Beck column: Home again for Yadkin mill villagers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 16, 2008

By Linda Beck
For the Salisbury Post
Some folks say “You can’t go home again.” And maybe we can’t go back to the old mill houses or the overgrown yards that are now tangled together. But so many of us that grew up together, maybe as far back as 50 or 75 years, can still have a reunion for the mill villagers of Yadkin. About 135 came to the first gathering last year.
This Saturday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Shelter 4 in Dan Nicholas Park, we can celebrate again the memories we share of our lives there.
Unlike many others, I was not born in Yadkin. We moved there when I was 7. My mother married a mill worker who took us there to live in an old abandoned store/garage. I have been told it was once called Pop Johnson’s store and he sometimes gave treats to kids when they got off the school bus.
My older brother, sister and I slept in one large room that was also the living room and dining area. There was a small kitchen, one small bedroom and bathroom, with no tub or shower.
We moved when an adjoining property went on the market. My stepfather’s married daughter lived there until her husband was transferred to Atlanta when the Spencer shops closed.
That house was even smaller but allowed more privacy. We had a claw-foot tub rather than an old tin tub by the heater in Mama’s bedroom.
Our first residence was only a few feet off U.S. 29, the major highway between Greensboro and Charlotte before I-85 was built. And it was within several hundred yards of the railroad tracks. We used to catch tadpoles in the ditches on both sides of the tracks.
We knew not to play on the main highway although we walked, rode bikes and ran through the side streets. We went in and out of each other’s houses, often without knocking, but always speaking up to announce our arrival. Though I was too young to go, I remember across those railroad tracks there was a baseball field; my older brother loved going there on weekend afternoons. There also was a club house for the mill bosses and we could see cars coming and going on the road along the opposite side of the tracks. There were four or five almost identical houses along that road. My stepfather had a granddaughter who was a little older than I and she lived in one of those.Before I-85 took the business away, there were several other stores in Yadkin. My favorite was Martin’s Store because it was the closest and we could cross backyards to get there. Another one farther away was called Cheap John’s and he and his wife lived above the store. We were a little timid when we were sent there as he seemed very old to us (probably about 50 ó ha!).
There was a restaurant down by the mill entrance where some of the workers ate. I don’t remember us ever getting to eat there. I do remember using an old pay phone outside to receive calls from my boyfriends since we didn’t have a phone.
Down the hill was a playground with a basketball court, a merry-go-round and swings. The old school building that was closed long before I moved to Yadkin was across from that park and used on weekends for what we called a “teen canteen.” There was a jukebox during my early teens and we all thought that was the greatest place.
One of my earliest memories of that basketball court was the square dances held there. I remember being twirled around by older folks as they tried to teach us how to do-si-do. My other memory there is when a friend got a camera for Christmas. We accidentally took a picture of her lighting a cigarette that was taken from my mother’s stockpile. When her father came across that picture, she suffered dearly.
One of the best things about Yadkin were the two churches, Baptist and Methodist. It is neat that those two churches are among the few things left in Yadkin.
Y’all come on out for the reunion and write your own stories to share when we do “go home again” at Dan Nicholas Park.
The Yadkin mill village was three miles north of Spencer near the former North Carolina Finishing Co.