Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Celebrating Kernersville Past
by Suzelle Sinclair

suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net 

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
William Faulkner

Images on thin tissue paper, layered one over another. History is like that. Events happen and people pass in the same place separated only by time. Autumn has always been a time when those who have past before us are celebrated. Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, Dia de Los Muertos. As the annual flowers wither and the leaves fall to the ground, turning brown and crumpling to dust, nature brings our thoughts to the passing of time and reflections of the past.

Many communities across the Carolinas have ghost tours year round, and a few only offer these events this time of year. During a visit to Charleston, South Carolina over the summer I enjoyed an entertaining ghost tour. You may remember Gracie’s encounter with the famous ghost dog Poogan from a previous column, “Good Ol’ Southern Porch Dogs.” Halloween weekend was filled with opportunities to enjoy such tours. After reading the recently published book, “Haunted Kernersville,” by Kelly McGuire Hargett and Scott Icenhower, Kernersville’s Haunted Walking Tour was a must attend event for me. Kelly is the Executive Director of the Kernersville Museum. The book was inspired by the Haunted Walking Tour that the museum began as a fundraiser. Whether or not you believe that spirits still inhabit the various dwellings around town, this tour, like other ghost tours across the Carolinas, is an entertaining way to learn of the local history.

As we walked down the familiar streets, our tour guide’s stories turned back the pages of time. It was easy to imagine the friendly residents of time gone by welcoming you in the same way as those who occupy the town today. “They are all friendly,” Kelly spoke of the ghosts of Kernersville, “I think they just loved this town so much that they decided to stay.”

Learning the stories of those who founded and formed the town, makes those places that we love today all the more special. I have long loved visiting the Fitz on Main lunch counter. This unique little diner is only nine foot wide. The intimate space makes it impossible not to interact with the friendly staff and patrons. I have often thought of Fitz on Main as the perfect representation of Kernersville. It is a place where everyone knows one another, the epitome of “hometown.” There is a great comfort in seeing the same smiling faces behind the narrow counter. If for some reason one isn’t present, their absence is felt.

This quaint little diner was originally Snow’s Diner. It was built in 1947 by Charlie Snow, in an alleyway on Main Street. Snow’s Diner was, from the beginning, a place where locals gathered for delicious diner food and to socialize. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Snow. While he sold the diner in 1985, and passed away at the age of 80 in 1999, you can’t visit without sensing  his presence. He invested much of his life to serving the folks of Kernersville, and his vision and passion live on in the new staff.

CHARLIE SNOW STANDING INSIDE SNOW’S DINER. KERNERSVILLE MUSEUM COLLECTION. COLORIZED BY TIM VOGEL.

Some believe his presence is more than just a memory. The restaurant opens at 7:00 a.m., but the cooks arrive at 5:00 a.m. to prepare. Every cook has similar stories, especially of the early morning hours while they are in the building alone. All reported having experienced what they felt to be a tap on the shoulder and many reported witnessing their cooking utensils moving on their own across the countertop by the grill. They attributed these paranormal experiences to Charlie Snow, who they believe continues to occupy a space behind the counter and at the grill.

Following the tour, I stopped to look in the window of the diner. The street lights illuminated the memorabilia that adorned the walls, a scoreboard from the old high school, old advertisements and photos. These remnants of time long past all held pleasant memories. I thought about how each day and each life that passes within a space layers one over another. While we may not even be aware of the influence we have on those we meet within time, we are less aware of the influence our actions have on those in the future. Even those seemly insignificant things are a fiber woven into the fabric of life, and even in death, a part of everyone of us remains.

Copies of “Haunted Kernersville” by Kelly McGuire Hargett and Scott Icehower are available for purchase at the Kernersville Museum. They are also available at many bookstores online.

PHOTO BY SUZELLE SINCLAIR

Kernersville Museum

The Kernersville Museum has a variety of events year round. To learn more, visit: https://www.kernersvillemuseum.org/

CHARLOTTE WEATHER