More on characters of Salisbury
Publication Salisbury Post
Date March 22, 2007
Section(s) Area
Page b1
Byline
Brief Photo:3507,left,;Oh, that story about Salisbury's most memorable characters -- Garland Gaither and Ollie Cagle -- brought more memories than you can believe about people who'll never be forgotten.

If everybody in town didn't remember Garland

Oh, that story about Salisbury's most memorable characters -- Garland Gaither and Ollie Cagle -- brought more memories than you can believe about people who'll never be forgotten.

If everybody in town didn't remember Garland and Ollie, plenty did, and just their names inspired memories of other characters who used to spice up Main Street.

Like Lord Salisbury.

"Did you know him?" Mildred B. Smith asked me when she called.

Sure did, I told her.

I used to leave home and run up Main Street to Bank to meet Genevra Beaver so we could walk to Boyden together, and Lord Salisbury -- I didn't know his real name -- was always waiting in front of the Empire Hotel to come running up behind me and then run with me.

"When I read about Ollie and Gaither," Mildred said, "I thought about Lord Salisbury. He stayed at the Empire Hotel, and he always had a little potty pot hung on a chain on his vest with a dollar bill stuffed in it, and he carried a walking stick and wore an old top hat. He was a snappy dresser with his red ties and spats on his shoes and his top hat. And he carried that walking stick or a cane, and just hung around and talked to people.

"He was a character. I knew the characters in town. I knew them pretty good. I wonder if anybody else can remember about that old Kodak Ollie Cagle had. He walked, and he used to carry an old camera with him and take people's pictures.

"They weren't tin pictures. They were just pictures. He took a couple of me and my sister."

I called her up to talk a little more after she wrote me a letter about years gone by.

"I still remember what it was like," she wrote. "I'm in my late 70s, and yes, I remember Gaither and Lord Salisbury and Buck Lineberger and Germy Ernie but most of all, I remember Ollie. He was my friend.

"He walked the streets of Salisbury selling salve and taking pictures with an odd-looking Kodak that sat on a three-legged wood frame. He would put his head under a piece of cloth and snap your picture. Few minutes later, you'd have it. Cost -- 25 cents. I have some of the pictures he made of me and my sister 60 years ago.

"And he wore an old brown coat, cold weather, hot weather, didn't make a difference."

If it hadn't been for Ollie, her favorite downtown character might have been Germy Ernie. She was a little old lady who lived at the Yadkin Hotel and opened doors with a Kleenex.

"She never touched nothing with her bare hands," Mildred wrote. "She was afraid of germs.

"I worked in cafes all around town and she ate in some. I worked in the old bus station and the Carolina Diner and the Dixie Diner and the Red Pig and etc. Ollie would come around, and I'd give him free coffee and soft drinks. He talked to his self, but he never bothered no one.

"I had to have a blood test and a work permit to work in a restaurant ever since I was 15, off and on, and after I got married and moved to Davidson County."

But she came back, of course.

"A lot of people," she says "don't know Salisbury's changed like it has.

"Bamby Bakery's gone and Tucker's Restaurant and Swaringer's Meat and Grocery store and the shoe repair shop."

She retired four years ago, and she can't get used to the changes so she likes to remember the old days and did in a letter she headlined, "Yesterday's years gone by."

"Gaither rode a bicycle around town," she wrote, but so did Buck Lineberger. And a lot of people don't know Salisbury's changed like it has. Bamby Bakery's not the only one gone. All the other stores are gone, Zimmerman's -- everybody used to shop there -- and Phil's Shoe Store.

"No," she says, "the malls has took over, but I go to the consignment shop. I guess people remember that the consignment shop was once Belk-Harry's.

"Sometimes now I come downtown, but not as much as I used to."

She used to come all the time, starting from when she was a little girl, and she'd pick up old drink bottles and sell 'em back to the companies at 3 cents apiece to get enough money to go to the movies.

"If we found enough bottles to get 10 cents we could go to the Victory movie show on the Square," she says.

She remembers the Victory and the Capitol and State theaters, and Belk-Harry as it was named then, "and 5 & amp; 10-cent stores and the Wallace Building and Purcell's Drug Store on the corner, and doctors offices overhead in the Wallace building (Dr. Glover and dentists and etc.) And I remember Lowry Hospital on West Innes Street.

"So how many stores can you remember?" she asked in her letter, and I couldn't touch her no matter how hard I tried.

"Could you remember Arnold's?" she asked, "and Underwood's, Betty Lou, Rayless, Milner Hotel, Salisbury Lunch or Myrtle Place, the Chinese laundry, Fish Market, F & amp;F B-B-Q, Nassar's fruit stand, Rustin's Furniture, Hardiman's, Salisbury Business College (upstairs on East Innes, Tuckers restaurant, a small eating place that sold hot dogs on a square bun, City Hat and Smoke Shop, Blackwelder's B.B.Q. (on Depot St. at the Train station (I have a 1942 menu from there), the Barber Shop and Norman Ingle's Jewelry Store, also you got your drivers license at the Courthouse?"

But mostly she likes to talk "about the restaurants like the Carolina Diner that's gone now,and old man Mr. Loflin who run it, and Mr. Small who run the Dixie Diner, across from Kress's.

"Time," she writes, "waits for no one. But thank God I still have my memories of those days long ago. I remember a lot more things about Salisbury, so why would anyone want to change or live any place else? I love Salisbury, N.C.

"I'm sorry," she concludes. "I get carried away when I think of old times."

And I get carried away when I get letters like that one.

And both of us got carried away a day or two later remembering the good-looking tall slim black girl who walked all over town carrying a basket on her head, or a watermelon or a big box, and we always wanted to stop her and ask her name and how she got started carrying things like that and could do it so easily but neither of us ever had the nerve to do that.

Still, I'm pretty sure we're not going to stop talking about her or any other characters Mildred or I happen to remember and then one of us will call up and say, "Hey, do you remember .... "

And who knows? We just might.

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com.