Yanceyville Full of Tradition, Low on Activity
Justin Mazzola - Reporter
"Don’t you ever wonder maybe if things had been slightly different, you could be somebody else? Don’t you ever wonder maybe if you took a left turn instead of taking a right, you could be somebody different? Don’t you ever wonder?" Popular musician Dave Matthews said these words at a 1995 concert in Colorado.
Some days, Caswell County residents wonder what it would be like if their county were more like its big sister, Alamance County. Perhaps the absence of Interstate 40/85 from Alamance County would make it a reflection of northern Caswell County. Interstate-connected cities such as Burlington are dominated by malls, chain restaurants and Wal-Mart. The homogenization of American cities is impacting small communities in different ways. Yanceyville, the largest town in Caswell County, features one traffic light and a recently-renovated courthouse that overlooks the town square.
Smaller buildings surround the courthouse like members of a second-grade class confronting the older bully. Crosswalks intersect the square, but cars do not slow for pedestrians, as drivers habitually exceed the 20 mph speed limit. The square is dominated by a statue celebrating the contributions of Civil War soldiers. It could symbolize the vanishing lifestyle of small-town living. The statue’s back is turned to the courthouse, as if the soldier is turning his back on Yanceyville.
Yanceyville is a town in which children are forced to be creative in their methods of entertainment. Fourteen-year-old girls wrap toilet paper around an older sister’s car. Cheerleaders shoot the breeze outside Bartlett Yancey High School (BYHS) while waiting for the bus. "There are 23,400 people in Yanceyville," 15-year-old Anna Cobb said matter-of-factly. "I know because I’m in FFA (Future Farmers of America)." Cobb joins her fellow BYHS junior varsity volleyball teammates in Sal’s, a popular Italian restaurant in the center of town. The girls interrupt each other more than the participants in a congressional hearing, all eager to be quoted in the newspaper. For them, being featured in the Burlington Times-News is like Charlie winning a trip to Wonka’s chocolate factory. Emily Williamson, 14, says the main sources of entertainment are Friday night football games, the Danville, Va. mall and "cruising Riverside," a popular Danville street.
One beacon of excitement in Yanceyville is its annual fall festival, which attracts residents from across the county. The Brightleaf Hoe-down celebrated its 20 year anniversary in September. Activities such as the farm olympics and the street dance allow locals to gather together and celebrate small-town living. Williamson admits she likes watching the tobacco-spitting contests at the hoe-down. Before her friends could add their input, she leaned across the table, eyes wider than the sea, and said, "The car shows are the best." The Brightleaf Hoe-down is a big deal in Caswell County. It even has its own Web site. "Don’t miss the car show," it reads, "Featuring over 100 cars ranging from A-Model Fords to new Corvettes. Bring the family, stay a while and enjoy all the excitement of the day-long activities at this annual Caswell County classic event."
Some people in Caswell County say small-town life is exciting enough for them. Larry Gibson has lived in Caswell County all 55 years of his life. He works at Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Danville. He says there are plenty of things to do on Friday nights, including playing cards, talking with friends and attending church. Gibson laughs when asked if there is anything exciting for young people to do in Yanceyville. He cites the recreation center, the school band and school sports, but says there is no bowling alley or movie theater in the county.
The difference in age brings about differing philosophies on Yanceyville’s entertainment. A lot is forgotten in 40 years. Katie Aldridge, who makes it a point to say she is 14.5 years old, says her friends go camping on weekends. Charlotte Roberts, 16, says people drink at the hunting clubs. Fourteen-year-old Lindsay Malcolm has lived in Caswell County all her life. She says, "People find anything to do when they’re drunk."
All the girls agree there is a limited selection of weekend activities, which is why many travel to larger cities such as Danville and Greensboro. Burlington is another popular weekend destination. Roberts is the only one in the group who says Burlington is not big. She says it’s bigger than Yanceyville, but still not that big. Despite Yanceyville’s entertainment shortcomings, the girls say they enjoy living there. They do not want an interstate highway running through the town like Burlington’s I-40/85. "It’d ruin everything," Malcolm said. Aldridge smiles and added, "We’d get lost."
"I wouldn’t trade it for a city," Cobb said. "Here, you can walk in your back yard and you’re not in someone else’s yard." Williamson agreed and said, "It’s quiet and peaceful."
The girls giggle throughout the interview. They say they are happy in Yanceyville and their attitudes do nothing but support their claims. Caswell County is a good place to live.
Source: The Pendulum Online (Elon University), 28 February 2002.