpox, yellow Fever, Cholera, Scarlet Fever, Spanish Flu, Diphtheria and Polio, and overcame all.  

While many of the above epidemics were taking place, the United States also won two world wars.   

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The husband/father survived and lived until 1930. 

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Date:  April 2, 2020:  An Army munitions truck explodes on a local bridge during World War II.   

An Army munitions truck exploded on this bridge during World War II.   I learned the story from my Dad, when I was a kid.  

On many Sunday afternoons, my Dad and Mom would take me and my older brother to Lake Lure/Chimney Rock, and we’d drive by this bridge.  I still remember the conversations concerning the bridge while in the car, even to this day. 

I remember hearing my mother say…she could hear and feel the explosion from a distance “as the crow flies” of about 25 or so miles. 

The following are some photos I took this afternoon.  (Friday, April 3, 2020) Despite being really close to a busy highway, few people are even aware of the bridge, much less what happened eighty years ago, or during WW-II.    

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Below:  It’s easy to see the damaged concrete side barriers, mostly toward one end, and on both sides of the bridge, causing damage well over half the length of the bridge.  

So from this, we can conclude that the truck exploded, either while entering or leaving the bridge.  

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A bullet penetrated the concrete.

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Below:  A view looking across the bridge, while standing at the location where the explosion occurred.  

The driver was killed, but was there a passenger or others in the truck?  I don’t know.  This bridge is now just a distant memory of what happened at this site more than eighty years ago.    

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Date:  April 21, 2019:  The Secret Pond

I found out about this pond in the spring of 1968.  I was sick one morning and my cousin Steve, must have been sick also.  

However, we both “obviously” started feeling better, as Steve came by to pick me up for some fishing at several local ponds, including this one.       

I didn’t know this pond existed and have not been back since, until today.  Only a very few know of this pond, and maybe it should stay that way.  So, I’ll call it, the “secret pond.”  However, it’s not very far from Polkville…or Lawndale.      

Sunday 4-21-19

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Pictured below:  Crooked Run Creek 

Note the concrete pillars on each side.  This was where the original bridge crossed the creek on what has always been known as Tan Yard Road.  The official name now is Kistler’s Road.  Note: Tan Yard Road was so named as there was a tannery, very close to the bridge, during the 1800’s. 

When I was a kid, this small creek seemed like a raging river.

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The Tan Yard Cemetery: 

(Photo below)  The Tan Yard Cemetery (only a hundred or so yards from the bridge) and has many old graves, some of them being my ancestors.  Roger 

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During the fall of the year, normally near Halloween, the MYF of our church would have a hayride. One regular stop would always include the Tan Yard Cemetery, for a spooky walk around the grave stones.  At night it was indeed a spooky place, which I never wanting to be there by myself!  

And at that time, we didn’t know about the story of the Tan Yard Ghost.  If we had, there’s no telling what we might have seen! 

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The steam engine explosion, as told by Myron Edwards:  

Only a couple or so miles from the Tan Yard Bridge, during the summer of 1900, five men were killed during wheat harvest when a steam engine exploded, just off what is Clover Hill Church Road.

That same summer was the Great Galveston hurricane, and also the “famous” 1900 solar eclipse, on May 28th, that traveled from New Orleans to Norfolk, Virginia.  

Wadesboro, North Carolina was one of the most popular locations for universities and colleges around the world to view this solar eclipse.    

 

The devastating F4 tornado on May 5th 1989:  

Upper Cleveland County and two other adjoining counties encountered, late in the afternoon an F4 tornado, on Friday evening, at about 6:00 PM.  It first touched down on Mauney Road, where a house was destroyed and a woman being killed.  Mauney Road was closed for a period, due to fallen trees and other debris.  

Note:  An F4 tornado has wind speeds between 200 and 260 miles per hour, which is devastating to anything in its path.  

About a mile or so from where the tornado first touched down, it would set down again, and would go for 30 or more miles, causing many more injuries and deaths, and thousands and thousands of property damage.  

Lawndale-Casar Highway: 

A log house and also a brick house were completely destroyed and a huge and very heavy bucket truck was turned onto its side, beside the log house.   

The tornado came very close to Kistler’s Methodist Church (1/4-mile north of the the destroyed two houses) and for most-part, damaged only the steeple.  However, a church about a couple miles away was completely destroyed. 

I remember vividly, about 3/4 miles north of Kistler’s Church, behind F.V. Ivester’s store…a pick-up truck was lifted up, and sitting on top of a pile of uprooted trees.  A memorable sight for sure, one which I’ll never forget, but just one of many.    

The tornado remained on the ground, all the way to Toluca, and miles beyond.  The tornado destroyed a house just off highway 18, south of what is now “Redbone Willys” and would cause damage, injuries and deaths in at least two other counties.     

