Chatham County in the 80s: A rural oasis from city chaos

By Carole Henry

Siler City, NC – I moved to Chatham County in the 80s with a number of different families fleeing from Long Island. You could only move so far on Long Island as the city expanded outward. Bringing more traffic, noise, toxic waste, crime and complaints about your live stock.

Don’t remember who it was who first found Chatham County, but the rush was on to sell our homes and move. After my home was sold, there was an article in the newspaper about well water, in an area in Suffolk county being contaminated by an industries toxic chemicals. My home was right in the middle. The land owners were informed that they were going to be hooked up to city water at their expense. Funny that the industry responsible for the contamination was never brought to justice.

Chatham County back in the early 80s had clean air, clean water, lots of cattle, horse and chicken farms as well as other stock and agriculture related activities.

Route 64 was a two lane road, where if there were three cars at a traffic light in Siler City, it was a lot. Mostly duallys and pickup trucks. Drivers had common sense and you knew they would not being running a red light or stop sign as they do now. There was no tailgating or aggressive driving. Knowing you or not, people gave you a wave as they passed you on the road.

There was even a drive-in movie theatre in Siler City.

Located off Highway 64 West on the other side of Siler City, this drive-in theatre was a favorite and the only operating drive-in theatre in all of Chatham County. It opened June 15, 1949 as the Siler City Outdoor Theatre. Specializing in family films as well as first-run features, grindhouse films and all, the drive-in closed in the mid-1980’s. It has since been demolished. (Contributed by Raymond)

The city people tried their best to dump their waste industries into rural western Chatham, maybe figuring that the rural farmers were too stupid not to figure out what was going on.

But they were too smart at that time and willing to fight back. A nuclear waste facility planned for Siler City was defeated despite all the lies about how good it would be for the residents, bringing jobs and of course it would never harm the environment. The people saw though the lies and false promises. They did not want it and let the waste group know it by all standing up at the last public meeting and loudly yelling NO! The nuclear waste group realized they had a hornet’s nest if they attempted to go over the heads of rural Chatham residents and pulled out. Then there was the group who wanted to enlarge Siler City airport to a cargo airport. Interesting to see in Chatham News that even when you lived miles away from the airport, your property’s trees were going to be topped off due to the low flying cargo planes. Can you imagine the noise and fuel from planes taking off and landing over your homes?

There was one powerful, smart senior lady who led these fights to keep western Chatham rural and not turn it into a industry dumping ground. I do not remember her name but she was not going to let these people destroy what Chatham County had; generational family farms and a clean environment.

I wish I remembered her name as she was the epitome of Chatham County. A good Christian lady who cared and was smart enough to see the destruction that would happen and saw though the lies and promises of these groups.