Dearmon col: Town Park, then and now

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Norris Dearmon
For the Kannapolis Citizen
Kannapolis Town Park, now known as Veteran’s Park, has always been a place where local residents can visit and relax. Many things have happened around the lake adjoining the park.
Of course, the main thing was for people to enjoy a few moments of peace and calm while sitting on the provided benches. Around the lake, after it was enlarged, they could stop and watch the fishermen enjoy fishing, until it became too crowded and was stopped.
The Cannon Mills Band had a band house located on the banks of the lake for many years. They used it to rehearse and play summer concerts. When the lake was last enlarged, the band house was 70 feet out on the lake with a ramp leading to it. That was a good location for the people to take pictures, and many did. They were able to use it until a 12-year-old boy fell off the ramp into the water and drowned.
The company then moved the band house over beside the main office near the YMCA. Those in the park could still hear the band practice. Eventually, a band stand was built almost directly in front of the YMCA, which made it closer to the park. Often, the band would give concerts for people to enjoy. The Cannons were always proud of the band.
At shift change, many people would wait in the park when they had time to spare. For years, there were men and women who would use the occasion to preach. They would sometimes preach 30 to 40 minutes, hitting their hands against their Bibles and shouting. They felt it their calling and continued doing it until the company stopped it because of complaints.
During the Depression years, young boys would come to the park with their shoe-shine boxes, shining shoes. The men could get a shoe shine for 5 cents. If the boys did a really good job, they might get 10 cents. For young boys in those years, that was a good way to earn money. Often when they had made enough, they would go to the YMCA theater for a western movie and box of popcorn or candy bar.
They made maybe 15 cents, 20 if they had a good day. Competition was fierce. Eventually, they were also stopped, probably because of competition with the shoe shine boys in the barber shops.
During World War II, the park became famous for the war memorial, built there to honor those who were serving in the military. Sometimes it was called the Little White House or Little Mount Vernon. More than 4,000 names of the men serving from Kannapolis were listed on both sides of the memorial. If one was killed, a gold star was added by his or her name in honor of their supreme sacrifice. It was dedicated on July 4, 1943, and remained there until 1977, when the current memorial was built by the American Legion and dedicated on May 22, 1977. Unfortunately, the names were lost at that time.
I am sure the expanded and enhanced park will again be enjoyed by those on the N.C. Research Campus when it is completed. It will be a good place for those involved in research to come for a time of relaxation and meditation.
Norris Dearmon is a member of the Kannapolis History Associates and a volunteer in the Hinson History Room at the Kannapolis Branch Library.