DAVIDSON HISTORY

Life in Davidson in the 1940s and 1950s

by | Jul 13, 2020 | Davidson History, Top Right Black Box

Torrence House, 315 South Main

Life in Davidson in the 1940s and 1950s
by Bettie Torrence Smith

Editor’s note: Davidson History columnist, Nancy Griffith, thought she would try something new for the history column. Griffith has been concentrating on events that happened before 1925, but it occurred to her that it might be interesting to contact some longtime Davidson residents for more recent information that reveals just how the town has changed. Here’s the first result of that effort, a contribution by Pines resident Bettie Torrence Smith, who grew up in Davidson:

I was enjoying my second floor balcony at the Pines in Davidson the other day when a neighbor and her husband walked by. I spoke and they stopped to talk a few minutes. Her name was Nancy Griffith and her husband is John. When I told her I was a local girl, born and raised here, she asked if I would write something about how things have changed over the years. I will try my best.

I am Bettie Jo, the middle daughter of Conrad G. Torrence and Rosa Lee Gant Torrence. My oldest sister is Odessa and youngest sister is Elizabeth Ann. Our home was at 315 South Main Street, between the Fisher home on the left and the Hoyle home on the right. It is one of the oldest homes in Davidson. Our school on South Street (the site of the future town hall) had grades 1-11 and was within walking distance from our home.

My sisters and I were all married in the Davidson United Methodist Church, which was, at that time, in the old building across Main Street from our house. I married James Edward Smith from Winston-Salem, and Odessa (Mrs. Jack Archer) and Elizabeth (Mrs. Bill Alexander) married local boys.

Since Davidson was essentially a walking town we needed a variety of stores to serve our local people, but also meet the needs of the student body at Davidson College, which at that time was all male. I’m going to attempt to name the stores in downtown Davidson to the best of my memory.  I hope you enjoy going down memory lane with me.

Five and dime Store
Johnson’s Grocery Store
Brown’s Hardware Store
Drs. Claude and Mary Jane McConnell’s optometrist offices
Dr. Hartness, dentist
Walter Henderson’s watch and jewelry shop
Men’s clothing store
Mary Mack’s Dress Shop
White’s Drug Store
M&M Soda Shop
The Davidson Gazette (later the Mecklenburg Gazette)
Bank of Davidson
Volunteer fire department
Withers Electric
Furniture store
Johnson-Norton barber shop
Shoe repair shop
Bettie Torrence Smith, with sister Odessa’s help.

[Note from Nancy Griffith: Bettie’s list of stores was astonishing to someone who lived here during the 1980s, when much less was for sale in town! Ken Norton’s barber shop, where many a young man went to get “Nortonized,” was still in operation. And in the 80s the Soda Shop, as it is now called, was still the M&M, named for its owners, Mary and Murray. Some old timers still call it that.]

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