The Taxis

It is hard to believe now, but before and during World War II, most folks in Pacolet did not own a car. Taxi cabs played a big part in transporting people, particularly to Spartanburg.

If people were going somewhere else in the mill village, they generally walked. The town’s excellent system of sidewalks made this convenient. Also, most people walked back and forth to work at the mills. As far as I can remember, there was never a school bus to transport students over to the Pacolet Mills Elementary School at the top of Hotel Hill.  Students from both sides of the river walked to school.

The real need for a car was when you had to “go to town” for any number of reasons. This meant the town of Spartanburg. The downtown part of Spartanburg, along lower Main Street and Morgan Square was the major destination. There were no Shopping Malls or Shopping Centers and downtown Spartanburg was where things happened. There were Department stores, several dime stores, drug stores, movie theaters, and restaurants including some in the hotels there.

To go to town from Pacolet, you usually had to catch a taxi. The taxi “stand” or area to get a taxi was in front of the Hall (YMCA) and in front of the bank or Company personnel office. This is the Pacolet Town Hall today. The waiting taxis were parked along the sidewalk in this area. The taxis were owned and driven by private individuals. They must have been marked as taxis in some way but I do not remember how it was. They were not painted any different than a regular car and I don’t remember the word “taxi” or “cab” written on them. I might be wrong, but looking back on it, I think that the people just knew who was driving a taxi. 

These cars are parked in the general area of the "taxi stand" in front of the Hall. They may or not be taxis because spaces were not reserved for the taxis and the general public parked there also. The picture must have been taken around 1940, judging by the model of the cars. The house at the right side of the building served as Dr. Hill's office.

I’m not sure of how many taxis there were but it seems that there might have been ten or so. There were some cab drivers that I do remember like Mr. Harvey White who I will talk about later.  Also, Mr. Herbert James and Mr. J.B. Manis owned and drove taxis.

The Pacolet cabs were not like you see on TV and in the movies at places like New York. They did not drive around up and down the street and you did not go to the curb and hail them. The cabs waited on their passengers in their area. If you were going to Spartanburg, you went to where the cabs were parked and picked out the driver you wanted or else joined one that already had some passengers but was not full. If you were the first passenger, you would usually have to wait until he got a full load of passengers. When the driver had what he thought was a full load, he would leave for the trip to town.

Until the coming of Camp Croft, the main road to Spartanburg went up through Whitestone and then on to Spartanburg via Union Street. When Camp Croft was built, a new road was built that connected to Pine Street in Spartanburg and bypassed Whitestone and Camp Croft. Some of us old folks still refer to this 65 year old road as “the New Highway”.

The taxi driver took his passengers to a taxi stand at the intersection of Liberty Street and Main Street and let them out. You went back to this same place to catch the cab back home.

I remember Mr. Harvey White because of an incident that happened when I was about 9 years old. My family had recently moved back to Pacolet after being in Charleston during the War. We lived about half way between Pacolet and Pacolet Mills. It was in the middle of the summer and it was very hot. My brother “Dink” was 7 years old and we had walked down to the movie theater at Pacolet Mills to see a movie. It very likely was a western movie which we loved.

When it was over, we left the cool theater and came out into what seemed to be the white heat of summertime. I remember dreading that long walk back home that was all up hill. It was then that I saw Mr. Harvey White and his waiting taxi and had what I thought was a wonderful idea. We would hire us a taxi and not have to walk! Acting like we did this every day, Dink and I went up to Mr. White and told him that we would like to hire him to take us home.

His first reaction was that we were two monkeys that had fallen from a tree and accosted him. I doubt that he had ever been hired by two little skinny boys that were alone by themselves. After his initial shock, he was very nice and we got in the cab and he took us home. I explained that we did not have the money with us but our Mama would pay him when we got home.

We gave him the directions and he took us straight home. It was much better than walking. I left him waiting and ran inside to get his money from our Mom. Her reaction when I told her what we had done and that a taxi was waiting outside for his fare was about as incredulous as Mr. White when we had approached him. She gave me the money and I went out and paid him and thanked him for bringing us home.

When I got back inside, my Mom made it very clear to us that had better be our last cab ride home from the movie. If we could not walk   both ways, we could just stay home.

After the War, many more families got cars and eventually the Pacolet Taxi fleet disappeared. I don’t remember who had the last cab or when they stopped running.

As a child, it seemed to me to be a very convenient and pleasant way to get back and forth from Spartanburg - and the movies.
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