The North Carolina

 

 

 

Visitor Center

FAIRMONT-A PROUD PAST, A PROMISING FUTURE

TOWN GAINS RECOGNITION

       Mayor Charles Kemp of Fairmont was informed on Friday the 16th that the downtown commercial district had been placed on the national register of historic places by the national historic preservation committee in Washington D.C. This year long quest was aided by historic preservation consultant Sybil Argintar from Ashville who visited the

Town, made the historic study, and applied for the designation. The register includes sections of towns and cities, individual buildings and structures, and areas who in the opinion of the national committee exhibit historic merit and meet the age qualifications.  All buildings in the Fairmont downtown district predate 1955, the cutoff year. The designation also offers building owners large federal tax credits for façade improvements as well as drawing interested and curious visitors to the district.

        Plans now turn to the design and placing of attractive street banners on the towns antique street light poles, green street signs capped by an array of tobacco leaves at the top, brown state historic district signs, and the printing and dispersal of 7,000 colorful

brochures made possible by a grant from the Lumberton Visitors Bureau. There will be a public ceremony to commemorate  the honor later in May.

        Mayor Kemp, observed “ this historic designation is coveted by many small towns as a way to focus interest in their downtowns and help revive them economically. I am so proud of the tremendous effort and good will which has been produced by this effort. Now Fairmont’s downtown can serve as a beacon to draw more citizens and shoppers. All that is very good for us”.

 

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A TOWN ALL AGLOW

BY: FAIRMONT MAYOR CHARLES KEMP

 

     Friday December 4th will be a very special day in Fairmont, N. C. At 6:00 p.m. the 2nd annual Twilight Christmas parade will roll down Main Street as the opening event in the town’s Holiday on Main celebration. Fairmont is a unique community and in keeping with this tradition the organizers decided to have a parade and other related Christmas events at night. Adorned by special Christmas lights each car, float, and truck shines in the early evenings darkness and adds a spectacular touch to the season. Last years unique inaugural parade saw 65 units wind through downtown on their way to the community park where a  Christmas tree lighting ceremony conducted by Mayor Charles Kemp was held. Special seasonal singing and the reading of the Christmas Story capped off this phase of the evening. Gathering in the late fall air hundreds of citizens, led by the nine Farmers Festival Queens, walked together down Main Street back to the Heritage Center where more singing entertainment awaited them. Cups of hot chocolate provided by a local merchant warmed the audience as children’s choirs and soloists added to the festive mood. It was a wonderful opening act for a community which had not properly celebrated Christmas since 1979. No parade, no special events. Now all that has changed.

       The 2nd annual Holiday on Main promises to be all that the first celebration was and maybe a little more. Interest in the parade has already been shown and  “Santa’s Little Helpers”, the organizing committee,  has been hard at work for about a month making preparations for year number two. A local business woman with amazing decorating skills has agreed to decorate our downtown’s two pocket parks while a local florist will adorn the ceremonial light poles in the center of our business district.  Cash prizes for the best floats in the parade and store fronts will offer friendly competition within the business community.

        What an evening and what a festive occasion for a community to celebrate. And  how will it end? A personal visit by SANTA CLAUS to the wide eyed amazement of the children and with hot chocolate warming the body and soft carols warming the heart citizens will return to their homes with spirits aglow ready to celebrate that most special of holidays. We invite you to join us on the first Friday in December and fill your heart with the spirit of the season. We’ll keep a cup of hot chocolate warm for you and a lit candle to show you the way into our hearts.

 

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THE GOLDEN LEAF RULE

BY MAYOR CHARLES KEMP

 

When I was a young boy living in this sleepy southern town only one thing beside playing baseball fascinated me-being a tobacco auctioneer. While I could play baseball with regularity and without regard to the season I could only watch my auctioneer idols during ‘baccer season. What fun times they were too. Each day during the season I’d grab my bike and head down to one of our town’s 13 tobacco warehouses, huge behemoths holding tons of the cured golden leaf which lay awaiting the auction line. As if by clockwork each humid, sticky morning long lines of tobacco company buyers would line up and, accompanied by my hero the auctioneer, would start the age old tobacco ritual of selling the aaiting bundles laying on pallets. I was never but one row away and always faced the auctioneer because I wanted to take in his sing song cadence and watch every gesture he made. With sweat stained shirts the procession slowly wound its way up and down the long rows until all the piles were sold and farmers got the pay they deserved. The buyers and auctioneer moved on to yet another warehouse for a repeat performance. What a great job to have I often thought. A dream job.  

