Remember When: Remembering pre-centennial Polk County

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

The county was getting close to its Centennial when I left for the Air Force in 1948. WWII was over, but the warbirds that helped to win it were still on active duty when I was. I enjoyed continuing to see them, now up close and personal, and getting to ride in them!

I read about the big celebration of the Centennial in 1955 at Harmon Field. Later, when I began writing these columns, I obtained a video of it at the Polk County Historical Association Museum. I have already written about the beauty of the Queen they selected: Cleo Jordan Geer. I also found her Mom, Maggie Sue Jordan, at Autumn Care in Saluda, and reported that she was even more beautiful; she was in her 90s then.

More recently, Alan Leonard’s series about our WWI soldiers who answered the call, and then were called home across the Atlantic, reminded me of our monument to them in Columbus. Many Southern towns have some kind of Confederate monument, now subject to being removed by the revisionists of our history; hope our white marble “Doughboy” gets to stay.

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I had reported that he was put there by subscription, as a W. A. Cannon asked the school kids to contribute their pennies and nickels. Some of the more recent suggestions for renovations to the street between the Courthouse and the new PFC Bryant Womack Justice Building would have moved the statue! That’s when I had to send a letter to my editor opposing any movement of the landmark. The letters home from our Polk County doughboys mentioned hunting on our mountains and fishing in our streams, so the soldier faces the mountains and stands atop a base of local river rocks. A bit of history that I believe should not be “revised.”

An important feature of Trade Street, then and until recently, was the turn-around near the tracks. Even with all the traffic, it was easy to make the handy U-turn to park on the stores side of the street. Yes, it was US 176 then as now, and carried ALL traffic from Charleston to Tennessee. About the only big trucks on it then were the fuel tankers dragging the requisite chains to discharge static electricity; the other cargo was on the long freight trains that made necessary the two tracks through Tryon.

The railroad depot was a very important place then, for the trains carried mail and people as well as freight. The depot was divided into several rooms as required to segregate passengers (white and “colored”) and goods (express and freight). Railway express shipments came on the passenger trains, and the freights brought boxcars, some unloaded into the freight room of the depot, others pushed onto a siding to be unloaded by the consignee.

I used to help unload the boxcars for Tryon Builders Supply—no pallets or forklifts in those days! I envied the drivers for Tryon Fuel Supply, for the railway coal cars were unloaded by gravity into their big bins, from which their dump trucks were also loaded by gravity. Not only that, but the truck drivers attached a chute and sent coal into our basement, also by gravity! I vowed then that if I ever took another driving job, it would be to drive a BUS, because they load and unload themselves!

When I wrote about Tryon’s turn-arounds long ago, I coined the word “uniquities” of Tryon to describe them. I also wrote that the DOT people in Raleigh cannot understand a STOP sign in the middle of a block, there to protect the folks turning around across from the relocated Post Office; nor a space reserved to accommodate logically forbidden U-turns. I am sure they were happy to approve the location of Ms. Simone in one, and to do away with the STOP sign on Pacolet Street for the other one!