Sunday, October 16, 2011

Siler City, North Carolina

Aint Bea's home in Siler City
Several quick trips into the main parts of Siler City have revealed a town not unlike Mayberry. In fact, this little town was the permanent home of the actress, Frances Bavier, who played Aint Bea. She's also buried here.

In many ways, the town is suffering from the economic slowdown. Quite a few buildings are empty, some even boarded up, but unlike McLean Texas, none are actually caving in. There are, however, some going art concerns, an interesting general store, and quite a few businesses that cater to a growing Hispanic population.
Barber shop still using
chairs purchased in 1940

I just had to stop in at a store called "Against His Will". It sounded too much like a Biblical reference, but I couldn't imagine which one it could be. Turned out to be a wool store. The owner sells weaving and wool spinning equipment as well as the woolen hats and scarves made by local people. I asked about the name. The owner is from the northeast originally. Years ago, her son wanted a goat for a 4-H project but her husband objected. Against his will, they got a goat, then later, again against his will, they moved to a farm and began to raise sheep and goats in earnest. In the move to the south, she opened the store and they named it Against His Will, which, I suppose it was too. Funny story. It never dawned on her, till they'd moved to the south that it would have such an intriguing effect on the religious locals.

A fun sculptured chair
in the Raleigh Street
Gallery
Another art store, the Raleigh Street Gallery, is a large consignment place that also lets you paint your own pottery. There are the usual carved wooden boxes, stained glass, knitted items, pottery, and sculptures from 83 local artists, but the entire back section of the store is a studio where local clay artists work throwing pots or sculpting. No one was working when I stopped in but some unfinished sculptures showed promise. Along one wall, there are four or five long tables and chairs. The store has a good selection or will order bisque pieces for customers to paint, then dips the finished items in clear glaze and fires them. They even have a "to-go" kit so you can paint at home.

Across the street is a little diner called the Sidewalk Cafe and Bakery. Inside above the counter was a handmade sign advertising a Mossberg 935 12ga shotgun for $550. The food was classic diner: burgers, hot dogs, chopped steak special, fries, coleslaw. Even at 1:30 many people were stopping in for lunch. The waitress knew everyone and often sat with them in their booths while she took the order. It was fun listening to the gossip and conversations spoken in the soft vowels of a southern dialect which, fortunately is missing the harsh twang of the Texas Panhandle.

Mural of Siler City in 1888 on the side of the
Farmer's Alliance store, which is featured in the mural.
Inside the Farmer's
Alliance general store.
Down the main street are several establishments: barber shops and beauty salons, coffee with internet cafe, a custom tailor in a skinny strip of a store, latino tienda with all the familiar soul foods of a Mexican mercado, and a general store called The Farmer's Alliance, which has been in business since 1888. Walking in the door the nose is assaulted by the sharp tang of fertilizer. The front quarter of the store is devoted to bee keeper's supplies, plants, and gardening. Further back are tools, and in the far back, a counter with bags of locally-made peanut brittle, peanut brittle dipped in chocolate, jams and jellies, and honey with the comb left in. An opening revealed the other half of the store; ladies wear, and in the basement, work clothes for men. I'll have to take a gander in the basement next time I visit. It was too interesting to talk with the woman who has worked there for the last 44 years, and has to be in her eighties. A large poster has school photos of kids from the 30s and 40s with hand written names under some of them. I suppose people who grew up in Siler City can stop in and write the names of the people they recognize.

Highway 64 runs through town and is the site of the Food Lion, drive through banks, and fast food joints. It was busier, but not nearly as interesting as the few little streets in the old part of town. There are quite a few large warehouses that either have some kind of industry, like making cloth or cosmetics, and many are shut down with "for Lease" signs. The rest of the town appears to be homes, some old and decrepit, others old and well maintained. All have large lawns and stately trees. It's nice to be here in the early fall, the weather is cool, the sun hot, and there is always the chance of clouds and rain, though it's been nice since a few days ago when it rained quite a bit. Now the humid air is causing my very short hair to curl or just stick straight out. Maybe I should stop in one of the beauty salons for a trim, something more suitable for the deep south. I'm not sure how much they could cut off without making me bald though, and that would definitely not be a good look!!

The regal Miss Cloe at the home where I am
house sitting.



The much more down to earth and sweet: Domino