      

That was 50 years ago in a much more simple world. Now after 40 years as a public school teacher and 32 years as first a town commissioner and the past four as Mayor I still have flashbacks to those “auctioneer” days and I find myself selling our golden leaf all over again.  Occasionally I will revisit some of the warehouses which stand empty today and summon up the ghosts of those by gone days when tobacco ruled and all lives in my town centered in some way on that golden leaf. Men toiled in the fields all spring to plant and grow the tobacco which they then barned, cured, graded, and finally sold at auction.


The money they received from its sale put food on their families tables, paid for school supplies, clothes, rare vacations, and their entire way of life. A national magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, displayed a back page ad in the 1950’s proclaiming that Fairmont, N. C. was the “biggest little tobacco market in the world”. They didn’t lie. It was.   

That has all changed now and through government regulation and health issues the tobacco culture in small towns like mine has virtually disappeared. Our warehouses gradually became empty shells, tobacco farmers took up other more productive jobs, employment shrank, the sales disappeared, and tobacco seemingly became a taboo topic. Not quite. In my town we take pride in our heritage and promote it when we can. We took matters into our hands and offered up a festival to honor our glory days and we call it Fairmont Farmers Day. We hold it the third Saturday in October and we have a ball all day. You’re more than welcome to enjoy it with us.

Farmers Day pays attention to our rich heritage while allowing our present citizens to revel in the present. We project a 100 unit parade complete with bands, queens, amusing Shriner units, and much more but we also show off our tractors, plows, horses, mules, and other farming images. Those artifacts from our past are never far from our hearts. We meet each other on the sidewalks and rejoice in our friendships. We relive old conversations. We swap admiring glimpses into wallet photos. We become family for a day. Many with grey hair and a few wrinkles who attend remember a day in 1955 when, at the height of the glory days of tobacco, 25,000 attended Farmers Day. Those numbers are gone now but crowds of 5,000 have recently been seen. A side attraction is a large arts and crafts area spread out on the grassy lawn of our town’s museum.


A few steps away from the arts and crafts one can come face to face with the artifacts of our farming past. Designed and promoted by the late town historian, Wiley Taylor, the museum which was formerly the towns train depot whisks a curious visitor away to a time gone by amid tobacco hogsheads and cotton gins. There is the photograph of native son Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker and several books fame. One can see telegraph paraphanalia by which the train agent sent messages up and down the line. Train schedules line the wall and you are immersed in the history of years. It is tour worth taking.

        

So in our sleepy little southern town where excitement abounds over children playing tag in the front yard, pretty girls and bands charming spectators in a parade, the bright lights of exploding fireworks dazzling thousands on a July evening, and the end of an evening always being met with a grateful prayer there is plenty of time to relive the past and honor the things which made us great. We call it the Golden Leaf rule and we’re proud and grateful to live it out each day. Drop by for a visit and enjoy our history, our culture, and our hospitality. We’ll make you a member of the family. That’s another rule we have too. 

 

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FAIRMONT-A PROUD PAST, A PROMISING FUTURE


By Charles Kemp, Mayor



As the proud Mayor of Fairmont, N. C. let me thank the editor of this publication for allowing me to introduce my town to you. Fairmont is a small town in southeastern  N. C. with approximately 2,170 citizens. Our history dates back to the late 1700’s and has had  three name changes: Ashpole, Union, and now our current Fairmont. Farming and rural life were the standards by which we grew and prospered and with the coming of the railroad and tobacco came fame as the “biggest little tobacco market in the world”. This logo was embossed upon the back page of a mid 50’s Saturday Evening Post magazine and bore out the proud heritage of our thriving tobacco pursuits.

    

Throughout the 60’s tobacco and the influx of textile plants helped boost Fairmont’s economy making it a center of county commerce. With the waning of both these commercial pursuits in the 80’s and 90’s came changes and a re-thinking of our town’s

purpose.

     

What Fairmont has become in the past decade is a town positioned halfway between its rich agricultural past and a bright economic future. With the gradual demise of tobacco and textiles came the loss of business revenue and the erosion of our downtown. Within the past four years, due to assistance from the N. C. Small Town Main Street program,  a renaissance has occurred in our downtown with improved street lights, two pocket parks, and a brand new community building in the heart of downtown. Business commerce is starting to return, customers are gravitating back to the stores, and confidence is being restored. The culmination of these four years of hard work will be in the spring of 2010 when Fairmont’s downtown will be listed on the prestigious registry of historic places. We know that with the achievement of this important milestone history buffs, tourists, and future residents interested in small town life will help guide  the progress we seek. As our new motto proclaims, “Visit Fairmont-A Proud Past, A Promising Future”.  Come to see us, check out our charm, and stay awhile. You’re always family in Fairmont.

 

Charles Kemp, Mayor

Fairmont, N. C.