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Exterior of the Imperial Theater today. (Photos by Loretta Cozart)

Pieces of Kings Mountain History

Two years ago, David Stone and his family moved from the Crowders Mountain area to Kings Mountain when they began purchasing and restoring key properties in Kings Mountain’s history.

Their company, Stonewright Properties, LLC, is owned by David, his wife Janet, and their son, Christopher. You might recognize Christopher Stone’s name from his performances in Liberty Mountain over a six-year span. The family’s love of history, historic landmarks, and all things old runs deep as is evidenced by the properties they purchase and things they collect.

David understands what is required to restore and preserve historic buildings, both commercial and residential, through his real estate work. He also sits on the Historic Shelby Foundation board.

In 2019, Stonewright Properties purchased the W.A. Mauney home at 107 N. Piedmont and the Bonnie Mauney Summers property at 1220 N. Piedmont, becoming the owners of two of the most historically significant properties in the community.

Their most recent purchase occurred on April 30 for property at 138 W. Mountain Street, formerly known as Friendly Billiards. Although, the history of this building goes back almost a century as it was the first modern theater in Kings Mountain and the first built exclusively for that purpose.

The first task Stone took on with the newly acquired building was to repair the leaky roof and address other issues related to those leaks. The ceiling downstairs was taken down to the studs and the moisture issues have now been corrected.

The building itself is equal in size to 213 S. Battleground Avenue, with approximately 10,000 square feet combined across two levels. “Our thought about this building is to divide it into two retail spaces or keep it as a single,” David Stone said. “If we keep it single, we’d love to see a general store here. We think they could use the courtyard outside for a farmers market in the little alleyway, which would be a big draw. The other idea might be a tea and spice shop”

“To me the town needs three to five good anchors. Getting anchor stores to come in is difficult, because they have to be willing to see forward with you,” he said.

It is hard to determine the exact year the theater was built, due to spotty records from that time. Cinema Treasures.com lists the theater as opening in 1930 and having 600 seats. An ad from a 1939 Herald shows the theater offered several double features: Two-Gun Troubadour and Murder on Diamond Row on Wednesday and Thursday, Riders on the Frontier and The Girl from Rio running Friday and Saturday. The feature on Monday and Tuesday was Man in the Iron Mask. All seats were 10 to 15 cents.

A 1945 map shows the property with two retail spaces at the front, and a center entrance for the theater itself. The theater was segregated, as were most of that time. Outside there were separate stairs to balcony seating. An oval sign hung high on the building and the anchors for that sign remain in the brick facade. A marquee cover sheltered guests from both summer heat and inclement weather.

While the facility has been used as a billiard hall for decades, many items from the original theater remained with the building. Bent plywood theater seats are similar to ones in Central School Auditorium remain. Restroom facilities contain the original cast iron sinks and fixtures; they don’t appear to have been updated during the life of the facility.

At the back of the first floor, the theater stage area can be seen. Countless acts performed on the stage once there, and movies played on a screen now long gone.

Upstairs, the theater had a tin ceiling; Stone plans to repurpose it in the downstairs retail space.

After the theater closed, the second floor area was closed in, completely separating it from the downstairs, but the date of that remodel is unclear.

In 1948, additional steel I-beams were added to the roof, much like what was done at 213 S. Battleground around the same time-frame. Notes made on the I beam give us the only evidence of the date of their installation.

The upstairs space has most recently been used for storage. The new owners have now cleaned out that space. All that remains is a metal fan that hangs in the center of the ceiling.

If they do decide to divide the space, Stone plans to put lofts upstairs since access there is separate from that of the space below. “If we do divide it,” Stone said, “we’ll put five lofts there of various sizes. But that remains to be determined.”

The old pool tables have been sold and buyers are currently moving them to various locations, along with pool balls and cues. Vending machines line the wall.

A few other items from outside the original facility are being stored in the building for now. “I collect things like reclaimed timber from Firestone Mill,” David said. “I had a storage building in Gastonia and a sink I have here came out of that building. I save stuff like this because I can use it in other projects.”

Luckily, the other two properties the Stone’s own are currently being restored as primary residences for he and his wife, and the other for his son. As those projects near completion, I’ll be sure to share those stories.
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Emma Kay Lewis

Lewis’ barn quilts honor loved ones

By Loretta Cozart

Emma Kay Lewis has been making barn quilts for six years and does so to honor loved ones by incorporating their interests in the pattern. “I consider barn quits an extension of traditional quilting, which I also enjoy. Both continue the tradition of story telling, a means of passing on history and what is important to a person,” she said.

