CLOVER — Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of stories about Clover residents and their connection to the Clover community, to mark the town’s 125th anniversary this year.
Tom Miller remembers watching the movies on Saturdays during his boyhood at Carolina Theater in Clover. As a teen, he hung out at Hines Restaurant, a local burger joint with a juke box.
And he remembers his family shopping in downtown Clover, at Kirsch’s and Warlick’s department stores, The City Pharmacy and Clover Drug Store, Hopper’s Men’s Shop and McConnells.
Miller, now 59 and a former four-term member of the Clover Town Council, has shared childhood memories of Clover with more than 1,300 others on a Facebook page called Memories of Growing up in Clover, SC.
“People get on there and talk about growing up in Clover and what they remember,” said Miller, who said a friend launched the page and later turned it over to him, who acts as administrator.
Miler, a parts coordinator with Huffman LLC in Clover, was born in Orangeburg, but his family moved to Clover when he was about 2 years old. He graduated from Clover High School in 1971. His wife, Mary Moses Miller, also grew up in Clover and graduated from Clover High in 1975.
He said many people recall Hines Restaurant, a popular teen hangout on U.S. 321 south of the town. It was owned by Jeff and Hazel Hines — fondly known to their customers as Uncle Jeff and Aunt Hazel.
“I don’t think anybody that grew up in Clover in the 50s, 60s and 70s didn’t know them,” Miller said. “It was just a hamburger joint and they had a juke box. The kids would go to college and they would bring a pennant back and they would put them on the wall.”
As a boy, he and his friends spent most Saturdays at the theater.
“You could get in for a quarter and you could watch the movies from the time it started until it closed that night. That’s what we did on Saturdays. If our parents needed us, they knew where they could find us.”
The town also had a skating rink and a bowling alley, he said.
“You really didn’t have to leave town to buy anything, because anything you needed you could buy in Clover at that time,” Miller said. “Of course malls weren’t involved at that time, and people did downtown shopping.”
Miller, who enjoys writing as a hobby, said he has written about 100 short stories, some of which feature tales about the people, places and memories of his childhood in Clover.
“My mom would have my brothers and me stand on a piece of cardboard and then she would outline our feet, cut them out, go to town to Kirsh’s and come back with new shoes for all of us,” he wrote.
He also wrote about The City Pharmacy, owned by Ben Stokes, and Clover Drug Store, owned by Moffitt Wylie. Kids would check out the comic books and magazines until they were chased away by the owner.
“Mr. Ben had a soda fountain, and you could get nice scooped ice cream cones,” Miller wrote. “When I was in the second grade, my teacher Mrs. Bush, walked our class to the City Pharmacy and bought us all ice cream cones.”
He also wrote about the Community Cash grocery store, in the building now occupied by the YMCA, where he and his friends would cool off in the air-conditioned comfort after baseball practice.
Miller also remembers the Clover Food Center, owned by Bill Hammond, Jackson Brothers, Camp’s Grocery, H&F Foodmart and Whisnant’s and Price’s Food Store. “Jackson Brothers Grocery would let us turn in coupons for candy, and that was great,” he wrote.
Kids enjoyed spending their allowance at the local dime store, called Ford’s Five and 10, he recalls. “We had to go out and rake leaves and cut grass to earn our spending money,” he said.
He and Mary married in 1976, and Miller recalls getting needed advice as a new homeowner from the Sifford Hardware Store in town. “If I’d have a problem, I’d explain to them what it was, and they’d not only tell me what I needed to fix it, a lot of times they’d lend me the tools to fix it.”
Miller served eight years on the Clover Town Council, from 1987 to 1995. At that time, there was no town manager, and Miller was in charge of water, sewer, streets and sanitation.
“It was back in the days before we started buying water from Gastonia, and there were a lot of issues with the water,” Miller said. “The water a lot of times would turn brown and people would show up at my door wanting to whop me.”
Miller said he’d run them a cup of water, showing them that he had the same brown water. He said the town began talking with Gastonia about purchasing water, but the agreement wasn’t finalized until after he left the council.
He said the town did complete the construction of Clover Community Park during his years on the council. “I was proud that we got that done,” he said. “It’s a nice park.”
Miller said he enjoyed serving on the Town Council, but his family had decided to build a house in the Bethany community, outside the town limits, so he did not seek a fifth term.
He said there is no longer much retail shopping in Clover, but there’s plenty of shopping and entertainment nearby. “We can do anything we want to do,” he said, “and still have the luxury of living in a small town.”