Sports and Recreation in Glendale

The following information is told by  Clarence E. Crocker of Glendale.

From their beginnings, Glendale Mills and her predecessors, have directly or indirectly, impacted the recreational and sports life of their employees and their families.

From the pond waters of the old wooden dam on the waters of Lawson's Fork, most likely built to supply a constant source of water with force enough to turn a mammoth water wheel, 26 feet in diameter and twelve feet wide, which furnished power to operate the mill, to the dense woods and massive farm fields, all have been a constant source of fun and frolic for the people.

Men and women, rode in their boats and canoes, fished and, yes, swam in the muddy waters of the pond while in the winter time when the pond would freeze over, many skated. I’ve seen upward of a dozen or so on the waters at one time. Though the ice was thin in some places and one would crack through from time to time, I don’t remember having heard that anyone was ever seriously injured. Just got terribly cold.

With the load on the water wheel increasing due to increased mill production, a new concrete dam was built just below the old dam, increasing the size of the pond thus increasing fish beds and giving additional water force for the water wheel. Two gate wheels with which to raise or lower the gates, were located on raised platform at each end of the dam. A large wood water trunk carried water from the dam to the water wheel.

Wooden aprons were installed on the top of the dam between the two gate wheel platforms raising the pond level an additional 3 to 4 feet. In excessive rain periods, the waters would rise over the aprons with such force, it washed the aprons away. (See pictures 1, 2 & 3) When this happened, the gates had to be raised to lower the pond level or in some cases, drain the pond completely, so that men from the mill machine shop could work on top of the dam replacing the aprons. J.T.Varner, my uncle, was master mechanic for some 40 years. Perry Lyda, Oscar Brown, Walt Nichols and Ed Rush were among his co-workers. John Varner Jr., Everett Brown, Walter Wertz and Walter Draper joined forces in the 30 & 40s. I took supervision of the department in the fifties.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3
About once a year, the gates were raised and the pond completely emptied in order to wash out the mud and muck. Fire hoses were used to help wash the sediments  from behind the dam. When either of these happened, oodles of fish were released onto the shoals and the lower water way. Scores, perhaps upward of a hundred, men, women, boys and girls would line the river banks with nets, croaker feed sacks, buckets, some with just bare hands or with any other means to catch the fish. Some got out into the water, risking being washed away, in order to catch the fish. Though I never saw it, some old timers said that they had seen men with one horse wagons filled with fish, pulling way from the river banks. I did personally see lots of people with 100 pound croaker feed sacks, or other type of bags, full or almost full of fish going home. Catfish and mud carp were the main catch.

One day following one of these events, Mr. Will Rogers, (picture 4) overseer of the carding and spinning rooms, looked out the window of the mill from the fifth floor. Seeing what he thought was a large fish flapping around in a pot hole on the shoals, called one of his doffers over saying, “Eli, do you see that fish flapping in that hole down yonder“, “Yes sir“, Eli said. “Take a piece of scrap cloth, go down there and get that fish for me” Mr. Rodgers said. Reaching the spot, Eli reached down and pulled up a large eel. Some watching from the window with Mr. Rogers said that when he saw what had happened, Mr. Rogers, shaking his head said;  "ah---fiddlesticks, an old eel” and walked off.

Picture 4

When the first iron bridge, which was one lane, was replaced by the 2nd iron bridge in the late twenties and stands today, it was built with two lanes and a pedestrian walkway which gave plenty of room to fish from the bridge. It was not unusual at all to see 2 or 3 or more, men or women with their cane poles fishing from the walkway. When the first iron bridge was torn down, it was carried further down stream to the one lane Thompson farm road just off the Lewis Chapel road to span Lawson Fork, once again, giving the people of the Glendale Community a fishing platform. Though the road and the bridge spanning the waters have long since been closed, the bridge was still standing the last time I checked.

D.E. Converse Company, which was incorporated in 1889, owned some1300 acres of land, most being wooded areas, farm lands and pastures. The wooded areas were full of squirrels, possums and coons providing plenty of game for the sport of hunting. Mr. Will Rogers seen above, was an avid hunter. I never saw a posted sign upon a single acre. At one time, there was a small club of coon hunters who frequented the woods often. Ralph McGraw of Glendale, an avid coon hunter, was a leader.