While barn quilts have been around for many years, there's been a spike in popularity in the last two decades.

“The first two barn quilts I painted were for my daughter,” Emma Kay explained. “My daughter lives in South Carolina and I fell in love with barn quilts because it creates a whole different was something that connects to a person’s interests on the individual level. “My brother moved to Virginia a few years ago and has a cattle farm, so his barn quilt has cows on it,” she said.

Retiring in September 2018, Emma Kay planned to move to SC to be closer to her daughter. But she found a house she loved in the Bethlehem community of Kings Mountain and decided that it was close enough to visit her daughter easily. Prior to retirement, Emma Kay was an Elementary Teacher Assistant in Wayne County, NC.

While vacationing in Western NC 10 to 15 years ago, she saw barn quilts and had to find out what they were about. But with children and obligations, she never found the time to start. “Five years ago, a friend of mine in Wayne County put a barn quilt up and I decided the time had come for me to begin. My friend was instrumental in getting started properly. We talked and compared notes on paint, sealers, hanging hardware, and things like that,” she said. “I’ve made 30 – 40 barn quilts now and they are on display in NC, SC, VA, and PA. Most are made for people I know.”

Barn quilts aren’t only for barns, they can be used on sheds, homes, and fences. Emma Kay also has two-sided ones for mailboxes. Each piece is more complicated to create than it might seem. After priming the plywood square, the artist must transfer her design to the wood. Each section is masked-off and given three coats of paint. Adjacent colors must be painted at different times due to the tape required for the straight-edge. And after all the paint for the work has dried, it must be sealed since it is displayed outdoors.

Recently, Emma Kay learned about the Gateway Trail located just a few miles from her home and she ran a 5K there during the trail’s 10th anniversary. “I run 5k and 10k races and people have encouraged me to use the trail more often because it is safe, especially during COVID-19. What sold me on the idea is that everyone shared how safe it was,” she commented.

“While walking the trail one day, I saw a lady walking her little dog. She had a grabber tool and a bag, picking up any trash she saw. I thought how wonderful it would be if everyone did their part to make the Gateway Trail as nice as possible. Then, I realized I could offer my time and talents to create a barn quilt for the trail. That is something unique I can offer to give back,” she said.

Before making barn quilts, Emma Kay spent time with traditional quilting and still makes them. “My mother-in-law taught me, and I made quilts for my kids when they were younger. As a mom, that’s what I did. I am a very sentimental person,” she said.

“Driving between VA and NC recently, I stopped in at the Visitor’s Center and found that NC has a barn quilt trail. I would love to see Cleveland County develop its own barn quilt trail here. Enough people in the community already have barn quilts and that number will only grow in time, because they are so popular now,” Emma Kay said.

“A pamphlet with a map and addresses could be created that includes the story behind the barn quilts. It would make a great day-trip and give folks something to do now and even after the pandemic is over,” she said.
— KM Herald
Mauneymemorial library logo

Library presents Chicago: True Stories of the 1920s

The 1920's are saturated with surprise, sequins, and murder! Martina Mathisen, as a 1920's flapper named Flora, tells how fashion, crime, and prohibition mixed with explosive creativity to shape the decade of the century, Thursday, July 23 at noon at www.mauneylibrary.org. If you miss the original presentation, it will be available for a week.

Learn fact from fiction and how reality relates to the 2002 Oscar-winning film Chicago.

For questions, or to join our Friends of the Library, email info@mauneylibrary.org or call the library at (704) 739-2371. The Friends of the Mauney Memorial Library thank the community for its continued support. Mauney Memorial Library is located at 100 S. Piedmont Avenue, Kings Mountain, NC 28086.

Real to Reel Film Festival

By Violet Arth

The Cleveland County Arts Council is excited to begin another decade of offering amazing cinema to film festival goers. Originally slated for the end of July, this year, the 21st annual International Real to Reel Film Fest has been rescheduled for September 9-12 at the Joy Performance Theatre in Kings Mountain. 

Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt by filmmakers, event planners, and venues around the world, Real to Reel organizers are hoping the delayed dates and a new virtual companion component will expand the outreach and preparation time for this exploration of international film.

“Postponing the festival was not a decision we took lightly but one we felt was best for everyone, and it gave us the opportunity to add a virtual component. We are excited to work with Seed and Spark to bring Real to Reel Film Festival into the virtual festival space via their platform,” commented Festival Director Violet Dukes. More details are forthcoming in regard to this online element of screenings.

