Museum to Focus on Southern Pines
When James Tyrant Patrick laid out streets in the pine barrens on either side of Seaboard Air Lines’ double-track main line, he named them for Northern states.
He had in mind attracting people from those climes to his “little New England village in the South,” as the town would describe itself. Patrick named his town Southern Pines after its towering longleaf conifers.
More than a century later, a former town councilman and other graduates of Southern Pines schools are aiming to establish a historical museum for their town.
David Woodruff, with other alums, is ad hoc leader of what they are calling their “sandSPur” project — with the large S and P in the middle for Southern Pines.
“This is a group effort to create a very special history of Southern Pines,” Woodruff says. “It will start with gathering a historical collection of items that future generations can see — things that defined a way of life and an experience supported by sacrifices of our parents and the taxpayers.”
Woodruff fears that many artifacts, particularly from East and West Southern Pines schools, could be lost forever if not collected and shared in some manner. He said he hopes to find a suitable location in the downtown area for the museum and its collections.
“Stories, photographs, trophies, plaques, yearbooks, awards, class projects, uniforms, films, clippings, programs, handbooks and memorabilia that reminds us of events and happenings we cherished are all relevant and desirable — anything saved from your era,” Woodruff says. “Don’t let it be lost.”
Alumni of the former Aberdeen High School created a similar museum for the Aberdeen schools in the train depot downtown.
‘We Could Use Stories’
Before the Moore County school system absorbed local schools into a countywide system, Southern Pines had a statewide reputation for the quality of education the town was willing to pay to provide its young people, according to Woodruff.
One superintendent, Phil Weaver, moved on to head the Guilford County school system, where a Greensboro building bears his name, as does the auditorium built for Southern Pines High School, now Southern Pines Elementary.
His successor, A.C. Dawson, went on to head the N.C. Association of Educators for many years and then served as advocate for retired schoolteachers.
“Our goal is to have a museum in downtown Southern Pines,” Woodruff says. “We could use stories. Write yours down and preserve it. Somebody said, ‘The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.’ It doesn’t have to be polished. We are more interested in the anecdotes and what they represent of how life and times were. Contacts for information are ‘Squirt’ Wilson, Ken Creesh, or me. We need your stuff.”
One alumnus of Southern Pines High School is already writing. John Ormsby will soon be publishing his book on six-man football.
“He will focus on our Southern Pines teams,” Woodruff says. “Remember? He does.”
Woodruff himself has been poring over old records like the minutes of town meetings.
“In 1897, residents voted 55-1 to start a school,” he says. “The first one was built that year, the same year R.C. Lawson Institute opened as a school for blacks. And Pickford Sanitarium — the first in the South for black TB patients — was dedicated here.”
Those were the days of segregation, when Americans were separated along racial lines; both groups had towns and schools, Woodruff found.
‘Loosely Affiliated’ Group
West Southern Pines was incorporated in 1923, and West Southern Pines High opened in 1925. In 1931, according to his research, the white municipality of Southern Pines requested that the General Assembly revoke West Southern Pines’ charter. It annexed the former West Southern Pines two years later.
He and the others involved think the history of that century needs to be accessible to present and future generations. They want both the West and East sides represented in museum displays and memories recorded.
“We want anything related to Clam Box, Jewel Box, Sandwich Shop, Hilltop, the drugstores, poolrooms, Hamel’s and Holliday’s restaurants,” he says. “We want recollections and things related to swimming at Aberdeen Lake or Watson’s Pond — the Laneview Pavilion, the Southern Pines Country Club, and so forth.”
Why “sandSPur” for the name?
“We are a prickly group,” Woodruff says. “We are loosely affiliated natives and friends interested in trading and preserving their versions of Southern Pines history. Probably almost anyone’s journey of life, starting with what is remembered about Southern Pines, to their current condition would be interesting.
“If most everything is copied or recorded, it could be the start of a wonderful collection for the museum — something to go along with artifacts and photos.”
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