Though you don’t hear anything about them anymore unless you see one dead in the roads, possum was once considered a food delicacy, not by me, but by many. Back in the thirties, my Uncle Mitch Allen, a Spartanburg City policeman, who married my aunt who was a Glendale lady, and Dr. J. B. Brannon, the popular Spartanburg Chiropractor of that day, where good friends and would go out into the company woods behind our house to hunt possums. Seldom did they come back without one. They would clean and bake them among a tray of sweet potatoes, somewhat like they prepared a small piglet for eating. They both were full of fat and are no doubt outlawed today by medical advisors.

The farm lands had houses in which the tenants and their families lived. They tended  the farm and worked in the mill also. The fields were full of quail and rabbits and fox. Rabbit hunting season opened about Thanksgiving time and I remember seeing large groups of hunters, with their rabbit dogs, flooding the fields looking for rabbits. When bird season opened, hunters with their bird dogs would again fill the fields, looking for quail. Up until World War 2, rabbit, squirrel and quail pot pies were frequent servings found on the family dinner table.

The pasture land held the villager’s milk cattle, a few horses for plowing, pulling buggies or wagons and a few for the sport of horse-riding. Along the edge of the pasture land next to the village, were a few hog pens where villagers raised their own hogs for slaughter.

The community building built in the 1800s in “the flat” of the village (picture 5) had three floors. The first floor contained the post office, a barber shop, a shoe shop, the village’s first fast food - Darracot Lunch room - which was where the youths hung out. There was also a recreation room where the game of checkers was the main feature of the day.

Picture 5

Movies were shown on the second floor on Saturday nights with Will Quinn, village policeman, (pictures 6 & 7), collecting an admission fee of ten cents from the patrons. The main features were westerns such as Tom Mix and the likes. They also had entertainers, musicians and comics, to put on shows from time to time. The Boy Scouts also met on the second floor.

The third floor was for clubs, community groups, Redman, Woodman, and I think, Masons, met there until they all moved upstairs in the Company store. School classes were taught there for a while until a house built especially for school was opened.  (See schools for more information about the story of Glendale schools.)

Pictures 6 & 7

In the early 1900s, the Glendale Park was built on the large pond of water up stream from the dam. The electric trolley car passed over the pond via a trestle. (See pictures 8, 9 & 10) Records, which I hold, show that the park was built on a five acre tract leased from the mill company and was built by the S.C. Gas and Electric Co. as a business venture. News reports stated that hundreds came to the park from all sections of the county, primarily by trolley. City school teachers arranged trips to the park for the students. It has been said that on week ends and holidays, the park was filled with visitors.

A picnic pavilion was added for family and group picnics. Today, there is nothing to remind one of the park. Though the pond has filled in with mud, dirt and muck, grasses, bushes and even trees are growing in the area which the park once covered, there is talk about the possibility of reopening the park one day. At one time, Ed Rush had a fence around a large portion of the area in which he kept cattle. It has been said that an Indian burial ground was in the area. I have seen many arrowheads picked up from the area and had some myself at one time.

Picture 8

Picture 9

Picture 10

In the 1930s, in conjunction with the W.P.A., Mr. Lindsey Swofford, mill paymaster, had a large pool built in the company pasture behind the upper cemetery which became known as The Boy Scouts Swimming pool and was very popular. It was a beautiful place. The grounds were covered by grass, like well kept lawns. Several concrete picnic tables and benches were scattered over the grounds. Read more about the pool at Glendale Swimming Pool.

The upper end of the pool was very shallow to allow children to wade in the waters. A diving board was mounted on the dam. The sides and dam of the pool were made of concrete. The bottom was natural gravel and dirt. Fed by springs in the pasture, the water was clear as crystal and almost as cold as ice water. Large bathrooms stood along side the pool in which one was to bath before entering the pool. Though persons of both genders were allowed to visit the pool grounds at any time, separate days were assigned for the ladies and men to swim. One day when a young teen age boy was swimming, some bullies caught hold of him aggravating him by ducking him time and again in the pool. The more he begged them to stop, the more they ducked him. coming up, exhausted and mad, he said to the bullies, “O.K., you drown me and I’ll kill you”. The life guard broke it up.