A piece of wood, propelled by the tornado, penetrated a mortar joint at Kistler’s Church about 1/2-inch, as my car key illustrates.  (see photo below) 

However, this was not the first tornado that Cleveland County has encountered, which caused damage.  

In 1973, a tornado caused damage just south of Boiling Springs, destroying or causing severe damage to Anthony’s Jewelry Store.  Little damage beyond this in Cleveland County, but a textile plant in Cherryville received moderate to mild damage. 

During the late 90’s, a tornado’s would cause damage to Hardee’s Restaurant in Boiling Springs. 

And then a few years later, another would cause damage to a “then” manufacturing operation, just off of highway 150, also in Boiling Springs.  This is the large building that now faces White’s Automotive.  

Yesterday evening (May 23rd, 2022) Cleveland County, and especially Boiling Springs had a tornado warning.  Fortunately, we had no damage.  But it was the first time that Debbie, myself and Sophie got into our safe place under the stairs.  Fortunately, in this area…to my knowledge there wasn’t any damage.  However, in relatively close proximity, in South Carolina, there was some mild damage to some houses.    

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November 22nd 1963:

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?  

For me:  I was in the 5th grade at Polkville Elementary School, playing in the ball field at recess.   

The date and time of the assassination:  Friday, November 22nd 1963 @ 1:30 PM EST.  The time in Dallas Texas was 12:30 PM CST. 

When my classmates and I went back inside, the news of the event was being broadcast over the school intercom system, via a wooden speaker in the ceiling corner.  We were all looking at this dark brown wooden speaker, as if it were live TV.    

The following is a recent photograph of the baseball backstop, where I was playing and talking with friends.    

Since the historic event (the assassination) occurred on Friday, most everyone was watching their black and white televisions continually during the weekend. 

The funeral on Monday the November 25th:

A horse-drawn carriage would then carry the casket (called a caisson) to Arlington Memorial Cemetery….the final resting place of the president.  

(Note: The backstop has since been removed)   This is were I was at during the moment of the assassination, just beyond the baseball backstop, and a little to the right.      

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Going to the drive-in, and coming home to see a plane crash: 

November 1965, and my oldest brother Richard, took me, my brother Phillip, and Charles Hicks (Richards brother-in-law) to the drive-in to see a Nascar movie, titled “Red Line 7000.”  

It became really foggy on our trip back home.   

When we turned off highway 226, and up the hill heading toward Lawndale on Shelby Road, we saw spotlights and emergency vehicles on the left, just beyond the crest of the hill.  

Just to the left, a yellow Piper Club had crashed within 100 yards of the highway.  We stopped and found out the pilot was killed.  I can’t remember if there was a passenger. 

If you look at the photo below, the plane crashed just beside the tree line, on the edge of the field.  Maybe just to the right of the largest tree and behind the two outermost fence posts.     

Charlie Hicks would later have a distinguished career in the Air Force, flying A-10’s, Stealths and other high-performance fighter planes.

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My witnessing of another plane crash:  

I was about six or seven years old?  My daddy took me for a BBQ sandwich in Shelby.  The location was in the curve going north on highway 18, just beyond the hospital.  

The BBQ restaurant had a circle “gravel drive” with curb service.  It was a favorite hangout for teenagers at that time.  Actually somewhat like the movie “American Graffiti” when cruising was the most popular thing to do.  

When we pulled into the restaurant drive…just on the other side of the road, there was a Yellow Piper Cub, standing right on its nose in a completely vertical position.  

The pilot was killed.  It was said or “alleged” that he ran out of fuel, after departing the Shelby Airport.  

A photo of the crash location:  

When looking across the road from “now” Bernhardt Furniture, the plane was vertical in the yard, between the two houses.  The year was either 1959 or 1960.  So I would have been in the first or second grade.  

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A man fell out of an airplane!

In 1956, a man fell out of a DC-3 and landed in the cemetery of Zion Baptist Church.  This is something I’d heard about for so many years while attending elementary school.    

June 13, 1956:  The date of this tragic event can be seen on the marker pictured below, and is the exact spot of impact.  The man’s name was Oran Pruett.   

There are lots of stories (which I’ll not get into, as I don’t know the facts) but the short story…basically:   Pruett “allegedly” just opened the door and fell out.   

Debbie and I had searched the cemetery this afternoon for the longest time, looking for the marker, indicating the exact location of where Mr. Pruett died.     

Without any luck, when we were leaving, but as luck would have it, we met Dennis Wright and his granddaughter riding in a golf cart in the church drive.  

Dennis has been a member of Zion Church for many years, and he and his granddaughter took us to the spot. He said that the church custodian “on that fateful day” in June 1956, heard the sound of Mr. Pruitt descending from the sky, and also the impact.    

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I remember as a kid, being sick in the late 50’s and very early 60’s, visiting Dr. Edwards, who was my great-uncle (my grandmother’s brother.)  

His office or practice was in Toluca, only a few miles from the crossroads of Belwood, just off highway 18.  

