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Belmont history available for viewing on YouTube

By Alan Hodge

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As most folks know, all sorts of things from the sublime to the ridiculous can be seen on YouTube. Well, here’s an interesting fact, there are several videos on there of Belmont during the early to mid 20th century made from “home movies” shot by local folks.

One of the YouTube videos shows newsreel film shot during the 1930s and 1940s in both Belmont and Kings Mountain. The video includes interviews with mill workers, action from a 1940 flood, and Herbert Hoover speaking to a huge crowd at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain celebration. 

The YouTube video was made and posted by Belmont’s Harding Stowe using original home movies actually shot on the scenes by his uncle, the late Daniel Stowe. 

“When he passed away I got the films and had them digitalized by a company in Pennsylvania,” Harding said when the first film aired on YouTube in 2013. “I thought other people might want to see them so I posted the video. He started taking movies in the 1920s and the other films are travel and family stuff.”

In one early Belmont YouTube video, you see female workers leaving the Majestic Mill while a group of men in overalls hunker under a shade tree taking a break. The camera also encounters a group of young girls and films them giggling while a fellow mill hand named Charles Huggins holds a microphone and asks how they like their lollipops. Huggins also asks his colleagues how they like their jobs and gets mostly positive comments in return. Another portion of the video was shot at the Chronicle Mill. Other segments from the Belmont portion shows camera-shy women in cotton print dresses darting behind bushes to avoid the camera lens, and downtown Belmont seen through the window of a car driving along Main Street. 

Other segments of the film shows a flood scene dated 1940 and a steel cantilever bridge in danger of being washed away. The bridge is not identified but it might be the one that was over the South Fork River in McAdenville at that time. 

The Kings Mountain portion of the film shows US President Herbert Hoover addressing a huge crowd on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain. Folks in the film are seen swarming around the monument at the top of the battlefield, Hoover speaking from a large stage draped with flags, and the crowd dispersing in a cloud of dust. 

Another old time Belmont YouTube video posted by Stowe is entitled School Days and Baseball. This clip features children walking into a school with  a man and teachers watching over them. Most of the boys are wearing bib overalls. Another segment shows  a lively crowd at a baseball game. The players are wearing uniforms with P&L on their jerseys. Mill village houses are in the background.

To see these and other historic Belmont videos, visit YouTube and type in Belmont NC History and be prepared to open a window on a fascinating look back at our past. 

With the invention of portable movie cameras such as the one Daniel Stowe used, other folks became interested in filming hometown movies. One man, H. Lee Waters, recorded “slices of life” with his camera in Gaston and Cleveland Counties, and beyond, in the same time period as the film in the YouTube video. Waters, (1902-1997), was born in Caroleen and operated a photo studio in Lexington for 60 years. During the period 1936-1942, he traveled across North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina shooting films of towns and the people in them. Waters made 252 films in a total of 118 communities and titled the series “Movies of Local People”. The films were screened in movie theaters and many of them are archived in the Duke University library. Films that Waters shot in Cramerton and Gastonia are listed on the Duke library site.