Lately, we have heard a lot about the Cotton Factory. The improvements around the section of White Street between the railroad tracks and Wilson Street have been remarkable.
But back in the 1940s and '50s, this section between Trade Street (Dave Lyle Boulevard) and Wilson Street was known as "greasy corner." The Cutter Mill (later Gold Tex) was an active cotton mill working three shifts a day. There were six or eight small houses between the mill and Wilson Street where the Springs' trucks park now. Across the street behind Rudder's Store, there was a house where my cousin Barbara Price lived, and she contributed a lot of this information.
Across White Street from the mill, there was a block of businesses where the mill workers could drink and gamble away their hard-earned money.
Coming from Trade Street toward Wilson, Prince Riley had a blacksmith shop. There were a couple of pool halls. Sid's Place served food. A brown house in the middle of these other places served as a source for a lot of rumors. On down the street, there was a car lot and an iron works before Russell's Grocery.
Across the railroad tracks, in the Trade Street block from White Street to Main, there was a barber shop, liquor store, a pool hall, Elders Used Furniture, the Royal Cafe and Hotel, the S.H. Elders Grocery Store, Comer's Furniture (where I watched my first baseball game on TV through the window) and Watkins' Hole in the Wall, which always had good smells from the hot dogs and popcorn. There was a pawn shop before you got to the Carolina Theater. That was quite a place. It was segregated. The sign said "White downstairs -- colored upstairs." It was not uncommon to have things dropped from above. If that weren't enough, the rats that ran around your feet were as big as a cat. All in all, though, both races enjoyed the cowboy movies and serials that went on for weeks, giving you just a little bit each week.
Before you got to Main Street, J.C. Penney had an entrance just before Barry's Jewelry on the corner.
Dean Armour (Dean King in those days) told me the last store on White Street before you got to Trade Street was a clothing and grocery store for the families who worked for the railroad. Her dad's uncle, Hall Ferguson, worked for the railroad. Dean said that her older brother and sister worked for S.H. Elder's grocery, and she went to work for the store when she was 14 years old.
Dean remembered more about the stores across Main Street on Trade because she lived at 325 South Trade. She mentioned Thaxton's Studio, McKnight's Meat Market, Joe Azer's Cafe, the fish market, the shoe repair shop, the Rock Hill Bakery, Gerald Ratterees and the Clemon's Funeral Home.
She and I agreed that the races got along well together. We rarely had a problem.
I lived on Ebenezer Avenue, but that block of White Street was off limits. When we walked to town, we walked to the end of Ebenezer where it intersected with Chatham at the train trestle. There was a turntable for trains that allowed the engine to go on in one direction and leave in the opposite direction, This was important because the steam engines pulled much better than they pushed.
Walking on to town, we had to go past this turntable to the Jackson Lunch side of the street because there wasn't a sidewalk on the railroad side. The only thing on that side was a taxi lot and DuPenn's wholesale warehouse.
Greasy corner wasn't just off limits to me; it was also against the rules for Winthrop girls to go down this street. Winthrop was the state college for teachers, all female, back in those days. In fact, the only approved route to downtown was down Oakland Avenue.
Things have changed. Ebenezer Avenue was chopped off at Chatham and curved around to end at Oakland Avenue. Now instead of being off limits, most of the dwellings on Ebenezer are occupied by students of the university.
There were many hard-working merchants in the two blocks we mentioned, even though the city leaders called it the seedy part of town.
Trade Street and greasy corner have gone away with the cotton mills and the Bleachery. I guess that is progress, but there is something to be said about the good old days.