Newspapers, TV stations and radio stations in Guilford County are always talking about what’s going on in Greensboro and High Point – but everyone always overlooks the small towns and communities around the county.
Quite frankly, many people who live in Greensboro or High Point don’t ever visit these places or even know hide nor hair about these little nooks and crannies of the county.
I’m talking, of course, about places like Colfax, Pleasant Garden, Brown Summit and Climax – places that you see on the map but that never get much media attention.
So, this week, I thought I would turn the tables and provide an introduction to some of those places and just share a little information about each …
Whitsett. This quaint little town of about 600 people is named after poet, educator and historian William Thornton Whitsett (1896 -1934). The town grew up around a boarding school for boys. The school burned down exactly 100 years ago this year but the town remained.
I googled “Things to do in Whitsett,” kind of as a joke, and I swear this is true: The first thing that came up was a big picture of a hand holding a bottle of beer.
It was Trip Advisor’s website, which says the number one place to go in Whitsett is the Red Oak Brewery.
That website’s top-rated restaurant for Whitsett? Why, the Wholly Guacamole Mexican Grill, of course.
Whitsett always appears to be a very peaceful town with no controversy to be found. If you go to a Greensboro City Council meeting, there’s shouting and screaming, protests and loud arguments about transgender bathrooms, guns and racial issues – but just 14 miles to the east, it’s a completely different and tranquil world. I looked at the agenda for the Whitsett Town Council meeting on Tuesday, April 10, and the big items on the agenda were, “Proposal for Ball Field Contract” and “Update on Rent and Utility Charges for the Ruritan/Cafeteria.”
I understand there was a little excitement at the Whitsett Town Council meeting last month when the council dealt with the issue of Judy Cleburne’s chickens constantly getting into Frank Brandon’s yard and blocking his driveway. That matter was resolved by a Town Council member who had some extra chicken wire in the back of his truck and agreed to help Miss Cleburne put it up around her chicken coup the Saturday after the meeting.
Climax, NC. If you’re not sure where Climax is, it’s 35 miles northeast of Erect, NC, and 26 miles southeast of Horneytown. If you still don’t know, Climax is on the way to the beach – at the intersection of NC 62 and US 421.
This little community was once home to one of J.P. Morgan’s quail hunting clubs. Washington Duke, who was the president of the American Tobacco Company and a guy who gave lots and lots of money to Duke University, used to hunt quail in Climax, as did, interestingly, bubble-gum inventor Frank Fleer.
Now, the story about Climax is that it got its name because it’s the high point on the Atlantic & Yadkin Railway line. That’s the official story anyway. The actual story is no doubt much more fascinating.
The Trip Advisor website lists the number one thing to do in Climax: a visit to the Goat Lady Dairy. Actually, the dairy is the third thing on the list – behind the Richard Petty Museum and Homeland Creamery – but those two attractions are in Level Cross and Julian respectively, so I’m not counting them.
Climax has some cool things going on that many people don’t know about. It is, for instance, home to the Hobson Cricket Grounds, where teams from the Mid-Atlantic Cricket Conference play some games – but the coolest thing about Climax that some people may not know is that it has its own privately owned airport.
The airport, named Southeast Greensboro Airport, actually has a lighted 3,000-foot runway and a good amount of hangar space. If I were that airport, I would change my name to Piedmont Triad International Airport – once PTI gets rid of the name – and I’ll bet the Climax airport would see a giant spike in traffic. (The Climax airport could even buy the “Fly PTI” television spots from PTI and just slap the “Climax” name on them.)
Brown Summit. As you can tell from the name, this community was named after a person; however, I don’t know much about Mr. Summit, whoever he was. What I do know is that Brown Summit got its name in 1863.
Now, the very big, eternal, extremely divisive question about Brown Summit is whether it’s Brown Summit or Browns Summit. Unless you pronounce the name very carefully, it sounds the same when you say it. However, any time you write the name, there’s no getting around the problem and you have to commit to one or the other.
People on both sides of the issue in Brown Summit are very adamant about it, as are the people who live in Browns Summit. In 1904, Brown Summit residents actually fought an inter-community civil war between people on the east side who wanted it called Brown Summit and the people on the west side who wanted to call it Browns Summit. After more than a year of bloodshed, the people who wanted to call it Browns Summit were victorious; however, that side then had a split over whether it should be Brown’s Summit with an apostrophe, or Browns Summit, without. It took two more years of bloodshed to settle that question, with hundreds of residents killed along with one apostrophe.
Colfax. Colfax is well known for its annual persimmon festival. Oh, and there’s no alcohol allowed at the persimmon festival – so you might want to check out Whitsett instead. That town has its own brewery.
Pleasant Garden. Of all of the towns in Guilford County, this one has the best name by far. It just sounds very, well … pleasant.
In 1786, old timey pioneers from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware established the Pleasant Garden Methodist Episcopal Church there, though it wasn’t until six years later that they built an actual church building.
In the late 1940s, Boren Brick Co. and Founders Furniture Co. opened shop and brought lots of jobs.
This town surrounds Hagan-Stone Park, which I know quite well. When I was in high school, my friends and our girlfriends would go out there quite a bit for picnics and exploring. When I think back on Hagen-Stone Park, I have some very fond memories.
Oak Ridge. This northwest Guilford County town, which was incorporated in 1998, seems like a very nice place when you drive through it. You know, it looks great and they used to hold a big horse show there every Easter.
So it sounds like a great place, but I still get frightened and upset every time I hear the name “Oak Ridge.”
For me and my friends, even hearing the town’s name resurfaces a long-running childhood trauma. That’s because Oak Ridge is most famous for their military school – Oak Ridge Military Academy – and, when I was a little kid growing up in Greensboro, that was where your parents sent you when they had completely given up on you. It was the place you were banished to if you had been very bad and had exhausted every chance you’d been given.
Kids who found out they were being sent there started crying and begging like Carrie in Stephen King’s novel when her mother tries to drag her into the praying closet because she’d sinned. Carrie screams, “Please don’t put me in the prayin’ closet, Mother!” But with my friends it was “Mom, Dad! Please don’t send me to Oak Ridge! I promise I’ll change. I’ll be good! I swear!”
But of course by that time it was too late and soon those cries for mercy shifted to screams of a horrified “Nooooooo!“ as they were dragged away to the academy by the men in uniform.
Sometimes, the kids sent there were never to be seen again but sometimes they would come back and be like Stepford children – perfectly groomed with neatly trimmed hair and always on their best behavior. And when they came back they all had this eerie vacant smile like the asylum patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when those patients came back from electroshock therapy.
The military academy’s most famous graduate, by the way, is NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who, I’m guessing, was sent there for speeding.
Well, it’s clear I won’t be able to get to all of the county’s small towns and communities into one column. But here’s a quick shout out to you, Stokesdale, McLeansville, Gibsonville, Summerfield, Osceola, Jamestown, Julian, Monticello, Sedalia and the others left out. Be patient; your day in the media spotlight may be just around the corner. For now, just kick back with a cold one or a persimmon pie as the case may be.