The selection committee screened nearly 150 film submissions, from amateur and professional filmmakers, including animated shorts, live-action shorts, documentaries (shorts and feature-length), feature-length narrative films, and films made by children ages 14 years and younger. International countries of origin for submissions include India, Japan, Iran, Russia, and Slovakia, among others.

The festival will screen approximately 1- hours of runtime (30+ films) based on the selections made by the committee, (selections are still being finalized). “This year, I’m particularly energized by the virtual/companion component of the festival. We’ll be able to introduce an entirely new audience (outside of our geographic area) to this long-standing festival,” says Noel Manning, co-founder of Real to Reel and tenured member of the film selection committee. Awards categories will be classified by their student/amateur or professional submission status.

This year especially will bring some unique and exciting virtual components to the Real to Reel Film Festival, notably for online audiences. The virtual aspect will allow audiences to catch films they may be unable to see in person (or that they may want to view again). Tickets will be sold to stream the films online through Seed and Spark. Several filmmaker interviews conducted via Zoom will be available online for general viewing in the weeks leading up to the September festival. Additionally, for the on-site portion of the festival in September, pre-recorded filmmaker Q&A sessions will be made available to audiences. As in years past, audience members can expect live in-person filmmaker Q&A panels as well.

Last year’s Real to Reel Film Festival saw an attendance of approximately 300 people. “While this year’s festival will certainly have a different feel, we’re excited to once again bring diverse, educational and entertaining independent films to our community and beyond,” said Shearra Miller, President of the Cleveland County Arts Council.

For more information about this year’s festival, contact Violet Dukes at the Cleveland County Arts Council by email violet.arth@ccartscouncil.org or phone 704-484-2787. You can also visit the film festival website at http://www.realtoreelfest.com

  The mission of the Real to Reel International Film Festival is to offer a forum for independent film, video and multimedia artists from around the world to showcase their talents and expose the works of these artists to our region.
Mauneymemorial library logo

Library features local author on website July 27

Watch local author, Misty M. Beller, tell you about her newest adventures writing her Hearts of Montana book series. God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Misty will be on location in Montana to show you the beautiful scenery that surrounds her new series, and she will tell you a bit about writing, too. You will find her story on Mauney Memorial Library’s Facebook page, as well as the library website. To receive a free copy of one of her latest books, register online at mauneylibrary.org, while supplies last!

Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love. She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.
— KM Herald
Loretta Cozart

Pieces of Kings Mountain History, July 15, 2020

I’ve always been intrigued by theaters in Kings Mountain. As a child, we only had one movie venue in town, the Joy Theater located where the Joy Performance Center is now.

I knew the town had several theaters over the years, but I learned of a new one this week. The first movie theater was on Battleground Avenue, then known as Railroad Avenue on the East side of the tracks. The road was renamed Battleground Avenue later on. Viewing the 1908 Sanborn Map, The Opera House was located on the second floor above a Hand Printing Shop; the town’s Armory was located next door. It was just north of the Gold Street railroad crossing.

I just learned that the next theater was called Pastime Movies and was located near, or perhaps in the same building that later became the Imperial Theater on East Mountain Street. As indicated on the 1919 Sanborn Map, the theater had lights, electric, and heat stoves.

The Imperial Theater was owned by a businessman in Shelby and the Cash brothers ran the establishment and it was likely in business after 1920. By 1935, the brothers operated the Dixie Theater in a building owned by the Plonk family at 216 Railroad Avenue. The Cash brothers bought the fixtures and seating for that theater. They played movies and, during the ‘20s and ‘30s, hosted Loretta Lynn and countless road musicians on their circuit tours.

Next, the Cash brothers expanded their theater empire adding the Victory Theater in Cramerton in 1943, and the Gaston and Holly theaters in Mt. Holly the following year. With those, the Cash brothers owned four theaters.

On June 1, 1949, David and Charlie Cash opened their fifth theater, the Joy Theater, in downtown Kings Mountain. As was customary in the time, the newspaper grew from six to 20 pages that week, filled with ads welcoming the new business. The Joy Theater had the most modern equipment and seated 772 patrons. The seats were made of padded leather.

When the theater was bought by a church in the late 1970’s or early ‘80s, there was no theater in town for over 30 years until the Joy Performance Theater opened. It is now a performance venue and shows films from time to time. But the experience of catching a movie at the local theater on a Friday or Saturday night is now gone from downtown Kings Mountain.

With the Dixie property still available, one hopes a visionary with a passion to create a draw in downtown Kings Mountain might reclaim the old building for a theater or live entertainment space. We are witnessing a lot of growth in town of late and it won’t be long until that large space has a new lease on life. One can only imagine what the future might bring for the old theater, and our town.