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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sidney Leneer Pete Underdown, June 18, 2000. Interview I-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Regret that the street named after the Underdown family has a reputation for crime

Underdown describes the streets around the Lenoir Cotton Mill in Hickory Springs, especially the one renamed after his family. He jokes that he wished the name had not changed because so many criminals and alcoholics seem to frequent it.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sidney Leneer Pete Underdown, June 18, 2000. Interview I-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And what was the name of the mill?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Lenoir Cotton Mill.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Was that the brick one that's sort of down in the hollow?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Yes, well, there's two there. The steel mill was a brick building also up on there. But Carpenters were in that Lenoir Cotton Mill. They wound up in that after Bluebell moved to Oklahoma and left it vacant. But it was vacant for several years. Fairfield Chair Company used part of it a long time, to store furniture in. But that was when the Carpenters had their place in Lenoir. Now they're out on Miller Hill Road there.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So was it Mill Avenue or Mill Road?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Mill Road. Mill Street.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So that was named for that mill?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Yes.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And did Underdown Avenue extend from that?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
From that. We changed the name of all these roads. Let's see if I can draw it. Up here, that's Spainhour Avenue. And right along about here, down the hill and then up-I can't draw very well here today-that's Mill Street. Mill Street comes on out here, and then turns down the hill like that. And Underdown Avenue starts right there and goes to the railroad, or did then. Now, today-let's see, that mill sits about right in here. This is College Avenue, which intersects right here at this point, and it runs plumb through town, back up to Bernhardt Hill, into the top of a hill that you couldn't get up or down. But this goes on and goes out to Virginia Street, College Avenue does. College Avenue runs back up that way. But here where this goes, it don't go farther much, about like that, it's now called Jennings Avenue. And that part of Mill Street's gone. This whole thing, from here all the way down to here is Underdown Avenue.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And when did it start getting called Underdown Avenue?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Well, of course this part from here on out was Underdown Avenue. And here's Pad Street that runs down by Lenoir Pad and Paper. And this was Underdown Avenue from right here. My memory doesn't go back to when it became that, but it ran out this way. But this Mill Street here at some time was changed to Underdown Avenue, and I wish they had never changed it.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Why?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
I wish they had left it Mill Street. There's a bunch of hoods [Laughter] , drunks, and everything now. Of course, there's a lot of mill houses, all the way from there actually to right there.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Right to the corner of Jennings, almost.
PETE UNDERDOWN:
It started there on both sides of the street. There were several on out here, on Underdown Avenue. And all the way down right above the mill. But there's one that I saw this morning as I came from the post office on the way down here who's an alcoholic. That's all you can say. He was one of the finest soldiers I ever knew. I commanded him one time, and he wasn't an alcoholic then, but somehow or another after he came home, he got to be an alcoholic. But he was sitting on what used to be Carolina Tire and Appliance store. Got a little curb out on the sidewalk next to the store to keep you from running into the store. He was sitting on there, just ready to pass out, just going back and forth. Now he owned a home on Underdown Avenue, and every Monday morning he was in jail and it listed him as being Underdown Avenue on there. It give us kind of a bad name. [laughs.] As I say, he was a fine soldier when I knew him, and he salutes me every time I see him. Not embarrassing to me, but it would be to a normal person probably.