The Pentecostal Church in the community used the pool from time to time to baptize their converts and members.

While it has been some forty years since I have been to the pool area, I am told that the bulk of the dam still stands along with some concrete walls and a few broken picnic tables, that large trees are growing in the bed of the pool with a small stream of water flowing through.
See photographs of what is left of the swimming pool.

The Company built a ball park and stadium  and sponsored a base ball team which played in the Textile league. (See pictures 11 & 12.) During WW2, national league ball players who were in training at nearby Camp Croft would play with our team. Fact of the matter, somewhere about 1945, the U.S. Army Colonel who  was at Camp Croft and was over  the ball players, supplying some players and supplies for Glendale, came into my office along with Tommy Jett, a former Glendale ball player to get a check cashed. The check bounced. I turned it over to my friend who was a F.B.I agent. He had a check ran on him and found that he had about a half dozen warrants against him for bad checks. His wife had signed a warrant against him because he had embezzled some 50 thousand dollars of her money. He was caught and sentenced to one year and one day by a Spartanburg Federal Judge. ( See also Baseball for more on Glendale's baseball story.)

Picture 11

Picture 12

D.E. Converse Co./Glendale Mills, sponsored a Boy Scout troop for many years with Elmer Willis serving as Scout Master. I assisted him as assistant Scout Master in the late forties and early fifties.

Mrs. Ella Bennett and Mrs. J. Hicks Lovelace sponsored a Girl's club led by Susanne Lovelace, President, Connie Gail Rhinehart, V.P., Nancy Brown, secretary and Patsy Rodgers, treasurer were meeting regularly.

On January 31, 1950, the new Community gymnasium (picture 13) opened with a double header game before a large crowd. The Glendale Girls playing the Pacolet Girls, (Picture 14, though fuzzy, shows a game in the gym between Glendale Girls and Pacolet girls but it might not be the game that opened the gymnasium.) The Glendale boys played the Navel Reservists. Unfortunately, I have misplaced my pictures and score of the games.

Picture 13

Picture 14

Bobby Cannon had been employed as Basketball coach. Pete Brown, who became personnel manager, along with James Jack and Henry Childress, also had responsibilities in the athletic department.

At the end of the tournament, winning over the Lyman Pacific's 59/51, the Glendale Browns became the first team ever to win the YMCA county Basketball League pennant. They had just eliminated  the Spartan mill team to place them in the final tournament. Pete Brown racked up 16 points,; James Jack, 8; Henry Childress 8,; Jimmy Maxwell, 12; Jimmy Lowell, 13; Others that played on the team were, Darrell Medlock, Jim Aughtry and Grey Gosnell. Sub players were, Parris, Lynch and Brookshire. (See Picture 15)

Picture 15
There was an unusual form of recreation practiced in Glendale in the 1940's and 1950's and that was homing pigeon racing.  The following article and picture is from the Spartanburg paper of that time.

Picture 16

Of course, as related in an earlier mill and village story, the mill sponsored special recreational and sport events on July 4th and at Christmas time.

In the late 1990s, the Methodist Church sponsored a Boy Scout club led by Phil Bryant as scout master and a Cub scout pack led by Robert White as cub master.

Unfortunately, with the Mill and the Methodist Church closed, there are few sponsors of community sports or recreation. The Glendale Baptist Church has a fellowship building in which the youth play basketball and have other youth programs. A few probably still fish and hunt but that is about the limit of recreation and sport activities at Glendale today.
(A new organization has  been established in Glendale to offer more  possibilities for recreation and outdoor activities. It is called the Glendale Outdoor Leadership School (GOLS) and it is located in the former Glendale Methodist Church Building. The Leadership School is a program of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation which is also has its headquarters in Glendale, The GOLS website is at:

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