Guest Column: Parade rekindles memories of High Point

Dec. 09, 2012 @ 11:55 PM

My family and I recently made it downtown (Uptowne) to High Point’s annual Christmas parade for the first time since my children were in the marching band approximately 25 years ago.
As I watched the parade, ghosts from Christmas past came to mind. As a young boy, multi-colored lights and garland were draped overhead, giving off a warm feeling of Christmas as I watched the parade.
The Salvation Army would have small huts at downtown cross walks where the volunteers played Christmas music. One could always count on hearing White Christmas and Rudolph every few minutes. Downtown shops, such as, Belk’s, Penny’s, Sears, Efirds, Richardsons and many specialty stores were beautifully decorated for the season as I strolled down the sidewalks.
My favorite store was Sears, Roebuck & Co. located on N. Main Street across from High Point Bank. At Christmas time, Sears would turn their warehouse behind their Main Street store into a toy store. My favorite destination in the toy store was the Lionel model train display where trains were set up and  running on their tracks. It was not unusual to see Dad’s and Granddad’s with their sons watching the trains disappear into the tunnels. I remember, also, many newly married couples would get a washer and dryer from Sears, for Christmas for a minimal monthly payment.
Getting back to the parades of my childhood, the absolute star of the show was the William Penn High School marching band putting on their show as well as their great music. The old Rebel and Pecos Pete would be a distant second. One thing missing today, but not missed, are the black smoke plumes of smoke that would come from the industries smoke stacks with the wind currents carrying the smoke  across the horizon.
Where I recently viewed the parade, I also, began to think of the missed opportunities of High Point as a growing city.
On N. Main street along where the Pizza Hut and other businesses are located, many years ago, stood beautiful downtown homes with large lots and beautiful trees. I’ve always believed a beautiful park could have been established in that area, but down came the trees and up went the gas stations.
The city of High Point traded a million-dollar Simeon stadium for Leonard Street School, which had very little value.
We had a beautiful Paramount theatre downtown with balconies and private boxes, which should have been preserved and used for the arts for future generations.
The Elwood Hotel and the Barbee Hotel, which served as a Civil War hospital, also should have been preserved for our history.
When Oak Hollow Mall was built, I expressed my thoughts to friends, that we needed an open air mall with a gathering place outside the stores where people could gather.
The city of High Point squandered a great deal of money and ElectraCities (a group of towns and cities) that were going to build its on power plant.
The best accomplishment of our city was building Oak Hollow Lake, Marina and golf course. I hope they do not feel the need, in the future to “trade” Oak Hollow Lake for the pond at the cemetery.

William (Bill) Hammett lives in High Point.