He was a general practitioner, but delivered over 6,000 babies!  

The rock building is still there, but as the photos indicate, it’s in really bad condition with the roof collapsing in many places.  The “once” waiting room now has an open sky.

Note the “black” front door in the second photo, which appears to be the original door from at least the 50’s, or the last time I was there.  I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.   

I remember the alcohol and sanitary smell, and dreading that “most of the time” a penicillin shot in my hip.  That shot would really hurt!  

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The Delight Alligator:  What!  An alligator in upper Cleveland County?   And the Frozen Lawndale, River!

The “Delight Alligator” (Delight is a small community, mostly just a crossroads) located between Polkville and Casar.  Yes, there was an alligator, about six to eight feet in length, living in Paul Whisnant’s pond in the early to mid-60’s.  

How did an alligator find its way to that farm pond?   No one seems to know or remember.

A pond that my school bus traveled by so many times, going to elementary school and back home in the afternoons.  I remember hearing some of my classmates in about the 4th or 5th grade, talk about fishing in the pond, all the while the alligator would float toward the middle of the pond.  They never bothered the alligator, and the alligator never bothered them.  

And who would ever have thought that an alligator could live and apparently thrive in the foothills of North Carolina?   

At that time, during most winters, the pond would freeze over, but the alligator “apparently” was in hibernation, not to be seen till spring.  

Whatever happened to the alligator that seemed to have lived in perfect harmony and tranquility in this farm pond for quite a few years?

It was “alleged” or said the alligator decided to leave the pond and venture into the First Broad River, and was later found and killed, for obvious reasons. 

The story of the “Delight Alligator” seems to be remembered by only a “very few” these days, which is my reason for documenting the story. 

Supplemental to the Alligator story:  

My family and most folks in the area called the First Broad River, the “Lawndale River” when coming down the Lawndale-Casar highway.  During those years, I actually didn’t know it was the First Broad River. 

Winter 1965-1966: 

We had a brutal cold period during the winter of 1965-1966, which caused the Lawndale River to freeze solid.  I was in the 7th grade, and never has the river frozen over since. 

During one of snows that winter, which left over 12 or more inches of snow on the ground, with temperatures near “zero” for at least a week. Most everyone in the area had frozen or bursted pipes.  We missed at least seven or more of school days during this snow.   And there were snows during this winter, with more school days being missed.       

 

Lawndale Snack Shop: Circa 1950’s through “about” 1965

While Debbie, myself, and Sophie were in Lawndale today (Thursday, March 24th 2022) I just had to stop and take a few photographs of the former Lawndale Snack Shop and share a few things I remember from those early days.

This was a regular gathering place, or a hangout “mostly” for teenagers. The parking area in front, was pretty rough, with washed out ditches and ruts. No gravel…just dirt. The Snack Shop specialty was hamburgers and french fries, however, I feel sure hotdogs were available also.

Orders would be taken at a small window which is pictured below.

However, curb service was available, for those that chose not to get out of their car. A server would then bring the food out via a tray, that would attach to a partially rolled down window.

I was pretty young during the hay-days of the Snack Shop (about 10-12 years old) but would go there on occasion with my mom and dad. I remember the outside or exterior being painted mostly yellow, and the lights underneath the overhang were also yellow.

When coming up the hill from Lawndale at night, at a distance, the little “burger joint” appeared as a welcoming beacon of light.

I remember seeing a pink and black 1956 Ford parked out front with finder skirts, which I can see in my mind even to this day. If only I had a photograph of the parking lot during a Sunday afternoon in the late 50’s or early 60’s. It might have been possible to see a 1960 Chevrolet 409, a Ford Fairlane with a 406 engine, a Studebaker, a 1958 Plymouth Fury or maybe even a Henry J.

Guys would often times be standing outside their cars and talking, with the sound of “Sherry” by the Four Seasons playing in the background from a car radio.

If you watched the movie “American Graffiti” you might notice a similarity, to the Snack Shop represented similar events during a period in time, not in California, where the movie was based, but in Lawndale, North Carolina.

This little building in my opinion is a landmark, representing a time when a guys car was their personality or identity. A time when there were no cell phones that would eventually consume the minds of most all on the planet. A time when music was good. A time when most everyone attended church on Sunday morning. A time when Hollywood and professional athletes had no influence on national or world affairs. A time when everyone seemed much more happy, despite having far fewer material possessions. Yes…it was a simpler time, but definitely a happier time for sure.

The world takes a turn for the worse:

Unfortunately at this time, the Vietnam war was beginning to escalate, illegal and psychedelic drugs were becoming popular in other parts of the country, and the peace and love movement was coming onto the scene in California, and “the rest is history.”

Major Thomas D. Howie:   A true American Hero with ties to Shelby…First post of 2023:

Reference for the Major Thomas D. Howie post: The Howie Bell Tower on campus of the Citadel: wikipedia photo

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