Spencer Library reminisces about ‘The Good Old Days’
By Beverly McCraw
SPENCER — What was life really like in the good old days? Thirty-one Spencer residents gathered at the Spencer Public Library on Sept. 27 for an exchange of funny stories, amusing anecdotes and historical facts.
Aaron Kepley, executive director of Rowan Museum, shared a slideshow which featured the early history of Rowan County as it began with native Americans who settled along the Yadkin River. This was followed by stories of early American Revolutionary victories against the British thanks to the providential rising of the Yadkin River.
He further explained that pre-Civil War Salisbury was a bustling center of economic growth. The city was targeted by the Union army during the Civil War due to the prosperous nature of the region. Charlotte, at the time, was only a small, back-water town off of the main trading roads. However, since Salisbury suffered so much damage during the Civil War that Charlotte, rose to prominence.
Kepley focused on the overwhelming importance of the arrival of the Southern Railway in 1896 to the Spencer area, which officially became a town in 1905. Several older citizens of Spencer and graduates of the old Spencer High School were asked to share their memories of early days working for the railroad and attending the local school.
Jeff Long traced his ancestry back to the 1800’s and spoke of his family’s beginnings in the Trading Ford area. He attended the school in Spencer and his father worked for the railroad. Jeff shared some memorabilia, such as a 1941 time card from the Spencer Southern Railway. He also showed a ledger dating from the 1800’s. Long Ferry Road was named after his family.
Clyde Miller, a Navy veteran from the age of 18 and later a pipe-fitter for the Southern Railway, shared stories of riding for free with his family and friends as one benefit of working for the railroad. In 1959, Clyde Miller was honored as Spencer’s Man of the Year at age 34. As a member of the Spencer Jaycees, Clyde inspired the idea of a Spencer Holiday Parade. This proved quite popular and everyone wanted to be involved. One year, Clyde said that a certain man had begged to be Santa Claus and ride on the firetruck. Much to the organizer’s chagrin and amusement, the Santa had too much holiday cheer that year and he had to be secured to the firetruck for his own safety.
Emil Sparger was also invited to share some of his memories . He emphasized the simplicity of life then and how everyone knew each other and how the students were disciplined by the teachers, principals and parents. Later on, as the group walked around the library, Emil showed off his basketball trophy from 1945 which displayed his name as co-captain. In another library room, there was an old picture of Emil sitting on the fender of a car in 1950 and a picture of Tootsie Mclamb, a cheerleader in 1945 who later became his wife.
Mayor Jim Gobbel discussed his fond memories of Spencer. One of his favorite memories was the May Day Festival in the park where Park Plaza is now. The boys would climb a greased pole in an attempt to reach the five-dollar prize placed on the top. He recalled neighbors not locking front doors and people calling out yoo-hoo at your screen door when they wanted to visit. His father worked for the railroad and most of his friends’ fathers did as well. He reminisced about his days at Spencer Elementary School and how the teachers and principals were greatly respected. Even their footsteps in the hallway caused fear among the students.
Alderman Mike Boone bantered back and forth with the mayor as they stirred up old memories together. Mike talked about spending 9 cents for a movie ticket and having 16 cents left over for popcorn and a drink. He also described the public pool which used to be popular with the community children.
Refreshments were donated by Kevin Jones and by the local Food Lion.
Videotaped interviews of the event will be shown at the Spencer Library’s annual book sale, Oct. 13 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call Beverly McCraw at 704-636-9072 for more information.