Robert Eller

If a picture is worth a thousand words, give this one a try. In amongst the unexplained events in downtown Hickory, a scene was captured (pardon the pun) that may never have been seen before or since. The location is Union Square in downtown Hickory. That can definitely be determined. From there, it gets hazy.

Let’s handle the background first. That’s easier. The stores are Melville’s (a women’s clothing store) on the right this image, then F.W. Woolworth, apparently before they moved over to 2nd Street NW. To the left is Black’s Drugs that must have had a soda fountain (since the advertised Sealtest Ice Cream, West Deal Company Mens Wear and on the corner is Lutz Drugs. Across the street is the B.F. Goodrich tire store, approximately in the current location of First Horizon Bank. On the extreme left you can see the pillars of the First National Bank of Catawba County. Just to the right is a banner advertising a non-specific motel that also has rooms and apartments. From the look of the cars the photo was likely taken in the early 1950s.

Now comes the vexing part. In the foreground we see some kind of parade taking place. I doubt seriously if the men in the striped suits are actually prisoners. Notice how the first one has the right leg of his pants either cut or rolled up, exposing his sock garters. It looks to be the work of a civic club fulfilling some requirement of a promotion/project. At least, that’s my guess. What’s yours?What Is Going On?

It turns out that pictures like this turn up all the time with no anchor to what they mean, the context in which they are taken or identity of subject and/or photographer. So often we are left to put the pieces of the puzzle together based upon clues that we may or may not have figured out. And this is the way history goes. There are so many elements of the past that we can only guess about since somehow, the facts have escaped us.

You see it all the time in antique stores. Picture frames, scrapbooks or other photos show us a face but that’s all. We don’t know names, locations, circumstances. All we have is what we see and sometimes that is way too little to understand why the picture was taken. It’s a lonely and sad destiny for the person in the shot, forgotten and stranded.

Luckily here, we can at least determine where the photo was taken. Had the image drifted to another town, even that clue might have been obscured. The element that firmly roots the picture to Union Square is Lutz Drug. Famous for being on the western corner for decades identifies that the shot is definitely in Hickory. From that one fact, everything else is conjecture. But also fortunate is the fact that at least half a dozen faces are recognizable. Maybe showing it here opens up the possibility that someone, maybe you, could pinpoint who they are. From there we might solve the mystery of the image. A community scavenger hunt of sorts.

Photo: Next time you are in downtown Hickory, imagine this parade coming at you.