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Fayetteville History: Fond memories of downtown Fayetteville- the way it was


By Weeks Parker

When I was very young, the population of Fayetteville was less than 50,000 people. Today it is more than 200,000. There were no shopping malls, and almost all major businesses were on Hay Street.

The Cumberland County Public Library was upstairs in the Market House. As a child, I fondly remember climbing a narrow set of steps that led to the library. As I ascended those steps, I observed a very thick rope hanging only a few feet away. That rope is still there today, and it was once used to manually ring the Market House bells to summon volunteer firemen to start the boiler in the old Selsby steam engine that at one time stayed under the Market House.

When I was a student at Fayetteville High School, after the winning of almost every football game some of the students greatly enjoyed celebrating the victory by illegally driving their cars through the Market House. Some of them also liked to pull the rope and ring the bells that could be heard all over town. Years later, the City of Fayetteville put a stop to riding under the Market House by building a small wall around it so it is now impossible to drive through it.

During the Christmas season each year, my sister Vivian and I always greatly enjoyed going to the many downtown stores to see the wonderful displays of toys that were usually on the entire second floor of Belk- Hensdale, J.C. Penney, The Capitol and other stores on Hay Street. The most impressive thing we loved was a life-sized Shirley Temple doll sitting and playing a real organ in one of the display windows in front of Belk-Hensdale department store. The replica of Shirley Temple was so life-like that it was as though she were there in front of you giving a live concert. Another thing that children and adults enjoyed doing was going to the many theaters that were in downtown Fayetteville. These theaters were the Strand Theatre, The Ritz, the Broadway, the Miracle, the Colony, the Carolina, the State and the Haymont Theater. The admission to many of these theaters was
only 10 cents for children and 35 cents for adults.

Popcorn and carbonated beverages were 5 cents each, and you were allowed to bring them into the theaters to eat and drink as you watched the movies.

One afternoon, my best friend and I were eating and drinking as we watched an “Abbot and Costello” movie. We laughed so hard that we spilled our drinks and food all over the seats in front of us. The next time we attended that theater, we observed a large sign that read “NO DRINKS OR FOOD ALLOWED INSIDE.” Growing up in Fayetteville was great
fun. My wife Myra and I were born on Hay Street in the Pittman Hospital that was later converted into the J.C. Penney Department Store. The City Hall is now on the lot where the
old hospital and J.C. Penney Company once stood. If you happen to be a native of Fayetteville, you can probably vividly remember “Those Good Ole Days.”