In the mid-1970s, my dad moved the family business to Denver, NC, from the Detroit suburbs. My husband and I followed the family down a few months later.
It was kinda scary. Our first place was a small cottage way out on Kiser Island Road, which at the time had few houses, and most of the way it was just trees, right up to the edge of the road. It was dark and it was quiet – except for the crickets which seemed louder than the sounds of road traffic to which we were accustomed. We didn’t know a soul except my parents and siblings.
Things were really different back then. The stores in Newton and Lincolnton closed on Wednesday nights and all day on Sundays. There basically WERE no stores in Denver, except one small grocery store across from Rock Springs School, and they did not stock olive oil. As a new bride trying to recreate her Italian mother-in-law’s recipes, this was a problem. I asked the store manager and he, confused, showed me a jar of olives.
The blue laws were in place then, so you couldn’t get liquor-by-the-drink at restaurants. The only movie theatres were all the way out in Charlotte or Hickory (the theatres in Lincolnton, Mooresville and Newton had all closed at that time – there was a recession upon the country). The bank tellers all wore matching dresses, a different dress for each day of the week. People said “Hey!” instead of “Hi”, and repeatedly invited us to attend their churches.
But – we liked it here. We found folks were pretty friendly. We played putt-putt at Cross Country Campground, and swam in their pool. We walked round and round the passways at Rock Spring Campmeeting and experienced homemade ice cream. We admired the “Home Run!” electronic sign above Howard Furniture Store and I kick myself that I never went to watch one of the slow-pitch softball games of their national prize-winning team. We owned several dirt-track go-carts and rode them through the woods behind my dad’s house (and discovered the agony of chiggers!). Dad bought a pontoon boat and we went out on Lake Norman, when most of the shoreline was undeveloped, and what few houses there were, were only small cottages.
And one night, when I was kind of mildly complaining that there was nothing to do, Dad had us come out into his yard and look up at the sky.
It was magical. Millions of stars. I could literally see the Milky Way. Denver, in those days, was way out in the country and there just weren’t all the lights we were accustomed to in Detroit. It was dark, except for all those stars. All those amazing stars.
We still go back to the Detroit area to visit aunts and uncles and cousins and old friends. I love visiting. But those are just visits. On that starry, starry night, I fell in love with North Carolina, and this state became my home. I’ve never regretted it.
Read about Camp Meeting through the years in my book, Two Weeks Every Summer: Stories from Camp Meeting: Agosta, Carolyn Steele: 9780982956137: Amazon.com: Books