I am a Charlotte native, so, when I saw the article “31 signs you’re a native Charlottean” posted by CharlotteFive.com, I was ecstatic. I was ready to take a walk down memory lane.
That didn’t happen.
The C5 list didn’t ring true for me — at all. I wondered if maybe I was just a native who hadn’t really lived, so, I posted the article on Facebook, asking my friends to see if any of the signs resonated with them.
The overwhelming response — No.
The fact that their signs didn’t resonate with the majority of my Facebook friends’ list further demonstrated what many studies have reported — that Charlotte is, and has been, a racially segregated city.
In the words of my West Charlotte High School classmate and friend Chris Lilley, and in the voice of rapper Shawty Lo, “Must be two Charlottes.”
With that in mind, we decided to create our own list — 31 signs you’re a native Charlottean: black edition. Thank you to all my Charlotte native Facebook friends who contributed.
You know you are a native Charlottean if you remember…
- Walking down Beatties Ford to attend the first West Fest when OutKast was the headlining act.
- Chilling at Freedom Park and then Hornet’s Nest Park on Sundays (because they chased us out of Freedom Park).
- Eating at Simmons Restaurant, The Original Coffee Cup and McDonald’s Cafeteria. That’s where all the business deals were done and where you could find Charlotte’s black Who’s Who.
This building on Beatties Ford Road once housed McDonald’s Cafeteria, a destination for native Charlotteans and visitors traveling through.
- Hanging out at McDonald’s (on any side of town) on Friday nights after football games.
- Meeting friends at local teen clubs on Friday and Saturday nights (Expressions, Sugar Shack, The Tunnel and BB Jams) and to skate on Sunday nights at Tradewinds or Skate Palace.
- Learning school bus safety with Gus the Bus.
- Playing games and watching movies at Queens Park and Tryon Mall.
- Riding down Harris Boulevard when it was Delta Road.
- Creating memories at Eastland Mall including, riding the No. 9 bus to Eastland on Saturday night to cruise the mall; Sunday dinner with family at Morrison’s Cafeteria; ice skating in the skating rink; and shopping at J. Riggins and Penderton’s.
- Visiting Black Santa at Northpark and Freedom Malls.
For native Charlotteans, there was West Charlotte High and all the others
- Getting matching outfits to wear with your best friend to Carowinds on Easter Monday.
- When all high schools graduated on the same day and attended Project Graduation at Carowinds that night.
- Eating at Godfather’s Pizza on Freedom Drive and Park Road.
- Hanging out at, shopping and experiencing life on The Square – the place where the buses lined up to take people to and from; the men who stood under the gazebo; the shops that were just a few blocks away – City Fair (the underground mall); Pushpa, Belk’s Basement, Ivey’s, The National Hat Shop, Shazada’s, Newberg’s Hi-Style and Holloways; the restaurant options – McDonald’s or Burger King (they were across the street from each other).
- Walking past NCNB Plaza before it became NationsBank Plaza and then Bank of America Plaza.
- Taking church trips to Heritage USA.
- Shopping at Lionel Toy Warehouse and Butler’s Shoes.
- Partying at The Excelsior.
The Excelsior Club, located on Beatties Ford Road about one-half mile north of the main entrance to Johnson C. Smith University, was for many years the leading private black social club in the Southeast, and one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast. (Source: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission)
- Driving down Independence with its million red lights and the deadly left turn from Independence onto Albemarle Road.
- Partying at CJ’s on Wednesday nights with DJ Rham on the turntables.
- Shopping with your grandmother at Richway and Gold Circle.
- Taking a swim at Double Oaks and Revolution pools in the summer.
- Eating at Po Folks.
- Taking the school trip to Camp Thunderbird.
- Watching movies at Regency Theater and the Village Movie Theater.
- Playing Laser Tag.
- Attending any West Charlotte game because every school was a rival.
- Going to Jazz in the Park, Spring Fest and First Fridays.
- Attending NYSP, MSAC and Upward Bound at Johnson C. Smith University.
- Getting groceries from old school Charlotte grocery stores like Colonial, Big Star, A&P, Food Town, Park & Shop and Giant Penny.
- Hanging out at the car wash and Ice House on Beatties Ford Road.